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Ptolemaic Phalangite Project: Phase Two


Figure Preparation

 To prepare the figures, a selection of tools would be required.  In the first photo are the ones that get the most work.  From front to rear, a forty-year-old round file, which I use the most; a double-ended round file; a pin vise, with the bit for drilling holes for this project; a forty-year-old pin vise with a finer bit; a set of micro-files, with a couple pulled out on the left; and on the right, a Xuron “track cutter", a flush-cutting pair of shears, good for clipping anything from sprues, as well as bits of sprues from figures:



In the second photo are what I call the Tools of Mass Destruction.  They’re not, really, but they are ones I call on when nothing else will do: from top to bottom, a razor saw, a set of micro-reamers (with the one essential to this project pulled out), and a large X-acto handle with a large #2 blade (quite dull; you’ll see why).



I’ll digress for a moment to talk about the razor saw.  It wasn’t needed for this project, but I’m using it for a related Successors project.  All of the Foundry “World of the Greeks” Successors come with very clunky shields (referred to by the cognoscenti as “bottle caps) cast on.  One of these can be seen on the left of the photo:



Now that’s otherwise not a bad figure.  It was sculpted by Steve Saleh, and would go nicely with the figures he has done for Polemarch if it weren’t for the darned shield.  The razor saw, applied on the plane of the back of the shield, quickly and neatly removes the shield, whence it can be replaced by one of the Polemarch shields, available separately from Gripping Beast.  One of the much neater Polemarch shields is on the ground between the modified Foundry phalangite and his Polemarch machimoi counterpart.  Hey, what the… ?  How’d that other guy sneak into this project?  Get outta here, buddy!  Darned Elymaians…


I started with the back rankers of Jeff’s phalanx, the newer 1st Corps figures.  These needed very little cleanup: they were almost completely free of mold lines, and only needed the bottom of the base cleaned up to remove the tag end of the casting sprue and level the bottom.  This is best done with the dull #2 X-acto.  It scrapes, rather than cuts, and despite the usual advice about a dull knife being unsafe, it’s actually safer in this particular instance.


The newer machimoi have open hands, with “v” shapes to hold the pikes.  They’re going to be a tight fit to put in place after painting, but after checking one, I’m didn’t do any alterations on them.


Their shields were another matter.  1st Corps supplied a flat shield, and Jeff provided some Newline shields to use instead, to better match the older figures in the front ranks.  These weren’t a type of Newline shield I’d seen before; actually there were thirteen of one type, and three of another, with a less prominent rim.  These took a bit of cleaning up: removing the tag ends of sprue with a knife, and then smoothing the rim with files.  At least none of them had chunks missing from the rim where the caster had torn them from the sprue!


A bit of five-minute epoxy to attach the shields to the figures, and they’re ready to go:


The older figures proved to be much more work.  The castings were clean, requiring only a little smoothing o a mold line on the upper edge of the cast-on shields.  But drilling the hands for holes turned out to be a major exercise.  Jeff is probably laughing right now, as he’s already had to deal with this issue with his samples—but only one of each type!


The metal on these figures is hard.  That’s good in one way, as the hands are less likely to “blowout” when drilled.  But it also means that the arms are very hard to bend.  And it’s not possible to drill a hole that aligns properly through both hands.  It’s worse on the “native figure.  His left hand is no problem; you can drill that through in roughly the right direction with no problems.  But his right hand isn’t “solid” all the way through; you can start drilling in the front, between the circled forefinger and thumb, but the bit will come out of the palm, as there’s not enough metal to drill through the fist.  And then, the two hands will not align, as the front of the torso is in the way!


This is where the micro-reamer comes in.  I use it most commonly for enlarging holes a bit, but in a case like this, it can actually muscle the drilled holes of the two hands into alignment (with a little help; the palm of the right hand actually has to be carved open), and it will make a slight groove in the front of the body armor to allow the pike to pass.  It’s easier said than done: this actually takes a few minutes per figure.  But I know of no other tool that will get the job done this efficiently.  Jeff has 13 of these guys; I have 37.  Mine will be delayed for a bit!  They’re going to have to wait until I have some more time to deal with drilling the hands!



The hands of the  figure in the metal helmet align much better.  You can actually drill both hands completely through, and then use the reamer to align them and shape the necessary shallow groove in the torso.  And sometimes, in a few cases, both types can be drilled straight through both hands; it all depends on just how you manage to get the first one started.  In the end, both figures clean up adequately, and the 1st Corps pikes supplied fit, just like Jeff’s samples:



You’ll have noticed that I use empty 35mm film canisters to old the figures for painting, sticking them on with a bit of Blu-tac.  At one time, I used nails.  But I found my hand cramping after holding them for a while.  The larger canister eases this considerably.


Here are all the rear rank (new) figures:



And here is the whole phalanx to be painted; obviously, less Jeff’s two samples and his command figures, which are already painted:



I like using Liquitex gesso for priming.  There are no fumes, no overspray, and you don’t have to worry about the temperature or humidity when you want to prime.  I usually use black.  But to better match Jeff’s sample colors without extra steps, and to make the photos easier to see, I’m going to use grey this time.  Here is the phalanx primed with grey gesso:



One excellent attribute of gesso is that it does not obscure detail.  One irritating, but useful, attribute of gesso is that it shows up every spot where you needed to do a little bit more filing to remove a mold line!  So there’s a step in there that you don’t see: that’s inspecting every primed figure, touching up the needful spots with a file, and retouching up the primer.


It also usually takes some primer touch-up anyway.  Although gesso thins itself out magnificently so as not to obscure detail, as it dries, it sometimes leaves both high spots and deep crevices unprimed.  So another step you don’t see is necessary: inspecting every figure again and touching up any bare spots.  It goes very fast, though.  I did the priming and both extra steps in the time it would have taken to let a spray primer dry to the point that the figures could be safely handled.  It’s still a good idea to let the gesso dry for twenty-four hours, just to be safe.


Next: blocking in colors.


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