Friday, 1 September 2017

French cavalry part 1

Over the last 6 weeks I have focused my efforts on doubling the cavalry in my French Army, an ambitious target (for me) of 20 figures was set and this was to be my summer project.

You can view my existing French cavalry here

I've had a number of opportunities and natural pauses with which to present my progress but I decided to push on while the impetus was there. I'm not sure if I'm alone in this but I often get a dip in enthusiasm after presenting my efforts but at the moment I'm so close to the end I think I'm safe !

I wanted to add a complete lance to my existing cavalry so 2 bases of Gendarmes / Men at arms, 2 bases of Ordonnance Archers with demilances / Coustillers and 2 bases of Ordonnance Archers with bows.

I arrived upon this composition after reading up on the subject and drawing a collective conclusion from the sources available to me, you can read my thoughts on this here

I began with the lance armed Ordonnance Archers as I quite fancied the challenge of creating a convincing look both in terms of their equipment and appearance. As ever my prime source for this was the David & Bethsabee series of tapestries which depict mixed formations of Heavy to Light cavalry, snapshots of the medium cavalry are at the top of the post.

Essentially the medium Archer cavalry were either poorer horsemen or young nobles starting out to become Gendarmes. As such they wore older and/or lighter armour whilst the Coustillers within their ranks were lighter still and armed with javelins / light lance.

Here's my interpretation

To achieve this appearance I used the Perry WOTR metal cavalry along with their plastic Men at Arms and Light Cavalry sets as a start. I then added further parts to them to add a Renaissance flair in the case of the armoured figures and for the Coustillers I converted them completely.

Here they are alongside my first interpretation (central 2 bases) from 2 years ago;

As the first effort was almost entirely command I was keen to have these as rank and file. In some ways I prefer this second batch but I think that's just the advance in my painting and converting over the intervening period.

In their composition I wanted these to form the outer ranks so that this appearance in line could be achieved to represent the French preference for charging en haye in a single line.

I did consider giving each new base a banner but I wasn't sure if the whole unit would then be a bit flag heavy. I teeter between this notion and 'you can never have too many flags !'

Here they are mustering for a charge;

So that they could blend well with my existing figures I used metal horses rather than the Perry plastics as these are noticeably larger. In this case I used the Perry metal horses as they have a bit more character and life to them than the Foundry ones.

Out of the two new bases this is my favourite as I'm really pleased with the conversion work on the Coustiller and the central figure. For the latter I added a Plume from the Steel Fist Renaissance Knights and sculpted a bevor and visor on to the kettle helm which is apparent in the source below. I also quite like the Kettle helm generally as a French thing, I'm not sure if there was a preference for that but it works well to help to underpin the unit identity.

Also apparent in the source below was my primary inspiration for the Coustiller.

This called for a rather ambitious conversion for which this was the second attempt. I began with one of the bodies from the light cavalry set and filed away about 1-2mm from below the waist down to just above the knee before gluing the figure to the horse. I then sculpted a rough base which established the basic proportion of the skirt as shown in this (different) figure;

This base needs to be as thin as possible as it's merely a surface to sculpt the main skirt onto (the base needs to dry before the skirt is sculpted on top). If you don't do this the folds and spread of the skirt can't be achieved. If the base is too thick the skirt will look rather voluminous as I've found in some attempts. If it doesn't work just let it dry then peel it off to start again.

The folds were then added, left and right with drying between each, you could try both but there's a risk in damaging one side while you sculpt the other.

Next came the arms and body, the right arm was a bit tricky as you're not really pushing against anything and particularly on the body side it's hard to get to.

As ever the head is a converted head from the Ansar set, basically hair and a cap is added, some are easier than others to do.

On to the next base, these had less work with the exception of the Coustiller. I'm not particularly happy with the pose but I think that might be down to the choice of horse.

Another point of note for these is that I've changed the way I do armour. I used to start with a black undercoat then dry brush in the base colour then highlight in the mid tone and highlight but I found this to be a bit hit and miss.

I now use a black undercoat with the shade colour and a wash of black ink. I then highlight in the mid and highlight colour then apply a wash of 2 parts deep blue and 1 part grey after which I re-highlight the highlight colour. This gives a brilliance and slight bluing to the armour. It takes a bit longer than previously but I'm pleased with the results. The starting point for this was again the tapestries which use blue grey as a shade.

