Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Perry Plastic SYW Cavalry

Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were some? But - I know - there aren't. Nor likely to be in the the near future. If we're waiting for 28mm plastic C18 the best we might hope is that Wargames Factory respond to their poll (at by producing SYW figures in the next few months.

Let me explain. I'm building fictional armies of roughly SYW vintage. The core troops are beautiful Minden miniatures, supplemented by a whole ragbag of bits and pieces salvaged from my lead mountain which appear broadly eighteenth century and broadly compatible: I've Front Rank and Old Glory command figures, with a Hinchcliffe AWI and a Minifigs Napoleonic thrown in for good measure; Front Rank artillery for one side, but a mix of Old Glory, Foundry, Front Rank and an unknown soldier for the other; there'll be a small naval contingent recruited from Foundry, Citadel and Dixons pirates; cannon are Front Rank, Foundry, Hinchcliffe and Spencer Smith. You can see it's quite a hotch potch.

But what I lack is cavalry. Minden will produce some, no doubt wonderful, figures in time, but what am I to do till then? Both Foundry and Front Rank are attractive ranges, but they're expensive (especially since Foundry's price rise, which has taken the price of 28mm to ridiculous heights). As the project is an "Old School" imaginary nation, Spencer Smith suggest themselves and, whilst they have charm, I'm not sure that mixing them in with more detailed figures will be satisfying.

RSM95 look highly compatible and attractive, and are a good price even when overseas shipping is taken into account, but they may take months to appear from across the Atlantic, given the vagaries of the postal service. Other ImagiNations have been built around 20mm plastics, some of which reach 25mm and so ought to be compatible in height, but the slenderness of the mouldings makes them look distinctly odd next to a true 28mm or 30mm figure.

I went round and round these possibilities for ages, and then had, for me, a brainwave. What about the new Perry plastics? I'd seen an article in Wargames Illustrated showing that they were easy to convert, and surely converting plastic figures into something completely different was a highly "old school" idea, perfectly in keeping with my rather rambling project.

So I bought a box of Perry ACW cavalry. I was both impressed and slightly surprised by these figures. Impressed because they carry many of the virtues of Perry metal castings, yet are only £1 per cavalry figure; surprised by the one or two weaknesses in the designs (e.g. lack of clarity in the moulding in a couple of places).

Well, I thought, I could simply add a tricorne and away I'd go. To add a tricorne, I simply needed to adapt one of the soft hats included in the box. Didn't I? (I should perhaps say here that I've virtually no sculpting or conversion experience. I did convert a load of Airfix Indians to "Numidians" in 1968 (!) and I once armed a Foundry Mexican peasant girl with a rifle for my daughter in a Wild West RPG - but basically I'm a duffer in this department.)

But I am also a cheapskate. So I tried this. I tried building a tricorne around a kepi. I tried making a tricorne from scratch. I tried several approaches. In the end, my best bet was to scuplt the hat directly on the head of the figure. Which worked quite well, I think, given my complete and utter lack of sculpting expertise. First create a disc of green stuff. Then get it to adhere to the top of the figure's head (not too easy - the green stuff seems to prefer to stick to the sculpting tool, even when suitably moistened). Then bend up three sides. Adjust the corners. Stop it from slipping over the eyebrows. Then correct for the previous over-correction. And, eventually, you might have a tricorne hat.

Though probably stuck to the knife!

In the course of this sophisticated millinery, I realised that a few other touches would be needed to turn my shell-jacketed ACWs into plausible 18th century cuirassiers or dragooons (at least I wasn't so touched by the sun that I believed I'd be able to create hussars!) Each model needed its tricorne, a queue, cavalry boots and turnbacks. So I used green stuff to build each of these in turn.

Results were mixed. As I say, I've neither skill nor experience, so there are problems with the finished results. Different figures have hats of different sizes and turnbacks of differing lengths, and there's some uneveness in the sculpted lines where I've not created a smooth enough line but, essentially, it worked. By adding this little shopping list of variations to the commercial ACW, a reasonably convincing (18th dragoon/cuirassier can be created.

Here's the first two models, painted last night:

There are some oddities, of course. I only realised when it came to painting that some of the horse furniture and pistol holster are rather inappropriate. These should probably have been shaved off. I'll try this on the next figures. Also, the bucket stirrups are not C18th (which is why I've painted boots and stirrups black, to disguise them).

Hopefully the sculpts will get better as I learn more.


Anonymous said...

I gotta say, they look pretty good! If you didn't know they were ACW, you wouldn't be able to tell...

Bluebear Jeff said...

Good work, Noel. And I like the paint job and color selection.

Now let me share something that I long ago discovered.

I care a lot more for armies that I've selected and painted myself than I do for ones that I've purchased . . . even when their paint jobs were clearly superior to mine.

The difference is that the former are MINE and the latter merely belong to me.

I suspect that these cavalry will always hold a treasured place for you because of your "creation" of them . . . even after you get some Minden cav.

Good work, sir.

-- Jeff

Snickering Corpses said...

I agree with Mike, they look pretty decent. I don't think there's anything that will be immediately noticed by anyone but an utter purist.

Andy Mitchell said...

What a superb idea!

I always love it when someone comes up with something new like this. In particular, your method for creating tricorns by folding a disc is an idea of simple brilliance - I'm looking at creating tricorns for some conversions and will try it out.

Stokes Schwartz said...


I'll agree with everyone else. Very impressive work! Eager to see an entire regiment of these fine fellows.

Best Regards,


Frank said...

Great start Noel. Keep this up and I won't need to make cavalry :-)


A J Matthews said...

Very impressive results! As for the few oddities, they don't show at a distance. The creator of an imaginary army can say they're authentic to his forces anyway. I'm going to look into this Perry conversion idea myself.

tradgardmastare said...

What a super effort - you have inspired me to think about other possible conversions- I look forward to a finished unit...

Fitz-Badger said...

I agree with all of the previous comments. Very nice conversions indeed. I expect any deficiencies are much more obvious to you than anyone else (except maybe the Perrys - lol). On the tabletop with other troops they'll look great I'm sure.

Frankfurter said...

you've done vastly more than i would attempt, and the results are quite pleasant!
Hope these lads perform as well on the table as you did in making them!

Major Wittering said...

Many thanks for all the positive comments. There'll be a regiment of twelve of these eventually. But you've inspired me to hack at the Perry infantry, too. Watch this space......