About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 60-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”. Likewise, 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, March 31, 2016

T is for Terrific Trio

A quick look at three vaguely HO-gauge compatible die-cast AFV's today, each from a different company and none of them actually that close to HO...but all useful none-the-less, especially for old-school war gaming where the counters are everything and the need for historical accuracy is minimal!

I'm thinking Kenya, Suez or that 'Heart of Darkness'; the Belgian Congo...

Britains Lilliput Austin Champ utility vehicle with Blue Box German for size, closer to 25mm than HO's nominal 18mm, but still sitting pretty against/with the other two vehicles in this post.

I think I've mentioned before that my mother worked on these when she was in the FANY, they were a bugger to work on apparently; with sealed Rolls Royce units - the theory was fine - taken from tanks - lift out the expired engine and drop a new one in, but it was a lot of faffing about for such a small vehicle, designed to be employed in large numbers, so the concept was flawed and - along with the unit cost - led to its rapid replacement by the lightweight, cheaper and easier to maintain Land Rover, after that vehicle was trialed against the Champ and Austin Gypsy (a Land Rover in looks, but ferrous-metal and prone to rust).

Because they were still bloody good vehicles they were mothballed (for possible use in WW III), in stacked crates at the huge Donnington RAOC depot, where they were mostly destroyed in the big fire back in the mid-1980's, around the time I was in depot training or shortly after I joined battalion I think, so '84/'85? There are one or two in private hands and they are impressive at shows...being closer to a Dodge 'Beep' in classification, than a Jeep or Lannie.

The Benbros Daimler 'Dingo' inaccurately called a Ferret on Planet Diecast, this was the standard lightly armoured Scout-car and recce-vehicle for most of the Second World War and continued in service long after it, particularly in Armoured/RTC formations, where it was replaced by Ferrets over time. I think it was also the favoured steed of Forward Observers and A-echelon (immediately behind the lines) signals guys?

The vehicle is actually slightly larger than HO (although closer to one of the US HO's which can be 1:64th), yet smaller scaled than other Benbros vehicles, but the little blob of a crew figure is barely even HO!

Finally from Kemlows comes this Saracen APC from their 'Sentry Box' range, almost identical to the Lesney/Matchbox one (so smaller than HO), this differs in having a less frangible MG in the turret, and a different construction when viewed from the underside.

Commonly green with a silver-painted convoy-hatch and radiator grill not highlighted on the M'box one, it was also issued all green, and while this one has a blue/yellow formation sign (service corps?), others have a blue/red (artillery) one, and indeed - some were issued with an anachronistic gun and limber...more here: Robert Newson's Sentry Box.

D is for Dragon

Another b'day prezzie...how cool is this? Classic Chinese dragon without wings, but with all the distinctive beard, ear, mane and eyebrow hairs, an additional line of tufts down it's back which are usually just small bumps (on the ceramic versions of these dragons), and a fine tail.

Colours suggest bottles of Quink or Parker's fountain-pen fluid, the same colours were used by the Africans for their soapstone and softwood tourist stuff (along with black and oxblood Kiwi boot-polish), and I'm sure there are - or once were - shelves and shelves of these in some touristy area of Shanghai, Hong Kong or Beijing, but it's the first I've seen.

Difficult to photograph as it's over 18-inches and it really gets its colours from eating Giant Huns or Mongols! Braver men than me...and it's basically made from wetted string! Too cool...Too cool for fucking school; that's how cool!

B is for Birthday Books

Some serious reading over the next few weeks! All five are interesting titles, covering some of the less common gaps between the 'usual' or 'popular' periods.

Paul of the Plastic Warriors blog will tell you I'm no real fan of aircraft, but I've always had a soft-spot for the Liberator (which immediately gives me the mis-lyriced earworm: "I'm a Liberator...a Liberator, I Liberate"), so this treatise on that forgotten corner of the war; the China/Burma/India theatre - is fascinating.

The Italians in WWII always got a poor press when I was a kid, and with the Airfix figures going from dirt-rare to relatively common in the late-1990's (with several different boxings of re-issue), I might be tempted to paint-up a few of mine.