Here's all of the medium cavalry supporting some Gendarmes;

Finally, here's an advance preview of how the latest lance will look, Gendarmes supported by Ordonnance archers with lance and bow;

Depending upon which is finished first and whether I get painting fatigue the next instalment will be a new unit of either Gendarmes or Mounted Archers, hopefully not too long.

Also making their debut in these pictures are some rather lovely twisted wire trees from The Model Tree Shop, I love them and can't seem to spend my pocket money fast enough on new instalments.

Bye for now


Sunday, 30 July 2017

Tudor Great Bombard Part 2

Tudor soldiers and pioneers arrive upon the aftermath of an ambush and hurriedly set to work limbering a mired gun.

Following the creation of the Tudor Great Bombard I was keen to create a vignette to illustrate the events of 27-28 July 1513;

'The (King's) middle ward once outside the English territory of the Pale were subject to repeated harassment on its way to join those already besieging Therouanne. On this day a force comprising troops from Bolougne and Montreuil under the command of Bayard and de Piennes engaged the English, apparently with a view to capture or kill Henry himself. 

The ward stood its ground and whilst Henry took safe haven among the ranks of his mercenary Landsknechts the attackers were engaged with artillery, with none of their own to reply the French left the field. When the ward moved on again some of the guns began to fall behind, one of the heaviest pieces, cast with the image of St. John the Evangelist, came to grief and slipped from its limber into a stream. This was a brand new gun and had hitherto not fired a shot, she weighed 3 tons and it was clearly going to take some effort to recover her. 

George Buckemer, a master carpenter from Calais reckoned he could get the gun out, the ward pressed on and he and a hundred workmen and a skeleton guard set to work but a powerful French force had been waiting from a safe distance and fell upon the scene with lance, crossbow and arquebus. The party were mostly slaughtered or taken prisoner but the gun remained mired, the carpenter was later blamed for his over confidence as one 'who would work all of his own head without counsel'.

Henry was somewhat annoyed at the loss of his beloved Apostle, sending Henry Bourchier, the Earl of Essex and Sir Rhys ap Thomas back to see if they could rescue the stricken piece. Lord Berners, master gunner was able to secure the gun to a limber but before they could make off a large French force appeared attacking the rear of the party as it moved off. The English responded with great spirit and forced the French to retreat leaving St John to nobly return to Henry's arsenal.'

I used this event previously as a Lion Rampant scenario, a most entertaining game and one that I've been keen to re-visit ever since.  I had this in mind when I built the bombard so I made a press mould from the original piece prior to painting, here they are together;

Despite a few attempts I couldn't quite get the end of the barrel to mould properly which was a shame but the cut down version on the mired cart still looks good.

The other catalyst for doing this piece was the Tudor dollies, they were ripe for conversion so I set about cutting them up to represent wading in the river and interacting around the Artillery hoist, a chance find from the League of Augsburg site.

The terrain board with a bend and ford in the river was also commissioned with this in mind so it's been very much a slow burning project which lends itself to a few variations on a theme.

Bye for now


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Tudor Dollies Update

I'm very pleased to say that the first order of Tudor Dollies has sold out, thanks all for your support and interest, it's been good to see where these have gone and to learn what you plan to do with them. 

I've ordered a further batch and will aim to keep these in stock permanently, from today there will be a delay of about 2-3 weeks but thereafter they should be easy to get yourself some. The price remains the same at £6 per set of 6 figures plus postage and Paypal fee. If you're interested just send an email stating how many you'd like and your address, I'll respond with a total price and arrange payment. My email address is

Note that the dollies are just that, they are supplied without heads and arms. I have put together a sculpting guide via this link which shows you step by step how to sculpt the sleeves of a base coat.

The dollies were designed to be early Tudor infantry advancing / attacking with bills and halberds using the Perry Miniatures Wars of the Roses plastics set from which you can easily create a satisfying unit such as this;

The next step for these would naturally be some Longbowmen to support their bill armed colleagues. I've found that with the use of a hacksaw you can easily create some static poses with satisfying results;

As with the bill these just need the sleeves to be added but they are good. Here you can see that one of the dollies lends itself to a straight up assembly without further work for a good nocking pose whilst the others just need their legs sawn off and new ones added, 2 from the Perry boxed set and one from the new Warlord Landsknecht set. The latter is particularly good as they have the bear paw shoes as well as ribbons and some slashing visible at the knee. When doing this conversion you just need to get the height right so use another figure as a reference.

