Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The toy soldier studio - Summer 2018

Many years ago I visited Greenfield Village in Dearborn Michigan.  The Village, a crazy-remarkable and odd place, the brainchild of Henry Ford, is an eclectic collection of not quite a hundred historic buildings spanning 300 years of American history.  All of them are in the context of a small town, laid out on streets, avenues, and alleys; there is even a steam-powered riverboat and locomotive that take visitors around the village.  I can only compare it to "Mainstreet USA" at Disneyland, with the exception that all of the buildings are real and genuinely historic.  

Ford spared no expense in locating, buying, and transporting entire buildings to the village; and the buildings are remarkable;  An Illinois courthouse where a young Abraham Lincoln practiced law, the Wright brothers home and workshop, the building in which Henry Ford assembled his first automobile, the home of Stephen Foster, and the entire complex of Thomas Edison's Menlo Park laboratories and workshops.  

My favorite building is tiny, unassuming, and definitely cute; it is the garden office of Luther Burbank (look it up on Google).  It is an utterly charming little building...less a house and more an ornate, small, outbuilding, that is appointed in the manner of a typical office of the era.  I was nearly enthralled with it; and I really coveted it.

Jump ahead to 2006 when I bought my charming little house here in Boonsboro.  In the back yard was a small, unassuming shed, that captured my imagination even before the ink was dry on the mortgage.

It was a commercially made shed with nice windows, a steel door and a tight roof.  Although the previous owner had removed most of a wall with a sawz-all to accommodate his motorcycles.

The inside was bare studs, festooned with spider webs and dead bugs.

I covered the opened wall, and let my plans percolate while I attended to other homeowner things.

Finally in 2009, I found myself with time on my hands and a hankering for a big project.  With hammer and a pocket full of nails (and a complete woodshop) and the memory of Burbank's field office I began my work.

The first thing I did was to replace the missing wall, and run electricity to it.

I't been an ongoing project over the years, making little improvements and fine-tuning all along the way, and here in the summer of 2018, except for some painting...I think it's done.

And here it is, the Toy Soldiers Forever! toy soldier studio.

The most recent additions were the shutters and geraniums.

Door guards include a hessian flanked by two, large, cast-iron cannons.

Please accept my invitation to come in and take a look.

Carpet, wallboard, paint, tracklights, and wainscoting, got it looking very civilized.  Then came bookcases (salvaged from a Border's Bookstore remodel) and a diorama table at the far end.

I finally found a permanent home for the Frederick Ray Civil War soldier prints that I've had since my 1962 trip to Gettysburg as a nine-year-old.

Continuing the nine-year-old boy theme includes a collection of nearly all of the Scott-Forseman readers that got me through kindergarten (Dick, Jane, Sally, Spot, and Puff) to eighth grade at my rural three-room school house in Burt Michigan.

The diorama table has seen a lot of action.

The studio also made space for my skull collection.

Replica Civil War small-arms crates that I make in my shop...

are chock-full of toy soldiers (mostly plastics).

I think I captured some of the spirit of Luther Burbank's office in that this is a particularly cozy place to read, listen to the radio, and - of course - play with toy soldiers.

Thank you Luther Burbank for the inspiration, and a wonderful place to...

Soldier on!


Sunday, July 15, 2018

W. Britain Limber and two-man crew #17431

Happy is the boy who gets that distinctive scarlet and gold box in the mail that epitomizes excellence in toy soldiery.  I purchased, from the fine folks at Crown Military Miniatures, the W. Britain set 17431, two-man limber and crew from 2003.

(the same scene in 1:1 scale at Antietam National Battlefield's Artillery Weekend)

It's a peach of a set and just the sort of thing I'm looking for my next big series of scenarios focusing on Battery B 4th US Artillery at Antietam.

The project is slowly but surely coming together, I'm assembling guns, horses, limbers, caissons and artillerymen to tell the story of Battery B on the morning of September 17th, 1862 when fate reunited them with their former commander - General John Gibbon.

For the next few weeks I'll be painting artillerymen, many of which are conversions.  For unique poses I looked outward toward W. Britain (the maker of all my guns) for some really great artillerymen.  This two-man limber set is very much a welcome addition to the battery.

My six horse-drawn limbers for the battery are the classic Britain's Deetail models from the late sixties, some of which I've featured in earlier battle scenarios (go here).

Those venerable Deetail limbers compared to the metal 2003 version demonstrate the difference between "toys" and "miniatures"....though please note, on my table everything, no matter how upscale, is a toy meant for playing with.  I'm very happy to find that there's a whole lot of nine-year-old left in me.

The detail is wonderful, including the Table of Fire for a Napoleon affixed to the inside of the limber lid, in the regulation manner.

These guys are from the 2003 generation of W. Britian's figures.
The attention to detail has come a very long way in the past fifteen years.


Compared to the 2016 figures the 2003 guys look cartoonish.

The scenario presented by this three-piece set is a welcome one on the table top battlefield.  With the limber lid raised and the projectiles visible, the limber man is passing a ball into the gunner's haversack to be taken up to the waiting gun.

A disapproving Dunker (Anabaptist) Mrs. Mumma looks on skeptically.

I have advance-ordered the yet to be released 2018 Britian's three piece limber kit, and the photos on the W. Britain website demonstrate again that the detail in the intervening fifteen years has improved exponentially.

I'm watching my mailbox, and will post an entry when it finally shows up, which may not be for a while yet.

Really nice model, and really nice people at Crown Military Miniatures.

Soldier on!