More Homecasting

Getting back into casting my own figures in metal, rather than Fimo / Sculpey Polymer Clay, after a break of several years is proving interesting.

It hasn’t all gone to plan. Moulds, especially metal vintage ones not used for a while, need to be “run in”. Warming the moulds gently helps the metal flow too.

Moulding disasters get put straight back into the melting pot or melting spoon.

Schneider Settlers and Indians – Back into the melting spoon together …
Rough, but useable 54mm castings from old metal moulds in need of a bit of trimming and filing. Faces are a bit blank. 
An attractive WW1 / early WW2 British infantryman marching, c. 54mm height


Rough raw castings of Prince August 40mm Cowboys and Indians designed by Holger Erikkson

Lovely to know that these ‘HE’ or Holger Ericksson figures (cast from moulds sold by Prince August) are still popular many years after they were first carved by Holger Ericsson (1899-1988) as shown here

Schneider type moulds for 30 to 40mm flat 19th century British infantry.
Straight out of the mould, clipped but not filed yet – 40mm PA5 modern 1950s infantry marching (Holger Eriksson / Prince August moulds).

Lots of filing and trimming awaits … and lots of imagi-nations skirmish game ideas.

Casting using the vintage metal casting moulds is definitely trickier than the silicone rubber moulds, but a few tricks picked up from the toy soldier forums  such as warming the moulds first does help with the metal flow.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, January 2017


In These Times

imageI missed this book first time round in 2014 in the run up to the Waterloo 200  Annversary, but was really interested to have finally read Jenny Uglow’s In These Times: Living in Britain Through Napoleon’s Wars.

The book is a social history of Britain and Europe throughout the Napoleonic Wars, covering events overseas from North America to Europe, naval battles and trade wars.

From the terror of the French Revolution and ending of slavery to riots at home and the threat of espionage and  invasions by the French, the book is well supported by diary entries, letters and the story of ordinary people as well as the notable figures of the day.


Georgian Britain is not an area I knew much about, having previously mostly read about the Victorians and 20th Century.

There are lots of interesting details about the Militia movement, how the arms industry expanded and reacted to the threat of invasion, the switch from peace to war, truce to war again as Napoleon and the French threat grew and receded.

I remember seeing the ghost marks and signs of the remnant of the gun making trade in Birmingham during its redevelopment, now vanished firms that would have sprung up with different companies and areas making the flint lock, wood stock and the metal barrel separately then bringing them all together for completion – “lock, stock and barrel”.

The book is rich in many of these interesting details.

The Volunteers from the invasion scare (including Robert Burns, mentioned in our blogpost recently) are also fascinating

If you wanted a “what if” scenario, it would be  a Napoleonic or revolutionary France invasion of Georgian Britain defended by its stout citizens, an  Opération Sealion  1780s 0r 1790s style.

Certainly a must-have history book for the wargamer, as well as for anyone interested in the social history of the period,  it makes for interesting reading as background to the dashing red uniforms that crop up in Jane Austen novels.

Jane Austen’s brothers Francis and Charles  were both in the Royal Navy. There is good coverage of the Royal Navy during this period, its equipping and maintenance, mutinies, careers, Nelson’s career and Trafalgar as well as Merchant shipping.

I felt like I had lived my way through two decades of conflict engulfing a whole generation or two by the time I had finished the book. To make up for missing the book on publication the first time round, as soon as I finished reading it the first time, I sat down to read it all over again!

Well worth tracking down.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, February 2017.


Man Craft hero #2 Kirk Crosby

A lovely story on the BBC Crafting website about our second ‘man craft hero’ blog post, Kirk Crosby, DIY toy maker:

Hopefully the BBC will feature more hot metal and Fimo “man craft” in the form of home casting one day?

Meanwhile if you are inspired by Kirk Crosby’s use of Playmobil figure forts and houses for his daughter, check out the very unusual Garden wargaming website using Playmobil for big garden of tabletop battles using some cleverly converted Playmobil based but literally reassembled figures. 

