Saturday, 25 July 2015

Ordonnance Archers Complete !

Well here we are, this feels like the end of a very long journey !

I've been striving to get this unit just right and, as I'm finding with this army, that has meant a lot of conversion work and scouring of books and the web to create a result that I'm happy with.

The nucleus of that notion began here with an essay of  my understanding of the French lance of the early 1500's; essentially the gendarmes were the easy bit, I really wanted to try and understand the organisation of the Ordonnance Archers. 

Unfortunately I didn't reach a conclusion of any certainty, I found source material of lance composition in the late 15c and from the late 1520's so I went for something in the middle.

Once I had a reasonable idea of where I was going to go I focused my efforts upon trying to find some images and the key source was a series of Flemish tapestries of the early 1520's depicting the story of David and Bathsheba, as discussed in the previous blog post, for ease here's the main source of inspiration;

This piece entitled 'rassemblement des chevaliers' shows cavalry in a progress with a mix of heavily and fabulously equipped gendarmes alongside men at arms in older armour and lightly equipped coustilliers, no archers unfortunately but an interesting mix of arms and armament.

In my effort to replicate the processional nature of this piece in some way I have opted for the Wargames Foundry horses, they're a bit smaller than the Perry plastics but not that noticeably. I think i'll no doubt have a more active unit of archers and gendarmes in addition to these.

Perhaps unsurprisingly there are very few appropriate figures out there, some manufacturers have made an effort to give a nod to the French Ordonnance Archer though perhaps because of the evolving nature of them I did not find what was available to be either relevant or at the standard for what I wanted to achieve so the next challenge was to muster my rather infant skills of sculpting and converting to see whether I could do it any justice.

So with the brief of sculpting something with no real certainty as per the research and images in mind I arrived at this conclusion;

Here we have men at arms alongside mounted archers and a coustillier (in blue) thrown in too. I've mixed them up a little basing wise to emphasise the variation. In saying that the men at arms are a bit more of a definite thing and It's no leap of faith to imagine these forming the second line of a charge behind the gendarmes.

As for the archers, from the many months I've been putting this together I have no doubt that they were facsimiles of their English counterparts - scouting, mopping up and in something of a dragoon role on the battlefield. The coustillier, combatant or not depends on interpretation but I felt I couldn't neglect to show one.

The other aspect that I have tried as far as sculpting goes is to emphasise the status and role of the figures in the group; the men at arms have skirts fitted to their armour, within which I have sculpted a simple skirt as well as short and long skirted coats, the standard bearer is perhaps the most wealthy with decorated and slashed coat. This as opposed to the more uniform issue base coats of the archers and the coustillier in his own reasonably well off clothes and a slashed leather jerkin.

This unit has taken a few months to come together, the men at arms were sculpted quite a while ago whereas I sculpted the archers fairly recently, it's probably my critical eye but I can see that there is a difference in my ability over that period. I have been sculpting this week and it certainly feels like I have increased that a few steps again. It's certainly something that gets better and easier with momentum, I suppose it's the same with painting but I do find that when I have a break for a while I have to re-learn a few tricks to achieve the results I want.

I went with just a single banner for these, I'll definitely add more as I'd like to carry on with more figures on this theme. The image on the banner is a mix of a number of contemporary sources; St. Michael from this painting on wood panel from the late 1490's, something also replicated fairly closely in images from 1507;

I then added star emblems which are fairly generic of French symbolism around this time. I opted for a simple red background to differentiate this unit from the Gendarmes which will have the parti-coloured banner with St. Michael and Louis XII's porcupine (also shown above). As with all of my banners this was hand painted.

How on earth you'd wargame with this 'unit' I really don't know ! ha, another reason that I don't really game that much, perhaps that gives me a little more freedom to really try hard at depicting a historical representation. Though I suppose you could vary their use as your whim or scenario required.

There we are, I could be entirely wrong but it's my best shot, I hope you've enjoyed the journey as much as I have !

Next up, some Gendarmes, four to be precise to complete the proportionate representation of the 1513 French lance.

Oh go on then, here's a sneak peek at the initial progress with the points of reference below;


Bye for now


Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Work in Progress

It's been a while since my last post, my progress has slowed considerably over the last couple of months due to a mix of work and family commitments along with a general loss of inclination to go near the workbench, a bit of artist's block unfortunately but I've taken a day to myself to get this blog is back in business.

