About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 58-year-old Aspergic gardening 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.

Friday, October 21, 2011

News, View etc...Counter

I've got the counter sorted out, prize will be at 0120,000, or about 5 weeks time, I'll look for prize-worthy stuff in Birmingham!

Will add a link or two in the next few days as well...

21:00 (pm) 21st Oct....Oh no you haven't!

08:45 (am) 22nd Oct....Oh yes I Have!

25th Oct (am)...Oh no You havn't!

I give up! I've reloaded it twice, eMailed them three times and the bloody thing's reset itself again! Watch this space...if you can be arsed!!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

News, views etc...Birmingham's come round again!

Dave McKenna's 21st Central Toy & Model Soldier Show is in Birmingham is this Sunday

Sunday 23nd October 2011 Doh!

The Clarendon Suite, 2 Stirling Road Edgbaston, (just off the Hagley Road)., Within 5 minutes walk of the city center. There is a half-marathon the same day so try to get parked early if you're coming by car.

Free Parking and an on-site cafe.

For other details and late availability of tables contact; Mr McKenna on telephone number: 0121 628 1397

Email: patanddave76@yahoo.co.uk

I'll be in my ever-holey 'Tuskers' T-shirt if you want to come over and have a chat, say Hi or winge about my approach to the military history of France! or Belgium...

Entry Times;
Doors open 1030 - 4pm

£4 adults
£3 Concessions (children and Senior Citzens)

[Herne next!]

Monday, October 17, 2011

W is for White Tower Miniatures

From time to time a 'Plastics Man' turns to the dark side and starts to experiment with poured metal, cold-setting rubber and 'Master Figures', normally, all you can do is try to avoid them, wear garlic and cross yourself three times in their presence, however, when it's a friend of yours and the resulting alchemy is rather good, you are best humoring him in the hope the phase will pass and he will return to the polymer fold.

One such is Matt of White Tower Miniatures, who started with a range of character figures of Robin the hooded and other denizens of the fortified towns and woods of Nottinghamshire, he then switched to a range of Wild West characters, and is now building fine ranges of Dark Age Normans, Saxons and Far-Eastern armies.

There is a link to his website to the right of the page and I'd urge you to have a visit, and browse, last I knew he was still painting all the figures himself, and as you can see above unpainted castings are also available.

Huns on the run, or running someone out-of-shot down! These were taken as the old camera died last year so they are not the best shots I've published...and er...they're actually Mongols!

A command group, these will all be out again - I hope - on Sunday at Dave McKenna's show in Birmingham, there is a half-marathon on the same day so if you're driving, be early.

Saxon shield-wall, they would have held the bloody country if they hadn't all run down the hill in an over-exuberant (and probably mead-fuelled!) dash to de-horse the Norman Knights!

I know a Knight I'd like to de-horse....

C is for Cautionary Tales

I bought this about a year ago, I had finished a job and felt like a present for myself, so managed to tick-off a couple of the items on my 'wants' list with a bit of judicious eBaying. The purchase produced an immediate response on one of the Forums and I quote;

"An empty box for the Airfix Attack Force Set just sold for a staggering £67.87 on eBay. I shudder to think what that means for the value of a complete set

The seller made no secret of the fact that it was just an empty box, so the four bidders must have known what they were bidding on. The description that this is "easily the rarest of all the playsets" I do not share: the same size Beach-head Invasion Set is far rarer than this one, which - that much is true - is quite difficult to find."

Now, it must be understood that A) The same weekend a common (and fifteen or so years younger) Pontoon Bridge Assault Set went for £170-something, while I also 'ticked-off' one of the Britains Lilliput carded sets for £40-something. B) In the last few weeks; equally common play sets have been reaching anything between one and three-hundred plus. C) The author of the above comment already had one so we can't even blame 'sour grapes' in the traditional sense for the mealy-mouthed comment. D) He almost certainly knew who won it as these guys obsess over eBay, and was making a wider 'point' re. internal forum politics!