I look forward to sharing on this blogpost some of my rainy day holiday scrap toy making and also my favourite Playmobil toy inspiration figures. 


Not to mention an obscure short-lived British rival from the 1970s …

Burns Night casting


Stuck in the mould …
The figure released at last.

Today – it’s Burns Night, Rabby Burns Birthday. Here is my Highland tribute to Burns , once a former volunteer or militia man of the Napoleonic invasion scare.

Robert Burns received a full military funeral in 1796 as a member of the Royal Dumfries Volunteers.

Casting my Burns Night Highlander

I spent part of a day off home-casting metal toy soldiers like this 54mm Highlander, something I haven’t done for several years.

Some eBay finds of vintage metal toy soldier moulds you ‘buy blind’ and aren’t too sure what you’re getting. This was one such mould. Not yet sure of the manufacturer.

Sometimes the moulds have been over cleaned purely for show, apparently like some people collect and display vintage butter pats or cake tins. Sometimes they are cracked, damaged or overworn.

The only glitch was the casting getting stuck for a while, not prised out until very cool, so maybe some mould release powder next time.

This figure is not highly detailed but has minimal flash and a lovely vintage  ‘Toy Soldier’ feel to it.

I look forward to making many more and getting them painted up for 54mm games this year. More photos of other moulds and castings to come soon.

Happy Burns Night (or Happy Birthday) if you are celebrating the occasion.

One of Burns’ Napoleonic wartime poems …

Does Haughty Gaul Invasion Threat? 

(The Dumfries Volunteers) by Robert Burns

Does haughty Gaul invasion threat?
Then let the louns beware, Sir!
There’s wooden walls upon our seas,
And volunteers on shore, Sir!
The Nith shall run to Corsincon,
And Criffel sink in Solway,
Ere we permit a Foreign Foe
On British ground to rally!
We’ll ne’er permit a Foreign Foe
On British ground to rally!

O let us not, like snarling curs,
In wrangling be divided,

Till, slap! come in an inco loun,
And wi’ a rung decide it!
Be Britain still to Britain true,

Amang oursels united!
For never but by British hands
Maun British wrangs be righted!
No! never but by British hands
Shall British wrangs be righted!

The Kettle o’ the Kirk and State,
Perhaps a clout may fail in’t;
But deil a foreign tinkler loun
Shall ever ca’a nail in’t.
Our father’s blude the Kettle bought,
And wha wad dare to spoil it;
By Heav’ns! the sacrilegious dog
Shall fuel be to boil it!
By Heav’ns! the sacrilegious dog
Shall fuel be to boil it!

The wretch that would a tyrant own,
And the wretch, his true-born brother,
Who would set the Mob aboon the Throne,
May they be damn’d together!
Who will not sing “God save the King,”
Shall hang as high’s the steeple;
But while we sing “God save the King,”
We’ll ne’er forget The People!
But while we sing “God save the King,”
We’ll ne’er forget The People!

Two ways of reading the last verse of  this supposedly patriotic poem!

A painting of Burns in his volunteer uniform by Scots military artist Douglas N. Anderson (who works for Osprey) can be found here

For more about the Napoleonic era Volunteers in Britain

Posted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, 25 January 2017.

Civilian figures # 1: the Zoo


Trying to find interesting 54mm civilian figures is always a challenge. Apart from an unusual set ordered online from China, it usually involves looking out for figures with playsets or vehicles.

An expensive way to acquire a few figures!


Parading Through The Zoo

It was always frustrating as a child to have a zoo or farm or a parade set out but no visitors  to watch; it usually resulted in lots of troops endlessly parading with their bands through the model zoo  (H.G. Wells Floor Games style)  along with assorted military staff feeding the animals, selling tickets etc.

Zoo animals were an important and long running part of any lead or plastic figure series, from Britain’s onwards.

To be fair, military bands and other forms of entertainment and display from balloon rides and fetes to fireworks to lifeboat launches were not unknown in the Victorian zoo such as Bristol Zoo. A bandstand was an everyday part of parks, seaside promenades, botanic gardens and often zoos.

