Sunday, 7 December 2008

Hello again to all those out there in toy soldier land, here we go with another Blog. Before I describe the pictures I'd like to mention a couple of points. Firstly a huge thank you to all those who mailed in comments after the last Blog, they were a good mix of the positive and the critical, and hopefully I shall bask in the glory of the former and reflect and take action on the latter, as I said I'd like this to be as interactive as possible, so please write in.
The second item is a reflection on the current state of our hobby. As HELMET Soldiers we attended the London Toy Soldier Show yesterday, and although attendance was good our takings were very poor and all the other dealers I spoke with had a similar experience. There were plenty of orange carrier bags around so hopefully Steve Weston had a good day, however the cost of hiring two tables, and paying for petrol and car parking meant that we barely covered our costs, I guess we'll have to have a good long think about the number of shows we plan to attend in 2009, but we won't be giving up yet.
Some of the feedback I received last time asked for a more detailed description of the conversion, so I show a photo of a completed American Militia officer, War of 1812 vintage, prior to painting. The tools and equipment used were a sharp hobby knife, some brass wire, superglue, a small electric drill ( not critical but very useful) and greenstuff modelling putty. I chose a Replicant mule handler as the basis for the conversion and did the following nasty things, cut off his head and left hand and removed the whip from his right. I carefully re-carved two small sections of fringing after the whip had gone, and drilled a hole through the hand where the whip had been big enough to take a musket, and, as it's best to complete all fixing first, I also drilled a hole in the neck and the left wrist.
The new head is from a CTS Mexican round hat cavalryman, and the hand holding the pistol is off an Accurate American Revolution militiaman. These are then drilled in the neck and wrist respectively to take short lengths of brass wire. As this type of plastic is technically unbonbable as there is no solvent, joins have to be pinned and glued, so the new head and hand are fixed to the superglued wire and pressed home firmly. I the glued a HELMET French musket into the hole in the right hand. I then set the figure aside for the glue to set.
Next I mixed a small amount of putty. Greenstuff comes in yellow and blue strips and must be mixed to a consistent green colour to become a sticky putty. I wrapped two short sausages of the stuff one around the neck and the other around the left wrist, I then sculpted a new collar and cuff to the hunting shirt, this also strengthens the glued join. I put a blob of putty on the crown of the hat which I carved to the shape of a top hat with the side of my knife, and made a cockade on the left hand side with a tiny flattened ball of greenstuff, I made a sash with trailing ends and a knot from a "snake" of putty and carved in creases and fringes with my knife. Finally I added a pouch on his right hip from a short crossbelt all out of putty although the photo does not show this clearly, the picture does show all the different parts including the greenstuff, believe it's much easier to describe than to do.
OK, a quick romp through the other photos. First some English Civil War dragoons from Replicant and ACTA pieces converted pretty much as above but with new metal muskets instead of plastic.
Next some Napoleonic British marines, I have a habit of prequelling new release by laboriously converting stuff just prior to someone releasing some in ready made form and these are another example, The officer is the old Aifix figure with missing crossbelt replaced and a new Timpo head, the next two are Replicant Austrians with new heads and slight changes to uniform details, the last ids the old Replicant marine firing upwards, altered to a more normal firing position by cutting at the waist and re-fixing at a different angle ad resculpting the jacket and crossbelts in greenstuff.
Finally some French Old Guard. The first four from the left are metal figures from Irregular, in my opinion, (FWIW) I think these are great models, all I've done is add a bayonet to the fourth man from the left. They are joined by two from the slightly disappointing set by Airfix with full dress plumes and cords added to the bearskins to match the Irregular models.
That's all for now, all comments, questions and feed back encouraged!!!!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

There you thought the effort two weeks ago was just a flash in the pan, eh? Well here we are then, two in a row. We've just come in from the garden where we took the pictures, and pretty cold it is too! More War of 1812 stuff I'm afraid, I'm going to carry on with this until the end of the year and then start or return to something different for 2009. We are planning a wargame with the 1812 forces probably on Boxing Day, we'll take some pictures during the battle and if they are any good we'll publish the entire story on this Blog.

