Tuesday, October 29, 2019

TO ARMS! TO ARMS!


The recent expansion of the Northstar 1864 figure lines, specifically the addition of a Prussian mounted command set, Prussian dragoons, Prussian hussars (of the non-death-head variety), and Danish dragoons, prompted me to round out my mid century Prussians and Danes. This project will involve a new Prussian hussar, a new Danish dragoon, two new Prussian dragoons, and a new Prussian command figure. So this is a multi-phased project that will take some time.  As I was thinking about getting started, however, I found myself contemplating the troublesome chore of attaching the sword arms to most of these figures (a "feature" of the Northstar cavalry--and an all too common one, for my likes, among contemporary figures in general).  Let's just say that I'm not a fan of separate sword arms, especially when they all wind up looking pretty much alike in the end, anyway.  Because the Northstar sculpts are so exquisite, however, I am willing to put up with this pain-in-the-a** step (as I was for my Mongols, but I digress).  I guess I'm not a modeler at heart since I don't relish this part of the hobby.  Back on topic: rather than spreading out this pain over multiple iterations, I decided to do the prep up front for the lot.  Thus, in this post, dear readers, I present my method for handling the troublesome task of attaching sword arms to figures. This also works for other bits--I'm sure others have their methods, but I hope someone may benefit from seeing how I do it. In this post, you may, as usual, clix pix for BIG PIX.

 THE MATERIALS
In addition to the figure(s), I use toothpicks, some hobby-tac (putty of any type will work), and J-B Kwik Weld, which is a two-part epoxy.  This is the quick drying version of a "liquid weld" which is the sort of thing that they use to mend cracked engine blocks: let's just say that it handles metal-on-metal very well, indeed.  The downside is that it is not tacky, so no help in holding parts together before it's dry--but I have a solution to this problem, if you will but read on.  I use this stuff for all my metal on metal figure projects rather than the various super glues--which may be easier to use on the front end but which often fail when figures get handled. We've all witnessed or experienced that awkward moment when a sword arm, weapon, or standard gets bumped and goes spinning off to lay accusingly in the center of the table--or worse, it zooms to nether regions off-table, the last trace being a small "click" heard when it disappears into another dimension never to be seen again.  This will never happen with J-B Kwik: trust me. You'll only have to attach these bits once, and they'll stay put (as for doors into other dimensions, you're on your own).  

STEP ONE
Take a bit of hobby-tac putty and roll it into a small ball
 Push the ball onto the figure so that it conforms to the shape and holds in place. 
 Put the sword arm (or whatever) in place, making sure that it makes an impression in the hobby-tac putty: push the putty up and around the sword arm to create a solid mold that holds it in place. 
You now have a stable, dry test fit for your sword arm.  Since you'll be taking the sword arm off again, you''ll want to make sure that you don't wrap the putty around it.  Set the little fella aside.

STEP TWO 
Squeeze out equal parts of the J-B Kwik Weld (white hardener and black "steel"). Take a toothpick and mix them together until they are a consistent gray color.  You will have about 10 minutes to work with this mixture before you might need to do another batch: a little will go a long way.
Take your figure and remove the sword arm, pulling it away to leave an indent in the putty where it used to be. This will not only hold the arm but will help to guide you when putting it back in place.
Pick up a glob of the Kwik-Weld on a toothpick and dab it into the arm socket. 
Put the sword arm in place. You can play around with and adjust the fit at this point. As needed, scrape away any excess weld with a toothpick. It should be noted that the Qwik-Weld also works as a good filler. 
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STEP THREE
 Place the figure in a secure spot and let the epoxy set... 
...repeat for as many figures as needed.
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It is probably fair to say that in addition to necessity, aversion may be the mother of invention. It was my aversion to sticking bits together that caused me to come up with this solution. If it works for me, then I think it could work for pretty much anybody! 
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BONUS COVERAGE
As long as I was in the neighborhood, I thought I'd conclude with a bit of a work-in-progress post. I put the riders on these handy painting stands, tailor made by my friend, fellow blogger AJ.  The riders are held in place on these stands with a bulb of hobby tac (I believe AJ glues his).  For this (and other like projects), I match horses and riders ahead of time, test fitting them and modifying as needed so that they sit squarely.  Then I glue the horses to popsicle sticks (a fairly standard move).  In the above picture, you see the riders lined up with their assigned horses.  All well and good, but how to make sure that the riders will be matched with the right horses once all of this gets moved around--and covered over in white spray primer?
Answer: the bottom of each of the rider-stands is numbered.  I mark the underside of the sticks holding the horses with the corresponding rider numbers.  I can then move them around as I like and also spray prime the lot without losing this information.  After priming, I'll take a minute to write the numbers on the topside of the rider stands and horse sticks for easy reference. 
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Well, dear readers, the horses and riders are matched; the figures are prepped and ready to prime: it's all downhill from here!

Excelsior!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

TANKS FOR THE MEMORIES: A TRIP TO THE AMERICAN HERITAGE MUSEUM & LITTLEFIELD COLLECTION

Recently, our club made a trip to the American Heritage Museum in Hudson, Massachusetts. Our club president and another member volunteer there, and so they arranged it so that we could visit during the day---and also have exclusive access to the vehicles for 30 minutes after the museum had closed. Very cool!
Despite it's name, the collection consists of equipment and vehicles from all major combatants, organized by era and theater of operations, with an emphasis on tanks (a quite impressive emphasis, I might add!).  
There are informative displays, such as this cutaway of a Sherman turret, and everywhere you look there is something to be seen--such as the small arms and Panzerfausts stowed in this German halftrack. 
 Our club also ran games of What a Tanker in the museum during the day. 
The first impression and centerpiece of the exhibit is this confrontation between a T-34 85 and Panther--throughout the day there is a laser light and sound show culminating in flames shooting out of the T-34 turret (not to be missed!).  
Here are some shots of the displays along with the informational placards.  Clix pix for BIG Pix: enjoy!

As if tanks weren't enough, there are a smattering of aircraft, with this magnificent Me 109 being the centerpiece (as far as I am concerned, anyway). 

There was soooooo much to be seen everywhere that it was easy to miss this SU-100 tucked in a corner behind the IS-2!

 The collection does not stop at World War II, but continues up through the Gulf Wars
To include Vietnam-era Soviet mainstays like the PT 76 and T-54

And the ultimate "Baddie" the T-64 (and it's brother here, the T-72). I was in US Army Europe when they fielded this thing, and I can tell you it got our attention!



The collection culminates with the US M60 and M1A1 main battle tanks, vehicles that I have served on (as well as the M60 A-3).  I wish the M60 was in US Army Europe camo pattern as opposed to desert--although it was in the Gulf War in small numbers, this tank really is associated with the Cold War and NATO, where it was the US Army's main battle tank for nearly 30 years: a minor niggle (everyone has an opinion).  During the after hours period, I was able to get inside the turret of the M60, something I had not done for nearly 30 years--I was surprised to find how familiar everything was despite the decades. Such, I suppose, is the imprint of military training and the nature of serving in armor units, where your daily existence is centered on and defined by operating these machines. I guess it's the same for pilots (and I'm sure other specialties). Despite the obvious passage of time, it is still strange to see vehicles that you served on in a museum, though--I'm glad that they didn't turn out the lights and keep me there as part of the display!
I'll conclude as I did on that day. On my way out, I looked up and was surprised to notice this V-1 buzz bomb hanging above! As I said, there is almost too much to take in: well worth the trip if you're in the region.
 
Excelsior!
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