This carried right through at Manchester’s Belle Vue Zoo from Victorian times into the 1950s, they staged elaborate military and historical tableaux through both world wars with a local cast of hundreds. Their theatrical stock of obsolete muskets were borrowed by the early Home Guard units locally in 1940.

Military mascots often ended up in zoos during after both World Wars  (including Winnie the Pooh at London Zoo) and an informal naval zoo existed, at Whale Island, this was a little uninspiring as a regular play or garden scenario.

Today, Edinburgh Zoo has a penguin called Nils Olaf  “commissioned” into the Norwegian Royal Guard and occasionally visited and paraded  by his fellow (human) comrades in their magnificent full dress uniform.

The Zoo and Wartime Morale

I have 1939 ‘propaganda’ press pictures of servicemen enjoying elephant rides at Belle Vue Zoo Manchester. This was sort of true of many British Zoos in wartime – there were  special rates for servicemen (and lady friends) in uniform, entertainments in WW1 for injured servicemen.

In the first few weeks of being closed to the public on ARP grounds in September 1939, London Zoo made arrangements for servicemen to walk round for the animals to look at. ‘The Zoo’ also made their canteen over to the RAF as the big houses around became RAF Regent’s Park full of training aircrew.

Britain’s and other lead toy soldier manufacturers made plenty of civilians and farm workers in the more pacifist aftermath of WW1. Plastic manufacturers haven’t widely followed suit and painted railway figures in this 54mm /1:32 scale are often quite expensive.


Hong Kong farm girl, China made farm labourer and the real thing – Britain’s / Herald Farm Girl.


Failing the mounting of a full scale military parade through your zoo, Wild West town etc. all day and everyday,  some normal civilians are useful for floor games, sandpit games or  wargames.

F.E. Perry in his quirky First Book of War Games and Second Book of War Games often featured civilian or town settings alongside his wargames scenario / photographs.

The 54mm female figure from the left is from the c. 2007 zoo vehicle  playset, whilst the “Marilyn” stylish 1950s unfinished painted figure is from recent Chinese plastics online purchase of civilians. (Photo / figures: Man of TIN)

These  feature sets  came from a zoo gift shop with two zebra striped jeeps handy for conversion, some brilliant wooden watch towers and rope ways (of which more anon), a couple of odd sized animals and these interesting modern civilians. Similar figures are made for dinosaur playsets.

Something vaguely unsettling about this boy child in his simple factory paintwork. Useful photographer figure though!

Something similar to the girl child in the photos has recently been repainted and reused in a Slinkachu type way on the front cover of an art photography book about the recent group of artists / photographers playing with scale for satiric, unsettling or comic effect.


Microworlds contains some slightly disturbing dystopian or to some tasteless items from a range of photographers.


Another candidate to be my Man of TIN blog photographer? (from a 2007 zoo vehicle playset)


More plastics including civilians are featured on my Pound Store Plastic Warriors sister blogsite –

Police and firefighters are now available sometimes in pound store tubes, suitable for conversion.

Back in the 1980s there were Britain’s Deetail nurses, doctors and  construction workers, not forgetting the Britain’s farm workers ranging from lead to Herald plastic and a modern farm worker range still around in toy shops or online today.

In future blogposts I will feature more civilian figures to be used for game scenarios from the Chinese made sets available online  to the useful USA manufactured  Toob “heritage” plastic figures roughly in 54mm, also purchased online.

Steve Weston’s Plastic Warrior website also feature an excellent set of Mexican Wild West civilians or peasants.

Posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, January 2017.






A few Peter Laing figures amongst the scrap lead mountain

A successful bid on an online auction site around New Year  brought a kilo box of lead figures for spares or scrap for recasting, all for £10.

Among them I thought I had spotted some 15mm Peter Laing figures  in the single photo of a mass of random lead.  Now that Peter Laing figures are no longer made, finding new ones is exciting.


So throughout the last two weeks in odd moments I have been sorting through this random mix of Napoleonic troops of many nations, a few ancients and even the odd space figure.

