Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dear Santa: Thanks for the Artillery


Under my Christmas tree were not one but two 54mm Wm. Britains 12-pounder light-gun howitzers, commonly called the "Napoleon". Needless to say I am a happy boy.

The gun is up to Britain's usual meticulous standards and is a joy to look at.

In a side-by-side comparison with the real thing it's a dead-ringer.  (Isn't it cool that I have daily access to an actual gun and limber?)

Britain's sets a high standard for packaging though one can only imagine how this impacts the cost of the piece.

I am not one of those unusual types who keeps toys unopened as an investment.  Regular readers of this blog know that I am all about playing with toy soldiers.  High-end miniatures are no exception.  The only warfare that this piece will be exempted from will be rough outdoor play; for table top combat, however, it will be expected to do its duty. 

Join me for a quick walk-around

The scale is right on and the details are exquisite (first use of the word on this blog)

Note that even the front sight is in evidence.

 Like the real thing it has a hand screw below the breach for elevation and a hand-spike for deflection.

The only anomaly in the design of this piece is that the hand-spike would not be deployed while the implements are still in the stowed position. 

For that reason I may remove this hand-spike, drill out the trail rings, and use this as a towed piece behind a limber.  I realize that this idea is anethema to "real collectors" but Hey, get your own gun.  My gun, my rules.

The "prolonge" is well sculpted and proportional to the rest of the guns.  The vent is distinct as is the bracket (above the knob) for the pendulum-hausse ( the removable rear-sight).

 The water bucket and implement hooks are perfect, though the bucket, in an act of gravity defiance, is canted slightly forward, though this angle is appropriate in the towed position.

Both the sponge-rammer and worm are correctly positioned and stowed. Goodness!  That is one factory-fresh sponge, n'est-ce pas?

Trunnions and spare hand-spike are  also beautifully sculpted.

Land o' Goshen! even the underside is fully detailed.  Britains just can't be beat.

Here's a quick look at the real thing in action:

Let's get a half-detachment in place to put this bronze beauty through it's paces.

While number 1 stands by with sponge-rammer, and number 3 dutifully "thumbs" the vent, number 2 fills in on the hand-spike, setting the deflection.

That this detachment is only half-staffed will be rectified as soon as the paint cures on their 54mm comrades-in-arms.

To prevent premature firing, and the resultant maiming of number 1 it is  essential that number - keep his thumb-stall snugly over the vent throughout the loading process.

See my Park Service video here for a full explanation of the loading and firing process for a twelve-pounder.

Time to get this piece in battery for some actual combat.

With that incredible Britains accuracy its difficult to tell which twin has the Tony

This gun's going to look great with its five sisters.  I'll keep you posted.   Until then...

Soldier on!



Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Action Front! A Redemption Story


Battery B, 4th US Artillery

Here's an artillery story, start to finish.

Recently, on ebay,  I bought this Hong Kong knock-off of the Swoppet limber, gun, and crew.  Upon arrival buyer's remorse immediately set in.

Although the castings were mirror images of the Britains originals, they were finished in a bizarre fake pewter finish.  What, exactly, might have our Hong Kong friends been thinking?

Oddly, the limber was the only piece not pewterfied (or perhaps, putrefied). Two outriders and the lid to the ammunition chest were missing in this counterfeit cannon convocation.

That omission of the lid was quickly remedied with a visit to my table and band saws. 

The result was a perfect fit.

Now came time to deal with that wacky metallic finish.

The bugler sounded "assembly" and all hands mustered into an oatmeal can.

All concerned were about to understand the phrase "Better living through chemistry."

Always keep those old toothbrushes around.

Stripped of their finish, a remarkable array of colors was revealed.

Keep an eye on Manny, Moe, and Jack here as you'll be seeing more of them.

Everybody got a nice coat of Floquil white primer. 

Our gleesome threesome is ready for painting.

These are the outriders which were missing along with the limber lid.  Fortunately I had acquired this pair earlier in their original and  not-very-impressive Swoppet colors.

Using the hot water treatment. I reshaped them with different arm positions and narrowed their stance for a better seat on the saddle.  Left is before and right is after.

Out came the Testors paint and the sergeant and corporal are transformed.

 I finished everyone in the traditional bright toy soldier finish. 

And here we go, the reclaimed detachment, fully redone and rushing into action:

It's a mighty fast and bumpy ride...

but our steadfast trio hangs on tight as the limber and gun charge forward...

over hill and dale...