Uniforms of the infamous Protestant-fundimentalist, colonial, terrorist-insurgency (at least they didn't try to blow-up Stonehenge) is a soft-back reprint of one of the old Blandford's and has some lovely illustrations, while the Crimea-1914 tome is B&W but very interesting and covering nations not normally given a word - Serbia, China et al.

While the Tashen has been on my wants list for years. This re-print is missing some of the original 19thC plates and I'd say the captions leave a bit to be desired (and require a looking-glass...but that's the age thing!), but still a rich experience with three wonderful plates on Landsknechts, albeit described as French, they are in the same dress as the German/Italian 'Swiss mercenaries'. Sections on Egypt, Greece and Rome are also lovely, with a lot of medieval stuff and a whole section on the peoples and tribes encountered during the age of discovery (that's 'age of unwarranted expansion' to your modern sensibilities!).

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

F is for French Figures II - Soft Polyethylene Plastics

Strangely - as a plastics collector - I seem to know less about most of these than the most of the figures in the other three posts! But they (the moulds) seem to have had several owners, mostly in that period when 'army men' were falling out of favour, cleared as rack-toys in pocket-money price brackets.

Mostly derivative of; or copies of; or soft-plastic, unpainted mouldings of; other, better known makes, or metal originals, or previously better decorated hard-plastic figures, they rather defy ID'ing from across La Manche!

This was also the post Blogger lost - adding a year to it's edit-shelf life!
Some of these are straight lifts from Starlux, others seem 'based on', and while they have the feel of Cofalux, I don't think they are. As we saw with the medieval figures, this late '60's-1970's French rack-toy ethylene production has both the moulds and the mouldings being handled by several companies/brands - whoever actually held them. I'm told that the sailors are Hugonnet (?), the marching poses being much copied by Hong Kong in the '70's.

Bottom right shot shows the differences between the 'same' pose from the two sets, based on a Starlux French Foreign Legionary, the one to the left is the closer copy, the one on the right has had a head-turn.

Again...Hugonnet have been put in the frame for some of these (top left - but the bases are large enough to point at Aludo?), others are similar to Cofalux, but not so well finished (two main lots) while the little group to the top-right are so poor they could be Hong Kong apart from markings and the fact that again...they are the same poses that keep cropping-up in this late mono-colour production and again...mostly Starlux poses, or Starlux-like, including the pose which gets itself into the Timpo GI's and through them to half-a-dozen minor (and not so minor; Hilco) 'khaki Infantry' makers!

Speaking of Timpo - in all the time this lot have been in Picasa and 'Edit' Sam sent me a bunch which included more of the small lot above and there are several Timpo 1st version 'WWII' poses included with the Aludo-looking pose on the top row. The same shot has an odd figure (top right) from the Hugonnet (?) set below, while the third row are from another origin and includes a scale-down of one of the US Auburn Rubber (Double Fabric Tire Corp.) company's figures - the white one, with a couple of Cofalux copies and a Starlux-a-like. Indeed I think they are additions to the same 'set' as the middle group in the previous collage.

The multicoloured row in the image below that has the same pose but larger along with several others from the Auburn 70mm's (but here around 60mm) in polyethylene, also very poor quality, no better than the worse of Hong Kong's efforts.

The upper shot here are now known (by me) to be Vilco issues of older figures by other people (in this case Cofalu aluminium figures I believe?), these being home-painted, the originals were issued on the runner in header-carded bags and as well as then olive green issues; also came in a variety of metallic colours including silver, gold, blue, mauve, pink &etc.
Below them are five modern production WWI troops by Armies in Plastic (AIP) really nice animated sculpts, I think the blue came first and the dung-brown after, but they ended-up side-by-side in the shop's stock so it's a mute point.
The recent (2009) re-issues of the Mokarex coffee-premium figures by Effigies, are in quite a dense un-glueable ethylene, but useful when you consider the frangibility of the originals and the fact that the packs are often missing, they can always be heat-welded on - of course.

