Home casting figures – functional repairs and old toy soldier DNA

Useful tools of the repair trade – pin vice and file – to repair a miscast musket.

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.

Second casting session a few days ago – a few missing musket tips, heads and bows to repair.

On the repair tray where missing musket tips are replaced, heads swapped and bows repaired …

The perfect casting, the half cast musket and a masking tape, wire and glue repair.

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.

http://tradgardland.blogspot.com/search/label/Afrika

http://tradgardland.blogspot.com/search/label/Lurland

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).

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/27/typecasting/

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!

Inspired?

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

https://shop.princeaugust.ie

or their official eBay shop mouldsandminis https://www.ebay.co.uk/str/mouldsandminiatures?_trksid=p2047675.l2563

Berlinner Zinnfiguren (Germany / EU) https://www.zinnfigur.com/en/Casting/

In America, Rich at Dunken has now acquired several old manufacturers’ collections of moulds https://www.dunken.com

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 17/18 April 2021.

Steadfast Man of Tin #2

imageAnother part of my collection of different  illustrated versions of the Steadfast Tin Soldier  by Hans Christian Andersen is this one illustrated by John Patience, undated but looking 1960s or 1970s.

John Patience was born in 1949, and you can see more of his work at:

http://johnpatience.deviantart.com/gallery/

http://www.patience.co.uk/john/

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A Napoleonic shako wearing set of tin soldiers with Danish blue trousers and white cross belts.

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A dramatic battleground backdrop for John Patience’s Steadfast Tin Soldier book.

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Strong black and white patterns along with a psychedelic wizard or jack in the box suggests a 1960s to 1970s date of illustration:

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Amphibious adventures for Napoleonic toy soldiers result.

Menacing rats …

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A very heroic lack of reaction …

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A  collage of real newspaper in this lovely underwater scene.

And then the tragic end or the romantic blending into a tin heart, at one with the ballerina …

The tin heart features in the Prince August mould.

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Posted by Mark, Man of TIN, April 2018.

Steadfast Soldiers of Tin #1

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A lost post draft from June 2016, in my first month of Man of TIN blog: I have several copies of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Steadfast Tin Soldier“, which was originally published close (1838) to the Brontes imagi-nations writing of the Angria and Gondal stories, also inspired by a box of toy soldiers.

The illustrations and story sections in some illustrated Andersen editions are darker and more troubling than others. A quick Google or Pinterest search on images throws up dozens of different illustrations for the Steadfast Tin Soldier.

There is more about Andersen’s disturbing or inspiring tale of ‘steadfastness’, interpretations of its psychology and its many variations from Balanchine ballet to punk songs on the Wikipedia entry for the story:

On his birthday, a boy receives a set of 25 toy soldiers and arrays them on a table top. One soldier stands on a single leg, having been the last one cast from an old tin spoon.

Nearby, the soldier spies a paper ballerina with a spangle on her sash. She too is standing on one leg and the soldier falls in love. That night, a goblin among the toys in the form of a Jack in the box angrily warns the soldier to take his eyes off the ballerina, but the soldier ignores him.

The next day, the soldier falls from a windowsill (presumably the work of the goblin) and lands in the street. Two boys find the soldier, place him in a paper boat, and set him sailing in the gutter … (Wikipedia summary)

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Rene Cloke’s illustrations for the Steadfast Tin Soldier.

25 Soldiers of lead (or tin), so nearly our blog title!

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Rene Cloke illustration.

Surely there is the opportunity for further adventures or alternative endings rather than what usually happens. Is this the making of a board game, a figure game, a new story?

The usual ending goes:

… the boat and its passenger wash into a storm drain, where a rat demands the soldier pay a toll. Sailing on, the boat is washed into a canal, where the tin soldier is swallowed by a fish.

When the fish is caught and cut open, the tin soldier finds himself once again on the table top before the ballerina. Inexplicably, the boy throws the tin soldier into the fire.

A wind blows the ballerina into the fire with him; she is consumed at once but her spangle remains. The tin soldier melts into the shape of a heart. (Wikipedia plot summary)

Prince August do a superb little home metal casting starter set based around the Steadfast Tin Soldier: http://shop.princeaugust.ie/pa111-the-brave-tin-soldier-mould/

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A very Danish Life guard design for the Steadfast Toy Soldier (Image source: Prince August home casting website.)

