Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Spanish Troops in Bicorne

If you have read through my blog then you know that one thing I have tried to make in the past, and found to be a pain, was making bicornes.

My last attempt was with the French Napoleonic Officer on Foot and I ended up making it out of balsa wood and Modeling Magic. It was a process that worked fine for a single figure, but not for mass production. As I want to make figures for the Spanish Army of 1808, I need a simpler way to make bicornes. Grinding down blocks of balsa wood won't cut it.

Making a Simple Bicorne

As with most things I did originally in wood ended up not being scalable, I turned to craft foam sheets to see what I could do. I started by cutting and trimming a piece of foam and fitting it to a figure. Once I got the right size and shape, I used it to create a template out of plastic card.

Once you have a template made, it is much easier to make consistent pieces. Trace around the template onto the foam sheet.

Cut out the shapes. One is the front of the bicorne and one is the back.

Cut them out of the foam sheet using scissors. Now tack to the halves together using a dab of hot glue.

Tack only one of the two halves to the head of the pawn applying hot glue to the center of the bicorne half. Do not tack both as it will be very hard to center the hat onto the head if you do so.

Once you have the half centered in place, apply a little hot glue to the open end and glue the two halves together, making sure you keep the hat centered on the head.

If you got it right you should see a very simple, but functional bicorne. The hat will still pop off of the head though as it is only lightly tacked down. As you look under the hat you can see the gaps on the left and the right of the head (or the front and back, depending upon whether the figure is wearing the bicorne side-to-side or front-to-back).

To keep the hat fixed to the head we need to fill those gaps with hot glue. Fill one side and let it cool before filling the other. You do not want the tacked ends come apart.

Now the bicorne sits nicely on the head.

Making a Simple Plume

There are craft scissors that you can buy at the craft stores like Hobby Lobby and Michael's that cut irregular shapes. I have used them on my troglodyte project as for the manes and tails for horses. Now we will use it for a plume. Cut three triangles using the scissors, two smaller than the third.

Now simply hot glue the smaller pieces to the larger piece, one on each side.

Now simply insert the bottom of the plume between the folds of the bicorne and glue it in.

Simple Feet

In the beginning I used the ends of popsicle sticks for feet, but cutting and sanding took more time than it was worth. I switched to gluing wooden hearts to the bottom, which really looked nice. However, there was still the need to sand off the "point". On the positive side, the thickness of the heart looked right for a pair of shoes.

I found some foam hearts, with adhesive backing, at the craft store. I decided to give them a try as they are a lot cheaper and a lot easier to use.

The result is that they look right, from the top, but are a lot thinner than the wood. Maybe some hot glue on the top to give the shoe some body, like I did with the original feet I made. Much easier to mount and trim though.

Making Simple Heavy Lace

The last item I will show is heavy lace, tape or braid for the bicorne. Normally I paint such details on by hand as I get fixated on correcting my work when I paint outside the lines. So I try not to create any artificial lines.

That said, sometimes the braid on a figure is so heavy that it needs some dimensionality to it. A good example would be the gold braid on the edge of a General's bicorne. To make this simply use your bicorne template and cut out a half on thinner foam sheet. (There are generally three thicknesses, with the middle thickness being what I use to make the bicorne itself.)

Carefully cut the edge out of the half and glue it to the bicorne. You can use hot glue to tack the ends down and then white (PVA) glue to glue the entire piece down. Glue one of these to each of the bicorne halves and you have some impressive heavy braid!


Napoleon's bicorne had the front more prominent, almost starting to become a tricorne.

For this you will have to put a small square of foam on each end, rather than gluing the two halves together. To make the prominent front, pinch the front half to form the shape and put some hot glue on the back side, letting it cool before moving on.

Some bicornes have a higher back than front.

This can be achieved by making two templates – one for the front half and one for the back – or simply carefully cutting down the height of the front half using the common template.

Really exaggerated bicornes, where the sides dip down, would probably be better served by making a template of the appropriate shape. But it is possible to pull down the sides when filling the bottom gap with hot glue and waiting for it to harden. The stretch of the foam should have no problem dealing with distortion and once the glue hardens it will not lose that shape.

Finally, we have the Prussian 1806 bicorne, which was one of the original figures I was looking at making (rather than the 1808 Spanish).

This is very similar to Napoleon's bicorne, above, except you can insert small spherical beads at the left and right ends to represent the pom-poms, and to hold the two halves together.

Well, I hope you have found this instructive. From this I will be able to build Spanish line infantry, line cavalry, dragoons, and artillery. Expect to see those sometime in the future as I find a new opponent for my French to fight using Tin Soldiers in Action. (For more information on the Tin Soldiers in Action rules see my review and battle report. Part One Part Two Postscript


  1. Great use of craft foam! The foam really takes paint well, too, good choice of materials. Great way to do a bicorne.




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