I'm mid project and it's going to take a while (enormous tasks are a bit off putting - perhaps there's a lesson there); I am putting together a unit of French cavalry but as ever I've wanted to do something a bit different, I'm working on a complete unit or lance, so; Gendarme, Man at Arms, Ordonnance Archer(s) and Coustillier. 

The figures are a mix of Foundry and Perry, I did consider using the Perry plastic horses and the Foundry Gendarmes with sculpted armour as I did with my Tudors below but I do quite like the Foundry Caparisoned horse which comes with their Gendarmes, it's only one pose but it's a very nice one. In order to not make that look like a pony all of the rest had to follow suit and use the other Foundry horses so that was an early decision. Perhaps I may do the next unit of cavalry differently, we'll see.

The Foundry packs adequately cover Gendarmes and MAA though there are no Archers, I've never been able to work out if that was an oversight or simply a timing issue, anyway it precipitated a need to fill the gap and with my recent forays into sculpting I considered myself at a point where I'm able to do it so I'm working on these elements of the lance first as comparatively speaking they will be the hardest to do.

If you're interested in the French Lance of the early 1500's I put together a short essay of my take on it in a previous blog post here.

Inspiration wise I've used a number of sources but ultimately the key image is a Flemish tapestry depicting the tale of David & Bathsheba, it's dated around 1520 and was either commissioned or at least purchased by Henry VIII. You can view it in the Musee de la Renaissance just outside Paris or buy the lavishly illustrated accompanying book, one notable piece is the assemblement des chevaliers;

This features what I believe to be the elements of the lance from Gendarmes to Coustilliers with a mix of contemporary and older armours, it's a fantastic piece which I know I'll return to again and again.

I began with the medium armed men at arms; sculpting skirts and being creative with head-swaps on the Perry MAA bodies, I was keen to depict older armour with contemporary clothing as per the tapestry (and other sources such as the Triumph of Maximilian). I'm not quite finished with these but here's a preview;

You can see a pre-painted photograph of these figures via the link mentioned above. 

Next up are the Ordonnance Archers to which I've applied the same approach using the Perry Light Cavalry torsos as sculpting dollies;

This chap is complete and awaits some comrades who are presently mid-sculpt;

Base coat just about done with hair and cloth cap to do (the head is from the plastic Ansar sprue)

Arms and head from a Foundry Landsknecht with sculpted torso.

Also, as I tend to have a few figures on the go sculpting wise here's an arquebusier awaiting some colour;

That's me up to date, it's been good to get back into the saddle, hopefully more to come soon.

All the best


Monday, 4 May 2015

Tudor Beer

Occasionally my interests converge; myself and a friend, another Stuart, or rather Stu the brew as he is known meet fairly regularly to brew beer which tends to follow our slightly German palette of wheatbeers, smoked beers (rauchbier) and in the winter lagers, and not forgetting some cider in late summer.

The distinction being that beer is hopped, a while back I thought we'd experiment with a historical recipe for ale, our efforts were worthwhile with a rather pleasing and interesting brew, click here for more; ale no.1

The Tudors generally drank ale, which by definition was unhopped, by virtue of boiling this was a method of purifying water and thus the staple drink for most classes across the country.

Hops, beer and ale has an interesting turn in the early Tudor period as numerous legislative attempts were made to maintain the distinction between unhopped ale, the prime malted cereal drink in England for many centuries and hopped beer introduced by immigrants from the German states and the Low countries.

Various authorities forbade ale brewers from using hops, these in effect were an entirely separate group of men and predominantly women (ale brewing was a woman's role at this time) from the beer brewers who could hop away.

Henry VIII's brewer at Hampton Court was instructed in a document of 1530 to 'put neither hops nor brimstone in the ale pipes (120 gallon casks) so that it my be found good, wholesome and perfect stuff worth the King's money.'

However, Henry did not outlaw hops, in fact, he also had a beer brewer by the name of John Pope to supply the royal household with the hopped drink. He was granted special provision for 12 'persons born out of the kings dominions' most certainly beer brewers from the Low countries - note, the rest of the land could not employ more than 4 foreigners at any one time.

The 1513 campaign was predominantly supplied with many pipes of ale and interestingly by 1544 they were supplied with beer, though these supplies unfortunately ran dry and the soldiers had to go without for 'these last 10 days, which is strange for English men to do with so little grudging' - nothing changes there then !