The fact is; It's a reasonably rare set, it was in pretty good nick (see below!) and at 70-odd quid a bargain. However - eBay is a bit of a snake pit, you pays your money, makes your choice and have to live with the consequences. The seller has almost no influence these days, the buyer - should he choose - can literally get away with criminality and most national police, postal and consumer affairs organisations will have nothing to do with any problems generated by eBay sales/purchases.

I have been suggesting for sometime that eBay is on it's uppers, and turning into a market place for new goods, and eBay would seem - with every change they make - to agree with me!!

But; that's not the cautionary tale, the cautionary tale is, if you want to share your knowledge with other people, get a blog and they'll come. It's true they'll go back to their own blog and 'discover' the cricketers you've just posted without crediting you, but that's human nature and one should rise above it...if one can...?

Don't go to a locked-down forum with 300 members, 200 of whom want to sell you Italian sandals, Viagra, rubber love-rockets or wholesale toasters, with another 50 having not posted in over a year leaving you with 40 or so genuine members and a few sand-castle builders giving it the big 'I am'.

Rant over; lets look at the beast...and sort it out!

This is the original sales picture, it is clear from the photograph that both the front corners are split top-to-bottom, OK; 'Caveat Emptor', I can see the damage, but it's not in the description, so...polite note to seller along the lines of; "It looks like/Are the corners split, is there any other damage?"

Nice chatty email back; "Seen your blog...really rare set...only selling 'cause I need the money/space/changing scale of my collection...", whatever...but - no mention of the corners or other damage. Well, I'm an easy going chap - until someone riles me (then I'll hold a grudge a thousand years!), so similar eMail is sent off and of course while you hope he's got the idea that you don't mind the damage but just want it packed carefully (resulting in a second reply to the effect that it will be well packed) you end up assuming by now he is just misunderstanding your need for a reply to non-rhetorical questions!

You bid, you win the item, it arrives beautifully packed in a larger box than itself, in all dimentions, with newspaper-twists (the best - and cheapest - form of packing for lightweight items) holding it firmly in place...

But!...to 'help'; he's taped both corners together with what looks like half a mile of crystal-tape (very sticky) AND lined the insides with brown-paper tape!!! Several layers!

Do you laugh? Do you cry? do you swear out-loud and rip it to pieces! Or do you send it back? I laughed a little and swore a little, but knew deep down that I'd half expected something of the sort.

Second lesson...If a seller doesn't answer questions 'right' the deal is suspect, it doesn't matter what or why, a genuine seller should answer all questions fully within 48 hours of you're asking and supply any extra images you ask for. Indeed it's a good test to ask for extra photographs, as the item should be at hand, having already been recently photographed to put on whatever auction site you're dealing with, and ready for posting? You can't seriously run an eBay seller account without an eMail address, a PC and a digital camera.

So accepting that greed and a pocketful of cash had got me in my own - typically 'eBay' - predicament, renovation was the only choice. I decided that I'd use it as an example for the blog, but my camera was dying this time last year and I still hadn't got the loan of Giles', however it worked a bit better indoors than out, so while they aren't the best shots I've posted they aren't the worst either!

The first thing to do was get the tape off without damaging the paintwork or underlying cardboard. A hot-air paint stripper is the answer, but turned down to the point where you can almost use it as a hair dryer - suggesting that a hair dryer turned up will probably do an equally good job?

The shot on the left shows the tape starting to curl-back on itself, while the little scraps on the right were my entry in this years Royal Academy exhibition!! You can see that there is a slight loss of printers ink as the tape comes away.

Shots showing the dog-ears you'd, expect even if the deal had otherwise gone right, along with the multiple layers of brown paper tape. He's done a good job, and a few years ago I'd have done the same, but having done the inside like this I would never tape the outside? I guess he taped the outside first to get the shape, but you can do that with string or rubber bands...

So - next step; dampen the paper tape and peel carefully, a layer at a time, I use warm water as it seems to penetrate quicker, and a fine mister. Stop peeling every time a tear/peel extends into dry paper or you need to pull harder, go back to the mister, this phase is all about patience. If you over-mist, soak up the residue with kitchen paper.

