jueves, 3 de mayo de 2018

Toy Soldier Conversions

Modifying or customizing plastic figures in scale 1/32 is a very popular practice, mainly motivated by the fact that some very popular kits like those WWII sets from Airfix and Matchbox come with a very limited set of different figure poses. In the case of the British Army, since most of their infantry branches share basically the same uniform, new figures can be created quickly by transferring heads,  using a pose from another set and creating your own new figure in the original set. This is also fueled by the fact that several poses come duplicated in every box set, so you are not sacrificing a unique figure for you creativity’s sake.

Let’s see an example of this using a “plastic equation” so to speak:

Here we use a very cool standing Bren gunner, from the British Army (ETO) set, and combine it with a British Commando grenade thrower, one of the most repeated figures in this remarkable set, not very exciting but with one of the better defined facial features of the whole set, really well sculpted, unlike the source figure, which has a great pose, but lacks a detailed face. By transferring the head from the commando we now have a unique British Commando pose that will surely surprise most Airfix Commando fans, and by using a new angle for this well-detailed head, we now appreciate a completely different attitude or character on this figure, one of the rewards of doing these “Mods” or conversions.

I did not use glue but polymeric clay, once it air-dries it will bond the pieces together, it also fills the empty spaces and serves the purpose of sculpting a stylish scarf around his neck, so it solves the problem of bonding and also adding a new element, all at once. It was the material I had at hand in the moment of the conversions, but there is a better option called "Green stuff", a clay and bonder, all in one product. You can paint it when dry. It allows testing different positions for the head and it is easy to sculpt to give the appearance of a scarf, resulting in a very cool and stylish Commando.

This is another example to create a unique Commando figure by using a Matchbox British Army Bren gunner and a Matchbox Commando head with beret, these Commandos are very well sculpted figures but with not very action-oriented poses, nevertheless it is an epic set, rare and somewhat expensive, the plastic is very soft, easy to work with. The Commando set has much better details than the other Matchbox sets, the faces in particular are much better defined, and the British Army set provides some firing poses that this Commando set lacks, so it is a marriage of convenience. Again the same polymeric clay technique was used for this case. Once again our “plastic equation” to explain the conversion:

And a better picture, an actual shot of episode 1 of my new "Plastic Commandos" animated series:

Some figures provide wider alternatives for conversion, because they have their arms separated from their body and then you can try more radical transformations, with new weapons and intentions, but this is more difficult, many Airfix and Matchbox figures don’t provide this alternatives because they have a very monolithic design, arms and weapons close to the body, very difficult to cut and replace with something new, consider for instance the image above, very difficult to remove arms and Bren gun without damaging the figure, perhaps removing the gun if you are skilled with the cutter and adding another compatible (in size and trigger) weapon could be possible, but it’s difficult to achieve a polished result.

Sometimes you have more options, because the arms are separated from the body, and by replacing one or both arms the figure can be transformed to perform a very different and it can have more interesting combat roles.
The original figure is not doing much, holding a knife with the right hand and doing nothing with the left hand

Arms from 21st Century Toys US gun crew figure were added, they are size-compatible
and very useful for different tasks, weapons can be attached without glue

This figure can also hold mortar rounds and play a role with the Fire Support Group

He can also be a prisoner about the be shot according to Hitler's Commando Order N°2
With this old Matchbox soft plastic I had to use superglue, I think that "Green stuff" clay/bonder would also work, but I have not tested it yet. The arms are made of very rigid plastic, maybe some type of resin, which also needs superglue.

Another type of conversion is changing the weapon, for this the new weapon must be similar in shape, it must have similar handles and grab points, or maybe you are transforming the same weapon into a different version, like this Thompon MG with extra large barrel and drum magazine, Chicago Gangster style, not WW2 accurate but a cool example nevertheless:

Bty carefully removing sections of the machine gun (magazine and part of the barrel) and placing fragments of 1/35 kits, a new version of the Thompson MG gets done. In this case using the new plastic helps, because we can use Tamiya Cement for plastic model kits, and it's better than using superglue, gives more time to fix position of pieces, and performs its magic bonding the pieces because the new plastic used by Airfix is compatible with plastic model kits and the glues used for model building.

