[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...