Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Mission

Being a long-time miniatures wargamer, I've tried several mediums for figures: lead, pewter, plastics (hard and soft), resin, and wood. I used most of these mediums to create my own model soldiers, but only had any real success with wood .

I started out making model soldiers in wood for two reasons:

  1. I read an article in the old Dragon magazine about Professor M.A.R. Barker making wood model soldiers for his game world Empire of the Petal Throne.
  2. My mom turned hippie and thus we suddenly become poor and anti-materialistic and all I had to make model soldiers with were scraps of wood and a large pile of wooden beads...
And thus began my journey with wooden model soldiers.

At first, everyone said they looked "cartoon-y" and so they got no respect. When I once scoffed at the idea of a "hair roller army", a friend said "yeah, what about your bead army"? For a long time I forgot about those soldiers. Somewhere in a move they all got thrown into the trash. Pity. They actually had pretty nice paint jobs (they were knights and I had spent some time on the heraldry).

Over time the memories faded and only once had I tried to recapture the fun of the bead knights of yore, but it never grabbed me again. That is, until I received an email from one of the wargaming forums I am on, pointing to another forum on "Craftees". As I knew the person posting the message, and he said you really need to look at these cool figures, I bit. The forum is Wargaming on a Budget, and it is all about making your own model soldiers using wooden craft bits. Looking at the hundreds of pictures from Matt and Neil struck me like a hammer. These were guys who were serious about their wooden warriors. Despite their obviously cartoon-y appearance, they took them to wargaming conventions and they were hits, especially amongst the kids.

I rushed done to Michael's craft store and started browsing the wood section and found some part so I could start trying my hand at it that day. By 6 PM I had finished my first prototype: a 40mm Napoleonics French fusilier. I was hooked.

This blog will serve several purposes:

  • To show what I am working on.
  • To describe the steps on how I build my model soldiers.
  • To document the project(s) using them.
  • To ... someday ... show them used in games. (I have a lot of building to do first.)
My first project is pretty easy. I pre-ordered GMT Games' Command and Colors: Napoleonics by Richard Borg. I am a big fan of his games, so when a Napoleonics variant was announced I knew I had to start collecting miniatures for the game. The goal was to build a hex game mat and figures to replace the game board and wooden stickered blocks.

For a long time I did not know what kind of miniatures to buy for the game. I could buy 15mm and (probably) not be required to make a game mat. I thought about 28mm hard plastics, but rejected that pretty quickly. I started a serious search for 54mm figures, but most are in the UK and many lines were light on artillery and cavalry selection.

Then I found the Craftees (not sure if I like that name or not...) and thought it was possible to use them. Once my trip to Michael's revealed that you can buy "pawns" (also called "game pieces"), which is a dowel turned on a lathe that has a distinguishable head, the remainder being the body, it seemed like exactly what I was looking for. These figures provide a nice 3D look without much distortion of the body. (Well, okay, a lot. But they don't look like spools and shaker pegs, they look like ... pawns.)

I purchased the "Game Piece/Boy" bits, mostly because of the cost and the number I could buy at Michaels at the time (no planning; of course not). These are 1 11/16" tall and make the figures about 40mm to the eye level. For me, these were perfect. The only other size to consider ("Game Piece/Man") was verging on 3", I believe, which would have put it in the 75mm range; a little too big for me.

I'll follow up with pictures of the raw parts, the building process, and some of the finished products I have so far. You'll hear me out on the Yahoo forum also, but there it is like preaching to the choir. This blog serves as my voice as to why you might want to try this process to build your own. I'll try to throw in some other topics every so often, but it will always tie back to wooden warriors. For general wargaming discussions, I have another blog.


  1. Interesting idea. I am looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

    I am doing some work with top downs on MDF bases. I seem to recall German(?) 19th century soldiers which had a generic wood horse and foot profile with coloured paper illustrations pasted over to create an ersatz "flat" model.

  2. Pat you should join the Wargaming on a Budget forum listed in the blog entry. I think you would like it. Although the discussion is mostly along the lines of "craftees", there was a brief discussion about using paper and wood in combination. Print a figure and attach it to a dowel to get a 3D look. I will have to explore that one day.




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