Monday 2 October 2017

Casting Tips

Last updated 04/10/2017 - see list of edits at bottom of post.

As the range has now been going for some years I thought it worthwhile to pool our experiences  casting with the new moulds.

PA have a series of tutorial videos on their website, which are worth watching, particularly if you are new to the casting hobby:
There is quite a good video at the bottom showing casting the new cannon.

Casting Metal

As mentioned in the very first post on the blog 27 March 2014 (where did those years go?), I have been casting for some years before the SYW range of moulds came into production, generally with PA's the old 'Karokiner' moulds and my 'Scrap' metal.

At the time I was very pleased with the results I was achieving.

When I became involved with PA in producing the SYW range, the sculptor provided me with slicon moulds. to allow me to cast test figures. This allowed me to check out the uniform etc, and also make up sample units, before the expensive tooling up was done for the black moulds. I have to confess that the silicon moulds are easier to use than the black moulds, and cast very well, even with my 'scrap metal',  so many of my figures are cast from these moulds.

However - once the black moulds came into production, and before I started this blog, I did some casting with them to ensure they worked!

First I tried PA's expensive Model Metal (54% Lead / 11% Tin / 35% Bismuth), this cast very well and gave good detail, without the need to vent the moulds.

I then tried to cast some figures using my 'Scrap' metal, the content of which is variable, there are figures from many suppliers, however it is likely to be similar to PA's less expensive Standard Metal (65% Lead / 2% Antimony / 33% Tin). At first I struggled to get the 'upper' heads out, however after venting the upper head inlet up to the top, as shown on PA's site (under the figure descriptions), all of the moulds produced full castings. The detail was generally good, but not as crisp as from the Model Metal; the difference was most noticeable on the fine detail of the faces. (They were still probably better than the old Karoliners.)

If building up armies on a budget, I would recommend casting the bodies in the cheapest metal that gives decent castings, and then using a high grade metal such as Model Metal for the heads to get the best out of the detailed faces, minimal cost but a bit more effort.

With the move to digital sculpting there is now no need for the silicon moulds, so the French I have cast are all out of black moulds.

The wargaming unit I painted up has Model Metal heads on 'Scrap' metal bodies, whereas the ones for the packaging were entirely Model Metal to ensure the best detail on the hands, weapons etc.. 

Melting the Metal

As on the first post on the blog - I still just use old milk saucepans, (which have a spout to pour accurately) on the gas cooker (preferably when my wife is out). But now I have two pans, one with model metal and the other with 'scrap'. (Not the most energy efficient I know - but it is a hobby!) I cast on a section of old worktop to protect the  kitchen work surfaces.

I test the heat by dipping in a wooden stick, and if it smokes it is hot enough (to be quite honest it is trial and error). When lifting the pan don't forget some insulated gloves!

And, although it should be obvious, keep all fluids away from the molten metal and the moulds, as mixing the two will have an explosive effect.

Clamping the Moulds

I generally cast the moulds in pairs, which makes them more stable, and usually pour two or three pairs at a time.

I cast with the clamping force on the moulds provided with heavy elastic bands, and they will cast fine with just two; however experience has shown that this can be unsafe, and there needs to be additional clamping in the event of one of the bands snapping due to heat if the mould leaks, or overflows:
  • Preferably also use a metal clamp, not for the pressure, but to be safe in case any of the bands snaps. (Note the PA in their videos only use clamps). 
  • At the very minimum I now ALWAYS use three or more bands in case one snaps. (also keep an eye on them, any which show signs of tearing discard them - they will snap eventually).
  • Place the moulds on some heat resistant sheet, in a tray or similar to catch leaks or spillages.
This amount of clamping force can sometimes be too much, in which case it will be necessary to either take of one of the bands, or the clamp. It has been interesting that everyone seems to cast differently, see the comments below.

Please send Comments & Tips

I intend to continue/add to this post, so please put any tips in the comments and I will feed them back into this post to combine all our findings.

Update Tracker

03/10/2017 - link to PA videos added
04/10/2017 - casting photos changed and minor changes to text.

