About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 51-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play. I will 'bite the hand that feeds' to remind it why it feeds.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

V is for Vac-forms, Part 1 - Airfix & Atlantic

Vac-forms (for; Vacuum-Formed) have been an integral part of the modeling and war-gaming scene since quite early in it's inception, and for AFV modelers, dioramists and war-gamers they have produced a wide variety of items to enhance a scene or provide authentic (or not so authentic) background to the gaming table.

From the Sublime (2 foot by 3 foot play bases from Bellona) to the ridiculous (horrid little plinths from er...Bellona!), this is my take on them, it's a three-part'er, so keep scrolling when you get to the end of this post!

Airfix, and their partner in the US (MPC) produced quite a number of vac-forms over the years, and indeed are doing so again. This is from the Battlefront play-set El Alamien, Allied Attack Force, and is presented - for your ridicule - as painted by my younger self, some 30 odd years ago! In front of which you can see two plaster-of-paris moulds I took of the revetments, in order I should protect a few more AFV's from the German Paratroop Officer (who was always 'last man standing'!), the funny thing about taking mouldings from Vac-forms is; they end up with better detail, as vac-forms are 'pulled' onto a former (by vacuum - of course!) so end up with the finer detail of the master on the underside, consequently taking a negative cast provides better mouldings with less rounding/smoothing-off of detail.

More Airfix, more plaster casts, more ridicule to be poured on my teenage colour schemes! The beauty of these plaster moulds was that as/when they got chipped (or miscast) I just brushed in a bit more mud or dirt, and when they broke, I could either glue them or make them into a smaller defence work, hence the little one-man thing on the left-hand end. These are all taken from the storage sheds and Sand-bagged post in the Forward Command Post (CP) set.

Top right are actually Bellona, who are dealt with in the next post down. Note how the original painted sandbag guard-post is shot-to-bits with cracks, the Airfix vac-forms were among the thinnest in the business. Basing - as in the pile of stores from Bellona makes for a much more rigid plaything.

About fifteen years ago I tried to cast the Cantina from the AMT/MPC/Airfix Star Wars vac-formed play-set base (made far more substantially than the earlier stuff), but thought I'd be clever by using wall-plaster mixed with PVA/wood-glue and water at a 1:1 ratio, six months later it was still damp, and I managed to destroy both the moulding and the base, separating one from the other! Still, if you don't try, you don't learn...Airfix purists would hate to know what I've done to boxes over the years teaching myself how to renovate them, Ha-hah!

Atlantic were also a prolific maker of 'value-added' bases, and painted theirs to boot! If you call that 'painting'? These are from the medium-sized sets of Wild West, and were designed to fit together as they are photographed. Inside the fold-out cover of the box, there is an illustration suggesting a 1E and 1F to come, as far as I know, they have never seen the light of day?

Variations of 1A, note how the upper one has had a better defined paint job than the lower one, these look - upon a quick glance - to have been airbrushed, but closer inspection reveals they have been done with sponge in the traditional way, Messerschmitt fuselage uppers - oh I remember it well, grey finger-nails for a week!...with a duck-egg blue undercoat...the fingers as well as the fuselage!!!

The bases are very smooth however, so there must be some sort of protective coating applied after painting, in a semi-silk finish. Given the number of vac-forms Atlantic indulged in, and given that the colours don't run into each other, i.e.; Were allowed to dry between stages, it's no wonder they went bust, their labor-costs must have been horrendous, even if they were paying peanuts to the poorer workers in the South.

One of the smaller play-sets from the 'modern' sets, there were umpteen of these in all sizes, I'm showing this one as it was meant to be cut into even smaller vac-formlettes! as can be seen in the arrowed flier. Note also how the vac-forms in the flier are a darn-sight better painted than the ones that left the factory...disappointment being another good reason for eventual bankruptcy!

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