Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Monocacy 150

Monocacy Sentinel
 I'm reposting this in commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Monocacy

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!

Friday, March 14, 2014

A very forgettable Alamo

Remember the Alamo...

this one however...not so  much.

Never one to turn down a free sample I thought it would be worthwhile to review the BMC Alamo set.  I've really enjoyed their other buildings including Lee's headquarters, Meade's headquarters, Dunker Church, and the Andersonville set.  Each are splendid in their own right and each lends itself wonderfully to modification, as you can see here and here.  I've never been disappointed with BMC buildings and I looked forward to the Alamo and the conversion possibilities it could provide.

The detail is adequate...

assembly is a breeze...

but in the words of the great Peggy Lee...

"Is that all there is?"

BMC's Alamo is alarmingly, and disappointly two-dimensional.  Its only a fa├žade.

The Alamo was a fairly large compound with lots of cool redoubts, ramps, and adobe and palisade walls,  I was expecting at least four walls for goodness sakes. 

But no, all you get is the front facade.

This is especially chintzy when one considers that BMCs Andersonville set includes a complete prison enclosure with operating gates, no less.

(image from toysoldiersdepot.com)

A closer look reveals another liability, there is only the tiniest foothold for one soldier to find a place from which to fire,

Its a great position, don't get me wrong, but again - what Peggy Lee said.

The palisade walls, here playing host to some of my Civil War guys, are the best thing about this set and may show up in future posts.

The included playmat is bizzare.

Now lets take a look at the figures:

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna is one of four character figures.

This is Santa Anna, he was a despot...

not to be confused with  Carlos Santana...

he's a fantastic musician, for proof go here

Of the four character figures, Santa Anna is, in my opinion, the best one and may have toy soldiering applications beyond the Alamo era.

There are three character figures among the Texicans:

Fess Parker

as Davy Crockett.

William Travis

Jim Bowie (looking a little zombie-ish)
Those three figures, along with Santa Anna, are well-sculpted and have good animation, the rest of the crew is quite a different story altogether.

Now to the rank and file...oh my what a motley crew.

Lurching around like poorly sculpted hillbillies the Texicans look intoxicated.

Crazy-chops McGoofy

Perhaps the silliest little man ever cast in plastic.

The improbable pose of this Texican defender leads me to think that he has been distracted by an overflight of mallards.  I like his classic Crossman pellet-gun, by the way.

The tomahawk on this guy shows some of the flash which is typical of the figures.

The Mexican flag bearer presents a nice opportunity for those who are inclined to paint their figures.  The flag is an empty canvas waiting for a talented brush.

The plastic, as is usual for BMC figures, is not of the highest quality.

This Mexican shako soldier is nicely drawing a bead on the one Texican able to take position in the upper window of the chapel.

The sculpting of this kneeling guy looks like he's been extruded from a toothpaste tube.

Sadly this very forgettable Alamo is a real missed opportunity for something that could have been much, much better.  I think however, that like many BMC building sets, duplicate Alamo kits and some skill with a box cutter and soldering iron could turn this into a much more play-worthy set.

Soldier on!


p.s. a Toy Soldiers Forever! shout out to my new friend Josh who's soldiering on with the best of them.