Saturday, January 28, 2017

WWII British and Early War USMC Infantry Tutorial Build

Blog reader tradgardmastare asked for some pictures on my latest build, some WWII British infantry, so that he can see the process. Sure! Here you go. Don't be put off by the number of steps. It takes more time to take the pictures and post than it does to actually execute the steps, but it is always good to do to repeat a little bit because new readers do not always go back into the blog and see the previous posts telling how, and I am always refining my process, so it does not always come out as I put out new posts. So here goes, and thanks for the suggestion tradgardmastare.

When I was making my Austrians and Prussians, I started by gluing the figures that I was building straight to the base that was going to be used for gaming. The primary reason for this was:

  1. The figures represented formed troops where the men stood close together.
  2. When figures are packed in, many details simply cannot be seen by the gamer, especially details on the front of the figures that are in the second and third ranks and the details on the rear of the figures that are in the first and second ranks. Painting those details is often a waste of time.
  3. I wanted figures in specific formations on the base in order to visually represent different troop types. Handling the figures often damaged their paint jobs with hot glue.
Because these figures – although they will continue to have multiple figures per base – they will be spaced much farther apart and thus all details will be easier to see by the game. Although I will not be painting a lot more details than previously, those details I do paint will have to be made consistently on all figures. For that reason I have switched to painting all figures separately, off of their bases.


I start with a craft stick, which is really just a very wide popsicle stick. I glue the cube bead directly to the stick with white glue. I will later pop off the completed figure with a straight-bladed craft knife. (A small dab of superglue will also work.)


Next, I glue the furniture (screwhole) plug to the top of the cube bead. For those that don't know what I mean by furniture plug, you can see them in the picture below, highlighted by the red rectangles. These are small wooden parts that are pressed into the holes where you screw furniture parts together. They come in various forms, such as flathead, roundhead, and mushroom or button plugs.

As you can see, the button plugs look like the old 'pie plate' helmets used by the British and Americans in WWI and the British in WWII. (The Americans still used them in 1941, but they were replaced in 1942 with the helmets we are all familiar with.) Because they look so much like them, they make a great starting place for these helmets. As I noted in an earlier post, I think that the headgear is probably the single most iconic piece gear when it comes to identifying what a miniature represents. Get this right and you are a long way towards having figures you are happy with.

I would recommend a small dab of superglue (I like the new Gorilla Glue Superglue Gel) on one piece and a small dab of white glue on the other. The water in the white glue will help the superglue set faster.

Another stock of the trade is a flat toothpick. In case you are unsure of what I mean by that, it is shown in the picture below. It has a blunt point on one end and is rounded on the other. These are not usually found in grocery stores anymore, but can be found in the craft stores like Hobby Lobby and Michael's.


I use small snips to cut the rounded top of the flat toothpick off. These snips can be found in shops that support plastic modeling (they are used to snip plastic parts off of sprues), but they can also be found in the beads section of craft shops. This is where I obtained mine. (I keep one set for wood and another for plastic.)

The top will be used for the 'feet' of the prone figures. Not something you have to do, and in fact is something that you could do for all figures, if you wanted. (Especially if you want your figures a little taller. Hmmmmm...)

Note that Peter Pig's Poor Bloody Infantry (PBI) uses casualty markers. To be honest, I always thought casualty markers were a complete waste of money and time. I simply use red glass beads for this sort of thing. But given that these figures are so inexpensive to produce and quick to build and paint, I decided to splurge. These are the start of those markers. Note the 'imperfect' placement of the feet.

I am also going to build a .30 caliber Browning machine gun team. Almost every picture I see has the gunner sitting upright behind it and the loading lying or kneeling to the left. I decide to put some 'feet' in front of the gunner and behind the loader. In hindsight, I should probably have put some 'knees' between the 'body' and the 'feet' of the gunner. Who know? Maybe later.

As my wife will tell you, I don't get rid of the scraps because I will always find a use for them eventually. I use the pointed end of the flat toothpick for the casualties' arms. I normally don't do that for normal infantry (which I will show later), but these seem perfect for casualties.

I am not using two arms for every figure. I am not trying to be morbid, I am just assuming that some casualties will have arms folded under them, at their sides, and such.

Arms at the side of the figure are pretty easy to make, but arms sticking straight out, like with the gunner and loader, is much harder with my normal method. I will use the toothpick stick for these figures also.

Ignore the excess white glue. It will shrink when it dries.

What I normally use for details is a product called E6000 Allure Dimensional Adhesive Paint. It is a thick, glossy, plastic goop that will set in about 15 minutes and harden overnight.

To the business end I attach a fine applicator tip so I can place a finer bead of goop to the figure.

I have applied white gesso to the figure so that it is easier to see the goop. I apply a thin bead to the bottom outer edge of the 'helmet' to make the rim.

Note that the idea of getting a thin bead is thin measuring top to bottom. The goal, however, is to make the brim expand outwards more prominently. The image below left is what you want while the image below right is not. The latter  just won't show after being painted.