Top left is the odds and ends, a couple of painted ethylene, which seem relatively uncommon and again I don't know who made them but the same names as the medievals are in the frame, just from the base paint! Then the little Airfix copy scaled-up to 45mm from Ri-Toys (Rado) which was also looked at here and a slightly rubbery 50mm from the Spanish Teixido?
The next two shots are of figures I've been told are Hugonnet (?), very much in the dress of the Indochinese or North African campaign's and like many of these figures seeming to reference Starlux sculpts, either because they were all deliberately pirating each other (like the Brits were at the same time with their 'Khaki Infantry' types), or because they were all using the same sculptor?
The final shot is all Marx, from the States, with the marching figure in brown a 1990's re-issue (carried in the Uk by Marksmen) from the 'Soldiers of the World' with the set of 6 WWII figures from the 54mm range, two in the original powder-blue, with re-issues in light and dark grey and a deep bottle-green.

Additions that have come in over the three years or so since I started these posts! Some more Vilco copies of other people's good moulds at the top, a late Cofalux flamethrower operator who looks so thin and weedy he may be a copy by someone else (?) and a later rack toy in electric-apple-puke-neon-dayglo green...Hugonnet again?

While I've been cogitating on these posts for so long, I've got round to stripping the Nazi paint off the supposedly Hugonnet figures, so a later additional picture. I don't know what's happening with the smaller bloke saluting...different make? Deliberate down-scale to make-up cavity numbers in the mould tool? And I'm assuming the glossier colours came after the matt'er olive and olive-drab issues?

F is for French Figures I - Styrene & Cellulose Acetate

Add over another year to the dates below! I'd almost got these ready for publishing when Blogger decided to empty one of the folders and replace it with the contents of the one I was editing a few minutes earlier...I lost hart and sat looking at them for over another year! Anyway; here they all are....finally!


I took the first of the images for these about five years ago, three years ago I had a bigger photo-session and announced they would be forthcoming, two years ago I got round to 'collaging them up' in Picasa - by which time a few more had come in - and announced that they were on the waiting list, uploaded them at the library in Newbury about 14 months ago and apart from adding another collage of latecomers, they've sat in Edit ever since!

I don't now what the problem was...like writer's block or something! Anyway, this and the three posts going-in below (on the blog 'Homepage') are the long-seeped results. It's no more than an overview of what little I know about French soldiers and French manufactured figures of 'combat' or 'khaki Infantry' from the WWII-Modern period.

This post looks at the earlier figures, the second looks at later soft plastic production, the third has some Czech rubber and polypropylene re-issues and the forth is a few Starlux. There are throughout the four as many question-marks than as facts, and input will be appreciated.

Three from Clariet and one from Jim, the more interesting is the separate helmet on the shirt-sleeved pointing chap, mirrored in the production of Minimodels over here. I particularly like the sailor, he goes well with the output of Starlux, but is doing something useful (slotting the enemy) not standing around with a swab or ceremonial axe!

These nearly all need ID'ing, I recognise some old Aluminium poses (and a couple of these are also in soft plastic as Vilco on the next post down), the silver one here is in a styrene polymer. I'd say the dark-blue sailor is from a die-cast or plastic toy vehicle or vessel of some kind.

The forth one along from the left seems to be Cyrnos, but the chap to his left isn't, so they are probably re-paints and the Tirailleur (mid-blue, far left) is definitely a Cyrnos figure

I think the riders are all Starlux (though I'm not 100% sure) but I'm not so happy that the horses are, there's only the two horses and ones missing its tail, so a poor sample, but the riders are lovely.

The pale blue chap is Beffoid, while the officer in the middle of the lower bunch is marked Quiralux, so going on both base-paint and plastic colours, I assume most of the rest are? The last two on the lower row are probably home re-paints; there were a lot in the collection they came from?

These are half-and-half a mystery to me; top middle and right looks like an ex-aluminium figure, so Quiralux or Cofalux?

The centre shot are all Cyrnos sailors, 3 repainted as Nazis by the same guy who ruined the soft plastic chaps in the other post. Stripping paint from hard plastics (especially if they are earlier cellulose-based compounds) is so problematical it's best to leave them.

I think these are all Cyrnos as well (not sure about the baseless MG gunner? He's painted to match the 'possibly' Quiralux above) and a bit chunkier. These are mostly damaged, but still evocative figures with that 1950's charm that can't be faked. I have Sam of Sam's Minis World to thank for some of these too.

F is for French Figures III - Rubber and Polypropylene

These are the ones that aren't Starlux and don't fit on the other two pages! Mostly recent re-issues by a company unknown to me, some quite early...and Czechoslovakian!

