Howdy! The Fabulous Flying Gruber Brothers needed a leader of their Gang, so they kept it in the family.
Meet Al – some say Big Bad Al, some say Heap Good Al.
Some say that he is the Father of the Gruber boys, others that he is their Cousin, Uncle or Older Brother. Some wisely choose not to say anything.
Some say that Al may in fact be Twins, just never seen together in the same place.
Those that have opinions on the matter and keep their mouths closed generally live longer lives out on these Wilde frontiers and borders and may even get to die in bed of old age.
In the wilds of the Wyrd Wilde West, anything could be a fact or true.
Big Bad Al or Heap Good Al? It depends who’s asking and who’s paying.
Whether they are protecting the Bank with their firepower or relieving it of some of that tiresome shiny metal, it’s a matter of opinion – it all depends on who is asking and who is paying (usually the most but they like to pick and choose their work).
The Fabulous Flying Gruber Brothers Abe, Zeke and Frank can be seen here in their repaired state:
The Armies in Plastic figures Rogers Ranger’s kindly gifted to me by Alan Tradgardland Gruber are seen here after unpacking. They are now painted or repainted, gloss varnished and awaiting final shiny metal work before they set off to explore my mighty fine Bold Frontiers forest trees.
I was fortunate and surprised this week to open a battered old Armies in Plastic box crammed full of mixed 54mm plastic figures from Alan ‘Tradgardmastre’ Gruber, he of the Duchy of Tradgardland blog, received through the highly efficient Tradgardland overseas mails and postal service.
Inside, I found three colourful broken plastic 1960s cowboys amongst the part-painted and converted original box contents of Rogers’ Rangers (now on the painting table) and some Timpo Confederate and Union troops.
I thought best to tackle the crumbling plastic figures first. To be made playable again, they needed some gentle but solid functional repairs.
The armless figure on the right was detached from its Cherilea base and his legs were broken in several places, as was the shot and staggering one on the left.
With a fine pin drill, I drilled small holes into broken limbs ready for a fine wire insert and tiny dob of superglue. This secures the join, although the 1960s plastic was so fragile in parts that some sections broke whilst being gently drilled. I secured such fragile joins with fine strips of masking tape and sealed with superglue.
Some figures were missing limbs and I had nothing suitable in my bits box, so built up limbs and missing weapons from fine wire, masking tape and glue.
Note: I cannot use Milliput / green stuff type epoxy resin easily at home due to a household allergy.
Frank Gruber, Gunslinger
In the case of the Cherilea gun slinger who was missing lower legs and a base, I used a strip of wire in each leg to secure him to a stiff card base. His revolver or pistol had a broken tip, so a new six shooter was built up with a wire scrub and tiny strips of masking tape.
Zeke Gruber, the flying cowboy?
The shot staggering Cowboy had broken legs, no feet or base. Instead of repairing him as shot and staggering, which is not that useful for skirmish games, I altered one already broken leg to come forward and balanced this now diving figure with a new forearm and wire rifle as balance.
Without a base, I inserted a twist of wire that could be attached with masking tape onto a twopence piece for stability and built up the missing foot with tape.
The new hand and wire rifle join was a bit clunky and needs cleaning up a bit but this figure was already fragile and needed stoutness if he were to fight again on the Tabletop. Fashioning this wire support into a long old fashioned squirrel shooter seemed to work well enough.
He too required a pistol, so again a wire armature was built up into a pistol being fired as Zeke dives to the ground.
Abe Gruber, Artillery Guy!
This figure had an arm and a hand missing along with the broken base and legs. I repaired one upraised hand without a pistol as both his holsters are already full. A thin wire stub, built up with thin strips of masking tape and shaped into a wave.
The other arm was more of a challenge. What was this Cherilea cowboy originally doing? I checked Herald Toys Archive sales photos and could not easily see this figure.
Searching for my Cherilea cowboy – I found the gunslinger pose
What to do with the handless and armless figure? He kept toppling over on his Cherilea base.
I thought it best to stabilise him with a stout piece of garden or sparkler wire, maybe as a standard bearer?
Standard or flag bearer didn’t seem very cowboy. I wanted to keep close to the original bright cowboy colours, although the pale green hat and trousers were a little too bright for me.
Abe still has two pistols in his holster when his handy cannon isn’t around.
Finally, having put in a new wire armature for his left arm, I had left enough wire for a hand to grip a ramrod or sponge for a cannon.
Abe Gruber just joined the Artillery. Kaboom!
The paintwork on the figures was generally quite scuffed up, so I decided to keep some of the original brightly coloured paintwork and then try to colour match any additional paint with what I had in Revell Matt Aquacolour or craft Acrylics.
