Sunday, December 20, 2009

Holiday Time in the Studio

Season's Greetings

From Toy Soldiers Forever!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

54mm Trees, from Victory Wood Working (that's me!)

Can't see the forest for the trees? I've been very delinquent about posting but the video here will show you how I've been staying busy.

Here's my latest project, manufactured in my new a woodshop which I've immediately dragooned for toy soldier duty.

First project: 54mm trees.

 Watch me make the tree by watching another little video right here.

I hope you get lots and lots of toy soldiers for the holidays.

See you on Jan 1.

Soldier on!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Just add soldiers

Let's all climb aboard the Toy Soldiers Forever! schoolbus and travel to Sharpsburg Maryland to visit  Antietam  National Battlefield, or at least a miniature version of that remarkable park.

As our bus arches over the historic Upper Bridge the transformation occurs (don't be alarmed)...

as we make it to the other side of Antietam Creek, no worse for wear, just a great deal smaller.

At four inches in length our basswood school bus doesn't provide much leg room, but we're very near our destination...

just up ahead...

a very small, and not particularly "in-scale" rendering of my favorite National Park.

As the bus pulls up to the Mumma education center in the background, I've continued into Sharpsburg to get lunch (miniaturization always makes me hungry).

The Mumma house and barn were burned by the Confederates during the 13-hour battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862.  The Mummas were able, however, to rebuild within a year.

A happy ending for the Mummas.  This spring I set up shop in that very Mumma barn to create this enormous map.

The map and all the various components will be part of a new education program for elementary school kids on mapping and the history of the Antietam Creek Valley.

Perhaps afterwards their teacher will take them up into the observation tower.

Not this miniature one, but...

this one.

I happily agreed to fabricate all of the components for this project and began in late spring.  Painting the map was really fun, but even more so was working with the basswood.

I still have about a half dozen elements to fabricate and by spring this program should be ready to trot out for the kids who travel here in those full-size school busses.

Come on out to Antietam sometime and experience the real thing, in 1:1 scale.

Soldier on!


Monday, September 21, 2009

A Real Soldier, Forever

One week ago I attended a remarkable event marked by great dignity, affection, and respect; the beginning of an unknown soldier's long journey home, deferred by 147 years.

View it here

Soldier on (in peace)


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Toy soldiers in my back yard, forever!

I've lived in this house for two and a half years now. In that time this little garden shed sat in the backyard, underutilized, seldom visited, collecting junk, bugs, and webs.

Now that I'm living alone I'm staying as busy as I can, always on the prowl for projects to fill the void. I decided to empty out the garden shed and consider what better use could be made of its 8 x 16 floorplan and tight roof.

The first step was to run electricity to the structure. The soil around here made this a two day, pickaxe wielding chore. But I ran the conduit and Romex just as a record heat-wave descended into the valley. Nonetheless, the goal was achieved and two outlets and two sets of tracklights were installed.

Next came walls, wainscoating, ceiling shelving, work surfaces, caulking painting, indoor/outdoor carpeting, and two week later - today - I moved into my three season studio, the permanent home of Toy Soldiers Forever!

The ammunition chests under the counter house zillions of plastic 54mm ACW guys.

The ceiling is open to the sky to allow inspiration and fun to flow in while allowing worry and melancholy to flow out. Clever eh? Oh my, you can see the stars!

The primary counter top allows toy soldiers to run rampant over a painted Cumberland Valley whilst I'm away.

Upon my return, without fail, all troops resume their static position on the shelves; plastic ACW men above, paper Prussians below.

Gadzooks! perhaps the pewter Third Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment has finally found a permanent home.

I'm hoping exactly the same thing for me.

The space also accommodates my drawing table, where for three seasons of the year I hope to move lots of ink around in a productive manner...

As these Yankees and Rebels might attest.

Eventually the shelves will be filled with soldiers and buildings, and an occasional battle may rage upon the green carpet. Eventually I'll get back to updating this blog twice monthly as billed. Until then, wish me well.

Soldier on!


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Toy Soldiers Forever, and ever.

The Land of Counterpane
by Robert Louis Stevenson

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Life on tap, blog on hold

Dear readers,

Personal events have intervened to distract me from maintaining this blog in a regular manner. I hope to get back at it sooner rather than later.

I appreciate the folks who have regularly stopped by, and look forward to brighter (and toy soldier-filled) days.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Americana Blockhouse (sort of)

Monocacy Sentinel
This blog has always spoken very highly of the buildings produced by BMC/Americana; Lee's and Meade's headquarters, Dunker Church etc. They are simple, fairly handsome, and accurate kits that assemble easily and enhance any 54mm. battle scenario. But what I like the most about them is the ease with which they can be converted.

An earlier post to this blog showed a Meade's headquarters which was converted into a small factory building and another that was transformed into a small blacksmiths forge (see them here).

With this entry, I submit for your edification a new BMC/Americana modification; the Monocacy Blockhouse.

As we all learned from years of watching the A-Team, everything starts with a plan.  This is the plan that I drew up for this blockhouse idea.  The concept was based upon a generic Civil war-era Federal timber blockhouse.  Mine was to be of the blockhouse that watched over the vital railroad junction at Monocacy outside of Frederick Maryland.

The BMC/Americana components that comprised this conversion were the roof panels from two Lee's headquarters and the stockade walls and gatehouses from the Andersonville kit.

The crenelations at the top of the walls were cut off using my table saw, and the dimensions were scaled off a 54mm soldier.

The  bonding was all done by "welding" the pieces together with a soldering iron.  This is an extremely effective technique for working with this type of plastic.  Do note that caution must be taken as the fumes created using this method are toxic and adequate ventilation must be used.

And by ventilation, I don't mean simply doing the project outdoors, I use an exhaust hood which completely eliminates exposure to the smoke, to the point that a mask is unnecessary.
I really can't overstate the need for positive ventilation here.  Also take care when using the soldering iron.

This is the completed roof including an observation cupola.

The same welding technique was used to construct the two storeys of the blockhouse.  Here the lower storey is shown complete with shooting steps and loopholes.  The rectangular pieces of plastic in the corners are simply reinforcements for the bonding of the walls.

Roof, upper, and lower levels all fit snugly together, but come apart easily for the positioning of troops.

Mounted to a flocked plywood base (which is removable) the blockhouse is primed and ready for painting.

The lower storey is whitewashed with artillery green trim, the upper storey is natural weathered wood and the roof is cedar shakes.  The whole kit and kaboodle was weathered and dry-brushed.

The sign board was hand lettered and weathered.

The loopholes accommodate men in both standing and kneeling firing positions.

A daunting sight for anyone approaching the junction with evil intent.  The larger ports are to accommodate a cannon.

The engineer castle and Federal shield escutcheons were made from Sculpey and applied to each side of the front gatehouse.  This motif was influenced by a similar design of the restored gates at Fort Ward in Alexandria Virginia.

Click on the image for a close-up of the motif at the top of the gate.

Altogether a very satisfying project, and one that I hope Americana may undertake itself one fine day.
See you again on June 1st.
Soldier on!