Monday, May 31, 2010

Back to the Studio for Memorial Day

The days prior to the Memorial Day weekend found me back out in the studio as that particular project continues its evolution.  This time it was to work on the facade of the building.  I've always been a big fan of bunting, and as a red-white-and-blue theme would be quite appropriate for an endeavor called "Toy soldiers Forever!"  I decided to install permanent bunting on the front of the studio.

As fabric is so subject to the ravages of sun, wind, and weather, I chose to make mine out of tempered hardboard, painted with exterior paint and sealed against the elements.  Painting a 3-D effect was actually quite simple and the effect was very satisfyng.

Two, eight-foot sections were affixed to the eave of the studio, the gap in the center to be filled by...

painted flags and Union shield.  This is a favorite motif of mine which I encounter daily at Antietam National Battlefield;

here, on one of the pillars of the Maryland monument,
here, on the gate of the National Cemetery

and here on the lodge building.

The finished product brings a splash of 19th century patriotic color to the structure.

The view from the inside, this time of year, is of an explosion of roses,

providing quite a contrast for one of my pair of cast-iron sentinel guns at the doorway.

The studio has enough ventilation to provide a breeze and refuge from even this very hot weather we are currently having.

Taking advantage of the relative cool are rank upon rank of Union and Confederate soldiers, all in 54mm.

Frequently, in my absence, they'll spontaneously burst into frenzied action, here, attacking the Federals at  Fort Stevens outside of Washington D.C. in July of 1864.

Reenforced by regulars the guns of the fort are able to beat back the forces of Jubal Early who had such a promising start to this last Confederate offensive in the east.

Despite the casualties, by the time I return to the studio they are all back in ranks, just as I had left them.

What a wonderful space.  What have I done to deserve this?, I often wonder.

See you on the 15th.

Soldier on!


Saturday, May 15, 2010

BMC/Americana Burnside Bridge revisited

Although I've made my self pretty clear of how I feel about the lack of artful sculpting or  imagination that typifies the 54mm figures of BMC/Americana I know that I've also mentioned how much I enjoy the buildings and other ancillary items that they manufacture.   One of the aspects of those items which I really enjoy is the ease with which they can be modified, improved, or totally kit-bashed into something else (as you can see here).

The bookstore at Antietam National Battlefield asked me to modify a BMC/Americana Burnside Bridge to make it a little more high end.  This was my second such project (the first of which you can view here) and I'm fairly happy with how it turned out.

Using two copies of the stock item, I combined parts of both to achieve a thicker,  more robust, model, more representative of the actual bridge.

In this detail it is clear that bridge sidewalls from both kits are "welded" together along the top.  I used a soldering iron with a flat tip and established a melting pattern that was similar to the wooden coping on the historic bridge.  Doubling the sidewalls really fixes one of the main beefs of this kit, that it's so scrawny-looking compared to the real thing.

I also expanded the width of the roadbed to bring the scale a little more into line with the real thing.  The panels comprising the road surface were split and spaced apart by an inch.  It makes quite a difference in the appearance of the bridge and will better accommodate the passage of wagons and limbers.  The bridge itself is mounted on a nice sheet of 3/16 oak plywood.

Another eyesore in the original is the open, un-ceilinged arches - as seen on the far right.  using sheet styrene I hot glued ceilings into place.  Hot glue is particularly effective with this combination of plastics.

Here, the combined sidewalls encompass the widened roadbed which is covered with a layer of Liquid Nails and over-dusted with fine sawdust.  While still soft, I impressed wagonwheel ruts and horse hoof prints lightly into the surface.

Creek bank landscape is comprised of layers of plywood shaped, glued, and clamped into position.  These also provided a footing allowing the bridge to be securely glued to the base as seen below:

With all of the structural components glued and puttied it came time to spray a light coat of primer over the whole thing.

Here is the primed bridge ready for painting.  Note that fine sawdust was used to texture the creek banks as well as the road bed.

Using acrylic paints the finishing was pretty straight forward.

Here, the paint is curing, afterwhich a two-part acrylic glaze was applied on the creek surface to simulate water.

Though not fool-proof this glazing stuff can provide a very satisfying effect.