In their ‘paint DNA’, they still have some of their factory finish touches such as a shiny silver belt bristling with bullets or a dapper red neck cloth. Hopefully the original piece work factory painter wouldn’t be too offended at covering up the more playworn scuffed sections but keeping some of her work.
I aimed for the traditional toy soldier style face with pink cheek dots and each Gruber boy has grown a natty little moustache!
Next time I do a cowboy shoot out, the other cowboys better watch out for those Fabulous Flying Gruber boys!
In the time it took to stabilise and rebuilt these three fragile 1950s/60s cowboys I could probably have done most of the painting on the Rogers Rangers, but somehow it’s what my hands felt like doing first.
From the surprise postal box, along with the ACW figures to paint and two great Timpo cowboys to paint (one a bandit with money box), there is also a mystery unmarked slender plastic cowboy to identify and a damaged Kellogg’s Indian brave with broken rifle fire to repair.
Thanks again to the Tradgradmastre himself!
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN (and masking tape), 25 July 2020.
This Cherilea German Infantry WW2 in dark green plastic with brown helmet, boots and webbing was from the early 1960s and was brittle and crumbling. It had so far lost an arm and part of a base.
I drilled, wire pinned and glued the back foot to the base. I then glued the base fragments to a new piece of mounting board (with magnet strip below to attach to a tuppenny base). This kept the fragment of Cherilea roundel logo on the base, visible for the future. As I made repairs I took a few rough photos on the repair desk as I went – not always best quality in great light but a rough notebook of work done.
What did the missing arm look like? Was the German surrendering? Did he have a rifle? A little web research was needed.
These ‘German’ figures were a bit weirdly dressed compared to the more authentically uniformed Airfix and Britain’s Deetail German figures that I had grown up playing with. These 1960s Cherilea plastic issue figures of WW2 Germans had almost 1980s US or NATO “Fritz” helmets.
The green colour? Outside of deserts, German Infantry were made in grey plastic, Americans and British in green or khaki, as every 1960s/70s child knows. I noticed in several books that Britain’s hollowcast and other manufacturers produced their pre-war Grey German Infantry figures as post war green German Infantry, reflecting the Cold War changes in uniform? Were these supposed to be West German Infantry? Allies at last?
At first I thought the missing arm could be in the Hande Hoch! “Hands Up” surrender pose, one of those useless diorama poses along with ‘falling wounded’ beloved of toy soldier manufacturers in the 1950s to 1970s.
The surrender poses seem mostly confined to the enemy / Germans from 1950s and 1960s 60mm plastic down to 1970s OOHO Airfix Africa Korps version 2. The annoying waste of space wounded or dead diorama poses applied to figure sets of all nations.
Subtle propaganda reminder of Allied victory they may be, this was my limited childhood pocket money resources that the manufacturers were wasting on these and other useless diorama poses! I’m sure you could make a special thematic collection of useless enemy surrender poses. Such surrender poses exist from WW1 era with Germans wearing pickelhaube spiked helmets.
This gave me an idea of what the original figure was supposed to be like.
To get the arm sort of right, I gently drilled the missing arm and inserted a long enough piece of fine jeweller’s wire to make the arm and hand. Having built up the bulk of the arm with masking tape, I wrapped the remaining fine wire round a rifle length of thicker wire to make the rifle.
These could then be built up with strains of masking tape into the hand and the rifle shape. Triangular pieces of masking tape starting at the small end of the triangle wrap around to make the triangular rifle butt shape.
The final stages of the figure was painting and colour matching.
Bronze Green Revell Acrylic Aquacolour Matt was used to match the dark green plastic. Afrika Braun desert colour matched the old flesh.
Cherilea 60mm figure No. 2 Falling Wounded
The other Cherilea 60mm German WW2 Infantry was in the bizarre shot falling wounded category. The same drill, pin with wire and glue approach was needed. The rifle was barely attached in two places.
Cherilea 60mm Figure No. 2 in pieces
Again, Bronze Green and Afrika Braun desert colour Acrylic paints were used to roughly match the originals. Another Cherilea 60mm jigsaw of arms and legs repaired.
As these were the only two figures of this type I had in my childhood collection of these odd sized or oversized figures, I noticed a stray oversize Airfix Afrika Korps officer clone figure. He started life as a recent China made plastic parachute toy soldier. I quickly based and painted him up in the same green, flesh and leather brown gloss Acrylic colour to be their officer.
Hanks 70mm big hollowcast Indian
This Hanks early 70mm figure of an Indian* c. 1916 turned up in a job lot, missing an arm. Identified by its base marking and in Norman Joplin’s Great Book of HollowCast Figures, this has to be a ‘plus-sized’ oddity well over a hundred years old.
