Forward Observer 17

Thirty Years On

I was whiling away a long train journey last week and, prompted by John Preece’s excellent blog, my thoughts turned to Peter Gilder. I don’t normally go in for heroes, but he is one of the very few I would consider worthy of the title. If I could distil the essence of my hobby, it would be peering, awestruck, into those cabinets at the Model Engineer exhibition, drinking in those wonderful shiny figures for hours, and once or twice, chatting to the great man himself. Inevitably, I wondered what he might be doing now were he still with us. As it is, his style is now frozen in time, mainly on Miniature Wargames covers! Pulling into Eastbourne, I resolved to get onto the internet and seek some re-inspiration as soon as possible.

Which, in truth, was a bit of a non-event as there was virtually nothing there. A few pictures, a passing reference or two, and some eBay mentions. Hardly a fitting tribute to one of the hobby’s greatest luminaries. Criminally, he doesn’t even have an entry on Wikipedia. Puzzling. Roll forward one week, and there is a disturbance in The Force. I am scouting around the web, looking for interesting sites (an increasingly fruitless task) and I come across a sculpting blog, which I had seen before. In hope more than expectation, I check out the links and come across Unfashionably Shiny. All of a sudden my Gilder craving is satisfied.

Doug Crowther is still painting and basing in the old style, with white undercoat, Humbrols, oils and gloss varnish. He mainly does AWI with Hinchliffe figures. They are stunning. He also posts articles about Gilder, Battleground, and even ‘period’ painting guides. I was in hog heaven, and still am because Doug is updating regularly, posting items from his seemingly endless archive. I can easily say this is one of my favourite blogs already, and for those of us motivated by the Great Man, it is a must see. Brilliant, and just what blogging should be.

Basic Plastic

I was never cut out to be an investigative journo. Too weedy, for starters. But while I had suspicions, I really needed to know why some people embrace plastic while others won’t even allow it on radar. Or in some cases are downright hostile. I started asking questions, and carried on for a couple of months. Unlike those useless television ‘exposees’, I actually came up with some answers. Broadly, it comes down to a cocktail of snobbery (I can afford metal, so it is better); baggage (I started with Airfix, and I’m not going back); ignorance (all plastic is soft and won’t hold paint); investment (plastic won’t hold value if I sell on) and heft (I much prefer the weight/perceived quality of metal). I am only going to allow the last one, because it is undeniable (!), and because I have vowed never to sell a painted figure again so don’t consider depreciation.

But there is something else. While answers were surprisingly clear on the above, there was also a definite sense that some people were unhappy working with plastic. Personally, brought up on Airfix Magazine, Chris Ellis and Historex, I love it. If you convert, there is nothing better than hard plastic. I do understand others not enjoying sticking arms and heads on, but again that is personal taste. But then I encountered gamers who simply didn’t know the basics.

So, for those struggling, you need only four tools. A scalpel or craft knife with a new blade. A needle file (half round is ideal). A small pair of wire cutters. And a sanding stick, or fine wet and dry paper. With these you can clean up a plastic figure to perfection in seconds, and certainly in a fraction of the time a metal figure might take you.

Use the cutters to carefully clip the figures from the sprue. Don’t worry about leaving some sprue on the figure. Next, use the scalpel to cut off the remaining sprue and any flash. In the unlikely event of major flash, or perhaps filled in cloth folds, deploy the needle file. Next, scrape the scalpel blade along the flash lines – do not cut! With practice you can usually finish a figure in this way, taking off tiny shavings until satisfied, and you will get quicker and more proficient over time. In 95% of cases you are now done. For a super smooth result, or re-rounding, you can finish off with wet and dry, or even better a fine Squadron sanding stick. These are used by aircraft modellers to get a flawless finish. Next figure!

Around the Shows

Another Winter has passed, this time living up to the name, and so gamers emerge, blinking, at the Spring shows. They, like me, are eager to spend some money, check out all the exciting new products and trends, and see what demonstration games are looking good.

My favourite so far has been the new Louis XIV range from Mark Copplestone. This is a promising launch, opening up a period of colourful uniforms, interesting wars and even some scope for imagi-nations. I also see some of them serving as privateers. I like the fact they have long coats which convy regimental colour superbly, and some of the flags are beautiful. We have infantry so far, with more to come, and cavalry not far off. The greens were impressive but having seen them painted in the flesh I am totally sold. Yes, yes, I know it is another period. I’ll keep it low key!

The Perry plastic British are sitting on my desk, and are easily up to the standard of the French. That is, superb. I will be using these for bits and conversions needed in a little early war Sharp Practice project I have in mind. But as a man who really has ‘enough’ British Napoleonics (and can’t face doing Highlanders for a fourth time) I am even more excited by the announcement of Wars of the Roses as the next 28mm plastic project for the Twins. The initial greens look great, and if you read between the lines the figures will work for the wider historical period – so I am thinking Swiss! Again! The Plastic Revolution is moving forward very nicely, but I need some leg sets with gaiters please!

Italeri have released an excellent set of 20mm German motorcycles. I have bought a couple of boxes and they make up into super little models, in the new semi-hard plastic. The only drawback for me is that the figures are Afrika Korps based, so need a bit of conversion to bring them back to Europe.

And just to finish off, after all that furore over War Glue, may I say that after several weeks usage, it is by far the best superglue I have ever used! I am completely serious when I say this – it sticks and holds superbly, is very strong and does not seem to ‘go off’. Shame it was so expensive. I am looking for an equivalent if you can suggest a manufacturer.