A recent thread on the WW1 list has been what IM contributor extraordinaire Michael Kendix has termed 'kit cycling'. 'Kit cycling' is when you complete one project, and then try to find another. . however you can't choose one to do as they all are in need of something, be it a reference, and aftermarket set or whatever other excuse you can find. I have been in that state for awhile now, and have many kits partially done (15 ships, 10 aircraft, one tank) all awaiting paint – but I just have not felt up to finishing them. Salvation came to me on my recent trip.
As explained last month I found that Airfix had re-released their 54mm figure kits (not the soft plastic ones, but actual kits), and I immediately bought two of them. As soon as I arrived home I scanned the parts for the inbox review and started construction of the two figures pending arrival of a stack of Osprey Men at Arms for painting and details.
After the initial review ran I was swamped with email about it (okay, four messages – still more than I have had previously about any review). .. one fellow let me know that there were three of the foot soldier kits available from Hannants. A quick email to a friend in England secured these for me, and last Monday they arrived – within hours I had started these .. by Friday I had two of them painted and then decided that I should start painting the Lancer as well. Two days later he sits complete in front of me, while the others languish over at the modelling bench.
Sadly I am still waiting on my references to arrive regarding Napoleonic units, therefore all I know is the kit depicts a Lancer of the 1st Squadron of the Old Guard.
Construction began with removing the parts from the sprue and then cleaning them up. All parts had very prominent seams that needed to be carefully shaved down. I made a mistake and accidentally removed the piping that is supposed to run the back of the right arm, but paint will hide this. Once the seams were removed, I was ready to get down to building my first plastic figure in 24 years. The torso was glued together as were the legs. While these dried, I turned to the horse.
The horse consists of two body halves, head, ears, mane and tail. The body required a fair amount of shaving to get the two halves to align, and once it was glued together putty was required on almost all seams. I would work on a new seam everytime I walked by the work area - and I was also working on the Cuirasseir at the same time, so there was always something that could be done on one of them.
The arms and legs were then attached to the torso. Now it was time to work on the head. Rather than a full head (or even one minus the top of his head), the Lancer has a face that fits into an opening at the front of the czapska (lancer cap). The czapska is in two halves, and also includes the back of the Lancer's head. Prior to joining these together I used my Dremel knockoff to thin the chin strap down to a reasonable width – it also required a couple of millimetres removed from the ends for a snug fit. The face was then put into place and putty faired it into the hairline. When dry the head was affixed to the body for painting. This is where the fun begins.
Painting the Lancer
For the last year or so I have been using Ceramcoat Artist's Acrylic paints for almost all of my needs. I have used it in my 'real' paintings for ten years, as well as for airbrushed tee-shirts, but never really thought of it for model use. However on a whim I mixed some of it with Tamiya paint and it was fine, so next I tried it on its own. .. a nice cheap source was now at hand. My local hobbyshop carries over 450 different colours in the line (although I tend to mix my own), and at $2.79 Cdn per 2oz bottle, the price is right. They can be thinned with water, used to tint other brands of acrylic, mixed with Gel Medium for a solid colour – the uses are endless.
I painted the face in a base of Medium Fleshtone, when dry (about a minute !!) I then highlighted with Fleshtone, a very thin wash of Iron Oxide was used on the lips and cheeks .. over which the other two were then used again - also in very thin washes. this continued until I was satisfied with the look. His eyes began with a dab of off-white for the whites, followed by a brown dot for the iris and then a smaller black dot for the pupil. The moustache and hair were both done in brown and then given washes of white and black to age him ('Old' Guard afterall).
At this point he was set aside while I waited for references to arrive.. ...
Fast-forward to one month later . .. still no references, but I received three other kits and quickly built them, Rather than wait for the books, I decided to paint the Highlander . . . followed by the 95th Rifleman. I was now having so much fun that I hauled out the box with the two cavalrymen in and decided to do one more. The Lancer was the choice . .
The body was given a coat of Prussian Blue, this looks terrible when first applied – handpainting makes it look very streaky and uneven, however I let it dry and put on a second coat. This tends to fix it up nicely. The front of the jacket, its lining and the collar were then painted in Fire Red.
Up until now I had been holding him by his two wrists - these were left unpainted for this very reason, however I got smart and drilled a hole into the heel of his right leg and CAed a straight pin into it. This in turn was pushed into a dowel. I still found it easier to hold him across the wrists for delicate detail painting – more control.
The stripe on his trousers was now painted in Fire Red, followed by the buttons on it in white - I don't know if this is correct, but that was how the boxtop appeared. Minor highlights were now taken care of with a thin wash of black in the folds and white on the raised edges. These were quickly smudged with a finger to lessen the effect.