Removing the weapon and attach a new one is a much complicated conversion task. First you must have a nice 1/32 weapon, and it's highly probable that you will need to cut fragments of this weapon. Airfix multipose kits are a very good source of high quality weapons, depending on the kit (British, German, American) you can find light machine guns like MG42, Bren, BAR or MP40, Sten, Thompson, among other accessories.

In this case, which is a work in progress at the time of writing this article, this figure from the British Army set (Airfix) was holding a Thompson MG, which was cut out, and a fragment of a nice Bren gun was put in its place, the fragment had to be cut to fit the space in the best way possible, not perfect but good enough.

Its head well be replaced by a Commando head, I expect the end result to be very satisfying, considering that this is a figure with beautiful proportions and sculpt details, a good paint job should make it look very nice and unique.

There is also chance for small conversions or enhancements, like attaching a small piece of equipment to a figure, like in these cases, where a sniper sight was added to the rifle and a handle was added to the Bren gun. Both pieces were taken from 1/35 kits (Tamiya US WW2 weapons), and thanks to the new plastic, Tamiya's cement for plastic models was used with very good results.

I am about to receive that "green stuff" clay & bonder that many skilled toy soldier fans are using for advanced conversions involving sculpting parts of uniforms, as I could see on the internet, I think that this material will expand my conversion possibilities, since it can also be used to sculpt, for instance, you can convert an 8th Army short pant into a British Army trouser, it requires practice, but I am sure it makes the task easier.

I have done many other conversions using "Big 1/32" figures from TSSD and Austin miniatures, but now I am focused on Airfix regular 1/32, Commando conversions in particular, taking advantage that many Airfix kits representing UK army forces can be used for Commando conversions because they share the same basic uniform.

miércoles, 2 de mayo de 2018

Conte Collectibles German Infantry, my final take

I bought on eBay some loose figures from sets 1 and 2 of this remarkable brand, and my first impressions were mixed, for a long time, until I repainted them a few days ago, for the 1st episode of my stop-motion series "Plastic Commandos".

These figures are regular 1/32, quite size-compatible with Airfix and Matchbox 1/32, unlike their stunning American GIs which are 1/32+ or "Big 1/32".

These figures were manufactured in Canada with a material that is hard to like, a sort of rubber, easy to cut if you are doing conversions (cut a head or arm), but very difficult to clean flash or excess material, it rips apart, it's easy to damage a figure's face trying to clean flash. If you want to bond pieces, you must use superglue. I have not seen any other recently manufactured WW2 figures in this scale that uses this unusual material, I think it was an unfortunate decision given the shortcomings already mentioned.

These figures have some outstanding details in their sculpt, but also some defects that are rather uncommon for modern manufactured figures of this quality, like strong mold lines and excess material very difficult to clean. Therefore my mixed feelings with these Germans, which are nevertheless a valuable addition to WW2 German Army toy soldiers in classic 1/32, bringing action, drama and stunning detail that overpass Airfix and Matchbox Germans, but fails in other aspect to be mentioned soon after these pictures.

Can you see that Close Combat badge? stunning!

Besides flash and too visible mold lines, this figure also has "particles" of plastic very difficult to clean, all over the torso and back of the machine gun, what a pity because the figure is one of the best of the set, beautiful proportions and crisp details in weapons and uniform, nice face features too. Apparently I had bad luck with this particular figure, as other people haave the same figure without the "plastic dirt"

The official online catalog of Conte's German plastic sets (there are also metal ones) is this:

An independent review of Conte's German sets can be found on this useful Blog, which is a reference for all WW2 1/32 toy soldier collectors:

Some Conte figures also expose some proportions problems that coexist with their highly detailed sculpts, like in the following figures, basically: heads too small, legs too thick:

Although I must admit that once painted I feel less bothered by this lack of proportions in these figures, maybe the legs are not the problem but the head. Maybe the body proportions are not as elegant as those from Airfix Commandos or Airfix British Infantry, but Conte went steps ahead regarding uniform and weapons details, Airfix reached this level in their 1/32 multipose kits, which are astounding and mantain the elegant body proportions of their classic kits. I must make an exception regarding Airfix paratroopers kits, these were upscaled from 1/72, losing sculpt quality and have an incorrect scale, they are not 1/32.

