Miscastings or half castings that are not too bad do not always go straight back in the ladle.
To avoid fumes and mess, I restrict my casting to days outside in warmer weather with no threat of rain; hot metal and moisture make an explosive mix.
As a result casting days (or days when I have time and feel like casting) are infrequent enough that I save the 90+ % figures that are ‘nearly all there’. I can then do some simple repairs on missing musket tips and other fiddly bits. Even missing heads can be swapped …
“Where’s your head at?” Missing a head, why not try swopping one with a Pound Store figure?
Such repairs that I make are usually fairly simple ones, such as drilling out a miscast musket to insert a short piece of wire.
On the repair tray where missing musket tips are replaced, heads swapped and bows repaired …
Old Toy Soldier DNA
You might notice from photos that I often drill, file and repair over sheets of white A4 paper, which I have folded into four and unfolded again to make a cross shaped crease.
This is because I keep the metal filings, drilling ‘swarf’ and trimmings from old Hollowcast figure repair, roughing up the base when rebasing or cleaning up home castings.
From time to time during repairs, I carefully slightly fold the crease-crossed A4 page and slide the metal filings and trimmings into a small lidded pot.
Why do I keep this toy soldier ‘magic dust’ mixed together in a small pot of this “old toy soldier DNA“?
It not only keeps the workbench of my roll-top desk clean but it also means that I can then add a minute pinch of this unique and special mixture from time to time to the casting ladle when home casting.
Each new shiny casting might then have inside it a tiny nano-percentage of an old Britain’s hollowcast casting or old flat tin figure.
Each shiny new casting then might have a small part of all the accumulated bravery, courage and adventure from the countless battles that the old damaged hollowcast veterans (from various makers and owners) have been through over the last hundred years or more.
Reinforcements for Tradgardland, Lurland or Afrika?
A small number of these unpainted Schneider castings of pith helmeted Colonial figures and fierce Natives will soon be heading towards Alan Gruber at the Duchy of Tradgardland blog as reinforcements for his interesting Lurland and Ost Afrika campaigns.
Alan has sent me some interesting spare figures and heads to keep me busy throughout Lockdown, so this is a small thin flat thank you heading to the Duchy of Tradgardland Post Office.
Fight well my tiny men, you have the brave DNA of old toy soldiers in you!
Previously on Man of TIN …
Here is one of the first blog posts that I wrote back in 2016 “type casting”. My WordPress avatar / host page @26soldiersoftin is still named after these famous “26 soldiers of Lead” of Gutenberg (or whoever first said this quote).
We finish with a fine picture of a dapper, almost Duke of Edinburgh looking Donald Featherstone, casting away on the kitchen stove in his cheerily enthusiastic 1960s book Tackle Model Soldiers This Way.
“In the author’s house, everyone slaves over a hot stove”. Note the plate drying rack and safety equipment of a shirt and tie. An inspiration to us all!
If you want to have a go at casting, these companies sell new moulds and casting equipment:
Prince August (Ireland / UK/ EU) do some great starter sets at their website
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.
Great uniforms amongst enemy troops, but as a child I couldn’t work out why the Police in Tintin for example of what I took to be a supposedly British / English setting for Captain Haddock of Marlinspike Hall looked so odd.
Had Herge (I wondered as a child) never been to Britain? Slowly as I got older I realised that Herge was drawing mostly European / Belgian settings and that the books are translated all over the world.
This ‘Glocal’ World (both Global and Local) of Herge in translation has strange villains and fake euro Imagi-Nations such as Borduria in the Calculus Affair and the regime of the villainous Kurvi-Tasch with his strangely fascist moustache logo on his very Nazi looking generals, troops and 1950s looking tanks.
Even though Tintin goes back to the 1940s, to me his books are the ‘Funny Little Cold Wars’ of the 1950s and 1960s in graphic novel / comic strip version, akin in style and feel to the early 1960s James Bond movies with the suave and stylish Sean Connery and his menacing enemies.
A range of plastic Tintin figures / key ring figures is available online in various sizes.
Great inspiration for some enemy troops as shown with generic enemy “red troops” or “red guards” in my Back to Basics DIY figure making blogpost:
Making up your own enemies, uniforms and all isn’t that far from the truth.
The Milihistriot Website (c/o Sheil family USA website) has an interesting section with coloured plates of threat, enemy or “aggressor” troops with adapted uniforms from military exercises:
Green crested helmet enemy troops as just one example of some colourful training enemies from a 1964 MIlihistriot article soldiers of Never-Never Land by James Glazer, based on US troop manuals. These are archived at: http://www.thortrains.com/online/aggressor1.htm
Examples of 30-101 / these US troop manuals can be seen at:
These manuals have obviously inspired many of the imaginative paint finishes and uniforms on the Sheil range of vintage home cast Toy Soldier Art figures. More have been created on the same principle at their Spy Troops page: http://www.thortrains.com/online/spytroopies.htm
The Tintin / Calculus Affair Kurvi-Tasch troops also have a look of the strange Atlantic modern troop figures that occasionally and erratically appeared in shops in the 1980s, featuring an odd sort of Euro army appearance. They looked strangely foreign, even futuristic on occasion (not quite American, not British and not German). Only later did I discover that they are meant to be Italian / Euro troop types. Atlantic figures and their strange box art are well covered in the Airfix’s Competitors chapter of my much-thumbed copy of Airfix’s Little Soldiers by Jean Christophe Carbonel (Histoire & Collections publishers, 2009). Some of the Atlantic figures were recently reissued by NEXUS.