The hat was painted red, followed by white on the lower half. Black was then painted over the white leaving a thin edge between it and the red. The cord and tassle on the hat were now painted white as was the piping on the body.
The horse blanket was painted in Prussian Blue, Fire Red and white. The saddle was done in Burnt Umber, and then given a thin coat of Burnt Sienna to differentiate it from the colour I used on the horse.
Painting the Horse
I was pleased with how the figure had turned out, but was worried about doing the horse. I was recently given a collection of model magazines and I recalled seeing an article on painting horses in one of them. .. however I have gone through them over and over and am unable to find it again. Therefore I had to make do on my own .... yikes. .
The horse was given a coat of Burnt Umber, except for the mane and tail .. the mane was painted black, while the tail was left alone for a handhold. I saw a picture of a horse with a white nose, and liked the look of that, so I then painted mine the same way, and decided to give him (her?) socks of the same colour. A thin black wash was then used in the various hollows, followed by white. . however the white looked wrong and was quickly thinned down and rubbed away.
Using either Iron Oxide or Burnt Sienna (I forget which) I then did very thin highlights .. this looked way better and I was starting to feel pleased with how it was turning out.
The tail was now painted black, and then it, and the mane were give thin washes of white, black and burnt umber until I was satisfied with the appearance.
The molded on harnesses were painted black and the Lancer and his horse were basically done . . . except for their belts . .
I have decided I would rather do the fiddliest of photoetch rather than try and attach a thin sheet plastic belt to an already painted figure. Airfix gives you templates for all belts, however they are all shown as straight .. and anyone who has ever worn a Les Paul guitar on stage all night knows the most comfortable straps are cut with a nice curve to them to conform to body contours. If left alone, the Airfix belts would stick up and out and strange angles. Rather than try and make nice parallel curved belts I drew the belts between my finger and an exacto blade, this gave it a curl, and also made it thinner and more pliable. After this I held it between both hands and gently forced a curve into it. This also had the advantage of making it even thinner. Care must be taken to not break the piece.
Attaching the two belts to the figure was a matter of trial and error. . mostly error. I lost the two buckles, and will use some PE ones someday – but not today.
The various straps and stuff for the horse (Lorna tells me these are called 'tack'), were easy to do as far as the saddle went. However even here I made a boo-boo. I attached the thick strap under the horse's belly alright, same with the three going below his/her neck. . however the one that holds the saddle to the horse I glued on top of the belly band (I have also been informed that this is called the girth strap) before I noticed it should go to the saddle. Luckily the Lancer's legs cover this up.
The stirrups each had their straps attached and were painted black. One tip I did recall from the horse article was to affix the stirrup strap to the inside of the rider's legs, rather than trying to adjust the length later. This way they are the exact length with no fiddling required.
Although most of the straps to the head are molded on, there are other straps that should go over these, but I decided that for my first attempt I would just go with the reins, and they were trouble enough. After thinning the reins down and inducing a curve in them I glued each one in turn to the bit in the horses mouth and then left it to dry before doing anything more. BTW, this is one more benefit to Ceramcoat, plastic parts can be attached to each other using CA or cement overtop of it. When dry I painted the reins black.
The Lancer was glued into place and the reins were eventually coaxed into his hand. The reins should really go between his fingers, but again, for a first attempt I was going OOB on this one.
With the Lancer seated and the reins in his hand, all that was lacking was his lance, sword and musket. The scabbard had two belts affixed and was CAed to his waist, the carbine had a strap attached to the muzzle and was placed in front of him on the left side. The lance, however, required a little more work.
The pennant on the lance is far too thick, while the shaft is far too brittle (in fact I broke mine). Therefore I cut the head off the lance and drilled a shallow hole into the base of it. This was then CAed to a length of metal wire. The pennant was cut from a sheet of common household aluminum foil. I flattened the foil and using an erasing shield as a straight edge I cut it out. Once this was done I rolled the barrel of a pen over it and this made it very smooth. This was CAed to the lance. Some red and white paint for the pennant and black for the lance and it was done.
Airfix supplies a rectangular base for mounting the kit. The horse was attached to the base right after I had the base coat on it to ease handling while being painted. I had painted the bases for the foot soldiers prior to building the kits, but handling them damaged the finish, therefore I waited to last to paint this one. Using Burnt Umber, a thin streaky coat was applied, the idea is to NOT make it solid, rather the appearance of 'woodgrain' is to be created. When dry a coat of future was brushed over it. Voila, a plastic base that looks like wood.
I really can't say how much I enjoyed this kit. Right from the time I bought it, my 'Kit Cycling' was temporarily cured. True, there are probably others that are more detailed. The parts went together well, and as each part was painted the change becomes apparent. I look forward to building the others in this series, and sincerely hope I don't get hooked on finding the better kits .. I already have too many interests.