Monday 31 July 2017

Artillery - Released

Just a couple of photos to show you the painted figures which will go on the packaging.

Prince August went for the Prussian variation on the gun. Probably not noticeable but this has the wheels with the thicker spokes.

And they were released today (1 August).

Now lets hope for some cavalry in the near future.

Thursday 8 June 2017

First Artilley Castings

The blog has been very quiet as of late as the moulds are taking a long time - and I have to confess to my recent wargaming currently being in other scales and periods. Anyway, enough of the excuses, I finally received some test moulds over the weekend, and as it was good casting weather I gave them a go.

I was told in advance that it would be difficult to cast the wheels (it always is), however I did manage to get some good castings, by a combination of:
  • Using the expensive Model Metal.
  • Venting the wheels on every spoke.
  • Applying talc between every pour - and then ensuring the vents were clear.
  • The minimum clamping force I could get way with.
  • Giving the moulds a good tap when full.
  • Good luck/weather.
They do take a bit of cleaning up - but not too bad.

One of the reasons the mould production has been further delayed as Chris (the sculptor) decided that the spokes needed thickening up a bit to make casting easier (I have the unmodified version).

I have cast a gun to carry each of the four barrels, and they look pretty good, although compromises have to be made to allow all the barrel sizes to fit between the carriage cheeks.

Austrian 6pdr

The wheels measure about 33mm tall, and the crew are about 44mm to top of head. As the Austrian wheels were 51" high, that makes the crew 5' 8" tall, perhaps a bit on the tall size but not far off. (As is always the case with shots like this, the fact that the figures are on a thick base makes them look taller.)

Also, the moulds will not contain an elevating wedge, so I decided to make one by cutting a triangle off the corner of a 1.5mm thick MDF base using a razor saw.

The axles are round (I know that is wrong), which allows the wheel track to be adjusted. I have made the Austrian track 43" - which looks narrow - but distinctive.

The crew are painted in sleeveless waistcoats, not quite correct, the most noticeable differences being that there should be two rows of buttons on the front of the waistcoat, and the gunners amongst the crew (about half) should have boots rather than gaiters.

However overall I think it looks fine, which is what we were aiming for.

Russian Unicorn

The barrel on this is quite short, so I modified the position of the cross member below the back of the barrel, and added an elevating screw. However I am sure it will look fine with the barrel just glued on with no elevating mechanism.

The wheels are set further apart which makes it look much more distinct than it would be if just the barrel was changed.

The crew are the same as for the Austrians, this time painted with the waistcoats long sleeved. I could not resist adding a bombardier in the distinctive helmet.

Other Options

There are to other barrels in the moulds, which will make up a Prussian light 12pdr, for which I have just added the wedge.

I have not painted up a crew for the Prussian gun, as the ones I have cast have gone to Richard Hattersley for painting to use on the packaging.

And an Austrian 7pdr howitzer, for which I again added a wedge, and relocated the support cross member a bit lower and further forward  (and also set the wheels closer together).

And finally for a size comparison the new gun alongside the Karoliner 3pdr - which I might try with the new wheels?

I don't think these are far off production - but how many times have I said that?

As always comments are very welcome - particularly if they are positive....

................bring on the cavalry?

Extra photos to answer comments......

A close up of the wheel as cast with the vent holes.  In the production moulds the spokes will be heavier to simplify casting - I have not seen the new wheel yet and will cast a couple when I get  a mould.

Rahway asked about the vent on the Austrian guns - you can just about see the vent on the shot of the howitzer, however to put his mind at ease here is a close up on the 6pdr (the barrels will clean up better than this without too much work).

Rahway asked about the height of the figures. I have to confess that initially I thought that they are way too big when compared with the infantry.

They are probably a little bit larger, however the thing is that the gunners are bolt upright, whereas everything else has a very distinct lean, and the figures are similar distance heel to top of head.

The base IS too big, and that will be corrected in the production mould.

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Artillery Equipment Sculpting Complete

Chris has now pretty much completed sculpting the artillery, and has used his computer wizardry to produce some graphics to show what the models and figures will look like.