In 1483 London Ale brewers persuaded the city authorities to pass a law, comparable with the German Rheinheitsgebot that in order for ale to be 'brued in the good and wholesome manner of old tyme used' no one should put in ale 'upon peyne of grevous punysshment' anything other than 'licour (water) malt and yeste'

Why this distinction you may wonder? the hops much increased the abv and the beer was viewed as 'poisonous and unfit for consumption, causing drunkenness' whereas ale was 'a wholesome drink, especially in the summertime'.

By 1520 the same authorities created the guild of 'berebruers' to regulate their craft.

So, the Tudors fiercely defended their beloved ale and we've had a go at that in the earlier post, but what was their early beer like? we thought we'd give it a go.

The recipe we used is dated 1503;

7.8lb 2 row pale malt (a type of barley the description is a reference to how it grows)
1.6lb oat malt
1.61b pale wheat malt
0.25lb smoked malt*
English yeast - quantity not specified
Hops - quantity and type not specified, we used 28g of 4.5%acidity Goldings hops - the low acidity is much less bitter than other hops. Also, Tudor beer was not heavily hopped, 28g is about half to a third of that normally used for modern beers.

These are all modern ingredients which are grown and processed in a different manner to those of Tudor times, in particular malt would have been air or smoke dried which would have given the beer a deep colour as well as affecting the taste thus the smoked malt is a nod to this.

We also used modern methods;

Tudor ale in progress

In addition to the hops we added a small bag of Sage at the last moment of boiling for flavour, we know the Tudors did flavour their beer and ale with herbs, we even found a recipe requiring the carcass of an old hen, we gave that one a miss!

The result, a rather pleasing deep brown beer of 4.4% not dissimilar to Marstons Pedigree in taste though with a slightly sweet and herbal note, this broadly matches descriptions of beer which is good though we'll not know for sure.

This is what was known as a small ale, a 6 week fermentation kept the abv down, if we used the same mash again and brewed it this would then create a much weaker 'childs beer'.

If fermented for a few months a much stronger brew would result, this was known as 'double beer', by Elisabeth's reign street brawling was blamed upon 'double double beer'.

Tudor ale

Salute aside that's what I've been up to. I've also been painting !


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Agincourt Demo Game at Salute 2015

The Lance and Longbow Society will be putting on a demo game of Agincourt at the 2015 Salute show this Saturday. My good friend and blogger extraordinaire Simon Chick will be showcasing his collection and I shall also be there lending a hand.

We are located at table GN11 – near the rear of the hall when you enter Excel.

Do come down and have a look, adore some miniatures, see your blogging contemporaries or just say hello.

If you can't make it or simply want to lose several hours you can view Simon's collection and his past projects over on his blog

Hope to see some of you soon.

All the best


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Painting Landsknechts Article

The April issue of Wargames Illustrated (WI 330) is themed around mercenaries and within its pages is a newly commissioned  'painting landsknechts' article by me.

This came about in part as a result of my sister blog, Painting Landsknechts

I had few constraints on article size so I'm quite pleased with the result as I was able to try and fully express my thoughts on the subject. There are also a good number of photographs of my collection as well as individual studies throughout the magazine. It's good to see the period get some attention.

Feedback is always appreciated, let me know what you think.

Bye for now


Saturday, 28 February 2015

French missile foot

Here are the latest additions to my burgeoning French army of 1513; some skirmishing arquebus and crossbow armed infantry.

These have been long in the making as each one has been individually 'pimped' with some green stuff in an effort to extend the Perry plastics into the early 1500's, thus this unit very much represents a further chapter to my ongoing sculpting learning curve.

In the images above the two centre figures were completed last and the rest were sculpted in a batch around the same time. As I'm finding with sculpting it is these latest figures of which I am the most pleased.

Following my earlier attempts with the green stuff in the unit of dismounted Louis XII Guard Archers I received a number of queries as to my approach so I shall attempt to explain step by step;

Step 1; cutting and filing Step 2; building form, side

After selecting your manequin you will need to gently file and cut away the mid section below the belt and define the upper thighs a bit.

In the first bit of sculpting you need to fill in the basic shape of the lower skirt of the base coat being mindful of length and shape. I generally go just above the knee and in this instance I have worked with the gait of the body and sculpted a slight rise in the skirt to the rear, you need to make it absolutely smooth all round, being careful to sculpt around any equipment you wish to remain such as knives, bags and the belt. push the green stuff to just under the belt line.

In this stage you are creating a hard base with which to begin sculpting the form of the base coat, so also remember that you will be adding another layer on to this, you don't need to have this layer too built up otherwise your figure will appear to be wearing a petticoat underneath.

Allow to dry fully. You can file the form a little more once it is dry.

