Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Infantry Tutorial Continued - The Shako

This segment shows you how to make a shako out of a wooden spool. The shako I am going for here is something like a French shako, circa 1812. To recap, I am using a wooden game piece/pawn that is 1 11/16" tall. The ball at the top is the head, which is about 5/8" wide, will be used for fitting the shako.


If you compare the image of a shako on Wikipedia with the wooden spool below you will note that the colored band at the top (which is a reinforcement for the shape of the hat) looks very similar to the "lip" on the spool. The issue, of course, is that there are two lips, one at the top and bottom. The spool I use for these figures are 1" tall by 3/4" wide, so cutting them in half will produce two shakos the right size...


So, that is what you do. Use a fine marker to measure the halfway point and cut with the thinnest saw (i.e. the smallest kerf) you have. Getting it as straight as possible is also highly desirable. : ) By the way, here is what is on my Christmas wish list for just this sort of operation: a mini-miter cut-off saw from Micro-Mark, the hobbyists small tool specialist. (Yeah, I know, that sounded like a plug. That's because it was. It just wasn't a paid plug!)


With our spool cut in half, use a sander to smooth out the rough edges. Don't worry about the center or making it level as we are going to hollow out the top anyway so that the hat fits on the head.


The next part, hollowing out the spool, really requires some tools. The good part is that the tools can be real cheap, like a simple U-shaped wood carving tool. I used a structured tooth carbide cutter for my Dremel. It removes material. (God help you if the thing skips and hits your hand though. One day I will buy a chainmail glove.) Once you remove enough material, you can get your sanding drum in and and away. As you do this, keep popping the hat on the figure, looking for a good fit. The hat needs to come down low enough to look right, but keeping in mind that the walls of the spool, once they get too thin, simply break. So if you grind too much, you are only effectively shortening the hat.


Once you've gotten a good fit it is time to build the brim, or peak, to the shako. You should have plenty of scrap craft stick lying around, so use that. Place the shako bottom on the stick and use a pencil to draw the spool's curve. This will serve as the inside of the peak. A shows you the craft stick with the curve drawn and B shows you after I have used cutters to shorten the stick down to a manageable length. Note that there is a minimal amount of material on the inside of the curve, as that will be cut and sanded away. The outside of the curve has a little more material as it will actually form the peak.


Using the sanding drum on my Dremel, I first sand away the material inside the curve (A) and then carefully sand the material on the outside of the curve (B) so it forms a crescent moon shape.


Note that if your glue is strong, such as using the Elmers School Glue Gel and Gorilla Glue super glue combination I have discussed in the past, then you can actually glue the piece on after step A and sand it down to look like B.

Once you have the peak done, glue it to the shako. Using your sanding drum, sand the top down a bit so that the edge attached to the spool is the thickest and the edge not in contact is the thinnest. From the side the peak will look like a little triangle. The following picture shows you what it will look like.


Next up we need to plug the hole in top of the hat. As always, I use my handy Crayola Model Magic Fusion to do that. A generous dollop applied on the inside, and pushed up through the bottom, while putting my thumb over the top makes a pretty flat surface. Not perfect, but good enough for me. (If I wanted perfect, I would use wood filler.)


The last touches are the adornments of the shako. For most of them, such as plates, emblems, chinstraps, and cords, I simply paint them on. However, for pom-poms and plumes, you need to attach the appropriate shapes to simulate them. I will show how to make a plume later (I need to take pictures), but for now let's do a pom-pom.

I start by drilling a tiny hole into the edge of the shako. When I drill I do it at a slight angle inwards. The pom-pom itself will be the plastic head of a dressmaker's pin. I cut off most of the pin, leaving a little stub, and glue that into the drilled hole. As I drilled the hole at an angle inward, the pom-pom will extend slightly past the front of the shako, which looks better.


Well, that's all for this time. I still have to show how to make a musket, a shako plume, epaulettes, and shoulder boards. If I ever put backpacks or cartridge boxes on my soldiers, I'll show how I do that too.

One last note about details like that. If you are basing your figures singly, adding details later is generally much easier to do than if they are based with several figures to a stand. Adding a cartridge box later is not much of a problem (although you might end up painting the belt), whereas adding a backpack and blanket might be easy - when it comes to adding the shapes - adding the additional painted details, such as crossbelts, over your current paint job might be something you don't want to put off.

If you have any suggestions for tutorials, let me know by either commenting on a blog entry or sending me email (click on profile, click the email link).

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