.* American Indian, Native American, First People – insert as appropriate.
Hanks Brothers’ hollow-cast figures were an early rival or pirate of William Britain’s figures, only made from 1893 through to the depression (1920s or 1930s?) Former employee of Britain’s, the Hanks brothers mostly made 54mm toy soldiers, with only a handful of 70mm figures.
Knowing this, I was unlikely to find a suitable recast or spare Hanks 70mm arm anywhere.
I made a quick rough arm through bending some old sparkler or garden wire into the rough arm length plus extra wire length for a tomahawk.
The arm was built up using masking tape in strips and a tomahawk blade made of masking tape too.
New arm tried on for size and fit.
Finally, I had to decide whether to repaint the whole figure or not. At the moment, I thought not.
A mixture of black and silver acrylic paint turned masking tape into bare old metal.
A few smudges of red, grey green and brown matched the worn paintwork of the original.
H. Hanks Copyright? in faint writing on the base above the hollowcast metal drain or pour holes.
It’s a functional repair, good enough for gaming, with some ‘double sided’ folding masking tape holding it to a tuppenny base, keeping the H. Hanks name visible on the base for the future.
A new arm almost as good as old? Big Chief Tom-ahawk Hanks, ready for action for the first time in decades again alongside 60mm plastic Indians.
Hong Kong marked broken ‘Elastolin style’ Ancient warrior to rearm and repair, alongside my Cherilea ‘Viking’ as I have always called him.
The Cherilea ‘Viking’ over the years had lost spear, sword scabbard and finally one helmet horn. The spear and scabbard were roughly repaired with wire (old sparkler wire). The damaged helmet and missing horn was more difficult. A piece of foam and the round end of an old paintbrush were superglued into place. After painting, these should blend in.
For family household allergy reasons, I do not usually use epoxy fillers, Milliput or Green Stuff for figure repairs. Instead I improvise with PVA, UHU glue, matchsticks, cocktail sticks, wire, tissue paper, masking tape, superglue, Fimo polymer clay amongst other things such as cast metal 54mm spare heads, arms etc.
Cherilea plastic 60mm ‘Viking’ figure, an oversized oddity of my childhood.
One of the odd one out figures of my childhood, this oversize 60mm sized ‘Viking’ in my family’s collection may have arrived sometime in the 1960s/early 1970s in company with this pegleg pirate, which also needed repair from wear and tear.
Both oversized figures probably came from a job lot of odd plastic figures that my late Dad bought us all from the family next door in the 1960s once their children were grown up.
I kept them as crumbling curios. With so few and such weird choices of oversized figures, it was hard to fit them into games. Viking versus Pirate? Pirate versus Cowboy or Indian?
This fine 60mm Long John Silver figure by now had suffered a broken base, missing crutch and pegleg. A tuppeny base and garden or sparkler wire inserts wrapped in masking tape were secured with superglue. Not sure of maker, the base was so damaged.
Like Weebles and many other plastic figures in our house from the early 1970s, a basic Airfix grey home paint job needs replacing with something better.
Size and scale comparison of Lemax Christmas Village figures (big 1:32) with 60mm Indians – a source of civilian figures?
A growing war band of 60mm Indians – I may leave the well worn paint as found on some of these. The front one is repaired Crescent, the others are unknown makers, the bases marked with a round circle with a pattern of dots and lines.
I hope that I can gently use these Indian figures with some ACW and cowboy figures for a Forest Indian oversized figure skirmish in the next few weeks. This might be the first time in decades that they have seen any play action.
Two red painted oddities from my childhood, a Crescent 54mm or 1:32 scale Friar Tuck and a ACW or 7th Cavalry 60mm plastic podfoot. We must have had a surplus of red gloss or a shortage of other paint at home. Well worth a repaint, especially so Tuck can rejoin my other 54mm Robin Hood figures.
The unmarked seventh cavalry type figure was unstable as a podfoot so I have added a tuppenny base.
Downsized back to 54mm figures now
The last three figures came from joblots and from amongst the wider family – original Airfix 1:32 paratroopers from 1969 that I never saw or knew of as a child. I was familiar with their poses from the smaller OO/HO Airfix paratroop figures.
Fragile early Airfix 1:32 paratroopers 1960s, repairs to one’s fractured legs and missing SMG. The damaged one will get a repaint or paint job.
These crumbling, fragile plastic figures, where broken, needed careful keying or roughing up of the broken joint areas with a scalpel tip and gentle pin drill holes with an insert of very fine jewellery wire. Finally masking tape covered difficult joins or damage. This one damaged figure has both cut marks (lawnmower?) and teeth marks!