A very long time ago as a child I was bought a jumble job lot of toy soldiers, mostly plastic but amongst them was this trio of metal soldiers.
I painted their hats, coats and boots but never finished them. I had no idea what they were, who made them or what to do with them as they were 40mm tall, bigger or smaller than my other figures. So no real use or match. On their base I could just make out the letters HE which meant nothing to me at the time.
Fast forward to ten years ago: poking around a craft shop on a trip to Cornwall, I discovered a tiny cache of Prince August moulds for making traditional toy soldiers which I bought straight away.
I had seen as a child intriguing adverts for this company in modelling magazines but the dangers of hot metal and shortage of pocket money as a child meant that I never bought any.
Looking through the Prince August online catalogue, I recognised these strange random trio of figures, their designer’s name HE (Holgar Eriksonn) and sent off for some PA moulds to find out at long last how they worked. And to give this three man patrol some company to pick on of their own size.
I found these figures are Prince August PA17 Musketeer, PA23 Musketeer standing and PA24 kneeling.
Playing around with paint finishes
There are many possible finishes for these shiny Prince August castings.
One suggestion is pewtering, an idea from their cast your own chess sets ‘antique finish’. Black acrylic paint is painted over the figures, then fairly quickly wiped off with a cloth or kitchen roll before fully dry.
Another alternative is the simple gilt or gold paint finish.
I tried out the gilt finish on another home casting, an American sailor drumming, from a metal mould of a different much older (American?) manufacturer.
The older type of metal home cast moulds (usually German or American origin) have much more flash and casting lines, requiring more time and filing to clean up than a modern rubber Prince August mould.
Sometimes I find stray home cast figures in junk shops and online lots that are quite crude, often overpriced such as this cowboy type figure from another metal mould (in this cast in quite soft and bendy lead).
They have a simple charm and many conversion or paint possibilities.
I have now tracked down a three figure (Schneider?) mould No. 56 of this cowboy and two Indian figures to produce more. At some point worth casting enough for a Close Little Wars home cast skirmish of settlers versus natives maybe?
This “fake pewter” or “antiquing” technique can also be tried with some success on silver plastic figures from pound stores.
OBE figures are what Wargaming Miscellany blog author Bob Cordery calls “Other Bugger’s Efforts”, being figures painted by others that you have acquired and their credit shouldn’t be claimed by yourself.
This bunch of six repurposed or repainted Airfix WW1 British Infantry picked up in a £1 mixed bag of bashed painted OO/HO Airfix figures from a favourite second hand shop in Cornwall. (This shop is only occasionally open when I visit, being that sort of shop, a big like the erratic supply / production of Airfix figures themselves).
Dissecting this “Airfix owl pellet”, the mixed remains of someone else’s spare or unwanted figures, I found these interesting troops.
I like their blue and red “Imagi-Nations” sort of uniform and look forward to painting them some reinforcements.
These give me some paint inspiration for Schneider home cast metal figures:
“… I am the leaden army that conquers the world: I am type!”
The 25 or 26 soldiers of lead are of course the lead print letters of the alphabet in a printer’s case.
The 25 or 26 soldiers of lead also remind me of Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Steadfast Tin Soldier, where the source of metal is an old tin spoon, melted down to make almost 25 soldiers, including one incomplete soldier with one leg and a complicated love life.
“Prowl the car boot sales, you can probably pick pint mugs up for around 50p” is Iain Dickie’s advice in sourcing old pewter mugs to melt down for soldier metal in Wargaming on a Budget (Pen & Sword, 2010).
Iain Dickie talks wisely about the dangers and safety measures around melting and moulding lead on the kitchen stove or table, where food is prepared.
The classic book War Games (1962) by Donald Featherstone, ex-wartime tank sergeant and peacetime physiotherapist, had a short section on how to make your own model figures in plaster of Paris moulds.
“One part of printer’s type, which can usually be obtained from the local printer, who usually has a considerable surplus of cuttings and small pieces“, Donald Featherstone says.
These scraps of lead from printers as a source of lead was obviously from the pre-computer days when Fleet Street and local printers still used lead type faces. Vanished world …
I remember when this technology change happened in the 1980s, when suddenly loads of printers’ type trays were on the market. Not sure if they were UPPER CASE or lower cases.
At first sight these trays looked good display frames for figures but were quite shallow and without a glass cover, you’d be forever dusting. Another manly household chore to add to “slaving over a hot stove” as Donald Featherstone mentions below.