Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The Return of the Prodigal Dilettante

I'd gotten past the hurdle of sculpting the figures. I'd made the moulds. I'd even cast some figures. But there it all stopped, while the sun beckoned and it was good to be outside. But now it's the annoying cold part of the year when the more naive type of goose is getting fat, and there's nothing to be done in the garden except shiver and bolt back inside the house as quickly as possible. All very depressing, but it does at least persuade me to get back to the various modelling projects that have lain unattended for so very long.

The priority job (that's common wargamer parlance for the most enjoyable bit) is to work on the first squadron of my Reichsarmee Cuirassiers. I'd cast a full squadron's worth of these gentlemen before breaking off for the summer. The next task, cleaning up what can fairly be described as very bad castings is quite a lengthy one. But, with commercial cavalry figures, I always had to cut off reins and saddle blankets, so the amount of time involved isn't so very different and there's less damage done to fingers by my clumsy knifework.

One unresolved problem from last winter was what musket to equip the cuirassiers with. I started by looking at the sensible suggestion that has been made of simply buying some muskets. But looking at those available, I can't find any that suit my tastes. Separate muskets by Stadden or Suren - in the slender style I prefer - aren't available, those muskets that I have seen are typical examples of 'cartoon fodder'.

The temptation at this stage was to avoid the problem by not issuing the cuirassiers with any muskets at all. There's some justification for doing this: in the Reichsarmee, where a fair proportion of the infantry would be lacking a properly functioning musket, the cuirassiers would very probably be the last to receive them. But I decided against this easy solution on the non-historical grounds that the more clutter I can add to the figures the less obvious the flaws in the castings are.

So my plan is to make my own. This shouldn't be too difficult: after all, most of an 18th Century musket is the barrel. I can model that in about 5 seconds flat by cutting a length of brass rod. As usual, my intention is to cheat as much as possible and use a paper template as a guide: no relying on that artist's sense of scale and proportion that I don't possess. The Wikipedia article on 'musket' includes a lovely jpeg of the article: this can be suitably scaled and then printed out. As an aside, I'd suggest doing this as a useful exercise for anyone who doesn't understand my criticism of commercial castings: the real thing is very elegant and slender compared to what is on offer from figure manufacturers. But be warned: the revelation may be an uncomfortable one.

The production process is very simple and surprisingly quick: a paper template with lots of muskets on it is printed out. 1/32" brass rod is cut to the length of the barrel with about 7mm extra to be incorporated into the stock (actually as these are for cavalry I have chosen to shorten the barrel considerably). The brass rod is bent where the stock meets the barrel. It is then lain on the template and milliput is used to form the stock. Subsequent applications of milliput can be used to add as much detail as wanted; but the thing to note here is that the need for most detail is illusory because properly scaled it's too thin to be visible. If detail has to be horribly overscale, I'd prefer it to be left out.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

The photo shows the completed figure with a Suren cavalryman on Stadden horse for comparison on the left. My brass rod/milliput musket is clearly visible and is, I think, pretty successful. The figure as a whole is shown to disadvantage when placed next to what I still consider to be a first rate commercial figure. I hope to complete the full squadron within a week and this will show better whether it works as a wargames figure.


tidders said...

welcome back,

your cast figure looks great - looking forward to seeing the whole sqaudron

-- Allan

ColCampbell50 said...

Very nicely done. Your "instructions" on how to make the muskets was much appreciated.