Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Experimenting with Foam Sheet

One aspect that I am not satisfied with of the soldiers that I build is the stiffness of the arms. Part of that is the material I use (wood) and part of it is the source (a craft stick). If I used a wider craft stick, for example, I could cut a bent arm shape out and get more variation to the arm, but that makes each arm custom crafted, adding to the time to make a figure. Fine for one-off figures, but slower if trying to build a force.

It was while looking at Kenneth Van Pelt's Zulu-era soldiers on his Penny Whistle blog, that I noticed and liked the bends and poses of his pipe cleaner arms, but in the end did not like the "fuzzy" look. I started looking about for other materials to make the arms with that would give me that flexibility, yet give me more of the flat, craft stick look. Essentially, what I needed was a flexible craft stick.

I have used foam sheets for awhile now, mostly as simple outlines to define the areas of woods, hills, swamps, etc. so I am familiar with its properties, good and bad. On the positive side it is flexible and easy to cut and shape. It is about the same thickness as craft stick (a little thinner), but you can always buy thicker sheets, or even thinner sheets and glue them together.

The downside is their porous surface, making it harder to glue securely and to paint. It would probably be necessary to seal the foam before painting. But that might be possible with a thick primer.

I decided to experiment with a figure and try for a Napoleonic "high port arms" pose (which is more like the modern "present arms").

To start, I cut out the same basic shape and size that I used with craft sticks. I then glued the arms down using Elmer's Tacky Glue and waited for it to dry. I added a little Gorilla Glue Super Glue around the contact edges to add strength and also let that dry before moving on. The important thing was not to glue the arms too far forward, which I would have to do with wood.

After the arms were on solidly I glued the flat toothpick musket directly on the figure. It looks a little funny at this stage, but it ends up about right.

After the glue for the toothpick had dried, I put Tacky Glue on the underside of the right arm and pinned it to the body until the 'hand' reached the musket. With the left arm I only needed to glue the 'hand' directly to the musket.

 This was relatively easy to do, with the only tedious part being cutting out the arms to length. In the end it is probably no more work than cutting and shaping the craft sticks. With a little bit of twisting and turning, I think making a figure with more of a modern port arms pose would be fairly.

Something like a defending pose would also be possible.

Cool figure, that one!

So, look for more figures using this technique. I have already used foam sheet for the bent foot of a kneeling troglodyte (lizard man) and it looks pretty convincing.

UPDATE: I painted the figure as it shows the shapes a little better.


  1. Good work Dale, are you planning to mass produce some figures?

  2. My version of "Mas production" is anything greater than six copies... :^)

    I am (slowly, intermittently) working on a 28mm Early Imperial Roman army for DBA, so that is about 36+ figures. Making the arms is usually the tedious part, especially as they are so small.




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