As well as archers you can also create handgunners, crossbowmen and pike using the Perry Mercenaries and Warlord Landsknecht plastic sets;

I do intend to create possibly one more pack of standing figures but I cannot commit to when this will be, it could be quite a while but I hope this shows the versatility that can be achieved with the existing pack.

Bye for now, several projects on the go as usual hopefully I'll have something to display soon.


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Tudor Baggage / Artillery Train Part 1

When I completed the Bombard and carriage in the previous post I was keen to create some interchangeable loads for the cart so that I could create an extended artillery and/or baggage train, here's the initial results.

By way of reminder here's the first cart creation carrying a heavy bombard, you can read more about this project here.

I then turned my attention to the original load which comes with the set;

I really enjoyed painting this, the load of a tent and associated equipment was painted in a variety of drab colours contrasted by the scarlet clothing of the camp follower. I really enjoyed painting this, it was a bit of a challenge to select the colours as well as to paint a fairer complexion on the woman's face but I'm very much pleased with the result.

Here's a more detailed shot;

I then returned my attention to creating a load of artillery equipment;

This turned out to be quite a challenge, largely because the glue I was using just wouldn't create a decent bond on anything other than my hands but some rudimentary clamps worked in the end.

I borrowed heavily from this scene depicting part of Maximilian's artillery train;

As I was keen to have this as a load that could be removed I cut a piece of plasticard slightly narrower than the base of the cart then glued the various bits onto it. I began with the large wicker basket of cannon balls in the centre using offcuts from the Perry / Renedra fencing with cannon balls made by rolling coriander seeds in green stuff to ensure consistency in size. Either side of that I then added a barrel and then placed a variety of artillery equipment - a bucket, some sacks, a mallet and a chest around the load - most of these came from the Zvezda Bombard set which I used as a basis for the bombard conversion.

At that point I felt something was missing so I added an archer hitching a ride on the back. I converted this by sawing the torso from one of my Tudor dollies then sculpting the lower waist and skirt with legs from the Perry Ansar set added. I really enjoyed creating this chap and will no doubt do it again, I've made quite a few conversions using these dollies which I'll reveal over the coming weeks.

Here's a few more shots;

It was really tricky getting the proportions right for this position but the seated woman in the original set proved to be a useful guide. I really liked the way shoes came out on this one too. It's a small addition but adding this figure really gives a Tudor feel to the piece.

A final bit of Tudorising was to emblazon the crowned portcullis on the red chest.

Here's the cart with the present 3 interchangeable loads;

I really need to make at least another large cart now.

Still in the mood for another cart I then turned my attention to a smaller piece, again using the original and an alternative load;

The carter was converted with a head swap using a cut down Ansar head and the addition of a cap.

 Alternative load; some arrow chests (thanks Simon) and a couple of barrels

That's all for now, I've got a few projects on the go so not sure when the next update will be, I'm also off to France for a holiday - hoping to take pit stops in Bolougne and Morlaix for their Tudor history connections.

Bye for now


Friday, 9 June 2017

Tudor Great Bombard Part 1

Here's the first of what I hope will be an extensive baggage and Artillery Train for the Tudor Army, a Great Bombard on its cart for transport.

This represents one of the heaviest guns in Henry VIII's 1513 expedition to France, the Great Bombard, this and 5 others were used in the siege of Therouanne to batter away at the extensive town walls. In this instance (as opposed to the siege of Tournai in the same campaign) the walls of Therouanne were well defended with culverins manned by skillfull artillerymen which forced the Tudor siege lines to be placed further back, out of range of the defenders lighter pieces. As such the siegework was heavy going and though damage was caused, the slower and more limited rate of fire of these heavy guns coupled with the resistance of the garrison made for a protracted siege.

The Heavy bombards fired a projectile weighing 260lb and required 80lb of gunpowder to fire but they could not fire more than 5 times a day. It's not stated how this was determined but certainly the temperature of the barrel and preservation of the gun coupled with the time taken to prepare each firing were no doubt contributing factors.

Each of the 6 guns were pulled by a team of 24 Flanders mares - I wasn't quite tempted to fully duplicate that though I did toy with separate bases of 4 horse teams as they could be interchangeable, perhaps later.

I've been working away at this piece for quite a while now, the idea was first planted back in October 2015 when Simon Chick and I put on a Lion Rampant demo game which involved the rescue of a gun from a river crossing. For that game Simon had used a bombard on a converted Perry Miniatures cart and as often with Simon's work I was inspired.