Metal and wooden toy soldier inspiration from the Steadfast Tin Soldier:

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Dorset Soldiers’ Toy Town soldier casting (photo / painted by Man of TIN)
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Wooden Toy Soldier Guardsmen and policemen from London Wooden toy building  sets (Collection: Man of TIN)
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Pound store pirate copy of German infantryman painted up in Toy Soldier gloss paints. (Painted / photo: Man of TIN)
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Charming toy soldier drummer boy brooch alongside wooden London guardsmen toy soldiers. (Collection: Man of TIN)

These steadfast toy soldier figure styles can be achieved by imaginative gloss paint schemes, such as these Pippin Fort Trumpton inspired figures using spare 54mm Airfix Japanese infantry.

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Steadfast Tin Soldiers or plastic Airfix Japanese Infantry? (Painted / photo: Man of TIN)
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Salute the Steadfast Tin Soldier! This one of my Prince August 54mm home cast guardsman was created as a rather heavy brooch gift with suitable backing clip. This is also My Man of TIN / 26 Soldiers of Tin profile picture / Gravatar. (Painted/ photo: Man of TIN)

Posted by Mr. MIN, Man of TIN, June 2016.

The Hex Files – Thing are Getting Strange …

“Things are getting strange, I’m Starting To Worry, This could be a Case for Mulder and Scully …” (Catatonia)

On the distractions or gaming riches of binge watching box sets during Lockdown …

What series or TV programmes distract from or inspire your gaming scenarios?

Crossposted by Mark Man of TIN from my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blogposts

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2021/03/24/the-hex-files-things-are-getting-strange-im-starting-to-worry-this-could-be-a-case-for-mulder-and-scully/

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Toy Soldiers

Image source: Robert Louis Stevenson Museum / Nancy Horan / Pinterest

Reading again Robert Louis Stevenson’s toy soldier poem The Land of Counterpane on the Duchy of Tradgardland blog made me look again at some blog posts I had written about RLS’ toy soldier poems from A Child’s Garden of Verses.

I came across a link to these “old leaded soldiers” belonging to Robert Louis Stevenson at the RLS museum in California (currently closed due to Coronavirus):

https://stevensonmuseum.org/the-museum/collections/personal-objects/

Sounds a museum well worth a visit if you live nearby.

I wondered if there were pictures of these soldiers on their RLS Museum website or on the web of RLS’ “old leaded Soldiers”, RLS being a pioneer of early wargaming with his stepson Lloyd Osbourne, their battle or game reports written up stylishly in their “Yallobelly Times”.

I found this picture from the museum of these 19th Century (European? German manufactured?) tin flat toy soldiers with which RLS might have played these pioneer games.

Close up : Image source: Robert Louis Stevenson Museum / Nancy Horan / Pinterest

Famous as the author of Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson was also an early war gamer.

His role as ” grandfather” or “great uncle” in the history of wargaming (depending where you place H G Wells) was acknowledged by “father of the modern wargame” Donald Featherstone in his book War Games (1962), a book that began the hobby careers of so many of us.

RLS mention from Donald Featherstone, War Games (1962)

Stevenson at Play, a magazine article describes a complex strategic wargame that the author and his 12 year old stepson, Samuel Lloyd Osbourne, played in the early 1880s which you can read reprinted here:

http://vintagewargaming.blogspot.com/2009/11/robert-louis-stevenson.html

Stevenson’s complex game does not seem to have had the attention that H G Wells‘ Little Wars has had, even though despite the popgun driven firing system, there are many surprisingly modern features: four man units, concealed movement, ammunition logistics … well worth rereading.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 2 October 2020

Blog Post Script – some RLS and others toy soldier poems that I have featured on my blog over the years

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/block-city-rls-and-

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2018/02/17/more-dumb-soldiers-in-the-garden/

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/10/07/rls-martial-elegy-for-some-lead-soldiers/

Glass Town Wars by Celia Rees – a gaming modern take on the Bronte ImagiNations

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Zombies, attack helicopters, djinn, Faeries, video games tech, Napoleonic riflemen … what more could you want from a book?

The Bronte sisters and brother wrote some lively but fragmented ImagiNations stories full of battles, conquests, intrigue and romance. A Napoleonic Regency Georgian era Game of Thrones

One of the problems in using the surviving Bronte fragments of these tiny handwritten books is that they are very disjointed, only some sections have survived and it takes a long while to sort out who is who, with characters with multiple names. Not promising for someone like me who prefers a simple uncomplicated narrative … but Celia Rees pulls this off cleverly in her fast paced historical fantasy adventure story.

