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.
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.
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 http://www.tabletoptalk.com/?p=572
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.
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.
The great joy of these home casting ‘mix and match’ is the creation of figures – soldiers and civilians of all nations – in box sets and parades that never existed in the heyday of lead figures, before they vanished in favour of safer, unbreakable (and often now crumbling) plastic from the 1960s onwards.
Of these, in future blogposts, I’ll feature some of the stranger ones from the bands, parades, civilians and soldiers of all my ‘imagi-nations’.
The other creative way to acquire the figures of your wilder “Imagi-nations” was through conversion (plenty of collecting toy figures books in the library or out of print online for this topic) or repaint.
The toy soldier version of a car respray, some of the odd figures found online or in junkshops in my collection are childish repaints or very slop happy repaint jobs in whatever colours were available for whatever figures were required for play or parades. Again a future subject for blogposts …