I was so pleased with my Perry cuirassier conversions (which will soon be a 12 figure regiment) and the feedback from my courteous visitors has been so positive, that I decided to see what I could make of the Perrys' ACW infantry, too.
It's more difficult to work on the foot figures than the cavalry (for SYW, at any rate) because there are more variations in equipment, uniform and poses. Also, the ACW trousers (that's "pants" for my American readers) are a long way from the tight-gaitered Adam Ant leg-revealers of the eighteenth century. So it isn't just a question of adding judiciously placed green stuff, but also deft wielding of a scalpel to remove offending creases and folds.
I didn't think I'd be able to sculpt (read "gouge") the required shapeliness (but highly military, of course) of the calf-muscles effectively, so for my sample figure, I decided on a jaeger, based loosely on the Prussian jaeger in Blandford's uniforms of the SYW plate 41 (also in Osprey Men at Arms 248, plate E), because these guys wore cavalry boots. Other possible original models might be the Russian Corps of Observation (basically your standard Russian uniform, plus boots) or perhaps some of the Freikorps or light troops (either as "dismounted" cavalry, or else more irregular trousers than the norm).
Of course, mine aim is entirely fictional, so I can apply some license. So, without further ado, here is the entire jaeger Corps of Mendelstadt:
You might notice that I forgot to shave his beard, so, despite the conversion, he retains a somewhat un-C18th look. I only realised this mistake during painting, so I added slightly more Germanic points to his moustache by way of compensation, during painting, and decided that Mendelstadt's jaegers, being recruited from the wildmen of forest and hill might generally be a little less than couth in their coiffure. The paint scheme I've chosen is almost traditional jaeger, except that I went for a slightly brighter green than might be thought sensible.
Other slight oddities are:
- the ammo pouch from which this guy is retrieving shot, though hidden in this model, is not really suitable. If I wanted a fully credible SYW figure, he should perhaps have a large rectangular ammo pouch centred on his abdomen - but I couldn't figure out how to do this convincingly
- I've modelled the boots as if there are loose trousers gathered into them, rather than the gaiters that seem endemic to SYW. On the next model, I might try to be more correct. The boots are also rather dumpy - I think more plastic needs shaving away.
- the emblem of Mendelstadt is a phoenix. I'd like this on the cartridge box on the figure's hip but no way can I paint a convincing micro-phoenix. Any tips?
- eyes. I've seen photos of these ACW plastics with convincing eyes. Unfortunately, my eyes are no longer good enough to make sure this guy has any eyes at all.
Otherwise, I'm quite pleased with him. In time, there's likely to be a full regiment - though it might only be sixteen figures.
What have I learned so far from these Perry conversions?
1) It's possible, even easy. I think to get reasonably accurate SYW figures from the Perry figs would take rather more skill than I can muster, but, if you're prepared to accept the occasional compromise some good figures can be created quite cheaply. (In the UK the cavalry work out at £1, infantry at 34p).
2) You need patience. This is a bit of a problem for me! I'd like a complete battalion here, now, please. I think each conversion takes me about an hour in total - perhaps a bit longer. Moreover, you can't do the whole thing in one go, because each time you add a new blob of green stuff, you risk damaging the previous pieces if they haven't quite hardened. Really, you need a day for hardening between each stage of the work.
3) Even small changes can make a big difference. Just putting tricornes on ACW heads makes a huge difference. You can always paint on coloured cuffs and other facings, if you don't want to mould them.
4) Be creative. The turnbacks on the jaeger, for example, are partly created by trimming down the existing model and partly by building up with green stuff. The key was to spot the point at which shaving should stop and building begin.
5) Think about how the figure might be painted. For example, the Prussian original of this jaeger has no lapels, so I'd no need to paint or model them. This obviously makes conversion easier.
6) There's lots of possibilities for originals. Of course, if you want exact historical accuracy, you're unlikely to find many of these ACW figures a good starting point, unless you trim them right down to their basic architecture and build up a substantial part of the uniform itself. (Using the Perry model as a "dolly" is, I think, the right way to put this). But if all you want to do is create interesting units for a plausibly historical context, you can look around between different armies and theatres for starting points. For example, shell jacket ACW figs are probably the easiest to give turnbacks to, but sack coated ACW might be better for coats without turnbacks, such as early French and many officers. No reason why you couldn't have both in the same army, perhaps even in the same unit.
Anyway, I'll continue to experiment and report on what I find.
Oh - and I've just noticed that Victrix have issued lots of info and some pictures on their forthcoming 28mm plastic Napoleonics. (See http://www.victrixlimited.com/) Maybe there'll be possibilities here, too. But they won't be around till September.