More about these first 1968/69 54mm figures here at Hugh Walter’s excellent Small Scale World plastic figure blog including pictures of all the 1:32 poses –
One of the delights of slowly unpacking presents after Christmas is to look in these wreckage and repair boxes. I bought these cheaply online over the least few months to store away, bought as part of my Christmas present in advance, paid for using my Christmas gift money.
Box No. 1 contained some interesting zoo animals, lots of cowboys and cavalry along with some battered foot figures.
Box No. 2 contained an equally eclectic mixture of damaged and destroyed figures to be repaired and converted. None have reached the stage of melting down.
Box No. 3 contained another eclectic mix of makers and figures from cowboys to redcoats.
Box No. 3 had an interesting mix of much less damaged figures. I photographed these fast against fading natural light.
Box No. 4 – a shoebox of delight – still remains to be explored and photographed.
It is always a delight to explore these joblot boxes and work out what to repair first.
Some ragtag motley regiments may be possible, once repaired and repainted where necessary, figures made suitable again for garden or floor games in the spirit of H.G. Wells.
Using some wonderful illustrated toy soldier books by Norman Joplin, Andrew Rose and James Opie, I should be able to work out who made some of the less familiar figures. This gives me clues towards whether to repair, restore or convert.
Another order for Dorset Soldiers spare arms and heads may be due later in the year, once my current batch of Broken Britain’s figure repairs from 2018 are finally off the repair bench.
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN January 2019.
2018 blogposts on Broken Britains and broken lead toy soldiers include:
One of the unusual figure conversions or repairs that arrived in a jumble or joblot of figures about five to ten years ago was this lovely damaged Britain’s 54mm hollowcast lead Indian.
As you can see, he has lost his original legs and someone somewhere has carved him simple wooden legs. They have even carved a little buckskin fringe on the back of his leggings.
This is so beautifully and simply done that I will keep Old Wooden Legs as he is, with unpainted legs of wood. Hence his title “He Who Walks on Legs of Wood”, to give him a suitable Native American Indian warrior name.
All I have done is glued him to a tuppenny base so he can join in with future garden, floor or tabletop games. He deserves to be a veteran warrior, maybe even a Chief.
Without a base and maker’s name I was a little puzzled as to his original appearance until one day looking at Britain’s mounted Indians, I realised that he had obviously lost both his horse and his legs somehow. A veteran from Britain’s Mounted Indian Set 152.
Hopefully this lack of repainting shows him the same respect and value that he obviously once had to someone to be worthy of repair, a Brave warrior or Chief.
Naming the Braves
Choosing names for my growing 20 to 30+ skirmish warband of Broken Britain’s restored Braves (to write on the bottom of their tuppenny bases) will be a challenge. There are fantasy name generators online amongst all the Bond Girl Name Generators but it is good to know what the real Tribal names mean at https://www.warpaths2peacepipes.com/native-american-indian-names/
In between planning airplane conversions, I have been repairing Broken Britain’s hollowcast 54mm Indians and casting more Prince August 40mm Cowboys and Indians ready for some garden skirmish games soon.
So adding a Western train set isn’t so surprising …
Vintage 54mm Pound Store Plastic Cowboys and Indians fight over the cargo and caboose of my new Wilko Western Express train.
A snip of a plastic battery operated railway set at £10. Read more at:
Another lucky bid online for a few pounds brought this haul of battered and colourful American Indians.
I wanted to pick up a cheap and colourful opponent for my Redcoats or Bluecoat Troops, a wily native ally to match my Zulus.
A few broken spears and rifles are no problem to fix.
These rifle, bow and spear toting native warriors should prove great for garden and tabletop games once repaired and mounted on tuppenny bases. They are almost perfect for Donald Featherstone’s simple Close Wars skirmish rules (in his appendix to his War Games 1962).
More correctly these figure should be known today as Native Americans, First Nations or First Peoples but the ones you can see here are pure Imagi-Nations, wily natives straight out of Hollywood B Movies and Wild West TV shows.
Nicely animated crawling Braves sneaking up on an unwary opponent!
I get the feeling that some manufacturers might have quite enjoyed sculpting the animated poses and bright colours after producing regiment after regiment of increasingly khaki figures.
I’m sure after World War 1 these Indians also fitted a need to get away from the reality and aftermath of modern war off and away to the lawless and heroic but imaginary frontiers of the ‘Wild Wild West’, so popular in its many formats in fiction, cinema and Buffalo Bill shows.
Two of the T and B (Taylor and Barrett) figures were a bit smaller scale, around 40mm. They blend quite well with the 40mm Holger Erickson Prince August Homecast moulds.
Taylor and Barrett Indians can be seen alongside my home cast and based 40mm Prince August figures.
ID of figures based on figure markings and Norman Joplin’s wonderful The Great Book of Hollowcast Figures.