Everything about figures in smaller scales has to scream exaggeration. If the figures are not 'cartoony', then it is probably too subtle. If you don't like that style, you will probably not like the results of the figures as they will probably be colored blobs to you when looking at them at arm's length.

Of course, you don't want every detail exaggerated. You need to pick and choose which details get highlighted and which are not necessary. For me, the headgear is what the eye of the gamer sees the most, whether viewed from behind (the figures you are using) or from across the table (the figures your opponent is using).

Now it is time to start making weapons. I used a piece of flat toothpick and the snips (above) to make the stock, receiver and magazine for the BAR and a piece of dowel for the barrel.

I do the same for the NCOs armed with the Thompson submachine guns. Don't worry about the gaps as that will be filled in with good, glue or paint.

Glue a length of dowel to the chest of the riflemen. Put it at an angle so that the right 'arm' will drape over the weapon while the left 'arm' will come up under it.

A few wood scraps for the loader of the Browning .30 cal machinegun to represent the ammo box and belt.

Time to start 'making' the 'arms'. More E6000 Allure goop. Two little blobs to show where the hands will be. Do all of the figures this way first, so that by the time you come back to do the next steps, the goop for the hands will have started to cure.

Making the arm is as simple as painting a bead on the figure. Here the right arm is draped over the stock of the rifle, gripping the trigger area.

Again, do all the right arms before moving on. It is so easy to brush across the uncured goop and have it ruin your work so it is best to do one step at a time.

Now paint the left arm on with the good. This is easy, easy, easy and quick.

Guess what? We are done with construction. Unless there is some extra detail you want to put on, like blobs for cartridge boxes, haversacks or gas masks, that is all you need. Me, I am stopping here.


I am not going to show a step-by-step progression of the figures, but simply go over the paints I used and the order.

  1. I applied white gesso on those parts of the figure that were added after applying the  gesso initially. Normally I apply it once, at the end, but I thought it might help you see the bits added during the build if I painted the core figure white at the start. Gesso is important when using unfinished wood as it helps clog the pores in the wood so it does not soak up so much paint, giving it a dull color. On beads that are painted, or are plastic, gesso helps the paint stick better to the material. The E6000 is also very glossy and plastic, so the gesso is almost necessary in order to get paint to adhere.
  2. I painted the helmet with Evergreen craft paint, mostly to cover the white and give a dark base. I then dry-brushed Vallejo Reflective Green on top. This allowed the rim of the helmet to pop and gave the appropriate battle-worn patchy look.
  3. The main uniform is Ceramcoat Khaki craft paint. I usually use old Citadel paints or Vallejo paints for large areas, so this was an experiment to use cheap craft paint. It took 2 1/2 coats, but I am very satisfied with the color.
  4. I use a medium brown color – Citadel Vermin Brown, which is now Games Workshop Skrag Brown – to paint a band of hair on the figure. I used to paint the hair so that it fell above the next, leaving a thin ribbon of flesh. Not this time. I also used to paint the hair around where the ears would be. This time I decided to paint a 'wall' of hair and add the flesh back in to break it up.
  5. Next came the flesh color. I used the old Citadel Tallarn Flesh, which is now the Games Workshop Cadian Fleshtone. Basically I just painted the face and hands with the larger brush, then painted a dot for the ears and a line to make a little bit of exposed neck under the ears. This method was much faster and viewed from the tabletop, produces the same result.
  6. The rifle was painted using Games Workshop Dryad Bark.
  7. The end of the rifle and the bolt mechanism got spots with Games Workshop Leadbelcher (Citadel Boltgun Metal).
  8. Finally I finished the figure off by painting the eyes and mouth. Actually, I used a fine pen for the mouth. I used that same pen to put lines around the arms to give it better definition, as all that khaki just blended together.
All in all, I am very happy with the figures. I am still putting the finishing touches on the platoon leaders with their Thompson submachine guns, the BAR teams, and the .30 cal machinegun team. I haven't built the Browning .30 cal either, as that will be built after the figures are painted.

Next up, the special figures of the USMC and the start of the Japanese SNLF platoon.


  1. Outstanding tutorial! They turned out great. Can't wait to see the Japanese troops!

  2. I just read your tutorial again and wanted to thank you for the information about the white glue and the super glue. In the past I've combined the two together because as you said, it does make the super glue set up faster, but I had no idea why. It's the water in the white glue that causes this chemical reaction? Interesting, I had no idea why it dried faster.

    1. Here is the longer, scientific explanation:

      The main ingredient in Super glue is cyanoacrylate (C5H5NO2, for you chemistry buffs). Cyanoacrylate is an acrylic resin that cures (forms its strongest bond) almost instantly. The only trigger it requires is the hydroxyl ions in water...

      White glues, such as Elmer's, bond by solvent evaporation. The solvent in Elmer's all-purpose school glue is water. When the water evaporates, the polyvinylacetate latex that has spread into a material's crevices forms a flexible bond. Super glue, on the other hand, undergoes a process called anionic polymerization.

      Cyanoacrylate molecules start linking up when they come into contact with water, and they whip around in chains to form a durable plastic mesh. The glue thickens and hardens until the thrashing molecular strands can no longer move.




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