The noncoms whip the horses into a lather in hopes of beating the Rebels to the high ground.

It's nip and tuck.

Arriving in the nick of time the detachment commander oversees the unlimbering

The gun is man-handled into place...

carefully sighted,  and loaded with double canister awaiting the order to...


The rebel charge is broken.

All in a day's work for Battery B, 4th US Artillery.

Buyer's remorse is gone.

Soldier on!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Watch This Space


I'm working on a fun little rehab project.

I'll keep you posted.

Soldier on!


Sunday, October 2, 2011

CTS Confederates Pass in Review!

This week a tidy package arrived at my door from Battlefield Legends; always a happy sight.

Hot diggity!  Confederate reinforcements.

A box of new figures from CTS.  Sixteen figures in eight poses, with some extras.
 Let's check them out as they pass the reviewing stand.

Standing shooting guy is typical of the lot; exceptionally fine animation, imaginative poses, nice detail, and solid additions to a firing line.

There is something about the sculpting that I really like, perhaps it's just chunky enough to detect the hands of the sculptor behind it.  I like that,  its an element often lost in slicker figures.

The old sarge is drawing a bead on a Yankee or perhaps a wild turkey.  This is the only one of the group with chevrons (pretty robust ones at that).

Charging bayonet guy has the weakest posture of the group, though still a very nice figure...

and it's nice to see that Fred Gwynne is still getting roles these days.

Charging kepi guy is another really nice figure, though I do wish his bayonet was fixed.  I'd prefer it if manufactures routinely cast bayonets fixed.  That would give the consumers - us - the option to keep them on or simply trim them off.  What a perfect world that would be.

This is either a sesesh in full rebel yell, or a three-pack-a-day mudsill who's struggling to stay up with the  rest of the regiment.  They didn't have Chantix back in the day y'know.

From the side some weakness in the sculpting become apparent, though I do like the Shirley Temple locks.

Pete Townsend wounded guy.   Nice windmill, by the way.  Casualties are always an asset in my pretend battles.  And having a member of The Who showing up on the field is an added bonus.

This is a pose I never tire of; a soldier loading from the kneeling position.  On any firing line it's great to have guys loading and firing from behind rocks and fences.  This little reb fills the bill nicely.

Though this guy's whacky facial-hair does seem to have its own agenda.

My favorite figure of all is this very determined rebel heading to a brawl.  The animation is very dynamic, he's obviously in a hurry, and his clenched fist makes it clear that he knows
 this will be no cake walk.

This is one determined Bubba.  Hey, I think I saw this same guy at the Waffle House last week.

Kneeling shooting guy is a welcome asset to the firing line.

Again, the gestural sculpting really gives these figures an artistic touch.

Looking very much like the Ideal version of the same pose, prone shooting guy is perfect for plugging a yank from beneath a fence rail.  Though in this position, reloading is going to be a real chore with that muzzle-loader he's carrying.

Trouser legs bloused in socks is a nice detail.

"Mommy, daddy...were things ever made in America?"

"Goodness no honey, at least not in my memory.  Chinese slave labor has made everything so doggone affordable for as long as daddy and I can remember."   "Sweet dreams, honey."

So there's our soldiers, and check this out as an extra; a nice little section of stone wall for them to take cover behind.  

Boy, our friends over at Battlefield Legends think of just about everything.

And how!  They even include instructions on how to use hot water to straighten bent rifles.

In these three poses note the bent rifles to the left of each pair and the straightened ones on the right.  It's just like magic.  You can see a little video I made on this process here.

Altogether a really excellent set of figures and a welcome addition to the firing line.

But wait...

There's more!

Frequently the fine folks at Battlefield Legends run a promotion.  This purchase included a free gift of a repro of the legendary Marx seacoast mortar.

We've all seen these offered before, but what makes this one unique is that it comes with most of the components to make it fire!

I was very gratified to find the trigger mechanism as well as the original barrel liner included.

All that's needed to return this big boy to ballistic service is a rubber band...

 and a coil compression spring, which may be at the hardware store.
As you see above, the rubber band is already installed to allow the trigger to flex.

As soon as I get the appropriate spring, the Dictator here will be ready to rumble.

Unfortunately, the barrel did come with a crack in it, so I'll probably be shooting reduced powder charges.

I'll keep you posted.

Soldier on!