The idea lingered on for a while and over the last few months I've been working to bring it into my collection. The starting point was getting hold of a suitably large bombard for which a 1/72 Zvezda kit served very well for the bombard and a variety of other useful bits;

Being a medieval kit the bombard was the classic hooped barrel design which I wanted to somehow remove and update into the sixteenth century as per these examples from Maximilian's armoury;

Furthermore the gun had to have a suitably Tudor appearance for which some of the grand culverins in the Mary Rose had long been a source of inspiration;

In effect I was hoping to achieve a combination of the ornamentation and grandeur from both sources as well as some sort of iconography. Henry had 12 'apostles' each apparently named and decorated with their namesakes so there was lots to try and incorporate, here's the result;

To begin I filed down the hooped furrows along the barrel using a Stanley blade and needle files and I then set to work sculpting Tudor roses and Fleur de Lys' along the length of the barrel. After the first of each this task grew rather difficult so I used Siligum to create a press mould of each design and then simply moulded and glued the remaining features.

As for the Iconography that proved to be a real sticking point, suffice to say I now have a lot of Catholic jewellery and keyring suppliers in my search history ! Over a pint with Simon I lamented my difficulty and in solution he found a railway gauge shrine of the Virgin Mary and child (suitably iconographic for Henry's early reign) and made a mould for me, 3 pressings later and the gun was really taking shape, this was a real breakthrough in the project.

To finish I added a panel with 'H VIII R' carved into it and then used picture wire to model rope lashings around each end so it looked like it was secured onto the cart.

The gun was then painted gold and washed with a mix of sepia and brown inks along with a touch of dark orange and dark brown paint before being re-touched with the base colours.

Once complete I mounted the gun on a Perry Miniatures WOTR open sided cart, the sides of which I had to bend / angle to accommodate the width of the gun. I initially wanted to secure the piece but thought better of it so that I could have interchangeable loads for the cart. For the final touch on the base I added one of the Tudor dollies modelled as a longbowman giving the carter directions.

For the base I secured the horses and longbowman into place then modelled a muddy roadway with coloured filler - I mix the base brown with white filler for my bases so that if it chips it doesn't show up white. This was then painted and flocked with some tufts and puddles (yacht varnish) in some of the deeper indentations before the cart was added at the end.

So it's been a long time coming but hopefully worth it, I've definitely got a few gaming scenarios in mind already, and as the title suggests there's more coming soon with this piece.

Bye for now


Saturday, 3 June 2017

French Lansquenets & Artillerie

Over the last 6 weeks or so I've been working on quite a few projects but I was keen to have the new Tudor figures take precedence for a while. Those are now ordered, all 420 of them - thanks for your support and assisting in getting these made, a real global response with figures due to go to Canada, Russia, the U.S, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy and Australia to name a few.

Time to get back in business, I've been aware that the Tudors have taken the limelight for a while so I have been working on a couple of French units to even the balance a little.

First up, I re-touched and re-modelled a French artillery piece with crew, these had originally been based separately to adorn the city walls but ever since I did that I wanted to have it as a field piece too and it never looked quite right without a base so here we are.

I was keen to base this for convincing use both as a field and siege setting. I also took inspiration from the manner in which guns are presented across the woodcuts in Der Weiss Kunig as per the example below. I particularly liked the small addition of the low wattle fence to absorb the recoil of the gun, the figure with the mallet seemed to me to be made for this set up.

Here's my burgeoning French battery so far, see also the first photograph at the top of this post.

Next up, some Landsknecht arquebusiers to accompany the pike in French service;

This completes the (no doubt first of many) French Landsknecht contingent;

Here they are with the bases of levelled pikes

When putting Landsknechts together I paint and base those with upright pikes with army specific field signs and banners but keep those with levelled pikes neutral so that I can easily create larger units (hope that made sense).

Finally, some counters for Lion Rampant, a couple of new casualties;

Both are converted from the Perry WOTR casualty pack. The French one above has the sleeves puffed up and the addition of a cap, crossbow and quiver.

The Tudor below has the addition of a base coat, really pleased with how this one turned out.

I'll do some mounted casualties at some point.

Here's my collection of battered markers;

We're up to date, Quite a big project on the go at the moment, back to the Tudors - more soon.

Bye for now