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


Friday, 17 March 2017

1809 Spaniards - ILLIGITIMI NON CARBURUNDUM

[A tale of success - albeit slow and not very spectacular, but we have to embrace these things when they come along.]

In among the boxes of unpainted figures, there are always a few that I worry about. In my 1809 Spanish army project there are a couple of boxes containing the figures for two battalions of grenadiers, and they have bugged me for a while now. I am going to need these figures - I have nothing else to fall back on unless I move to plastics - but I bought them as part of a big job lot, a while ago, and the previous owner unloaded them cheaply because he just gave up on the poor-quality castings. I knew this when I bought them, but when I saw them I was disappointed by just how bad they were.

Falcata's white metal 1/72 Spanish grenadiers. Lovely, elegant original sculpts - Tomas Castaños at his best, but the moulds started to deteriorate very quickly and the standard of casting (and sometimes the quality of the metal) often leaves a lot to be desired. So for a while I have had 50-odd marching grenadiers which needed a lot of rescue work - in particular the right lower legs had to be recarved from a very unpromising jagged blob of alloy. It astonishes me that Falcata dared to sell stuff like this - they weren't cheap, either. Maybe their eventual disappearance had something to do with an unprofessional approach?

[I shall certainly find a horse's head in my bed tomorrow.]


Off and on, at odd times over a period of a couple of years, I have worked away at these boys, always with a faint dread that I, too, would eventually just give up on them. The work is fiddly, sore on the fingers, slow and often exasperating, but - you know what? - in some weird way it is quite satisfying. To produce a figure, against the odds, which will probably paint up satisfactorily is a small triumph, given the sloppy original manufacture and my lack of any particular skill in this area. You have to get into the right frame of mind - plenty of coffee (but not too much!), plenty of relaxing music, good lighting, and enough time to get on with the job for a couple of undisturbed hours. Oh - and lining the completed figures up is fine to check progress, but avoid constantly checking and rechecking how many are still to go...

It's actually rather nostalgic. It takes me right back to the early 1970s, grinding away to make something of a newly-arrived parcel of late-period Hinton Hunt castings - I can recall ACW zouaves (advancing), Napoleonic highlanders (advancing) and any amount of Napoleonic Portuguese (also advancing) for which I had to drill away big blocks and shark-fins of spare metal where the moulds had broken.


Last night I completed the prep work for the second battalion, at long last - we are ready for undercoating. The command figures were almost an anticlimax - far too easy - just as in the earlier Hinton Hunt episode, the moulds for the officers and drummers had less wear and the castings were much cleaner. OK - they are now on the official green bottle tops. There is no immediate hurry, given the time it has taken already, but I'm quite looking forward to painting them. Apart from the dreaded embroidered flammes on the hats, this is a simple uniform - these guys will be humble granaderos provinciales, so no fancy piping or anything - these are just white with plain red facings. Thus I propose to set these up as a single batch of 46 figures - no doubt I shall regret this decision at some point, but - once again - the important thing is to get your head right before you start. Plenty of time - plenty of 2-hour shifts. Yes. Sounds good.

I'll worry, just a little, about the flammes...


13 comments:

  1. Painting forty-six figures in one batch is a BIG undertaking! I performed the same stunt with 46 28mm Landsknechts recently and I think it a bit too much. Staring at 46 unpainted Spanish flammes might bring on some despair.

    I wish you good painting!

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    1. The dustproof Really Useful Boxes are a great step forward - I can stop work at any time and not have to worry about entropy. I think I'll probably do the command figures as a sub-batch, then the grenadiers in two approx equal groups. They will be gradually accumulating as a single job though. The flammes are a moot point - somewhere I had a conjectural picture of a simplified flamme for the Provinciales, but can't find it now. No hurry. I don't have to know how to land the plane until after I'm airborne (Daffy Duck just-in-time system).

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  2. I would go mad attempting a batch of 46! Even 12 daunt me these days.

    And as for carving off hunks of flash....well, at least you're not the one who cast them, or wrecked the mold...

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    1. I am mad already, so I have an advantage. I did a very large group of French gunners recently, and that wasn't so bad. That was another simple uniform. I reckon the grenadiers themselves will only require about 7 or 8 colours before the metals and varnish.

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  3. All that training with Hinton Hunt has done you proud as they look perfect to me! I too spent many hours of my youth trying to remove huge lumps of flash from my Hinton's, sometimes until my fingers actually bled (well maybe once that happened). I look forward to seeing them painted.

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    1. Fond memories - disciples of the Perrys and the Front Rank chaps don't know what they are missing. Also they have no excuses - if their figures are suboptimal they have only themselves to blame. Sometimes in the middle of one of these crazy jobs I start to think about those old guys who used to paint up brass screws as soldiers. That wouldn't really work for me. in truth - I would always be troubled by the knowledge that the line infantry didn't wear countersunk cross-heads until after 1813.

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    2. Mm ' er, Tony I did paint some screws back in the 70s but I swear it was just a test...

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  4. There were clearly some beautiful figures underneath all that flash. As you say, it is hugely satisfying to rescue troops which at first sight had seemed irredeemable. Well done!

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    1. Yes - shades of Michelangelo - there is a beautiful statue in there somewhere - it is my job to find it and release it.

      I have had some total failures in the past. I once had about 4 battalions of Scruby French infantry that really were too bad to rescue - missing feet and muskets, stunted hats and all that. No idea how they sneaked into the boxes - someone saw me coming, I think. I fiddled around with them for a bit, gave up (in a rare moment of pragmatism), decided no-one in his right mind would ever buy them on eBay and gave them to a friend, who melted them down to make some Zulus, as I recall. Then I could relax.

      I believe you would have restored them, and created new cuff-flap buttons from solder. They would have had a band and everything.

      Respect.

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    2. I simply would not have the patience these days to carve off lumps of metal so I admire what you do and it will be worth it in the long run. But why did they continue to sell castings from a shoddy mould? I was disappointed to find 'flash' that needed trimming off my recent Renegade ACW's (at £1.50 per figure!) because I had not seen that for years, you most certainly won't see it on a Front Rank figure, as you refer to. I'm sure they will turn out beautifully however.

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    3. These Falcata sets used to come at 34 assorted figures (probably about 10 or 12 different poses) in a box - just like plastics, in fact. The marching grenadiers I inherited were probably the leftovers of a pile of sets which were mostly OK - the stuff I bought (for hardly anything, by the way) really was the bottom of the tub. I have another battalion of Falcata grenadiers waiting to be painted, but these are all advancing figures, in much better shape.

      How did Falcata come to sell rubbish castings? - good question - the correct answer is probably not very charitable, and involves some swearing, but I think that at one stage they contracted out the casting and the packing/shipping, none of which seems to have improved the overall quality of the product. TMP and other fora from that time (2010? 2011?) are filled with hate mail about vanished orders, lost cash, lies and deceipt.

      There's an old proverb somewhere about enthusiasts, good intentions and commercial viability, but I can't quite remember it.

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  5. I've just painted 77 figures in 1 batch, it nearly finished me off....good luck!

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    1. Ah - but Ray, you're a proper painter!

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