Saturday, December 3, 2011


With all the sculpting I do, I don't have nearly as much time to paint as I would like, but I did manage to scrape together a few hours to paint samples of my third mounted cowboy pack, OW28-203, Curly Bill and Billy the Kid.

Now as we know from our history lessons, Billy the Kid was a tiny man with enormous teeth. He had three arms; one for shooting, one for drinking whisky, and one for in case something happened to the drinking arm. And as we all know, he was a stark raving mad, murderous lunatic. 

But my favorite part of Billy has got to be those teeth; you could pick corn through a picket fence with those incisors. He sports the hat and bulky cardigan featured in the only known photo of him. I've given him a Colt Peacemaker, in step with the times in which he roamed Arizona; cap-and-ball pistols were long gone by that time.

And then there was Bill Broscious, also known as "Curly Bill." He was portrayed vividly and, from what I've read, fairly accurately in the movie "Tombstone." He was charismatic and intelligent, but unpredictable and utterly without any moral sensibility whatsoever. His acts of violence were infused with a dark humor and a penchant for novelty that made them particularly disturbing, like a nineteenth-century version of a camp Batman villain. There is absolutely no evidence to support the red sash the cowboy faction wore in "Tombstone," however cowboys were right dandies at times, and sashes were not out of place, so I have given Curly one of his own.

Don't forget, these figures are made to match dismounted figures in the product line; in this case, figures from OW28-102, Cowboys. Along with OW201 and 202, the entire pack is available mounted.

Forrest Harris

Friday, November 4, 2011


For this project, I've mounted and decorated bases for Jacob Brown, commander-in-chief at Lundy's Lane, and his two Brigade commanders, Scott and Ripley. To indicate rank, I've varied the size of the bases and the number of figures mounted on them. Brown's larger stand and mounted aide signify his status.

I've used illustration board to mount the figures (I only use this material for relatively small bases; a piece large enough for a building or terrain feature would warp when coated with glue). You can identify illustration board by the green back and smooth white front. It's about an eighth of an inch thick. I glue the figures to the base with Superglue. Make sure you do this in a well-ventilated area, and if you hear sitar music, as a friend of mine is fond of saying, come up for air. In the unlikely event that there is a sitar actually in use nearby, your world is much more exciting than mine.

After the glue has dried, spread white glue anywhere you want earth or stone texture to show through the grass. After spreading the glue, dip the base in rough sand and shake off the excess. Put a few more dabs of glue anywhere you want additional terrain elements, such as larger stones, bits of broken fence, or discarded equipment. I have the luxury of having at my disposal loads of parts I use for sculpting, so I've chosen a musket, a knapsack, and a shako. The next few steps require the glue to be thoroughly dry, so you will need something to pass the time. I suggest popping over to for some shopping.

When you've run out of money, check on the progress of your glue. If it has dried, you are ready to undercoat the base. Most of us in this hobby are familiar with sepia undercoating and subsequent drybrushing. I use that method on most terrain items, but for earth, I like to start a bit lighter, because I find the extremely dark shadows distract me from the figures being displayed. So I start with a raw sienna, or other medium to light warm brown.

I paint the fence sepia; it will end up with a weathered wood effect different from earth. I paint the discarded gear black or sepia. I will not fully detail them, but will leave them as dark and dusty forms lying in the grass; a mere suggestion of equipment that does not demand attention from the viewer.

Notice I'm painting the large stones. "Stones are already stone-colored, so why paint them?" you may be asking. Recollect your preschool coloring lessons; cover the whole page in crayon--no white showing. Did Monet say, "why paint that white flower when the canvas is already white?" No he did not. Truth is, when compared to the painted base, a boulder of a different hue would cry out, "I think I'll glue a rock from the driveway riiiight here!" It will look more like a real rock when painted to match the rest of the terrain, permitting the viewer to stay within the fantasy of the wargame world and not be distracted by thinking, "it was clever to use that rock; I must get me one of those."

After the undercoat has dried, I begin dry-brushing. For the earth, I begin with a buckskin color somewhere between raw sienna and yellow ochre . . .

. . . then do a dusting of tan. The shako is being given two shades of grey, the lighter grey suggesting the white of the plume and cords without literally painting them white. The knapsack is getting a bit of grey, and both the gun and knapsack are being dusted with tan.

To make the rocks really pop out, I lightly dry-brush the edges of them with white.

Now we're ready for turf. I paint white glue on the areas where I want grass. I use a couple of old paintbrushes; one of them is fairly small for getting around the feet and other small spaces. Work quickly; the glue will begin to dry around the edges of the base before you want it to.

Dip the gluey base into a tub of turf. I used to use static grass, the good-old green turf matches game mats and manufactured terrain better, and is a lot cheaper. Tap and blow the excess off (without inhaling the turf; avoid explaining frighteningly green sputum to your doctor).

And here's the finished product!

Ready to fight the Bloody British!

Forrest Harris

Monday, October 3, 2011


I haven't been in the habit of posting photos of my greens (or greys in this case). It's more interesting than photos of sausage being made, and hopefully less disgusting!