Once the paper tape is off; undo the box and lay some hardboard on the floor, then carefully, gently using a clean butchers rag (not a duster - it'll dye the whole thing yellow...don't ask, but renovation is a learning curve!) or cotton-wool, and some distilled water (from an auto-parts place) proceed to wipe the whole thing, changing wool/cloths frequently until either of the following happen;

- The cotton-wool/cloth is only slightly discolouring (pale greyish residue)
- The cotton-wool/cloth starts to go pink (or whatever colour the piece you're working with)

Then place a towel over the hardboard, dampen the whole box and then using an iron on a medium setting (not a steam setting - the misting you've given the card will produce all the steam you want), and proceed to iron through a plain sheet of white paper until the whole thing is 'dryish', turn it over and do the same to the other side (to prevent curling).

Once both sides are dryish (the seams and folds will still be dark with moisture), take a new (dry) towel and place an old white t-shirt or sock over the iron, and continue to iron, turning the flattened box regularly until it is absolutely dry...you'll know when that is as it will regain it's full rigidity.

Finally; fold it back up together, and where - a few years ago - I would have advocated the brown-paper treatment, you now only need to bleed a bit of super-glue into the join and hold until it's set.

You can speed-up the setting by huffing on it, like you'd mist a train-window as a kid, the moisture in your breath will activate the super-glue, that's why fingers glue so easily when you're working with the stuff. The hint also works with aerials, photo-etched fret-work and other things on small kits. Indeed - I sometimes set super-glue with a wet paint brush.

The two insets and the circled items in the photograph show a slight discolouration of the super-glue, but you're never going to get it perfect without a three-year museum study course! The arrow highlights the fading caused by eh tape removal, I can live with it, some couldn't.

Was it worth £70 quid?...Of course it bloody was! And nothing some farty little middle-class, middle-aged, overpaid, jumped-up twerp from a country who's military history t'ain't worth writing a book about (yet still managed to do more damage to Africa than us, the French, the Italians and the Germans put together!) says about it, will change the fact.

The vac-formed insert will turn up in a mixed lot of vac-forms at a show eventually - guarantee it, while the vehicles and figures are already in the box! I also disagree with his claim that it's not as rare as the one below it in the above picture, I've seen/handled three of the orange ones (which was later and contained a cross-over mix of early and late type ready-mades), this is my first red one (which being earlier - only contains Attack Force), but those grapes must look so much nicer in his cupboard!

PS - Never, ever, EVER be tempted to use bleach, it eats cellulose and will turn you cardboard to dry papyrus slowly in the cupboard over time, like grapes turn to sultanas if you don't eat them when you see them going cheap!

B is for Box

If you click on 'Noddy' in the tags list at the bottom of the post, you'll get this up with the original post. Sent in by blog visitor Allen Parkes, it is both sides of the original box for the Kellogg's Noddy promotion, thank you Allen.

Front of the box with one side and a little red Noddy, who is also filling most of the cover, was he the Ricicles mascot for some time or just the length of the promotion? I can't remember despite recognising the box!

The reverse of the box with the other side/edge, showing the full set, as far as I know they were never issued in brown, but it was a standard Crescent colour (suppliers of the figures) and the Kellogg's American Indians were issued in brown.

The missing panel is one of the various little scenes you got to cut-out to use as a stage for your figures adventures, sadly Allen lost it years ago.

M is for Midgetoy, Metal and Martians!

Fresh from the Chicago show, I nearly bought these the other day, but Adrien of Mercator Trading (link to the right of the blog page) let me photograph them instead, so another plug for him!

Best thought of as a rival for Tootsietoy, I know little about the firm, but these are around the right size for 25mm figures and so sum-up the designs of the future that were so current in the past! I've seen the blue 'balloon-car' before but the sedan is new on me, and while it is a bit paint-chipped is still in overall good condition for its age.

The odd thing is, although they are die-cast mazac, they follow the production style of slush-castings, this is a very American thing, over here we were putting bases on our die-casts quite early, while across the pond they continued with the hollow underside design for some time.

O'brien points out [Collecting Toys - Krause publishing] that they were blister-packing very early, but then the Hong Kong guy's were blister-packing years before Airfix got their Toy Industry award for 'innovative packaging'!!