Before I get to the boring bit and describe the photos, I'd like to make a plea for feedback, apart from a few of you, Ken, Gary, Mike and Bill, hardly anyone leaves comments, questions or even abuse. This is a funny old hobby and there aren't many of us across the world that share this strange common interest, so let's get communicating then! This old world wide web thingy is an amazing vehicle for linking people together, to share ideas and news, most of the information I have been able to gather, I initially garnered from the Internet, especially on the American forces, militia in particular. Helpful people from the other side of the pond from Surrey, England were generous with information and support and I would not have embarked on this particular conflict without their help. Let's keep "talking" to each other, so please leave a comment or ask a question............................Rant over.

So a quick run through the photos.

First up some US infantry, sorry the photo is so dark, but stick with it. We tried to photo the whole lot together, 2 companies each of 20 men plus officer NCO and drummer, but the picture didn't work somehow, so you have this one with the chaps advancing into shadow. The mounted officer is something of a Frankenstein monster, his body apart from right arm is Historex, the arm in question and sword are HELMET, the hat is from a Prince August metal casting and the horse is from Italeri.

The following two pics are the finally completed British infantry company that I plan to use both in North America and in the Peninsular. So as per our rules there are the usual 20 men officer sergeant and drummer. The officer seem previously on a Blog near here is Barzo with Historex upper works, the drummer has Marx legs, a Timpo drum. all the rest are HELMET parts. Th idea of using different legs was to produce a figure slightly shorter than hos colleagues, in the event a miscalculation meant that he ended up as tall as everyone else ho hum!

Lastly two British light dragoons, officer and trumpeter. These are both unashamedly HELMET through and through. I made them to lead the new Italeri figures which are musician and leader less, it seemed a good way to impart some variety into the unit, now all I have to do is paint the unit.

So remember be good and hope that Santa is taking notice and is already thinking of leaving something special under the tree for you to open on Christmas morning. I'm hoping so too.

Let's keep in touch, thanks and take care


Saturday, 25 October 2008

Well, as they say, rumours of my death have been exaggerated. I know that it has been a long time since we published a blog, but I do have excuses, of a sort anyway. Firstly having re-entered the world of full time employment has meant that running the soldier business has had to take a back seat, so even more annoyingly has actually converting and painting, but here are the latest efforts, more details below...... Secondly we were burgled, they got into the house whilst we were asleep, got wallets, keys and other small items including the takings from one of the shows we attended and also stole our cars from the front drive, so we have had a lot of replacing activities of a security and vehicular nature, bastards!
Also I'd like to thank those who commented favourably on HELMET in the Littlewars chat room group especially Mike Blake and Gary, thanks guys I'll reply to you off-blog personally, it meant a lot. OK emotional stuff to one side, for those that have stayed with me so far, here's the chat about the pics. First up, three Brits from the War of 1812, the privates are HELMET and the officer is a Barzo figure with a Historex head., I chose him because he has the long coat-tails of the pre 1812 regulations. The private taking a cartridge from his pouch was something of an experiment, I wanted to see if I could change the pose through re-positioning his legs, so when I was gluing him to the metal washer in the usual way (with superglue) I held his legs together until the glue set, you can see the difference by comparing the result with the guy next to him biting the cartridge, not bad when considering these started as the same figure.
Next photo shows some of the 4th Foot, all have HELMET heads replacing the originals, the first if the old Airfix officer who famously has the cross-belt that disappears when it reaches his back, I solved this omission with greenstuff. The next two are ACTA Belgians with trouser extensions (?) and enlarged backpacks, lastly two Replicant British Royal Marines with extra equipment added.
Pic 3 shows some US Riflemen, all have converted HELMET heads. The first from the left is an Accurate AWI Militiaman with legs from an ACTA Napoleonic British Guardsman's legs pinned and glued. The officer is that strange and useless Confederate by Accurate again, who has his left arm and sniper rifle carved away and replaced by the lower fart of the arm from the officer in the Timpo Highlander set, one of our swords and a greenstuff sash - job done! Next up is the torso and upper legs of a CTS chap in hunting shirt firing from horseback, I pinned and glued more legs from ACTA Brit Guards and added a haversack and waterbottle. The last figure is a quick conversion of a Marx remoulded pioneer, picked up from a rummage box at a recent show.
The final two pictures show the first colour party that I've done for the War of 1812. All are sergeants with slightly altered HELMET heads .The man with the buff regimental colour is a BMC Mexican, the musket carrying colour guard started his career as a Timpo Prussian and the fellow with the National colours is HELMET. items such as back packs, sashes epaulets, and on the Prussian, belts, are all from greenstuff. The flags are hand-painted and nearly drove me mad, I have a rule that no unit can field flags until they have a minimum of 40 musket carrying troops, so I don't have to paint that many! The National colour is very heavy once glued to the brass rod pole, so the bearer stand on a small stack of metal washers.
That's it for now, I promise that the next issue will not be as delayed as this one has been. In the meantime all feedback gratefully received, keep painting, enjoy the hobby and be kind to small animals
Take care,