Step 4; form shape and cut away excess Step 6; define pleats

Apply a 1-1.5mm layer of green stuff to the front and smooth / develop the form some more until you are happy with the shape you have created. Drag any excess green stuff to the base of the skirt and remove.

Then define the pleats with your sculpting tool and very slightly ease / define each pleat from the next. Use the side of the tool to square up the bottom of each pleat. I use this tool for almost all sculpting.

Leave to dry.

Step 7; finish pleats and sculpt square neck & jacket chest Step 8; repeat steps 5-7 for the rear

Once the skirt is dry, sculpt the square neck and shoulders of the chest and define the fastening flap. Leave to dry.

Then sculpt the rear of the skirt following the same method as the front. Leave to dry.

It is tempting to sculpt as much as you can, but without drying each stage you can risk obscuring areas you have worked hard upon and potentially having to start again. 

Step 10; arm 1 Step 11; arm and cap

Assemble the figure and sculpt one sleeve, dry, then the next. Look up contemporary images or photographs of re-enactors to work out where the folds may go. Leave to dry.

Sculpt the cloth cap, I used Hans Holbein drawings and Landsknecht woodcuts as a source. Leave to dry. 


Each stage was dried overnight, Owing to this I worked on this during the week after work and had a figure ready to paint at the weekend.

You could do these in batches of 2 or 3 as you'll be surprised how little green stuff you need, the more you do the more confident you'll get.

Project 2; 1 doublet and hose front Project 2, part 2, doublet and hose rear

For this figure I wanted to create a doublet and hose as per the reference image below, it's typical of about 1500-1515.

This had less stages than the base coat above; first I filed and cut the waist and upper thighs. I had to be really careful and aware of the form I was hoping to achieve as there was not going to be much green stuff used.

I then began the first stage of sculpting by modelling the codpiece, exposed undershirt, doublet and points. This was then left to dry.

I did the same for the rear and followed the seams in the tights from the legs up to the top, don't make these too deep, just gently score the line with your sculpting tool or scalpel. Look up images of hose, particularly sewing patterns to get a better idea of this. I used the Kings Servants by Caroline Johnson ( Tudor Tailor case study) as a reference. Incidentally this is also very good for patterns and photographs of the base coat above.

Project 2 part 4, right arm and cap    Project 2; doublet and hose

Following this, each arm was sculpted separately and left to dry - I found these quite hard to do, photographs and reference material really helped here to achieve a natural look to the voluminous sleeves.

The cap was then sculpted last and the feathers (from the Swiss heads) were glued on when dry.

So there we are, hopefully that may have helped some of you eager to give it a go yourself.

If you'd like to see these and more detailed photographs of my sculpting efforts as well as some source material of the period have a look at my Pinterest boards.

It is time consuming but worth it I think. I'm looking to add many more missile foot and with results like these it would be hasty to do otherwise for the period feel that I'm attempting to achieve. I just wish I was able to do this when I started my Tudors, though I fear I may well still be working on them if that were the case.

However, I am confident that this army will look suitably different from its foe using predominantly the same figures which is a good result in light of there being no real commercially available alternative (albeit with my Perry bias). Here's the infantry so far, only 36 figures though of that number 32 are converted.

Onwards and upwards, I need more green stuff.

Until next time.


Sunday, 8 February 2015

Dogs of War

Here we have a unit of Imperialist Landsknecht pike to add to the ranks, in fact I now have a pike block of just under 100 figures. I don't think it is possible to ever complete a unit of Landsknechts as I just seem to add to them all the time though I expect future efforts will be depicting those in French service.

Painting wise my methods are relatively unchanged. I don't batch paint Landsknechts as I much prefer to paint them as individuals, I feel it gives the unit a much more varied and colourful look. Though in saying that when putting a base together I will check over the previous figures I have completed so there is an even spread of colour and pattern thus there are some figures with garb of two or three colours and others with more intricate combinations.

One relatively new thing (for me) which has really helped with this is Pinterest, if you've never heard of or used it, give it a go for your own painting projects. I found it really helped keep my enthusiasm going, particularly for those times you can't get to the painting desk. Have a look at my Landsknecht boards and try to ignore the urge to paint;

If you need some more inspiration with your Landsknecht projects, have a look at my Landsknecht Painting Guide.

As these are rather colourful chaps, here are some individual photographs;


Finally, some Landsknecht eye candy to leave you with, I really like these close up images, you can almost hear the drums, fifes and war cries!

All the best