Austrian 6pdr Gun

The original idea was to produce an accurate as possible Austrian 6pdr, and below is the almost finished article. (The only issue I know of is that the elevating wedge  (which will be a separate part) is too wide, so I have asked for it to be changed).

In order for the master figure to be robust enough to withstand repeated pressing in the mould making process,  there have had to be some compromises, such as leaving out the lighter cross pieces in the carriage trail, and locating the lifting handles of the barrel too close together. It is (in my opinion) a great improvement over the guns in the Karoliner and Rossbach ranges, and a welcome addition to the range.

And here it is with crew in waistcoats.

Austrian 7pdr Howitzer

The Liechtenstein system used the same wheels for all guns, so there is clearly some scope for reusing the wheels. Also the carriage of the 7pdr howitzer is reasonably close to that of the 6pdr, (it should be a bit deeper and heavier, and the support for the elevating wedge is in the wrong place). However I did not think we should miss the opportunity to add a howitzer to the range, so I asked Chris to produce a howitzer barrel - here it is on the 6pdr carriage.

 As discussed above, the elevating wedge is not in the right place. If it looks too far out when cast and made up, then a little work will be needed to cut out and move the wedge support forward and down - I don't have access to any castings, so cannot say how difficult it will be!

Barrels for other Nations

As the sculpting work progressed it became apparent that the gun would need to be split over two moulds, but the second would be half empty. This gave the opportunity to try and provide some reasonably representative artillery for other nations. There was no space for more wheels or carriages, but a couple of extra barrels could be squeezed in.

I carried out a review of all the information I had to hand and decided that a reasonable representation of some artillery could be provided on the Austrian carriage (purists turn away now)..........

Prussian light 12pdr

The closest I could find for the Prussians was the 12pdr M17/38, as this was a conic chambered piece it did not use such a large charge as a 'proper' 12pdr, so could sit on a smaller carriage. Here are details of the gun.............

....and here is the extra barrel on the Austrian carriage.

(Interestingly, if you look at the drawing, the Prussian barrel is identical size to the Austrian 12pdr, which also had the same wheel, but unfortunately the Austrian 12pdr carriage is 15% longer - worth a try at lengthening the cast carriage?)

And then for the Russians......

Russian 12pdr Unicorn

As far as I can figure out the 12pdr unicorn had the closest carriage size - drawings..

..and model

French Guns

As far as I can see they were all way bigger than these pieces (unless you know better)?

Interestingly the French Vallier 8pdr and famous Prussian 12pdr 'Brummer' looked very similar - so they would make a nice addition. Prince August currently have no plans to make these, so if you want them a good case will need to be made.

If you have stuck it out this far your then please take the time to comment?


Another view of the crew better showing the wheel height.

Monday 20 March 2017

Aly Morrison's 'Hungarians'

Aly Morrison has kindly sent me some photos of units he has painted using the Hungarian moulds - rather nice I would say!

Hungarian Infantry

Frei Korps von Schony
(Made from Hungarian grenadiers)

 Frei Korps von Kliest
(Made from Hungarian grenadiers with heads sculpted by Aly - I have some on order)

The SYW range has now been going for some years.  If any of you have photos you are willing to share with the group please let me have them and I will load them onto the blog.

Thursday 23 February 2017

Artillery Update

Not a lot happening on my side with regards the 40mm SYW figures, I am currently spending valuable figure casting and painting time renovating and decorating part of my house.

I thought I had better post something just to show that the project has not been abandoned.......

Artillery Crew in Waistcoats

Chris has almost finished the artillery crew in waistcoats, there is a little more work to do, but as you can see the will make a valuable addition to the range.

The figures are intended to be quite generic, as it is not practical to make a different set for each nation - they are probably closest to French in waistcoats as the print below.

There will however be heads with both differing tricorn styles so both Prussians and other nations can be represented. If there is space there will also be Prussian and Russian bombardier heads.

6pdr Austrian Cannon

This is also nearing completion, but still a few tweaks to be done.

As always comments welcome.