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Hello Sensation Seekers and welcome to what is becoming a very infrequent HELMET Soldiers Blog.
A few bits of news before talking about the photos. We attended the London Show in March and The Plastic Warrior show in Richmond a couple of week back in May. We had reasonable days at each event although a lot of people in the trade are talking about falling sales and we are noticing a drop in orders recently, due no doubt to the financial situation world wide. Please keep buying from the trade, for some people such as our friend Steve Weston, here in the UK, it is their only income source, and livelihoods depend on steady income streams, HELMET wouldn't say no to a few more orders either!
Right behind our stand at Richmond was a table manned by the legendary Ron Barzo, what a good mannered and polite gentleman he is, I was able to show him some conversations based on his products and HELMET spare parts, fortunately he was OK about some of his chaps coming under the influence of my sharp knife, I guess that's partly what this madness of our hobby is all about.
So to the pics:
First up are a quartet of the recently released Black Cat Russians, great stuff and what a helpful man, the owner of Black Cat, Harold Scott is, hopefully he will add the officers, drummers etc that he already produces in metal.
Next are three Prussians from resin moulds made by yours truly and a Wurtenburg infantryman made from our spare parts as an experiment. I'm going to attempt a Bavarian using the same approach. Basically it's one of our British infantry bodies and arms with a Russian dragoon head with the crest removed and a pipecleaner added, French musket and pack, again from resin, and a smart paint job - something a bit different I think.
The next three photos are back to the War of 1812, I thought it might be interesting to show a few figures after conversion but before painting, so here are three Americans. The first is a Marine of the period, again an experiment to see if things "work". It's one of our torsos arms and equipment with a stovepipe shako head on Timpo Prussian legs. You can clearly see the greenstuff additions to the shako and the shoulder belt plate. I'm fairly satisfied so will now make a few more, not too many but their uniform is neat and we have a couple of Playmobil ships that need crewing. The line infantry are done in a similar manner but have different shakos with greenstuff additions and knapsacks with HELMET canteen and haversack parts added. The middle figure is a CTS Mexican and the one on the right is from the same army, but made by BMC. His left arm is strangely thin so I have built up the limb with successive layers of paint left over in my mixing tray whilst completing the previous batch of models, you can also see this on the bayonets and some of the belts - well it works for me!
Lastly some Brits in stovepipes again. I want to have about 50 of these eventually, but progress is slow. I've played about with positions to add some variety, and the corporal loading with his ramrod has big bushy sideburns added from the ubiquitous greenstuff, see the final picture for a close up. There are nearly 30 different colours on these which goes some way to explaining the time it takes to complete, but hopefully the effort is worthwhile?
That's all for now, as usual comments and feedback are welcome.
Take care and keep the faith.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Hello out there, best wishes to you all. I know that these efforts have been a bit thin on the ground of late, this is basically down to my re-entering the world of work on a full time basis. This has cut down the amount of time available to paint and convert, which is annoying on one hand, but means a bit more financial security on the other.
