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.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

F is for Follow-up to French Fellows

Thanks go to Mathias Berthox for several of the images tonight and the identification info, both herein and in the comments section of the previous post. Also thanks due to Steve Vickers who kindly allowed me to photograph a set he had at the Plastic Warrior show in May, which turned-out to be just what we needed to complete the story.

This is to confirm or deny several points raised by This Post concerning the various versions of these French made knights. Mathias will correct me if anything is incorrect!

So, in the upper picture sent by Mathias we have Rene Fisher (RF) figures, these are a hard plastic, probably (like Starlux and others) originally in a phenolic plastic or cellulose acetate, then - later - a polystyrene. Well painted, most figures having at least 5 or 6 colours, with the silver being one, also with quite chunky bases, which are always painted green.

The lower shot - also from Mathias - shows the Jem versions, these are soft ethylene plastic, but still have a decent paint-job with cream bases. Jem also supplied their figures to Norev (then a maker of plastic vehicles in 1:43rd scale) who placed them in diorama boxes called 'History and Traditions', where we learn that Robin Hood had to deal with cactus as well as the Sheriff's men, and that he lived in a Tipi/Tepee!

Later Norev (who were making metal 30/35mm civilians a few years ago) issued figures which have a simplified paint scheme of 3 or 4 colours only; white gloves and details, gold joints to the armour and weapons, flesh (if needed) and one other 'highlight' colour. The upper photograph from Mathias again, the lower example from my own collection.

These seem to have been made in Hong Kong/China, and were either from the same moulds or  reasonable quality copies, plastic forts were also made for the figures to garrison and fight over! The plastic is a denser material probably a Polypropylene.

Two companies then pirated them, Hugonnet and Vilco. It is these lesser quality figures we looked at last time, and with a shot of all mine, now including a couple of the extra poses Sam (of Sams Minis World) sent me, along with a comparison of the copy standard-bearer next to the Norev original. The two lower pictures showing the twin mould release-pin marks that enabled me to separate them out of a load of 'silver knights'!

To the left is the set Steve Vickers let me shoot at Richmond, of note is the fact that this sprue seems to be mostly Lone Star piracies (like the 'King Richard' that seems to have started this little odyssey when I covered Robin Hood two years ago!), but also includes the RF/Jem archers seen above, so we seem to be looking at about 20 (cirtainly 17+) poses from Hugonnet/Vilco, from both the RF and Lone Star stables.

The guy on the right, seemingly a decent attempt at William the First of England, Duke of Normandy, seems too good to be from the above ranges, so I suspect a modern/current brand, but I don;t know who, so any help with this chap would be appreciated. He is in unpainted silver polyethylene and is the last chap from the 'silver knights' load, still to be identified, apart from....

...the chunky chap at the bottom of this picture, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

When I separated these guys out in the last post, it was suggested they were part of the above late sets we now know were Hugonnet/Vilco, and someone correctly pointed-out that they were Dom poses. Well, like an idiot (and working in poor light) I hadn't seen that they are in fact marked on the upper-surface of the bases 'MADE IN WEST GERMANY' and are actually Dom Plastik, and probably nothing to do with the French sets/makes at all!

These have apparently had three main phases, silver originals like the above, some (earlier?) basic paint versions and later recasts in a greyish plastic.

However, also in the 'silver knights' lot was this other chap, early-looking painted ethylene, but bigger that the Dom, although clearly the model for one of the Dom poses. He has the look of some East German plastics to me, he is a quite soft, silver plastic, a bit like Charbens knights, heading toward 60mm, very chunky base and has no discernible mark. Any ideas?

Monday, September 23, 2013

P is for Pictures Added to Puckator' Pirates Post

Pictures now added to the Talk Like a Pirate Day post on Discover Pirates by Puckator (post immediately below this), there were only 5 in the end, but there are several boxes still to be dug-in that might contain the errant chap, so we'll have to see?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

P is for Puckator Pirates in Plaster, Phoohaarrr!

