A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Pickin’ & Scratchin’

eBay, the Spares Boxes and a Museum of Glue

Cuirassiers – maybe by Alberken – soon to have a nationality transplant

I recently won some French cuirassiers on eBay – Alberken/Minifigs 20mm OPC jobs – enough for a unit. A couple of points here in the interests of accuracy (after all, standards have to be maintained). Firstly, I am not really sure whether they are Alberken or Minifig 20 – I have read the debate about strict definitions a few times now, and sometimes I understand it, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes – like this week – I understand it but have forgotten what it says. They do not have horizontal, sticky-out tails on the horses, which suggests they are not Alberken (or not Minifig 20, perhaps?), but the horses are recognisably from the same gene pool as Hinton Hunt, so they must be pretty early Minifigs.

Secondly, since I am doing the Peninsular War (as in doing the Lambeth Walk), I already have all the cuirassiers I need – the bold 13eme, in fact. Well, the truth is that my search for suitable Spanish cavalry has become desperate enough for me to embrace the idea of recruiting the famed Coraceros Españoles. Previously I had dismissed this as something of a cop-out, but a quick study of the magnificent database of JJ Sañudo has convinced me that this was an active unit with a long and worthy war record in the relevant period. They look pretty much like French cuirassiers (most of their hardware was nicked from a French provisional regiment), but they wear red jackets with green facings. Easy peasy – this should be just a paint conversion – and my ex-eBay figures have little enough paint on them to enable me to paint over what is there. I need command figures, but the castings do not have carbines, which simplifies conversion work, so the officer will just be a trooper with a bit of extra silver paint. The trumpeter was manufactured last night. Razor saw and superglue on a broken spare figure turned his head a bit to one side and replaced his right arm with one from a spare Kennington trumpeter. The join is a little crude, to be honest, since the arms were of slightly different diameter, but some gloopy paint can hide a lot of misery. I even did a little botchy dowel jointing of the grafts with brass wire, so by the normal house standards this is almost over-engineered.


A good wash and they’re ready for painting. However, since I’d built up a little momentum, I decided to revisit one of my plastic freezer boxes – this one is labelled Extra Chasseurs a Cheval. Inside are two batches of old Garrison line chasseurs, which are intended to be the raw material for the last two such units in my Grand Plan. I already have three regiments of chasseurs (13eme, 22eme and 26eme), but the theoretical OOB also includes the 14eme and 15eme (yes – I know) so I’ve sort of got used to the idea.

I got busy hacking flock and surplus glue off the chasseurs, checking the paint job and straightening swords and scabbards – no breakages – good so far, though I got bits of glue and stuff all over the place. It turns out that one of the batches is really pretty good – some minimal touching up and a couple of convincing command figure forgeries and they are good to go. The other batch, even after quite a lot of cleaning up,  really are not up to it. The paint job is not brilliant, and they appear to have been liberally coated with thick gloss varnish which has turned an amber colour – so a thorough strip is required. Also, close examination reveals that the horses for this batch are actually cuirassier horses, with the shabraques covered in thick cream paint. Since I have enough new, unpainted Garrison castings to make a full unit anyway, I decided to cut my losses and ditch the worse of the two old batches. I can make command figures by gluing chasseur heads onto Kennington line chevauxlegers, so I now have a detailed plan for my two proposed additional units, so that feels like progress of some sort.

I got quite interested, while I was hacking and scraping last night, with the variety of glues on display, and it got me thinking about glues in general. The figures I was working on have been fastened onto numerous generations of bases over the last 40 years or so, and the riders have been stuck back onto their horses at odd times with products ranging from Copydex to something like Uhu. The base glues included some thick, yellow slabs like barley sugar, and there were traces of Araldite, which is a sadistic thing to use to mount figures on cardboard bases.

Over the years my own favoured glues for use with toy soldiers have changed considerably. I started out using Araldite, I recall, but I was always terrified to try to heat it in case I melted the castings, so I did a lot of jobs which required 24 hours to set, with everything strapped together with wire clips and Plasticene girders. I briefly became attached(?) to Plastic Padding, which was pretty horrible stuff for small scale modelling, but had the big advantage that it set faster than Araldite.

Since then I have had occasional dalliances with the stringies, such as Uhu, which are useful for filling gaps and sticking non-flush surfaces, but almost impossible to make a neat job with. Nowadays I use two different consistencies of superglue, white PVA for base-gluing, and sometimes Serious Glue for fiddly jobs.

When I was a boy, my dad was a great glue enthusiast. We always had supplies of very earnest glues. I remember Durofix clear glue (which was like a less stringy version of Uhu), something called Croid, which had a more industrial relative named Croid Aero, which I think came in tins. There was also something very scary indeed which was in orange and blue tins (can’t remember the name), and it needed to be melted by placing the can in a pot of boiling water. It smelled like the old glue-pot stuff we used in school woodwork classes, so I guess it was derived from dead horses or similar. I’m sure modern glues are superior in many ways – a friend of mine who is a manufacturing biochemist says the best glues are American ones if you can get them, since the US is a lot more relaxed on the subject of eco-friendly solvents.

I also used to use Cascamite, a casein-based glue which you mixed with water, for joinery work. It was hard and strong if you could get it to set properly – much recommended by luthiers and the like.

Anyone remember Croid? It’s probably still on sale in B&Q, and I just haven’t noticed.


  1. I found a lot of really older-type things in a model railroad shop. They have new things too, but that's a good place to run into the old things.

    I was afraid all along you were going to threaten to chop up the cuirassiers, and when finally I came to the word "ditch" it almost hurt. But they are the worst ones after all.

    An old major I knew overseas got me to use scissors on the paper boardgame maps years ago, to trim them down to more manageable size, because his table wasn't big enough for the monster games,and now I can't find all those separate pieces, so either the map is missing or the charts, or something. It did seem brutal, yet practical, and finally I started doing it too.

    1. It's not quite the same thing, but your reference to cutting up the game maps reminded of a common problem with the various reprint editions of F Loraine Petre's fine books on Napoleon's campaigns. The maps folded into the backs of the books are impossible to read unless you detach them and store them separately. The text is impossible to follow unless you have the maps available - thus everyone who ever owned the books (except me - far too anal) removed the maps to use them.

      Ergo: you will find many secondhand copies of Petre's books, but very few of them have the maps. A thousand years from now, some archeologist will dig up a layer of the 20th Century, which will be identifiable by the caps of cheap ballpoint pens, a mystifying amount of chewing gum and the maps from Petre. I'm not sure what he'll make of it.

  2. Such great names, sadly I've not heard of any of them, but when I next decide to get a dog, his name will have to be Croid!