So the older figures are both by BATA from Czechoslovakia and are made from a hard-wearing vulcanised rubber, hard wearing because the parent was a shoe manufacturer! They are therefore not French, but the blue ones may have been made for the French market?

The others are a dense plastic I used to automatically label nylon/rayon, but they're probably polypropylene? Looking a bit Qurialux, a bit Starlux they're probably neither!

These are all made from the same material, the two  middle images are all Quiralux poses, but they've lost the swoppet-heads of the originals (who were in a similar plastic...a clue perhaps?) the upper shots are of older poses originally in hard plastic by other makes, so a mould inheritance thing going on?

These were all (along with the upper 3 in red and yellow/green) 1980's/1990's reissues - I think?

F is for French Figures IV - Starlux 54mm

So to the fourth in this overdue set, we've looked at Starlux before on the blog, including some of these figures in comparison with the small-scale ones, and these are the WWII/Modern ones so not much to be said about them! Early figures are a cellulose acetate, by the end they were polystyrene.

The earlier ones with the smaller, ovoid bases tend to be worth a little more than the later chamfered-edge, oblong and lozenge-based ones. In the case of the helmeted troops they are a little smaller than later sets at around the 50-54mm mark, with the younger/newer versions in the 54-60mm bracket.

French Foreign Legion in Kepis and a sailor with two paratroopers. Colour variations in the plastic used are obvious with the para's and a little subtler with the mine-detector.

Base markings can be set in a lozenge, oblong or a cartouche-like thing, they can be randomly repeated over the under-surface in relief like mad wallpaper, double-stamped, multiple-stamped, on top of the base or found on the edge of the base...sometimes there's no marking at all.

Late additions (a while ago now!) from Sam at Sam's Minis, two are broken, but interesting poses which I will one day fix-up with Milliput and re-paint.

Already on the blog (mostly small scale);

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

M is for Mystery Metal Men...and Mechanic!

Here's another one in 'Edit' with no need of much blurb...a bunch of smallish scale metal figures for which any additional information whould be appreciated...

Both appear to be die-cast (or cast-iron) both appear to be civilian or model railway/railroad figures with the one on the left around 40mm and ther other about 45mil. I wonder if either of them are Grey Iron? Did they factory paint? I seem to recall a note somewhere (O'Brien?) that they did?

Copies of copies in the years of the hollow-cast, but not from Britains originals...Hillco or Crescent providing the donars for the rip-off merchant?

Something Japanese about both these, but I suspect at least one might be Chinese Cival war, Boxer Rebellion or Gurka...or even somthing Balkan (the one on the right)?  Maker not known on either, eye'ther! Any clues? Big knife!

Thanks to Adrain at Mercator for letting me shoot these ages ago!

Monday, March 21, 2016

A is for Apaches....Geronimo!

Another one which shouldn't need much blurb, so shouldn't need the use of the abscent spell-check!

Timpo, Apache Indians, although I think one of the horses in technically a US Cavalry horse? You could get the litter as a US Cavalry piece.

Sample of mounted figures, the canoe and the smoke-signal vignette (needed spell-check after all!) which was sold as a boxed mini-scene or also as a packeted item from a shop-display box with a reduced-base fire.

The various componants of the foot figures, I don't think there are any 'rare' colours or colour-combinations here, but then I don't really rate a lot of what happens at that end of the market, they were mass produced in batches, so they will all be out there somewhere!

Anyway...gets them in the tag list and gives me a chance to point out that Plastic Warrior magazine has jsut announced the Michael Maughan has just announced a third addition of his Timpo guide, which is only available from Amazon and will tell you all you need to know about these and their stable-mates.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

P is for Police; Preiser Police

A quick and easy one which won't need a speelchecker! Preiser's plastic police patrolmen! Recent so should still be available out there somewhere...
Forgotten how bad the photograph is, it's better opened in a new tab! Boxes...
....figures - nice...small.
American..New York or LA (mounted?) and SWAT.

Monday, March 7, 2016

News Views etc...German Toy Soldier Show - Herne

Don't forget...it's this coming Sunday...
...all those tables will be loaded to overflowing - with fantastic stuff!