Thursday, 30 August 2018

Plastic Fantastic and Not

I managed to squeeze in a couple of painting sessions over the last few days, so I started on the figures I picked up last time I visited the model shop in Rugby that I wrote about which is closing down.

These are Hat Italian Allied Cavalry from their Punic wars range. I have put off buying any of these for close on 10 years now (just checked - actually 15 years) as I finished my Republican Romans and Carthaginians and had enough figures for all the options in the Army Lists for the rules I was using at the time. I had added units from the Infantry Allies box, but I never went fully into making pairs of legions with one Roman and one Allies. With the Society of Ancients Battle Day next year being the Battle of Telemon I thought I should have a look at my Republican Romans and Celts. I need to beef up the Romans and paint some of the Celts I have been accumulating over the last decade.

So when I saw a box each of the Italian Ally Cavalry and Infantry in Jotos I picked them up with the closing down sale discount. I need a box or two more probably (and maybe some rebasing...) but it is good to get a start .

As it is a Hat box, so to speak, you don't get lots of variety in the cavalry with 4 poses and three sprues. The poses aren't anything clever, but are understandable for soft plastic figures.  They mostly have ring hands for javelins, with one figure needing the plastic javelin removing and replacing with a pin, as usual.

The horses have all got body armour, which is probably excessive but looks nice. Same with the feathers. I suppose I could take the feathers off, but what the heck, they look nice.

I think another box will do me, for now. I'm at Hereward in Perterborough this Sunday, so I might get some there.

So, some nice looking figures that have painted up quite nicely with my normal technique. The depth of the carving on the figures isn't excessive but is just enough to take the tinted varnish.

So that's the Fantastic Plastic. Now for the less so.

As I reported in my blog about my visit to the Other Partizan I was the recipient of some very old Airfix figures including some Washington's Army and some others from a WD wargaming friend.

The Washington's Army have been separated out and bagged up in battalion sized units ready for painting. When I was doing this one of the figures snapped of its base, which was annoying but not a problem as I had some spares.

I then turned to the Waterloo Highlanders. The aim with these is to take off their packs and feather bonnets and turn them into Highland units for the '15 & '45 risings both Jacobite and Loyalist.

Alas this didn't go well. Firstly the muskets started to break off when I picked them up. Then as I carved them they started to powder away...

...and simply snap off their bases, and then arms and heads just came away. I have never seen plastic figures become so friable. I've heard about it as a problem, but I have figures of this vintage and never had problems like this.

I then thought I'd just need to sort the figures and find the ones that are good, but none of them are good. The ones that might just make it are losing the ends of muskets, and I'm now worried that even those that feel solid will come apart when I use them. I resolved that if the musket won't flex back when you bend it then the figure has to go.

So far I've got none that have passed that test.

And I've got a tray full of Ancient Britons from the same source that seem a bit fragile too.

Oh toot.


  1. Large bases might reduce the touching of the figures.
    Volley and bayonet rules have nice big bases.

    The other thing might be to coat them with a PVA after painting.
    It should dry clear and make a nice skin on the figures.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions. I wondered about undercoating in PVA, and then slapping on the Ronseal to seal the figures. The worry is that the figures won't survive the conversion process. This is actually proving to be the case.

      I think I'm wasting my time trying to save them. I'll be really annoyed if I put in a lot of work and then some of them snap off at the ankles.

  2. Replies
    1. At least I hadn't spent a lot of time on them. My existing older figures are bearing up okay, so I reckon that the layers of paint and varnish have sealed in the various oils and chemicals that keep the figures flexible.

  3. Hi Trebbiano,

    Oh the horrors of ancient Airfix plastics! I lost a couple of painted Napoleonic British infantry units due to this so feel your pain!

    All the best,


    1. That's sad to hear. At least I hadn't got as far as painting them.

  4. I feel your disappointment. It happened to a batch of plastic Spencer Smiths I had kept stored for ages. They all went through the bend-and-break test before painting.

  5. Too many figures for a flaming Viking boat burial, I think a mass grave burial and suitably martial prayers are the best or most suitable Warrior send off to vintage Valhalla for these crumbling Airfix figures. They have fought their last fight. Maybe a small stone cairn on top to mark the place ...

    1. I may crumble them up and mix them in with my basing sand, so they serve some wargaming purpose.

  6. 99% of my old Airfix stuff has been fine, but I was donated a grab bag of old Airfix commandos which had been stored in a garage for a couple of decades and the figures literally fell to bits.

    They are unsalvageable, throw them away.

    1. I think they had been stored in a garage or loft, although why that should make a difference I don't know. I thought UV was the real threat.

      Yes, they are not going to serve as figures in any way.

  7. Luckily very few losses for me, probable because I store mine out of sunlight. Though I did have a batch of Airfix WW1 infantry that broke up on me. have you thought of using the Redbox and Strelets figures for the 15 and 45

    1. I thought sunlight was the risk but these look like they've been stored in an attic.

      I have got a box of the Red Box "Militia & Loyalists" and I'm looking to pick up some more and also some Strelets. I was working on the Waterloo Highlanders as I had them and didn't pat for them, which is a price I like a lot.

  8. Shades of the Airfix "track rot" of the 1970s

    Quite scary as I have a huge collection of plastics (unboxed but not painted in the loft)
    I note with old WWII plastics vehicles from a variety of manufacturers the plastics seems to get more brittle with age.

    I am no chemist or material scientist, I am hoping that the harder 1/72 plastics (Italeri/Revel last better). HaT are on the soft side - but some of their figures are just too interesting to pass up on.

    Soapy Wash
    PVA primer
    Undercoat Grey
    Vallejo Wash
    Gloss Varnish
    Matt Varnish
    Basing to reduce handling

    But still trying to perfect combinations of teh above

    1. Phil S reckons with plastic figures stored in an environment with fluctuating temperatures that the expansion/ctraction of the plastic causes the structure to breakdown. He worked in the extruded materials business for a while, so he probably knows what he is taling about. Consequently I'd get them down from the lost, and store away from UV as well.

      I think you are potentially overdoing it. I go for wash/undercoat/paint/varnish and that works fine.

    2. Down from loft means visible in LOS to the wife which means either way they are (In Dad's Army vernacular) "Doomed"

    3. Simple. Just heat your loft. A couple pf lower energy greenhouse electric radiators should do it. You don't have a smart meter do you?

  9. I should have also said - I feel your pain