Brian Carrick, blog author of the brilliant Collecting Plastic Soldiers blog, http://toysoldiercollecting.blogspot.co.uk wondered whether the Prince August 54mm chess toy soldier pawn figures that I featured this week would work in Fimo polymer clay.
Would this work in Fimo, Brian wondered? Would it be both cheaper and lighter?
I said I would Have a Fimo Go! (If you are reading this in America or elsewhere, Fimo is the equivalent to Sculpey Polymer Clay).
I wasn’t expecting much and was sadly proved right. Using a block of slightly old red Fimo, I rolled out, softened or warmed this through the hand rolling and then an appropriate size chunk inserted into one half of the mould.
I chose the simplest of the Prince August chess set moulds that I used this week – the Alamo American Infantry pawn figure.
Fimo Figure Fail?
Putting the the second half of the mould on and squeezing them together, on removing the figure, it was clear that it had only partly worked. The face and front moulding was mostly there, the hat not quite.
The back was missing the lovely detail of knapsack and powder horn.
There was some detail but lots of spare Fimo flash to trim in the form of a big moulding line.
With more care this could be lessened if the amount of Fimo were reduced.
With care a knapsack could be added which I have done to add 3D roundness to other flatbacked 54mm Fimo figures.
Rather than build up the figure with detail, I baked it at 110 degrees for 30 minutes then trimmed of any spare Fimo and the mould line with a scalpel.
With a bit of paint, a bit of trimming and a bit of detail added to an already baked figure (you can rebake and add to Fimo like this), a passable figure could be made. The hat could be built up or trimmed to a battered kepi.
However if you have the ability to cast as intended in metal, this is surprisingly simple and fast.
Brian Carrick wondered how they compare in terms of weight. The Prince August chess pawn figure weighs in at just under an ounce of metal, the Fimo figure with twopence base for stability, about 5 grms (most of which is the tuppence coin!)
You could also work out cost in terms of an ounce of Prince August metal versus a small lump of Fimo.
Fimo Figure Fun Or Fail?
In the first months of Man of TIN blog, I featured several Fimo soldier figure experiments including using simple silicon Cake Dec mould Soldiers (my Cakes of Death battalions) and fun Fimo freestyle or freesculpt figures.
This was one of my first Fimo failures, as I reinforced the body around a cocktail stick which led to cracking. I had not learnt that you can bake, add detail and rebake etc.
Over cooking at the wrong temperature was another Fimo failure and gives off not nice fumes and the figures distort badly.
This battered and cracked figure eventually found a role, painted up initially as some kind of Confederate standard bearer, he now carries the newly designed flag of Angria, one of the imaginary kingdoms created by the young Bronte sisters.
The way we wore – this is how the figure first looked on the blog back in May 2016 after a little tinkering. (I don’t use Green Stuff / Milliput in my house as some of my household are allergic to it).
A special offer or ‘promotion of the month’ for March 2017 on the Prince August website led me to try these Alamo Chess set pawns at a reduced price, which I bought alongside their American Civil War and Napoleonic chess set pawn moulds.
These 54mm toy soldier chess pawn moulds in silicone rubber are available separately from buying the whole chess set moulds.
These figures cast well and cleanly, using Prince August Model Metal, aside from the occasional glitch on the Alamo American figure rifle butt which is easily repaired.
By mixing the sets together, a varied Confederate or Union type Army or Militia can easily be created. I like the powder horns on the Alamo figures, and think that these could serve for figures from earlier periods than the Alamo.
These figures with different paint schemes will bulk out the ranks of any 54mm toy soldier army.
Officer figures are included only in the whole Chess Set of moulds, admittedly on a slightly raised base. These bases could of course be adapted or removed. Alternatively other suitable figures could be used.
Standard bearers should be easily created from the rifleman figure by adapting the musket into a flag standard.
These figures are of course great for “Imagi-nation” games with some alternative paint work.
Slender of build as these chess pawns are, I was concerned how they matched up to other 54mm castings. Some castings from home cast and vintage moulds seem closer to 50mm.
However in a quick line up with other manufacturers , they match these slighter figures and my previous castings from metal home cast moulds well enough.
Perefect for parades, perfect for gaming – lots of possibilities.