This book was a chance find looking up the ‘Brontes’ and also ‘Wargames’ search terms on my local library catalogue. My interest in this book was that I have been slowly piecing together bits of these stories as ImagiNations gaming scenarios: https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/gaming-the-bronte-family-imaginations-of-glasstown-angria-gondal-and-gaaldine/

Some of my recent Bronte ImagiNations figures repaints from Airfix ACW figures

Celia Rees has written a young adult novel that, using multiple layers of narrative, wraps the broken and fragmented Bronte ImagiNations narrative in with a modern outer story of young techno wizardry and skullduggery.

Tom, a modern teenage boy in a coma,  is watched over in hospital by a quiet girl called Lucy. He is projected by a crooked teenage bitcoin tycoon ‘techno wizard’ Milo Mindbender back from a modern teenage world of hospitals, YouTube, hashtags and social media into a painfully real ‘virtual world’ of a Napoleonic battle zone to meet one of the feisty Bronte female warrior characters, Lady AGA or Augusta.

There is a suggestion that Lucy has been reading Wuthering Heights to Tom whilst he is in his coma.

Readers of Sharpe novels would enjoy this opening Napoleonic skirmishing section. There are later on some wild rough Scots, more 45 Jacobite than Napoleonic, from Sneachiesland who turn into Rogue’s Revolutionary Guard, intent on sacking the capital.

But what if you could actually be inside the game?” argues the villain Mindbender.

How? A secret untested prototype little virtual reality gizmo or gadget called the Echeneis slipped into Tom’s ear is involved, developed for gaming by Mindbender. Unfortunately this is an experimental VR (virtual reality) so intense where you can feel pain, be wounded and potentially die … Game Over for the hashtag #boyinacoma?

The Bronte ImagiNations were inspired by the gift to brother young Branwell Bronte of the Twelves, a dozen wooden Napoleonic soldiers.

Some of the Bronte male characters are borrowed like Percy ‘Rogue’ Duke of Northangerland and his sometime allies or rivals, Lord Charles Wellesley and Douro, both versions of Wellington, along with many minor Bronte characters, are also featured in the peculiar Colonial Tropical Africa / Yorkshire of their Glasstown and Angria ImagiNations.

An epilogue sets out what elements and characters Celia Rees has borrowed from the Bronte family ImagiNations tiny books and the Bronte family’s real lives.

Celia Rees picks up the dystopian, Steampunk elements of the Bronte world and it mixes in well as part of the  science fiction or fantasy genre. There are ‘Fairish’  lands and Underground ‘Deeps’ which bring an edge of Tolkien, pursuit by violent desert storm-like Jinn Spirit Winds and a clunky bit of shamanism. Probably a bit of Yorkshire folklore in here too.

No plot spoilers here but expect the unexpected …

There are small skirmishes with raiding parties with a Reiving medieval feel but made up of Napoleonic troops, laying waste to Augusta’s Northern lands on Percy Rogue’s behalf (he of the Byronic black horse, black banners and black locks). These troops are ambushed by the flint tipped arrows of Robin Goodfellow and the Fairish peoples of the Summer Lord. Flint against Flintlock. Interesting gaming scenarios …

The Capital Glass Town or Verdopolis is riven with revolution, political unrest, Luddite riots and demonstrations, bloodily put down in the manner of the Peterloo Massacre and Chartist Unrest of the 1830s (not far from the events of Charlotte Bronte’s lesser known novel Shirley). A guillotine and echoes of the French Revolution appear.

The multiple layers of modern life, video games and suggestions that we are inside the Bronte dreams of ImagiNations fictions are occasionally alluded to by characters as a kind of dream logic or jarring. The neighbouring countries so different from each other? “the different lands take after their founders“.

One character questions: “I sometimes think that none of it is well, real. Glasstown and all of its people, myself included – we’re mere ideas in someone else’s brain. Part of some other creature’s game…”

There is a fair amount of Regency Ball type behaviour in the Royal Court. Not quite Pride and Prejudice but keep a look out for zombies … well, this adds some Gothic elements.

Later on the Tron or Jumanji film elements of falling into and having to play your way out of a video game are developed and we also enter into the mind, imagination or company of a character who may or may not be Emily Bronte.  Attack helicopters also make a surprise gaming appearance!