M is for Mini-trucks, Part 1 - Cab designs and overview

This set of 7 posts (following) was born out of the catalogue page the the boys over at Moonbase let me use the other week (month?!), and the fact that some time ago (over a year and a half) I said I'd do a thing on the mini-trucks from Hong Kong that were born out of the Kleeware trucks that were themselves apparently copies of the Dinky original of the post-war Humber.

Along the way it ties up a couple of other loose-ends...

Bottom right shows the two larger scale Banner trucks, I've looked at before, they were also produced in the UK by Kleeware (from borrowed moulds), next to them is the small scale Pyro/Kleeware lorry.

At the top are a Pyro cab unit (or 'Semi', or...see 'comments' the other day!!) in army green next to a Wannatoys red one.

Sandwiched between them all are a Cheerio pick-up truck apparently from the UK and the Wannatoys cab again to compare.

These mostly generic 1950's Lorry Cab Designs all have some features in common, such as the divider down the bonnet (hood) or the cab-roof lights, or the military 6x6 truck type wheel-arch headlights.

Alongside them ran metal vehicles of similar design and these are all from a Mettoy Playcraft (later; Corgi) catalogue of unknown age. The lower engines look very 'Denis' in execution, my local Lorry builder, they used to test-drive the chassis round Fleet when we were kids.

One of the loose ends; the upper shot shows the Triang Mettoy Breakdown Lorry, it is as you can tell the same vehicle as the two military ones in the original Littlewoods ad. Below it is the Lone*Star Cab Design.

The Matchbox take on the Humber lacked the sentry-holes and detail of the Dinky version and was not a copy, while the Dinky Lorry begot all the others!! I think?

The Humber was the Post-war (WWII) replacement for the plethora of 15cwt (UK) and 3/4-ton (US) trucks in service by the end of it. It would also provide the chassis for the wheeled APC immortalised in Northern Ireland as the PIG.

Kleeware (top left) to modern Christmas cracker toy (bottom right), these are the little beasts we look at in the 6 posts below this one.

M is for Mini-trucks, Part 2 - Types 1-1B

So looking at the various types in turn; it is of course my own numbering system, and is both entirely arbitrary and subject to change many years from now!!

The three 'best quality versions of the 'Mini-truck'. Kleeware originals which we have seen before here, and the better Hong Kong pirates, these early (or 'first generation') copies try to reproduce the undercarriage and Kleeware mounting method.

Type 1 - Kleeware (and Pyro?) - originals

Hard polystyrene plastic
Multi-part, plugged and glued
Steel axles with black styrene wheels
No windows
Same colours all over; bodies, cabs and plug-ins

Type 1A – direct copies of Kleeware originals

Soft polyethylene plastic
Multi-part, plugged
Steel axles with black ethylene wheels
No windows
Marked with small ‘MADE IN HONG KONG’ along under frame
Same colours all over; bodies, cabs and plug-ins
Passable colour match for Kleeware
New load - Pile of ammo-boxes similar to Giant western wagon
53mm long

Type 1B

Soft polyethylene plastic
Multi-part, plugged
Steel axles with black ethylene wheels
No windows, loss of detail to underside
Marked with larger ‘HONG KONG’ along under frame
Plug-ins now black, rest an emerald green
New load – Low canvas cover
53mm long

More Type 1B body types including some of the civilian versions. These (the military ones) are among the darkest green plastic of all these trucks, of all types.

M is for Mini-trucks, Part 3 - Types 2A-2E

The Line-up, missing is the 2D colour variant and the 2E by ABC

Type 2A (seems to have been replaced by 2/3 hybrid B see Part 4; below)

Soft polyethylene plastic
Single moulding, smaller
Steel axles with black ethylene wheels
No windows
Marked with largish ‘MADE IN HONG KONG’ in cab roof
Plug-ins black, but silver rocket
Plug-ins articulated with arrow-head pintle as per type 2B
50mm long
Set – US ARMY ATTACK FORCE (Woolbro 1968)