He got stuck in the mould, despite using release powder, but cleaned up nicely.
The face is not very detailed but he has a fine vintage toy soldier look. There is a distinctive casting line but not too much flash.
There is not much fine detail in the mould, whatever type of casting metal is used.
I like this Highlander enough to want to cast more. A row of them firing would look a fine addition to any wargames table or garden skirmish, despite the casting line running across and obscuring any facial detail.
Another vintage metal mould casting on the same day was this curious greatcoated steel helmet figure, a little in the small side at about 50mm.
Again this was a figure with some casting problems (hollows in the chest or backpack) but with lots of conversion potential, especially if heads were exchanged. There was more flash than you would expect from a modern home cast silicon figure, requiring a bit of filing. The rifle also failed to fill out on one or two castings.
Close up you might notice a range of Army Blue troop types.
Above: The first two were once Britain’s Redcoat Guards marching with rifles at slope, followed by two Britain’s Redcoat Line infantry, a Fimo base repair to a damaged footless US Marines figure, (Home cast? type) Officer with pistol and one of my recent Home cast infantry.
From the back – The simple white belts, equipment and cross belts show up more than practical black and gives a proper toy soldier look.
Basing and Painting
A variety of basing can be seen, experimenting with bases for these soldiers to be part of future Close Little Wars skirmish games on the games table or in the summer garden.
Four of them are based on 2p coins, although I am still experimenting with the best adhesive. Wood Glue might not be strong enough. Whilst it was still wet and white, I mixed in some flock to see how this worked. Flock basing is not very traditional toy soldier but then the two pence bases are practical, suitably light but weighty enough, inexpensive and more importantly, to hand.
My fierce but motley playbashed bunch of Britain’s natives have been slowly collected together over several months from job-lot, damaged, scrap or for repair lead hollowcast figures bought mostly through EBay. Such damaged figures have little value to collectors. So it doesn’t really matter if I repaint or repurpose them.
I bought some Humbrol Gloss Brown Number 10 and used this only very briefly on a couple of figures before I got fed up of the fumes … not very family friendly! Next time I will paint with these enamel paints outdoors or with doors and all the windows open.
The end gloss results look promising already, even before gloss varnish, and suitably toy soldier like.
Shield designs aside, a suitable weapon such as a spear needs to be added to the hand. I have tried filing and adding a wire spear but on first attempt it did not stick.
These chunky Zulu figures are second grade Britain’s figures that were sold in A Series sets or singly. The fragile knobkerry on each of these figures is usually found broken, the original is shown in Andrew Rose’s excellent The Collector’s Guide to Toy Soldiers (Salamander 1985/97).
Andrew Rose’s book also shows various arm versions of the Britain’s classic running Zulus of Africa Set 147, 1906 to 1959 and another version of the set into the final Britain’s lead year of 1966.
Handy to see these more slender Zulu figures as shortly before Christmas I bought a Britain’s Zulus “jigsaw puzzle” in the form of a job-lot of bashed legs, bodies and bases. This should keep me busy fixing throughout the year. Recast Britain’s type arms with spears or even rifles from firms like Dorset Soldiers http://www.dorsetmodelsoldiers.com
Interestingly these loincloths on these jigsaw Zulus seem to have been painted by their owners in stripes and spots for a more tribal animal skin look.
Britain’s used to indicate ‘native’ or ‘non-uniform’ troops by using at random three basic colours of yellow, red and blue for clothing – “The loincloths were painted in three different colour schemes, as Britain’s always did for native troops or irregulars who might not be expected to wear uniform.” (Page 107, Britain’s Toy Soldiers 1893 -1932 by James Opie, published by Victor Gollancz, London, 1985)
Not sure whether to preserve (if I can) the strange ‘Black and White Minstrel’ style extraordinary face painting on some of these Britain’s Zulus.
Not sure yet what to do with the shield designs as I don’t really intend these to be Zulus, rather more Generican Natives or Ashantee tribes.
In the Bronte juvenilia of Glasstown and Angria, these tribes are the savage Ashantees.
The Bronte family juvenilia stories feature various tribal forces such as generic ‘Arabs’ or also Ashantee warriors, for their map of their Glasstown Confederacy and Angria ‘Imagi-Nations’ was based on West Africa, the natives based on early 19th Century journals and prints (pictured in the blogpost shown below)
The Ashantees are led against Angria by the fictional Quashia Quamina Kashna, son of the equally exotically named King Sai Too Too Quamina.