The genesis of this book is discussed by Celia here, with inspiration from an attractive Napoleonic rifleman ceramic statuette

http://the-history-girls.blogspot.com/2018/10/glass-town-wars-and-brontes-celia-rees.html

Other similar modern fiction takes on the Bronte Imaginations

An enjoyable and surprising book, much less cluttered and clunky than a lot of the Gondal fan fictions on the internet, which cleverly exploits the gaps and confusions of missing sections of the Bronte’s famous little books.

Jen Burdoo the gamer librarian from the USA introduced me to The Return of the Twelves, an award winning and enjoyable but now forgotten 1963 children’s book by British author Pauline Clarke about the original Twelves, the Bronte toy soldiers that had survived through time, kept alive through the power of the Bronte children’s imagination but lost and forgotten.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twelve_and_the_Genii

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1472754.The_Return_of_the_Twelves

Last year also saw the publication of Catherynne M. Valente’s hardback doorstep of a book The Great Glass Town Game which I got stuck on halfway through – another attempt needed to read this Alice and Nonsense style inspired Bronte children fantasy http://www.catherynnemvalente.com. It has mixed reviews, often partly on account of its length https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26810460-the-glass-town-game

One to return to …

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 31 August 2019

Stealth’s Take on Close Little Wars

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Following up my post about Jen B’s version of Featherstone’s Close Wars Rules, fellow games blogger Stealth contacted me to say that he had been playing around with his own variant of Donald Featherstone’s simple Close Wars rules.

These were first published in Don’s appendix to War Games (1962) and Stealth had been looking at my variants Close Little Wars.

Here is Stealth’s variant are in detail for you to peruse: https://stealthswargaming.blogspot.com/2019/05/stealths-close-little-wars-variant-rules.html

and his classic first wargames minis are first version 1960s tiny Airfix figure conversions, always a charming joy to see

https://stealthswargaming.blogspot.com/2019/06/i-emerge-from-painting-cave-to-give-you.html

Stealth’s rules have a slight D & D influence or feel (see his other blogs) in that carrying or capturing crates forms part of the victory conditions, scoring and scenarios. Interesting idea for ambushing a supply column etc.

I hope you find something of rules variants interest here. I enjoy seeing how people adapt and tinker, go back to basics and then elaborate a bit more.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN on 16 June 2019.

Restored corner of the house that is my Hex Boards of Joy

For a few months I have not done much gaming to write up.

Not since a short Mountie Skirmish in late November 2018 last year https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/30/mountie-ambush-game-15mm/

For a few months my gaming area and tabletop have been covered in broken Britain’s figures awaiting repair, Peter Laing 15mm figures awaiting paint, tools and useful bits of scrap for modelling.

54mm superheroes and tiny blocky Minecraft figures

I am as happy casting, repairing and painting figures as I am gaming with them, hence the quote on Man of TIN blog from Donald Featherstone:

The largest hex game board has hung on the wall being a former picture frame – a neat storage solution tucked away in the corner of a shared living room.

As part of the Scout Wide Games research and rules writing, I am not sure if my hex boards will be too small for the 42mm range Scout figures I have painted. Maybe I should have gone smaller, say OO/HO railway or my Pound Store figure conversions? Different size figures, different scale scenarios?

15mm Peter Laing figures for a different scale

I have been playing around with scale from 54mm superheroes and tiny blocky Minecraft blind bag figures (Heroscape hexes have a 3D landscape Minecraft feel) down to 15mm Peter Laing figures, which give a bigger playing space.

Set up for 42mm range STS Little Britons Scouts (Boy and Girl) …

Having a large enough landscape for the Wide Games scenarios is obviously harder with the larger Scout figures 42mm Shiny Toy Soldiers / Little Britons range (from Spencer Smith Miniatures), so the scale and ground space available may shape the scope of future scenarios.

My couple of quick paint conversions of Pound Store figures in a smaller scale may enlarge the territory available to my Scouting games – I can cheaply and quickly knock up a couple of patrols of these to try this out.

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2019/05/19/pound-store-plastic-boy-scout-32mm-conversions/

32mm Pound Store Scout conversions & the original penny plastic figures

Part of the Wide Games appeal is that tabletop Wide Games could equally function as Garden games especially with the largest, simplest 60mm semi-flat Scouts – as pointed by Alan the Tradgardmastre of the Duchy Of Tradgardland Blog.

http://tradgardland.blogspot.com/2019/05/scouts-for-wide-games.html

If only my ageing knees and back and the weather were up to it …

The rest of the space?

