|The first recruits for the 58th Foot.|
After much hemming and hawing I went all toy soldiery and painted white, unstained, helmet and belts. The figure on the viewer's left is the original conversion, the other is the copy.
As the Boer disappeared into the RTV I had one of those forehead slapping moments. Yesterday I had looked through numerous illustrations and confirmed that ammunition bandoliers were almost always worn over the left shoulder. (Presumably to avoid interfering with the rifle butt when aiming.) What I had just noticed was that I had accidentally (or absent mindedly) reversed this when adding the putty.
Never mind, that could be fixed, or lived with, it was really the pith helmet that I had slipped in that was important. With a bit of work, I eventually managed to coax a slightly lumpy helmet and even more heavily flashed Boer from the mould. Lumpy and flash ridden enough that I could make use of them after much tedious work but not encouraging. The rifle is a lump of flash and there is a big wedge on the brim of the Boer's hat not to mention various smaller faults. Doing fresh conversions for each figure would be easier than rescuing these though I will do one or two 'just because'. When I finally got a helmet to form it was in slightly better shape, usable but not great.
There was enough putty left over for one more full sized mould so I decided to try again but not with the Boer. This time I used an unconverted, antique, guardsman with his head chopped off and replaced by a pith helmet. If it worked it would give me what I needed to get the game on the table. I already have an ample supply of slouch hats to use for conversions of other figures to Boers to speed their recruitment.
It was with great relief that the result was, not exactly a clean casting, but a usable one. Usable enough to save the day with a bit of tedious work any way.
I'll never go down in the list of top miniature sculptors but I like several of my masters more than many commercial figures. Making moulds seemed like it should be the easy part. It probably is for someone with not just patience and technical knowledge but who is careful and precise and patient. Like the song says, "it ain't me Babe". I'm not sure how many moulds I've made now. Let's say 50 at least. Maybe 10 of those reliably produce acceptable copies of the original with a minimum of flash, maybe another 10 were completely unusable and the rest were were usable on a good day with a great deal of recovery work required to produce a poor shadow of the original.
One reason I persevered was that I dreamt back then of having my own one man toy soldier company. From original sculpt to mould to castings, raw or painted. With hindsight, by 2005 I had enough evidence that my mould making skills had stalled somewhere between mediocre to poor that I should have started investigating having some one else make the moulds. It was a tumultuous time in my life though and there was too much ego involved for rational business decisions. Anyway, I no longer have the desire to work that hard so its sheer cussedness crossed with a desire for cheap volume that has kept me going at the mould making.
For this project I had actually looked at the price of buying heads from 3 sources and had almost stopped myself from reaching for the RTV but, it was there, bought and paid for, and it had an expiry date. I decided to give it one more go.
Once I was done and looked at the results I went looking at price and availability of RTV and revisited the price of parts. I needed about 18 pith helmets for this project assuming I cannibalised and repaired more of the antique guards and used my commercial guards mould for bodies. The result suggests that the cost of those heads would be about equal to what one of the 2 moulds would have cost and I could have grabbed some extras at the same time. Hmmm. Less money, less work, less frustration and I can feel good for supporting the industry.
If I ever get another mad, insatiable, desire to make a lot of copies of some new originals, I'll start checking the price of hiring someone to do it for me.