And here's the finished piece, ready for delivery.

I like it.

See you in June.
Soldier on!


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Happy May Day Comrades!

Let's join our little one-of-a-kind Fisher Price Commie Young Pioneer as she takes us out back to the Toy Soldiers Forever! workshop to review the latest offering from the plastic mines of the PRC; in this installment a new offering from a new company by the name of Cunnyngham.

Sculpted in a solid medium Gray, this grouping of twelve figures comes in six 54mm poses, representing the 44th Tennessee.  The poses are the always handy postures of infantrymen on the firing line, three in the act of aiming and firing and three in various stages of loading.

I'm surprised that I'd not heard any buzz regarding this particular release as the overall sculpting, anatomy, and animation of these figures are nearly superb.

Let's settle in for a closer inspection as these little rebels line up to pass in review.

Standing shooting guy

Standing shooting guy typifies the outstanding animation and balance of these figures as well as the superior attention to (sometimes fanciful) detail on each of these gray-clad riflemen.

The slack rifle sling, which is a feature on several of these figures, is a nice touch that provides some real animation to the figure.

As he takes aim upon this 54mm foes sixty yards distant, let us take aim on some of the details of this fine figure.  His short, shell jacket is, as was the common practice, open toward the bottom, revealing both his shirt front, as well as...

the sculptors well-executed vision of a Confederate belt plate and the not-altogether-accurate belt, and loops, holding up his trousers.

Perhaps these britches were the work of a futurist seamstress back on the homefront.

Although this error may cause this tiny Tennessean terror to not pass muster among reenactors of the "authentic campaigner" stripe, he surely will hold his own on your firing line.

Ron Perlman sitting shooting guy

With a cross-legged posture that makes him appear nearly comfortable in combat, this well-sculpted visioning of Mr. Perlman is a pose quite unique among all those in my toy box.  If you enjoyed him in Hellboy,  The Tick,  and Sons of Anarchy, you'll love him as this dauntless disciple of disunion.

And when it comes to drawing a determined bead on his plastic foe, just take a gander at the squint on this fellow:

One glance at this mug and any doubt of Perlman's participation on the toy soldier skirmish line vanishes forever!

Possibly the best such sculpting of an aiming soldier I've ever seen.  After this it's easy to forgive his Beauty and the Beast turn, ouch!

Crouching reenactor guy

In this figure, I think we have the Red Chinese manufactures trying to appeal to their customer base, as this infantryman looks like any red-neck one might encounter in the local Wal-Mart.  With the badass biker cap and sleazy facial hair, bubba here looks like he'd be as "at home" in the auto floor mats aisle as on the firing line.

None-the-less, this miniature reb in a patched frock-coat is capping his gun prior to sending an opposing reenactor down-range some faux lead.  Still, the scruffy beard and snazzy hat, though beautifully sculpted, simply make this guy look like some true believer on a reenacting weekend.

Though, again, the animation and sculpting are fantastic!

Jaunty hat kneeling shooting guy

With a stance wider than Senator  Larry Craig in an airport men's room,  this plastic rebel is a serious contender on the firing line!

Anatomy and sculpting are superb, and whoever the Cunnyngham artist is who designs these figures, major kudos must be assigned for the animation of this one.

Just look at the convincing fullness and weight of that haversack, some local plow-jockey is doubtless missing the better portion of a smoked ham.

Standing loading guy

Another solid figure, and one that's always welcome in the rear rank of the plastic firing line.  This marksman is loath to take his eyes off his target as he rams that next round home.  Makes one believe that there shall be another "vacant chair" in Yankee-dom tonight.


Crouching loading guy

An excellent rendering of a dough-foot in a very tedious position, always overlooked in the toy soldier realm, that is, having to load his muzzle-loading weapon without the benefit of gravity to drop that next round down into the breech.  Wishing for a breech-loading Sharps, he none-the-less perseveres with the gun he was issued.

All-in-all these figures came as quite a surprise to me.  I've not heard of the company, nor any trumpeting of this release.  One can only hope that with this quality, craftsmanship, and pricepoint, we see more from Cunnygham, and I particularly pine for some Yankees.

See you on the 15th, until then, Soldier On!