Text to follow; needs to be up before midnight on International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Due to the vagaries of Vodafone, that nearly didn't happen!

Oh Yes!...23.59 hrs. Text after I've made a coffee... 

You will not believe what a performance that was. I remembered it was coming-up to TLAP day (I'm not writing that out a dozen times!) a few weeks ago, in fact I thought I might have missed it as I did last year, then I noticed people were visiting the previous Pirate posts in unusual numbers a few days ago, obviously Googling TLAPD, and getting a return from here.

Made a mental note to get into the attic and see if there was something Pirate-like I could shoot a few pictures of and post today...so far so good. Then totally forgot about it this morning, until I saw M-7's Post this afternoon (nice vinyls), and thought "Oh Bugger!", went over to Facebook (I know - my soul's lost to the legions of the damned!) and reminded everyone there, then spent the rest of the day not going in the attic, thinking "I'll do it this evening", well this evening came round and I couldn't be arsed!

More than not being arsed, I'd realised that I had some stuff on Picasa, I just A) wasn't sure if I'd already posted it, and B) couldn't find it? Searched for pirates [on my own blog!] didn't seem to have posted it (doesn't mean you haven't already thought; "Hold on, two of those look familiar?", though!), then had one of those demi-deja-vous moments when it seemed I'd already thought I'd posted it and looked for it once before....about last autumn - TLAPD.

Box Art

Well, I then found a couple of images I'd taken of the second tranche of these (more below) a couple of months ago, but couldn't find the rest - which I thought I'd taken last autumn, when I must have gone through the rigmarole I'd just been through again?

Eventually I found the older pictures, buried at the bottom of the Picasa file list in all the old, weird and 'hidden' files and other folders Picasa seems to create when your back's turned - I'm such a Luddite! Only to be reminded that I had gone through the whole thing a year ago, and had realised that I'd actually taken the pictures in Brightwalton, about the last thing I photographed there and that only two figures were shot and I intended to shoot the rest when I got the second tranche, which had been mentioned when I saw the purveyor. So I didn't just forget TLAPD last year, it was a fail! Although, also, I WAS elsewhere, doing other things.

So, then cobbled together a third photo from the two new images, decided they were a bit dark, went back and brightened them both, did another collage, and started to upload them with an hour to go, when my dongle started to play-up, much faffing around and five failed up-loads later it was ten-to-midnight on TLAPD with a still-blank sheet of cyber-paper! The rest is centred above!

I now have the coffee, and we'll look at Discover Pirates from Puckator...

  First - Dig-out your Pirate...and bits!

A brilliant idea, poorly executed...we've all seen these dig-for-shite toy/hobby things in stores and/or museum gift-shops I'm sure, and it works very well for resin copies of fossilized sea-shells, post-modern designer-style lumpen chess-pieces, or soft vinyl dinosaurs or aliens, or even polyethylene bits of Egyptological artifact or painted glass marbles with Disney characters on them...but it doesn't work for delicate thin strands of PU resin Pirate!

As a result what you get is several pieces of Pirate! And nowhere in the instructions (a lot of small print on the box) do you get anything, in any language equating to The sword is separate and looks like a twig when it's covered in plaster. So unless you are very careful indeed, you end up with several pieces of unarmed (and un-arm'ed) pirate!

 More bits!

So to get the second one I actually ran the block of plaster under a tap and washed it away slowly, using a soft toothbrush, I still nearly lost the sword and broke an arm...it may even have broken as the plaster set, because I was very careful.

Just to show how easy it is to discard the sword even if you do spot it in the pile of plaster, there are also actual pieces of stick in the plaster!

 Still in pieces...

The reason I only originally did the two was that I wanted to keep some 'mint' and didn't want to wreak them all getting them out, fearing I was a bit of a butter-fingers, I'm not, I just couldn't believe something this incapable of success could be aimed at children!

