Sunday, 1 January 2012
All right - calm down, calm down. During odd moments over the last month or so I have been doing a stock-take of what is still to be painted, and found 3 battalions which I bought in via eBay, supposedly painted to a fairly decent standard. I reckoned that retouching them a little and adding the odd missing command figure would be an ideal, lightweight painting project to get me started off in January.
Well, actually, when I sat down with the bright light and the magnifying specs I was in for a disappointment. Not only was the painting worse than I remembered, but there was a variety of other minor irritations such as base-flock in the varnish, some shades I cannot match properly, and evidence of original casting flash which had never been removed before painting. One thing I have learned is that you never get happier about a paint job you don't like much to start with. I see no point in investing effort into painting up a unit which is never going to be very pleasing, so I decided to strip the entire 3 battalions and start again.
As luck would have it, we just had enough thick bleach to do the job, so I did the whole lot over a single night - laid them out carefully in one of my trusty ice cream tubs, covered them up in bleach, put the top on the tub and left them overnight.
I am a bit of a born-again bleach user. I came to believe in it only fairly recently, and I owe everything I know to a very useful post in Ian's Hinton Hunt blog [thanks again, Captain]. The secret is to get the soak time just right. Too short and it's not effective - too long and you get some kind of deterioration of the surface of the casting metal. My current "best practice" guideline is 12 hours.
The figures came up well. Toothbrushing and picking off the remaining shreds of paint wth a penknife is a messy, long-winded business, so I set myself up in the kitchen with appropriate amounts of coffee and the Celtic vs Rangers game on BBC Radio 5, and just fussed away at it. One final rinse to make sure everything was clean and chemically inert and things were ready for the next stage. When I take a look at the castings, I realise that this will involve removal of 30-year-old flash and filing bases flat and then I'll ship them off to David the Painter. So it's time and expense I hadn't planned for, but I'm comfortable that it's the right way to go. There will, of course, be a bit of an extra delay before the units are ready for The Cupboard, but hey.
A couple of final thoughts
(1) It sometimes surprises me how poorly some figures are painted - this is not snobbery, or because my own standards are unusually high, it is simply that it is only a bit more effort to make a decent job of it, metal wargame figures have never been cheap and it hardly seems worth the work involved in doing something half-baked.
(2) Interesting things happen in the bleach - some colours and some paints are much more resistant than others. Gold metallic paint seems to be tough, and flesh-colour is notoriously stubborn for some reason. Black gloss is also hard to shift, and this time I had some figures which had their shako pompoms finished in a sky blue paint which came out of the bleach almost exactly as it went in! I must find out what that paint was, and do my shed with it.
(3) You have to be very careful that any resident midnight ice cream fanciers do not get a nasty surprise. My tub usually has a skull and cross-bones post-it in place, though I can see that this might still cause problems for pirates who like ice cream.
Anyway, they're all done now and will go for painting once I've cleaned the castings up. Happy New Year to anyone reading this - I hope to get some more posts on the forthcoming campaign over the next few weeks. I also note - in passing - that the rules for Commands & Colors: Napoleonics new Spanish expansion include some things which I had already improvised for my own Spanish armies - double retreats for a start - so I am pleased that GMT got it right!