Its nearly a year now since we purchased HELMET Soldiers, so this time the Blog is all things HELMET, I am unabashed and unashamed about this blatant form of self advertising, so there! We attended our second London Toy Soldier Show a couple of weeks back, and our sales were considerably up on the December event. It's good to meet and talk toy soldier stuff, the Internet is very good, but face to face is better. We had a good but tiring day, thanks to all those who said "hello". Next month we're at Richmond and back to London in June.
Also whilst on the topic of me. there's an article "what I wrote" in the latest Toy Soldier and Model Figure" mag covering Zulu War conversions. this includes a 17th Lancer made mostly from HELMET parts, apologies to the chap who looked at the model at the London Show thinking it was a new day perhaps.
So on to the pictures, they are mostly War of 1812 related, though the British could be used in other conflicts especially the Peninsular War. The first is a British Light Dragoon in the pre-1812 uniform, which I prefer, I intend to make a squadron - 19 figures - of these so we've released him as a new kit, details will be up on the website soon. I've started to use the foil from the top of bottles of red wine for the belts and straps it can be bent into realistic curves and bends, it also, the wine that is, tastes good. I've started to be a bit more creative in building the kits and on this chap have turned his right hand through 90 degrees to get the rather nice charging pose. (that's enough bragging -Ed.) The rest is pretty standard stuff, he's painted as from the 19th Light Dragoons who were, I think sent to Canada before receiving the new French style clothing.
The next pic is a member of the Maryland Light Dragoons, a militia outfit, I was kindly sent the uniform details from a re-enactor in the US, the dress of the regiment is similar in style to the British but with typically American details, pretty smart I think.
The picture of the two redcoats, I'll cover the third chap in a second, shows what is in effect work in progress. The middle figure is a standard HELMET infantryman, albeit with a new standard plate stovepipe shako head, the guy on the right has the same head but with a new body that is slightly different from the norm, his legs are a bit further apart and in a more dynamic pose, we're working on getting these made up for future release.
The first guy is a conversion of one of our infantrymen to a Wurttemburger of about 1812. I used our Russian Dragoon head with the stiff crest removed and replaced with a pipe cleaner. I also used a test shot of a new fur knapsack which we also hope to have available soon. I wanted to do something different that wasn't standard French infantry, anfd this is the result., I'm going to have a crack a doing a Bavarian as well, they can then go on and fight the terrific new Russian foot figures recently released by Black Cat in the States.
I'm slowly adding to our group of 95th Rifles and the next photo shows the result, new figures are a walking Rifleman, a Sergeant and an Officer wearing his pelisse. I did an earlier Officer using cavalry legs, he looks OK from some angles but head on wouldn't stop a pig in a passage!The final picture, set up, as are all our photos, by my son Jonathan, is called "Last Stand in the Peninsular" shows some of the forgoing, including the Rifles Sergeant in close up, I could also go on about the new Infantry pose, but I guess I've said enough about men's legs for one day.
Anyway thanks for looking by, hopefully there will be more news soon, in the meantime best wishes to you all and any feedback gratefully received as usual.