Flocking and basing my way through a small part of a kilo of lead

It’s like a gamer’s owl pellet, ready for dissection. Mostly painted, with few broken figures.

Two weeks on and off spent flocking and basing and I am still not through this kilo of  this scrap lead mountain. Almost all will return to active service, few will end up in the casting ladle.

Most are 15mm to 20mm with many different manufacturers, with some good matches for Peter Laing 15mm figures and others of the gnome type of chunky 15mm that I thankfully bought very few of in my early gaming years.

I was right that there were Peter Laing figures in that kilo of lead – sadly less than I thought – but I really like the randomness of the other figures.

The Peter Laing figures match quite well with some of the other figures.

Other slender 15mm figures that match well the Peter Laing American Civil War figure second from left. 
Some other Peter Laing style figures flank the Peter Laing American Civil War Union infantryman. 
Some Ancient Peter Laing warriors 
Ottoman or Renaissance Peter Laing  Turks 

Some of the figures I recognised from the amazing collection of Peter Laing figures by John Patriquin the Wargame Hermit blogger.

The rest of the kilo of mostly Napoleonic era troops in their distinctive shakos, bicornes and helmets will be organised with minimal repainting into Gondal, Gaaldine, Glasstown and Angria forces for my Bronte juvenilia inspired skirmishes later this year.

They all look battle-hardened figures with battered bayonets and muskets to be carefully straightened.


Just one interestingly shaped Peter Laing horse – not sure what – distinctively shaped even amongst a jumble of figures.

Posted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, January 2017.

Twelve Drummers Drumming

To celebrate the last of the 12 days of Christmas


To celebrate the last day of Christmas (arrival of the wise men, Epiphany, Twelfth Night and all that) and the traditional day to switch off or take  all your decorations down by, I give you –

Twelve Drummers Drumming.

These twelve drummers are the usual reason along with yesterday’s eleven pipers to shoehorn toy soldiers into Christmas  … tree decorations … wrapping paper …

Didn’t have enough milkmaids in my farm selection to do the Eight  Maids a-milking or enough senior commanders to make up the required number of Ten  Lords a-leaping (on horseback or on foot).

You can check out the origin of the the Twelve Days

The Twelve Drummers – in Deetail 

From the back row – Semi-flat gilt home cast US sailor, Johillco Khaki drummer.

Middle row – Modern Britain’s Guards Deetail “new metal” type Guards drummers,  Charbens plastic Guards drummer, hollowcast line infantry drummer, Lone Star / Harvey / Timpo Guards drummer, Modern Britains  Deetail “new metal” US Marine drummer.

Front row – bizarre Royal Marines repaint / head remodelling (carved / cut down busby) of Charbens Guards drummer figure 2 middle row.t

Repaired Britains Guards drummer boy (new right hand added with Fimo)

Centre – lovely modern metal Britains drummer boy (1999)

Hollowcast Guards drummer, ‘Made in England’ not sure of manufacturer

Last but not least, another odd one picked up job lot online –  Swoppet body, Royal Marines drummer but with carved Busby into Marines  helmet.

Hallmark cards vintage drummer boy brooch in my collection.

The baker’s dozen … or thirteenth drummer.  This Hallmark cards ‘vintage’ drummer boy was a gift. He was originally made or sold as a brooch or badge with pin back,  temporarily attached for the picture with white tack  to a clear 1970s Star Wars figure base. He was too tall to feature in the first group photograph. 

Maybe he is a belated tribute to Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing the Little Drummer Boy, odd but a combination of voices which works …

The fir trees are again Christmas decorations, sold with these wooden bases attached. Stylish and atmospheric for those winter forest game scenarios  …

Next year I might be able to put together a Peter Laing figure twelve drummers drumming photo. I can’t quite make it with Peter Laing Pipers yet though. I (and E-Bay) often seem to have an excess of his 15mm drummers … and never enough fighting men. But that is for another Christmas.

A very Happy Toy Soldier New Year 2017

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, 6th January 2017.