Type 2B

Soft polyethylene plastic
Steel axles (weird lengths) with black ethylene wheels
No windows
Marked on load-bed underside with largish reversed, inverted or reversed-inverted numeral; 1, 2, 3, 4
Plug-ins green
Plug-ins articulated with arrow-head pintle as per Type 2A
50mm long
Set – MOBILE TASK FORCE No. 445 (Woolbro, was 6p, so post-1970)

Type 2C

Soft polyethylene plastic
All plastic black ethylene wheel/axle mouldings
No windows
Marked on load-bed underside with large ‘HONG KONG
Plug-ins silver
50/52mm long
Set – AirfixARMY’ knock-off (1967)

Type 2D

Soft polyethylene (or polypropylene?) plastic, quality loss pronounced
All plastic black ethylene or marbled wheel/axle mouldings
No windows
Plug-ins black (polypropylene), or marbled (ethylene), sometimes issued without one!
Vehicles brown (ethylene) or green (polypropylene?)
New loads include various guns
50/51mm long
Sets –
AIR FORCE COMMANDO CORPS (green with propylene plug-ins)

Type 2D - colour variant

Sets -
SOLDIER SET (marbled brown, all ethylene)

Type 2EABC (known for 54mm knock-offs)

Soft polyethylene plastic
Steel axles, black ethylene wheels (like Type 1A or 1B), only truck type with fully-enclosed axle-holes as opposed to clip-ins
No windows
Marked on load-bed underside with large ‘MADE IN HONG KONG’ and ‘ABC’ in cab roof
Plug-ins black, larger loads green, similarities with the Type 5/6 hybrids as far as underside detailing goes
50mm long
Set – COMBAT (1965)

The easiest way of identifying these (after/if the mark is unclear) is by the two mounting holes in the flatbed for the various loads/body-types and the corresponding locating-spigots on those plug-ins.

I should add that Michael7 from the 'Things of Plastic' blog kindly supplied me with a high-res image of the ABC marking, but by the time Hotmail had lost the first try I'd already uploaded the images, but all contributions and comments are gratefully received, so thank you Micheal.

M is for Mini-trucks, Part 4 - 2/3 Hybrids and Type 3

The line-up again, the Type 3 is not quite as much of a step smaller than the 2/3's than the picture suggests.

Type 2/3 Hybrid A (may post-date 2/3B)

Type 2 detailing, nearer Type 3 size
Soft polyethylene plastic
Steel axles, black ethylene wheels
No windows
Plug-ins green, smaller cab, narrower body
48mm long

Type 2/3 Hybrid B (may predate 2/3A, seems to have replaced Type 2A)

Type 2 detailing, nearer Type 3 size
Soft polyethylene plastic
Steel axles, black ethylene wheels (same as 2A and 2B, sensible length)
No windows
Marked with small ‘HONG KONG’ across cargo-bed
Plug-ins articulated with ovoid-headed pintle, green with white insert for searchlight
48/9mm long
Set – US ARMY ATTACK FORCE (Woolbro, 1968)

Type 3

Soft polyethylene plastic, loss of detail to rear-bed which is wider than cab
All plastic black ethylene ‘ring’ wheel/axle mouldings
No windows
Marked with circular ‘MADE IN HONG KONG’ across cargo-bed
Smaller vehicle, multi-coloured plug-in bodies and loads, civil only (?)
46mm long
Sets - (probably Christmas Crackers or Gum-ball machines)

M is for Mini-trucks, Part 5 - Types 4A-4E

Another line-up, these are really very similar to look at, the differences being either on the underside, as markings or in the number of grill-bars to the radiators (something I haven't documented as it's a step beyond the level of fartiness I've already taken this to!!