Quashia was adopted as a baby by the Bronte’s fictional Duke Of Wellington and a rivalry grows up between Quashia and his stepbrother Zamorna, Wellesley’s eldest son who becomes King Of Angria.
Quashia and several Western characters successively invade Angria including Branwell Bronte’s fictional alter ego ‘Northangerland’, Ardrah (who opposes the creation of Angria by Zamorna) and MacTerrorglen.
Confused? So am I, still slowly figuring out the complex and intricate Game of Thrones style cast of characters and events created over many years by the young Bronte sisters and their brother Branwell. If it proves too difficult to create scenarios, I may keep the places but fast forward the Bronte “Imagi-Nations” a few decades clear of the Bronte’s main fictional characters that populate their Gondal, Angria and Glasstown sagas.
Stranger than fiction?
This fictional story of Quashia is not that dissimilar to true stories of how native princes were assimilated, educated or westernised such as Alamayu, the son of Theodore, King of Abyssinia (buried in 1879 at Windsor Castle Chapel and commemorated on a plaque by Queen Victoria). Alamayu was captured in the Magdala Campaign of 1867-68.
The Magdala campaign in what is now modern day Ethiopia is described in fascinating detail in Ian Hernon’s Britain’s Forgotten Wars: Colonial Campaigns of the Nineteenth Century (Sutton, 2003), republished as a compilation of a trilogy of Hernon’s books. You may have also read this as the first part of the trilogy previously published by Ian Hernon as ‘Massacre and Retribution’ (Sutton, 1998).
So the Bronte juvenile stories, albeit fictional, are not much stranger than some real life Nineteenth Century events.
The Bronte family Gondal stories (devised by Emily and Anne) are based on North and South Pacific islands (mixed with a bit of Yorkshire for good measure!) so the islands of Gondal (North Pacific) and Gaaldine (South Pacific) no doubt have their own tribes.
Ashanti Chieftain c.1819 Wikipedia source
Ashanti warrior c. 1824 Wikipedia source
Illustrations from the Ashanti Empire Wikipedia entry show left an Ashanti warrior and right one with a simple musket and powder horn.
Plenty of scope for many interesting scenarios. That’s why I’m keeping the figures “Generic” rather than “Zulu”.
Still lots of lovely repair and repainting work to do … I will post photos of the finished results.
The recent nearly but not quite named ‘Storm Doris’ did minor damage in my garden overnight a day or two ago, flipping off the tied on and weighted-down lid of my improvised “sand table”.
This ‘sand table’ was flooded with rainwater and a topped with a thin sheet of ice this morning.
Quite surreal, as this was how it was otherwise left at the end of a game.
The sculpted sand terrain had smoothed away underwater. Eerily many of the troops were standing or lying still where they had last fought.
In reality the ‘sand table’ is a bright blue plastic family sand pit filled with fine play sand but it does service for garden games for all ages of family.
Revealed frozen underwater was the end of a last summer ‘pound store plastic warriors’ sand pit game, literally frozen in time.
I had forgotten to put this game away months ago, just tied the lid on and weighted it with stones. The weather has not been great in the UK for outdoor garden gaming over the last few winter months.
Unpainted, these simple pound store troops about 25-30 mm high in three different ‘national colours’ looked surprisingly good underwater, especially this silver cluster.
I have never built a proper sand table Donald Featherstone style, having heard or read of several near disasters with the weight of sand indoors and the sand’s ability to get everywhere – “can be rather messy, as sand does not always keep its proper place on the table” as Donald Featherstone points out.
Gaming in the sand pit was always a good garden standby in childhood, mostly using a rough pile of builders sand in the garden / yard left over from an extension. Growing up with dogs, the sand pit did not thankfully become a litter tray for the neighbourhood cats.
Figures occasionally vanished, sometimes to resurface during later completely different period games. Some were never seen again. By now the entombed 1970s Airfix plastic will have crumbled to dust if that childhood sand pile is still there.
The Sheil website has ‘sand pit’ rules for those who want to try this in an undrowned sand pit (with well attached roof).