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
The proudest part of the Thyer Brigadian uniforms is the brass cavalry style plumed dragoon helmets which are often copied by Fire Brigades worldwide. Interestingly these Volunteer Militia troops are also the Volunteer Fire Brigade in their various towns and villages (hence the variations in uniforms), making sure that their native Alpine wooden houses and mountain forests do not catch fire. A fireman’s axe is carried on fire duty and state occasions.
They display the Thyer Brigadia Volunteer Firemen’s flag of blazing red orb symbol on a yellow background, a flag proudly made by some of their wives and mothers.
Shiny Toy Soldier style faces with the pink cheek dot fit complete the look
Alan Gruber suggested that they should have some ‘wheels’ in the form of a Fire Engine. In the absence of an old fire engine (I’m sure I have the reissued 1/32 Airfix unmade kit one stowed somewhere) I made do with a 1940 Ford 1:32 scale fire truck (obviously imported from America). The uniform has obviously not changed by the 1940s.
I shall have to track down a suitable Dalmatian fire dog to accompany them on parade.
This gives me another unit / outlet for broken figures, once I have ordered some further arms and heads from Dorset in future.
Some battered hollowcast Britain’s from job lots that are long overdue for repair.
They are due to lose their battered Redcoats and acquire new heads, new arms and handsome navy blue jackets. I shall keep the navy blue trousers and red trouser stripe.
I have some Dorset Soldiers recast arms and spare firemen’s heads so this seemed a good chance to create some 54mm shiny toy soldier versions of my scrap 15mm Thyer Brigadia Militia and Volunteer FireFighters.
They will eventually look like armed Victorian Firemen in their shiny brass helmets.
Combined Militia and Fire Brigade, now where have I seen that before?
These are part of my ImagiNations Forgotten Minor States (FMS) in MittelMittel Europe pictured and described here in the mid to late 19th Century
Thanks to a gift of broken and surplus figures from Alan ‘Tradgardland‘ Gruber, I had five damaged or oddly painted Britain’s Deetail Guardsmen to play with.
Some of them already had some bright and colourful but playworn repainted uniforms. I have sensitively repainted some of the more scuffed paintwork to keep these colourful ImagiNations and Ruritanian uniforms.
Such wild paint or uniform schemes (OBEs or Other Beggars’ Efforts) deserve to be preserved and enhanced. The blue and yellow ones have a colourful Scandinavian or a Swiss Guard inspired feel.
Up close, the two red coats along side each other goes to show how easily Britain’s Deetail could have made more traditional Line Infantry with spiked Home Service helmets rather than more modern Guards.
The rifle needed to be modified or repaired with ammunition clips removed to make it more old fashioned. The metal base and feet lugs were missing so feet were drilled, wire pins inserted and fixed through and underneath a card base.
These will be robust enough figures for Little Wars style 54mm games.
The Line Infantry style conversion was done simply by repairing the rifle and removing the original head. The new spiked infantry helmeted head was a spare one in the bits box that I had cast from the Prince August 54mm Traditional Toy Soldier Homecasting set.
A hand pin vice drill was used to drill a hole in neck and head and joined by short piece of wire and superglue.
A quick gloss spray Varnish added to the toy soldier look. A pink cheek dot is still required.
As more such broken Britain’s Deetail figures turn up, I now have several ImagiNations type uniform schemes to add to.
Mixed in amongst Alan Tradgardland Gruber’s kind postal gift of AIP plastic 54mm Rogers Rangers and Woodland Indians were some random figures including some in jigsaw form that Alan included, knowing that I like a figure repair challenge.
Some wonderfully odd over-painting and broken figures to repair. Cowboys missing arms, Prussian missing bases and bayonets, horses without legs and hooves,
My repairs are usually stout ones, functional rather than fine military modelling, in order to bring these battered warriors back into Little Wars tabletop or garden gameable condition.
I use fine wire, superglue, cocktail sticks and masking tape to fix or rebuild missing or broken parts. We have a household allergy to Milliput / Green stuff so fine sculpted carve-able repair is not an option indoors.
Smaller scale cowboy on horse with no legs on the repair desk …
Horse legs roughly repaired, just a little trimming and smoothing required …
Some figures were in multiple fragile pieces like this lovely old Swoppet Indian, still with separate necklace and knife belt attached. After careful repair, he still swivels at waist and head.
Swoppet Indian and Cherilea cowboy in pieces.
Some other smaller cloned cowboys go clubbing with the reassembled smaller Cherilea Cowboy.
A few of the revolvers need a little further trimming and work, but you get the idea.
Converted ACW Confederate Artillery Man with arms or hands repaired.
The Plastic Napoleon had two hoofs or lower leg parts missing on his horse. He has now been rebased with two new sturdy hooves and lower legs.
This charging Timpo Prussian pose was a childhood favourite. Now rebased and bayonet restored.
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.
Fans of the BBC series The Repair Shop, a gentle hour’s watch of an evening, will appreciate the calmness of some quiet focussed mending.
I have been doing some gentle repair work in between Forest Indian / Close Little Wars skirmishes and reorganising my 54mm toy soldier storage into those handy stackable 4L Really Useful Boxes.
This reorganisation of most of my various junk shop and online job lot purchases into “like figures with like” boxes (Red Guards, Red Line Infantry, Scots, Cavalry, Bands, Blue enemies, Zulus, Cowboys, Indians, Khaki troops, Farm etc.) has revealed a slight repair backlog.
I can now joyfully look forward to many hundreds of hours of repair work on damaged men and horses over the next few years. I’m sure I will be putting in a new order for spare arms and heads from Mike Lewis at Dorset Model Soldiers sometime this year.
Mostly my repairs involve repairing or repurposing bashed old lead hollow-cast figures into game playable condition.
I frequently get emails asking if I will repair someone’s toy soldiers or animals that belonged to their father, grandfather etc. Regretfully I explain that my repairs are functional and to my own rough and ready standards for gaming, not professional repairs.
For a change from 54mm lead hollowcast figures, I decided to work on some fragile crumbling 1960s plastic figures, including oversize 60mm ones. Some of these have hung around in our family collection since my childhood. They never quite fitted with the Airfix others, so were usually left unloved in the toy box.
These four figures are Cherilea plastic 60mm WW2 Paratroopers c. 1960.
The two figures on the left have the look of French Resistance fighters, if any really damaged ones ever need a repaint. One of these needed the machine gun barrel repaired.
The grenade throwing figure needs a replacement hand and grenade built up from Fimo polymer clay, masking tape, glue gun or Multipose Airfix spares.
Over the past few years, a few more odd oversized ones have turned up in job lots, so slowly I have enough for a small skirmish game or two of khaki Infantry, Redcoats, Indians, American Civil War or Wild West.
I should be able to run soon a small Close Little Wars game in the Forest of Indians versus Troops (grey, khaki, Redcoat or blue), cowboys etc.
To identify these figures, apart from base markings, I have used Barney Brown’s Herald Toys web shop archive pages of sold figures:
This post is for Brian Carrick of the Collecting Toy Soldiers blog and 1980s Big Wars article who says at the moment in a previous comment he feels like one of these brittle plastic figures – get well soon, hope the broken leg is mending well!
Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN on 19 /20 June 2020