Type 4A

Soft polyethylene plastic
All plastic black ethylene ‘spoked’ wheel/axle mouldings
Windows appear for the first time
Marked with ‘HONGKONG’ (all one word) across cargo-bed and ‘666’ (or inverted 999?)
Smaller still, various coloured bodies, black plug-ins some of which are semi-flat
42mm long

Sets –

Type 4A - sets - continued;

(small, bagged)
ARMY VEHICLES COMBAT SET (larger, carded, 1966)

Type 4B Fire engine ladder-truck and sketch of underside

Type 4B Bell/water-tank fire engine and markings either side of centre-line

Type 4B

Soft polyethylene plastic
All plastic black ethylene ‘spoked’ wheel/axle mouldings (flimsy)
Marked with ‘HONG KONG’ at angle or offset from the centre-line by 90-degrees
Red bodies, silver plug-ins; semi-flat, mould damage to underside
42mm long
Sets – Budget Christmas Crackers (where one of mine came from, approximately 1974)

Type 4C

Soft polyethylene plastic
All plastic black ethylene ‘spoked’ wheel/axle mouldings (crude)
Marked with ‘HONG KONG’ across cargo-bed
Green, black plug-ins, poorly moulded, low sides to cargo-bed
42mm long
Sets –

Type 4D

Soft polyethylene plastic
All plastic black ethylene ‘spoked’ wheel/axle mouldings
Marked with remains of large ‘HONGKONG’ (all one word) across cargo-bed
As 4C but poorer quality, plug-ins unknown
42mm long

Type 4E

Soft polyethylene plastic
All plastic black ethylene ‘ring tyred’ wheel/axles
Marked with neat medium sized ‘HONG KONG’ across cargo-bed
Cleaned-up/redesign, flat underside to cargo bed, various coloured bodies with black plug-ins, new loads include an ambulance cabin and a ‘blunderbuss’!
42mm long

M is for Mini-trucks, Part 6 - Types 5, 6 and 7 (all known)

The final line-up of these little trucks, for which - as if you haven't guessed - I have a real soft-spot for, they were everywhere when I was a kid...and you can still get them!

Type 5

Soft polyethylene plastic
All plastic black ethylene ‘ring tyred’ wheel/axles
Marked with very small sized ‘MADE IN HONGKONG’ across cargo-bed
Quite clean design, smaller still, green plug-ins
40mm long

Type 5/6 Hybrid’s A and B

Windows gone again, Type 4 or 5 detailing, type 6 size
Soft polyethylene plastic bodies (both sub-types)
Steel axles, black ethylene wheels (Hybrid A)
All plastic black styrene wheel/axles (Hybrid B)
Various markings in various positions
Good design, smaller still, bodies similar to Type 2E’s (ABC) and may be smaller version of same makers work (?), black plug-ins
42mm (built-up bodies), 38mm (Jeep) and 37mm (plug-in cargo-bedded vehicles)
Sets –
MOTOR CARS (Hybrid A, with Merit/Manurba/Hausser civil copies)

If you take the bridge off the ferry, it can instantly become a larger-scale vehicle raft, to take your twin PzIV ray-gun across the great grey-green greasy Limpopo!

Type 5/6 Hybrid’s A
and B - sets - continued;
LANDING CRAFT SET/L.S.T 62 (Hybrid B, harbor/river-ferry)

A fuller line-up of military and civilian body-types and plug-ins for the Type 5/6 A's with steel axles from various angles.

The odd thing is that while there is are dedicated 'one-off' box/office/communication shack and tanker bodies in the military series, they made plug-in box and tanker bodies for the civil series?

Type 6A

Soft polyethylene plastic
All plastic black ethylene wheel/axles (similar to Type 2D)
Marked with neat ‘MADE IN HONG KONG’ across cargo-bed
Smaller still, green, black or silver plug-ins
36mm long

Sets – ‘Lucky Bags’ (mid-1980’s-mid-1990’s) and the above gum-ball / capsule / vending machine containers

Type 6B (green - above)

Soft polyethylene plastic
All plastic black ethylene wheel/axles (similar to Type 2D/6A)
No windows
Marked with large neat ‘HONG KONG’ across cargo-bed
Loss of detail from 6A, silver plug-ins
35/36mm long

Type 7 (contemporary, multicoloured - above))

Soft polyethylene plastic
All plastic black ethylene ‘ring’ wheel/axles
No windows
Marked with small uneven ‘HONG KONG’ across cargo-bed
Smallest yet, various colours, civil vehicles only with plug-in body types
28mm long, some 30mm with load-overhang
Sets –
Lucky Bags’ (mid-1980’s-mid-1990’s)
Budget Christmas Crackers (to present)
Gum-ball machines (1980’s)