Then I ran into the purveyor (Peter Evans, thank you Peter) at the Plastic Warrior show two years ago and he said he had some more and would I like them, I said yes, which is why I passed  on posting them last year after going round the houses - "did I post them already, where's the photo's, oh, on the BW dongle", transfer them to the lap-top, loose them in Picasa etc...etc...

 Shed Storage

So I then picked them up at PW this year, sorted what I thought was a complete set of the four I still needed loose examples of. They had in the interim (Peter won't mind me saying...I hope?) got a little the worse for wear, woodlice and slugs had 'had-at' the boxes, so not all of them had their little red ID stickers. I took them back to college with all the tools I thought I'd need to forensically extricate them with the minimum of damage...and set to work...carefully.

I ended-up with a pile of bits, a pile of bits that equated to 2-and-a-half of the figures I needed and an imploded duplicate. So home the following weekend, got all the unmarked or mixed-up box/contents ones and took them all back to college for another session. I think the last one I tried was the missing figure! I say I think, it wasn't that long ago, but it's been such a performance I'm blanking the whole thing from my mind like some nasty childhood experience...probably another reason why I such trouble locating everything this afternoon!

Because I hadn't photographed them after the first attempt and forgot to photograph them after the second, we are still in need of the photograph I would have taken earlier, had I been arsed! Anyway, the upshot is - I think...I THINK I have a set of six, all glued together and looking relatively complete in the attic and I will dig them out and add a decent photograph of them here in the next few days, as my subconscious knew I had too.

 Only Five!

If you see them - Puckator are still doing this Discover stuff on Amazon including a pirate treasure-chest, but not these - they are worth getting, as with some care and effort, they make nice figures, and despite the above I'm grateful for Peter saving them for me and like them a lot, they are very 'Pirates of the Caribbean' in execution, but boy, who thought this was a good idea for kids?

Still to be dug-out
I hope that rope's not cast in resin!

Should you find some; the trick is to slowly rub the ends of the chest away under running water (fast running, you don't want to block the u-bend with cement!) until you find the base...if you find spiky stuff, go to the other end. Once you've found the base, you can A) hold it, and B) work slowly up the figure freeing things a bit at a time, keeping a lookout for the swords (there are three I think, we'll see when I get the other shot up here), and loose sections were there's a break (one chap has a knife or dagger that's easily broken).

T is for Timpolene

Following on from the mosquito post the other day, I have - since we last visited them - managed to get most (possibly all?) the missing figures from the Zang/Zang for Timpo/Timpo slush-cast and lead toy accessory ranges, so thought I'd photograph them while I had the Mosquito out.

The lying mechanic and chauffeur came with the other two mechanics in a large boxed set, more on which below, the standing soldier with helmet is quite badly damaged, well not so much 'badly damaged' as badly repaired! It looks like very old two-part epoxy 'Araldite' which is not worth trying to remove, so I'm still looking for a better version of this chap, and I have seen them in both green (bright like this bloke's red) and khaki helmets, so hopefully one will turn-up soon.

Then this turned-up on Saturday at Sandown Park toy fair, this is from the boxed set, it's not clear whether it's meant to be a tyre-pressure air-pump, chocolate machine or set of scales (and may well have appeared in a railway set as either of the latter?). Made of the same pumice concoction as the figures, you wonder why they went to the bother when you see that it came with 3 different lead petrol pumps?

The set (I saw one on Saturday but couldn't photograph it) has the three cast pumps, this composition cabinet, all three composition mechanics, two chauffeurs (I wonder if one of them might have been replaced with the NY cop - from the previous post linked to above - in some sets?) and four vehicles, all slush-cast with steel-axles and rubber tyres. In the set I saw at the weekend, the chauffeurs were the same dark-green as the cabinet, I'm sure there is a grey one as well.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

News, Views Etc...