A column of Really Useful Boxes divides the playing space from the crafting space. More Really Useful Boxes and Shoe Boxes are stowed away below the gaming table and the chairs.

Acquiring job lots of broken toy soldiers to repair requires storage. The Peter Laing figures, both painted and awaiting paint, require storage. Scrap modelling materials, tools and paints require storage.

For the last few months, wriggling into the old crafting chair has felt like sliding into a narrow cockpit to focus down onto the hand tools, paintbrush and figures in front of me. It’s also meant that I had no gaming space. Shifting these about and restowing boxes has helped no end.

My flap-down desk with cardboard screen keeping paper contents and books safe from paint.

I understand more fully now the points about concentration and wellbeing made in the Models for Heroes videos. There is a mental craft zone that the world shrinks down to.

I am reminded of the ominous episode in Harry Pearson’s gaming memoir Achtung Schweinhund where Harry hears from his gaming best friend about an obsessive hoarder (stereotypically male, middle aged, single). This man’s decaying house is in danger of collapse from an Aladdin’s Cave of stored vintage unboxed figures, magazines and newspapers, yet eerily the paint table is immaculate and ordered. Harry and friend see a vision of their possible lonely futures.

My Crafting “Cockpit”: Phoenix 43 Trek Cart kit & washed-out Cath Kidston pink Guards mug

The cutting board and painting space that forms my crafting area has now transferred to the right of the board onto a flap down modern bureau desk, rather than than the traditional modeller’s Roll Top type desk. It fits into the rest of the family without sitting in a room apart. It’s stuffed full of toy soldier things and research notes and books for other work-related projects, protected from paint splatters by a removable cardboard screen. Reorganising the contents means that everything should be able to fold back up out of sight.

The desk top “display” space itself could also do with a tidy up as it is currently piled with figures and books that I have worked on in the last year. Inspiration but it’s also a jumble of what has been inside my head recently.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/the-domestic-modelling-joys-of-the-roll-top-desk/

Next to this sits a small bulging cupboard stuffed full with books, hollowcast figures and hoarded Airfix figures and kits from childhood onwards, again its top piled with this year’s projects. Again all of these could do with a sort through on another grey day.

More Really Useful storage boxes live in the garage for my metal casting kit, buildings, some other temperature proof gaming stuff and metal figures, whilst the indoor storage is reserved for the more vulnerable fragile vintage and childhood plastics figures and vehicles.

The painting above the desk is a recent acquisition, a framed Illustrated London News print of the Lancashire Rifle Volunteers parading at Knowsley Park. Britain’s Victorian Home Guard against another Napoleonic French invasion, and finely dressed at that. One for Marvin at Subterranean Militarism!

The Review of Lancashire Rifle Volunteers in Knowsley Park. Illustration for The Illustrated London News, 15 September 1860.

So there you are, restored –

an experimental games lab to try out Wide Games or gaming scenarios indoors,

an encouragement to paint and base those Peter Laings stuck in the lead limbo of the ‘work in progress’ painting box,

hopefully a little more presentable part of the Living Room if we have visitors to the house!

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 9 June 2019.

Happy Christmas 2018 from the Man of TIN

 

I hope you have enjoyed the last 24 days chaotically themed or eclectic blog posts as the Man of TIN Advent Calendar.

From your likes and comments, it seems that many of you have enjoyed the varied nature of these December posts and thank you for taking the time to leave these comments, I really enjoy reading them.

This is my other Advent Calendar, part of the beautiful traditional Toy Shop Advent Calendar that we have been opening at home this Christmas, designed by talented modern British artist Emily Sutton. http://www.emillustrates.com

You can see the whole thing at

http://www.art-angels.co.uk/prod/toy-shop

I photographed the two panels which feature toy soldiers, another one of a long running theme of traditional toy soldier blog posts.

The tiny pictures by Emily behind hidden numbered doors or windows were equally whimsical and charming, such as the dolls house interior of the dolls house (at No. 8).

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Giving away no secrets, this tipsy bunch of toy soldiers popped up behind another window. So maybe that’s why Toy soldiers have their traditional red cheeks?

Blog posted by Mark for the  Man of TIN blog on Christmas Day 2018. Happy Christmas!