Sunday, 10 February 2008


We have just taken advantage of some warm Winter sunshine and snapped some pictures of the latest War of 1812 stuff that I have completed.

Firstly I decided it was time to equip the US forces with some heavier firepower, so I have produced an artillery piece with a four-man detatchment. It seems that American guns were based pretty much on French models (!) American readers might be able to enlighten me on this. That being accepted, the gun is by Italeri painted light blue. The gunners are from the A Call to Arms British Foot Artillery set. I really like these and they are one of the more useful boxes that ACTA have produced. I have cut off the tufts from the shoulder straps and carved away the bastion shaped lace on cuffs etc. The heads are HELMET spares with all detail carved away and plates, cockade, cords and plume added from putty. The latter started out as a pin drilled into the top of the shako and the plume built up around it. From then on it was a (fairly) spectacular paint job with the bases flocked and sanded.
The other pictures are of the grey jacketed company of US Regulars that I have finally completed. There a mix of manufacturers stuff here with Imex ACW, BMC Mexicans, ACTA ACW and Napoleonic Belgians, a Marx US Regular with metal head, a Replicant Confederate and some HELMET figures, Most have modified HELMET Waterloo shako heads, and the officer is all HELMET apart from his legs, which come from a Marx US Cavalryman. Men from Mars reading that last paragraph would instantly return to their planet feeling quite puzzled by the way Earthlings communicate.
The real advantage of this uniform apart from its simplicity and ease of painting is the opportunity to use lots of Confederate figures that add varity and require little work apart from the head swap.
Next I plan to complete a second company for my US Regulars in blue and then produce a colour party with both National and Regimental colours, also on the stocks are some Regulars in blue with red facings and white lace, very smart, and some more Riflemen.
I am considering producing a small booklet on assembling, converting and painting HELMET Soldiers,and am wondering what sort of demand there would be (if any) for such a publication. Please let me know if there is any interest in this. I have learned a great deal in the last few months about making the kits and using the spare parts and think it might be useful to pass on some, often, painfully learned tips and advice, so any thoughts out there?????
Cheers for now

Sunday, 13 January 2008


OK, Hi to everyone and best wishes for 2008, I hope Santa delivered what you were all hoping for, and that the new year means plenty more reinforcements for your armies. We had a nice quiet, red wine fuelled Festive Season here at HELMET HQ, and were lucky enough to receive a couple of fantastic books with loads of good info to assist the War of 1812 project. I am already working on some cavalry for a customer in the US, but also really wanted to produce some US Light Dragoons from the two Regular Regiments and the first three pictures show the result of those labours. They are made from HELMET parts, a British Heavy Dragoon head, slightly modified, with a small plume from greenstuff and a tail from white wool, the rest is a pretty standard use of spare parts with a French Light Cavalry sabre and pistol as if they are on patrol or escort duty. The uniform lacks the colour of many other cavalry units, from, say, British or French armies of the period, but in my view looks extremely smart and attractive. The saddlery and tack are at best, an approximation of the real thing, I carved down some of out pistol housings and added "fur" covers from the ubiquitous greenstuff and a saddle blanket from felt. The girth etc was made from red wine bottle foil, back to Christmas again!
I have an annoying knack of laboriously converting a whole series of figures, getting them painted and ready for action just as some company releases models of the troops I have sweatted so much blood over, and the last two pictures are an example of this. I had put off making artillery for our American War of Independence/Revolution armies for some time and as soon as I had completed two guns and their detachments for both the British and Americans, Imex brought their sets out. Rant over.
What you see here is a set of British gunners with their piece and limber with team. The horses are old Britains farm animals and the limber is made from scrap, again it does not claim to be 100% authentic, the aim is to provide something of the look and feel of the thing whilst being robust enough to be used in wargames. The gunners are from the A Call to Arms British Napoleonic set, with Accurate heads attached, pinned and glued. Where feasible I added lapels and coat tails, but luckily, the profusion of belts on these figures meant that this work was kept to a minimum. The officer is by Replicants from their Napoleonic Navy set, and very suave he looks too. The gun is a cheap model from BMC with a new barrel, I think from Barzo. Repeat the above three times and wait for Imex!
I'm planning to use the same figures to make gunners for the War of 1812, anyone else out there preparing to release ready made artillery for the period, please get in touch now.
That's all for this time, please get in touch with comments, suggestions and feedback. Best wishes,