Now my final paint job with these figures, following the technique I developed to paint my Airfix British Commandos this year (see article on this Blog).

The "Nazi Diva", it has so many interesting angles!

Many of the figures have remarkable Teutonic facial features, which is a very nice detail because
they really look like Germans

The inclusion of a dead and wounded figures is a plus in this set, much needed

Conclusion: I am glad I bought these figures, I wish I had more (I damaged an MG42 machine gunner in kneeling position), during the painting process I learned to like them more and more and be less bothered by their unusual defects, I am satisfied with the results of the paint-job, I am sure these boys will provide very good photographs for my stop-motion series. I hope Conte Collectibles will make a re-run of these sets in rigid plastic, like the new Airfix editions.

Long Live 1/32!

martes, 1 de mayo de 2018

Airfix British Commandos 1/32

Back in 2015 I bought a box of Airfix British Commandos 1/32, the new edition, made in India, with the new plastic that has had so much bad press but in fact it has many qualities despite a few shortcomings.

My first attempt painting the Commandos was not very good, my fault, I did not have the skills, the proper tools and the sensibility to appreciate all the fine details of their sculpts.

After 1+ years painting "Big 1/32" figures from TSSD, Conte, Austin and CTS, I managed to mature my technique and skills, and after spending some time collecting these bigger than 1/32 figures, I decided to come back to Airfix, repainting my Commandos in April 2018, this time with better results, with a more systematized technique and a more defined style, "Battle Weary".

My style was inspired in the works of other people, like eBay seller 497_gotthatone (G. Gunther) and also the new paint job to be used by Forces of Valor for its new releases starting in 2018, a sample of this FOV paint job is shown below:

The work of G. Gunther can found in his Blog:

So these are some of my results of repainting my Commandos with my new "Battle Weary" style, they must look tired, brutal, like zombies (empty eyes), with a bit of influence from dark Animes. Lots of washes, black all over the body, and umber for the skin. Vallejo acrylic paints and Army Painter paint brushes were the tools used. This time I did let the plastic "talk its secrets" to me, and with very thin layers of paint, beautiful details were revealed... Long live Airfix!

These figures also include a few from the Airfix kit "British Infantry Support Group" along with their equipment, which adds a nice extra firepower to the Commandos kit.

The figures are part of my toy soldier art project "Plastic Commandos", links to the FB page and videos are on the upper right side of this blog, I already started doing some toy photography and battle video sequences, some of the by-products are shown below:

In defense of the new Airfix plastic...

Many people complain about the new rigid plastic, because sometimes the thin barrels of the weapons break easily inside the box, my experience with the Commando box, this happened to 2 different figures with thin barrels (sten and thompson mg), and luckily enough these figures were repeated in the box, so there was no loss of a single pose. Their color is dark green, it makes a bit difficult to distinguish details while painting, but these will be revealed when the paint is applied, although I would like them to have a lighter version of the color.

This new plastic does not require primer if you are using high quality acrylics, like Vallejo, and your technique is a good one (no thick layers of paint). It is easier to clean with a knife and sand because of its rigid nature, with a very sharp xacto knife you can clean mold lines and other details without ripping apart the plastic, nevertheless, it does require practice, cleaning faces in particular, so it is better to start with a repeated figure. If you want to glue pieces from model kits, like Airfix multipose kits or 1/35 kits (accessories, weapon barrels, etc), you can use Tamiya cement for plastic models, it will work nicely, and this is a nice advantage of the new plastic, you won't have to use superglue anymore!