So - my announcement a month ago that I'd be posting more came to naught! Hey-ho, such is life. Here's a few bits and bobs to get things going again.

I'm now on Facebook, look for the chap with a drainpipe on his head! Although there are only 3 HW's - I believe!

Horrible Histories (UK only)
I will be getting a review of the latest tranche of releases out soon (days - promise), in the meantime I meant to mention that this months magazine has some nice pencil-toppers on the cover, and the first - of two - coupons inside for a limited edition all-gold figure of the Pirate - Blackbeard, his loose pistol being replaced with a gnarled-looking sword.

Unfortunately the issue is only on sale for another 24/48 hours, although they do still have some in my local supermarket, so if you get out in the next day or two you should be able to find one. Apologies for not bring it to everyone's attention sooner, but no one else has, so better later than never!

Useful Links
A couple of useful toy soldier related links;

Poignant Modelling

Potted History of Prince August

Another Toy Soldier Picture

Friday, September 13, 2013

M is for Miniature Mosquitoes

No, not more insects! I've loads more, but I can bore people on Facebook with them now!

I got a really nice little Mosquito from Mercator Trading the other day, turned out to be Beeju (EVB), so I thought I'd do a little round-up of the sub-scale 'Mozzies' in my collection...

So here they are, from the left we have a composition one from Zang for Timpo, made of compressed pumice in a combination known as 'Timpolene'. Then the Beeju newcomer, a Hong Kong copy of the old MPC 'Minis' 'plane and finally a small polystyrene version which I have tentatively suggested might be early Airfix.

Detail, both accurate and inaccurate make all four very different, yet they all manage to carry-off the distinctive lines of the original, just not when formed-up next to each-other! Scale is I guess from about 1:120 through to about 1:150.

I believe Timpo bought the rights (or remains) of Brent, and not wanting to confuse themselves with a factory full of hollow-casting machinery and equipment, turned over or contracted to Zang, the timpolene production. We've looked at the figures before Here but several aircraft were also made, I've seen an early jet (Whittle?) and a Hurricane as well as this mozzie.

As far as I know, Beeju hadn't been credited with sub-scale aircraft, being know for a range of mostly buses and fire engines, first in a distortable cellulose acetate, then is a more stable polystyrene. This is an early Cellulose-acetate one but mercifully hasn't warped much. It has the most exquisite little propeller plug-in/pop-ons made from the same material. The EVB mark is hidden in the under-wing roundels while MADE IN ENGLAND is present in relief along the bomb-bay.

I don't have the MPC mosquito, although I do have most of them and will cover them here one day, but there are several 'levels' of Hong Kong copies, of which this is from the commonest. Also the latest, being included in various sets when I was young in the late 1960's/70's. It was a smaller range than the original MPC range, or some of the earlier ranges of piracies. This is the lowest grade quality-wise, but carries over the detailing from the MPC version, just in a chunky fashion.

My speculation that this is Airfix, is based on no more than it seems to be the same plastic, in the same colours as the later version Animal Flats, contained in building blocks and baby's rattles. While they could be Tudor*Rose or Kleeware or any one of a dozen other early British makers; the colours (I have a handful of these; Lancaster, Spitfire etc...) particularly the pea-green and pink are identical to both the early cellulose acetate and late styrene Airfix flats, and the marking 'MADE IN ENGLAND' is more Airfix that the other main makes who tended to use circular marks. Still it is only a possibility, not an absolute confirmation.

This is a styrene examplr and it has warped, but due to early removal from the mould, I have a red one with broken wing which is much straighter. I would imaging that they would have been sold as a small handful, possibly in conjunction with a larger beach/bath toy, or as 'party favours' or cake decorations?

The rest are now to be seen here; Airfix Mini Planes

Finally; J. E. Beale - the trading arm of the still extant Beales department store in Bournemouth, UK, commissioned a set which contained both two Timpo/Zang Mosquitoes and some Skybirds figures, being two 'plane guards and an MG-team.