Over the last few weeks I have been spending a bit of Christmas money on eBay, picking up the kind of cheap plastic figures you don’t normally see in UK toy stores. A few pounds here and there.
Being either new-ish secondhand or sometimes a whole chocolate tin of mixed figures, the scrapings of someone else’s toy box with some tantalising glimpses of unusual figures, they all need a good wash before painting. It should remove any grime and mould release chemicals.
With so many figures, the sink wasn’t an option so the bath tub stood in this time.
Here was the washing up bowl ‘spa treatment’ I did last time, back in June 2016:
The Man of TIN has been stricken with slight Man of TIN flu of late, which has delayed work on my blog and my latest figure conversions.
I wanted to try something different with these cheap “penny dreadful” 36mm plastic figures which are currently available online or from Poundland (at £1 for 100).
Ross MacFarlane of Battle Game of The Month blog described these cheerfully as “some of the crudest cheap plastic toy soldiers that I’ve ever seen but you have managed to rescue them and transform them into brave warriors!”
These ‘brave’ desert warriors needed some opposition, starting out with the same fairly unprepossessing starter figures.
Some of these 36 mm figures have simply been painted as Redcoat infantry and have had Fimo backpacks and blanket rolls added.
Other figures have had more conversion work by scalpel such as the officer figure with his rifle cut into a sword and a Fimo scabbard added. A similar posed figure had the rifle removed and the hand drilled to take a piece of wire to make him into a flag or standard bearer.
Before I tried these command figure conversions, I also added as ‘officer material’ a 30mm-ish WW2 US officer (an old Matchbox China made pound store clone) firing a revolver or pistol in his greatcoat. A thin Fimo scabbard was added.
A gloss toy soldier look was wanted, so Artist or Revell Model Acrylics were used. Uniformity of moustache was also needed, eyes dotted in with a pin and a very thin brown acrylic wash to add some definition to the faces.
I may well add a pinprick pink dot on each cheek to keep that toy soldier look as I did recently on my 42mm pound store toy soldier style paintwork.
There is still some tidying up to do, a few straps to add and the inevitable varnishing, but these red coated troops should soon be ready for action dodging ambush by hill warriors.
Any slight resemblance to Zulu War Redcoat British infantry is entirely deliberate, although with such modern figures as starting material, it is only going to be a suggestion.
For uniform inspiration I had by me some childhood books, namely an old Osprey Men At Arms book on ‘The Zulu War’, Preben Kannik’s Military Uniforms of the World in Colour and my trusty Ladybird ‘Soldiers’ book.
(Good job I noticed the mistyping as Military Unicorns of the World in Colour – what a book that would be. What a great cavalry regiment or regimental mascot!)
Conversions in Progress
Amongst the other figures can be glimpsed a kneeling modern machine gunner who has had his Heavy Machine Gun cut down to make that start of a Heliograph for signalling. Still needs a reflector disc. A kneeling bazooka man had his bazooka clumsily removed by hot scalpel and a wooden rifle added instead.
The hot scalpel or hot knife technique, warming a blade in a candle flame is not recommended indoors, plastic figures like these give off unpleasant fumes when selectively melted.
Brim-ful of conversion ideas
A quick dip into Preben Kannik’s Military Uniforms of The World in Colour suggested another figure conversion. It must have been the floppy hat that caught my attention.
Further opposition for the redcoated British style infantry is now underway on the painting table, with some simple headgear conversions or additions. A couple of those old fashioned hole reinforcers, stripped off an old cardboard label, proved a suitable hat brim, further trimmed down once glued in place.
These should make suitable Boer Commandos or Confederates. There is a farmboy or cowboy look to both figures. Lots of figures are suggested by this simple hat brim addition – US Rough Rider infantry from the 1890s / 1900s, Confederate or Union infantry.
A lightly more extravagant hat brim would make a Mexican style bandit brigade of brigands.
It might even be possible to turn a brim up on one side for that bush hat, slouch hat or smart City Imperial Volunteers ‘titfer’ look.
Sadly most office hole punchers make too large a hole for the head of a 36mm Poundland figure. So if you run out of suitable scrounged small parcel label hole reinforcers, use one as a rough template to cut out new ones from scraps of watercolour paper. Fiddly work but folding the tiny card circle in half means you can cut a rough inner circle. A little bushhat bashing or distressing is then required.
Reinforcements for the Thin Red Line
The Preben Kannik book also has a good kilted khaki Highlander – a conversion I am working on, using a kilt made of a thin strip of tissue paper and PVA.
The main inspiration for this variously khaki or Redcoat highland unit is mostly one of my favourite films Carry On Up The Khyber, being the infamous 3rd Foot and Mouth (Highland) Regiment, those ‘Devils in Skirts’.
The battle scenes are quite impressive, if you ignore the slapstick bits. A great inspiration to any tongue in cheek Colonial gamer.
Some great uniform inspiration photographs here at the IMDB website and also the Carry On UK site.
This 1968 comedy remains to this day my favourite of the many Carry On films. There is still much to like about this (now very un-PC?) pantomime satire on colonialism and the heroics of 1960s war films like Zulu; I like the fact that this freezing Khyber Pass was filmed in exotic Snowdonia in North Wales. http://carryon.org.uk/gallery/thumbnails.php?album=31
So off to paint Another Thin Red Line, or Thin Khaki Line with Kilts, hopefully not as painted by one Private James (Jimmy) Widdle. Bliss …
Blog posted on my Pound Store Plastic Soldiers by Mark, Man of TIN blog, 25 November 2017. (Apologies for the dim photographs, I was photographing figures in natural but dimming light.)