Saturday, December 10, 2016

Austrian Dragoons 1866 and Why Craft?

I have finished another 12mm unit for my Austrian 1866 (Seven Weeks' War) army, this one being Austrian Dragoons. During this period Austrian dragoons had green coats faced red (collar and cuffs).

The build is pretty standard, with the horses being built exactly the same was as previous builds. The rider's body is also the same as previous builds, but the head is a spherical 8mm wooden bead rather than a cylindrical pony bead.

In order to create the comb of the helmet I used Americana's Writer – a thick, "dimensional" acrylic paint – to build up the shape. I am not concerned that the height of my comb is not anywhere near as high as it was historically as I am going for an effect, which I think I have pulled off decently.

Basing is old school solid grass green as I think it works well for these cartoony figures.

My goal is to try and get the models as close to the basic paint job as possible while still being quick about it. Once I have a full Austrian and Prussian army painted, I can go back and add some details. For this unit I want to paint the leather saddle, the bedroll behind the rider, and the hay roll they carried in front of the rider, on the right side. (The first and last details are probably only feasible on the outer figures.

I probably need to find another source for swords. The "silver clubs" don't look as nice, even from a distance. The problem is that they are so small, so handling small bits is really fiddly, especially when trying to glue them into place. Further, with such a small surface area smaller, thinner pieces have a lot less strength after gluing and will often break off. It will take some thought to think of a replacement.

Why Craft Your Own Miniatures?

To those wondering why I do this, why I continue to make figures that are so inexpensive to buy, I guess my answer is because I like constructing the figures. There have been a number of times the last year where I picked up a packet of figures, or looked through a catalog online, and I just could not convince myself to buy those figures. I always thought to myself: I can make that. Granted, it was not going to be the same as the elegant figures I was considering, but unless I send those figures off to a professional painter I am really not going to do them justice. There is something about the simple shapes – spheres, cubes, cones – rather than the complex curves and undercuts of modern figures, that makes it so much easier to paint. It also helps that I like the cartoony painting style of these figures.

Bead figures are especially inexpensive. Each dragoon above uses five beads for the horse and two for each rider. Each bag of 1,000 beads is anywhere from $3 to $5 so that means each figure comes in at about $0.05. I would say that the base the figures rest upon is the single most costly component at $0.17 each. So the base of dragoons comes in somewhere around $0.42 each. You won't get even Baccus 6mm or Irregular 2mm for that cost.

Larger figures like the ones pictured above can get more expensive, especially if you buy in very small quantities at Hobby Lobby or Michael's craft stores, but I bought in quantity some time ago. The basic figure costs about $0.11 each if you buy 500. The hats are made from one-half of a wooden spool, so that adds about $0.04 ($0.08 per spool, which makes two hats). The feet are made from a wooden heart, so that is another $0.08 each, unless you use craft foam where they are about $0.03 each. The wood base costs $0.05 each. Finally, the flat toothpick used for the musket adds about 1/10th of $0.01. All in, about $0.32 each. Try finding a 40mm or 54mm figure for that cost!

Of course, you really have to like crafting. Otherwise this is just another step between purchase and getting the figures on the table that takes up time.

So, why craft? First and foremost: because I enjoy the creativity behind figuring out how to combine shapes and materials to make something resembling a historical soldier. I actually prefer painting details onto figures rather than painting detailed figures. It must be something about "coloring within the lines". The fact that my crossbelt are painted on rather than cast on means that those belts will not be in the exact same spot with each figure, giving my figures in the unit a look of individuality while not looking completely random. They are not a clone army, nor are they like some units of plastic and metal made up of three or four poses so they don't look clones. I would say that multi-part plastic troops are the closest to what I do, as they too have slight variance due to arms and heads being glued in imperfectly. Finally, there is the cost. Starting a new period I know will take far more time than money. I don't feel bad having a large wood pile because I know that while they remain in component form, they can end up as practically any soldier from any period until I put them together and start painting them. My wood pile – although as large as my lead pile – can end up as almost anything when the time comes. And that is a fun thought, in and of itself.


  1. Diggin' those Prussian cavalry. They look sharp! Nice essay on "why craft your own miniatures" as well.

  2. Glad to see that you guys are still crafting and have started posting again. The family was on vacation and we stopped into a Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas store and the wooden figure inspiration hit me again, so I decided to look up this blog and lo and behold, new posts!




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