First, I have a set of dismounted US command for 1812. If you're like me, you use dismounted command figures on the mounted generals' bases to denote rank; for instance, one dismounted figure with a mounted general is a brigade commander, two is a divisional, and two mounted figures on a base is a corps commander.
You may recognize some Osprey illustrations among these:

I have the torsos here for early-war Americans. The roundabouts in the early war would be linen for the summer and not the grey wool of the late war. The full-laced coatee will be represented as well:

Here is one of the last of the mounted cowboys:

And finally, one of three horses for US 1812 cavalry. He's got a light cavalry saddle, one of several styles extant, and a simple saddle blanket used on campaign underneath the saddle instead of the shabraque over the saddle.  The pistols and wool cover will be sculpted as well. I have two others I'm rigging out with all the requisite gear:

I've said for a long time that I'm revamping the 40's. Here's proof!

These are but a few bits and pieces; I'm sculpting lots of guns, heads, hats, and a poseable horse dollie that cries, piddles, and closes his eyes when you lay him down. 

The new 28's should be mastered and ready to go later this month. The 40mm project rolls on, but I fear I won't have any new releases lined up in that range for a couple of months yet.

Now that you've seen how sausage is made, I hope you still want to order some!

All the best,
Forrest Harris
The Sculptor

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

British Infantry in Belgic Shakos

A vexing question that one confronts when researching the Niagara campaign of 1814 is the type of headwear used by various units of the British army (at least according to Rolling Stone magazine . . . what a bunch of hipsters we are). After a considerable number of emails and a lot of trips to obscure Yahoo group bulletin boards, I feel I still have not arrived at a really satisfactory answer, so I will present the arguments and allow you to draw your own conclusions.

(An officer, NCO, and center company men from among my new releases)

The Belgic shako, sometimes called the "Waterloo" shako, was adopted by regulation in 1812, but did not find its way into the hands of infantrymen in the Iberian Peninsular until nearly the end of hostilities, if at all, and is usually associated with the Hundred Days campaign, ending with the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

A British infantryman's cap (shako) was meant to last him two years. If an infantryman was issued a stovepipe shako in 1812, it would not be replaced until 1814 unless the entire unit was re-equipped. It should be a simple matter to examine the written orders in Canadian or British archives to determine which caps were in service. As it turns out, the orders provide very little guidance as the headgear is simply referred-to as "caps", or "felt caps."

Grenadiers (tufts blending in with the white background)

For example, consider this order by the Military Secretary's  Office to the commander of the Upper Canada Militia in January of 1813:

(I found this on a reenactor's bulleting board, quoted from a document entitled Clothing for the Upper Canada Militia 2 January 1813 (C3526 / Vol C1220 / P 83.)

Green Jackets
Red Cuff and Collar,
White Lace
Blue Gunmouth Trousers
Felt Regulation Cap

Is a "Felt Regulation Cap" a stovepipe or Belgic shako? One could suppose the latter, since the order was written in early 1813, and the "regulations" at the time specified Belgic shakos. But were there not vast stores of stovepipe shakos, and did militia units really receive the latest and best? Further documents mention 600 "bucket caps" returned to storage at Kingston after an issue of supplies in 1813. Were they stovepipe shakos returned because they had been replaced by Belgic shakos, or were they the shorter bucket shakos worn by the Caldwell Rangers, replaced by stovepipe shakos still in wide circulation?

Dressing the line; the spontoon still in use by some units.

Arguments, therefore, revolve around speculation about what equipment might have been in stores, assumptions about Horse Guard's attitudes toward equipping provincial units in far-flung quarters, and isolated and obscure eye-witness accounts, many of which are open to interpretation.

The consensus among reenactors, seems to be that regular units of the British Army, even in North America, were equipped with the Belgic shako by the time the Niagara campaign commenced. There remains some debate about the Incorporated Militia regiment so that portraying them in either headgear can find some justification. The remainder of the militia, especially the Sedentary Militia, are presumed to be wearing primarily castoffs and items brought from home, and one might presume this meant stovepipe shakos or round hats.

Ensigns trooping the legendary "Invisible Colours" of 
the "King's Own Mysterious Fusiliers." 
What's a real mystery is where I'm going to find time to paint flags!

If you have additional information about this topic, especially information drawn from primary documents, please post your comments below.

Also, for some lively reading on this and other topics concerning uniforms of the War of 1812, visit the yahoo group,

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


During the Niagara campaign of 1814, the US Left Division included a brigade of militia under the command of General Peter Buell Porter, including troops from New York and Pennsylvania. They acquitted themselves well in both the battle of Chippewa and Lundy's Lane, and to the surprise of a skeptical Winfield Scott, did credit to the American army during the campaign.

In previous campaigns, the militias of Pennsylvania and New York each had various state militia uniform distinctions, however during the 1814 campaign they were equipped by the US government and dressed much like the remainder of the Left Division. The leather shako and short grey roundabout jackets were very much in evidence. In order to portray them on the tabletop, I have chosen to sculpt them with bayonets unfixed and in their scabbards, and with a variety of irregular equipment. Their shakos are not trimmed out to the full extent one would expect of a disciplined regular, and substitute headgear such as straw hats, round hats, and old felt shakos are worn by some of the troops.

The long garment worn by this figure is a work smock, not a long wool coat. These were a very common item in camp and rarely seen on the wargame table. The pattern formed the basis of the rifle frock, which had the addition of fringe and a "cape" (layer of cloth over the shoulders, also with fringes).

Miltia units sometimes painted their unit designations on the shakos rather than wearing a shako plate. They were also quite fond of decorating their knapsacks, canteens, and caps with stars, eagles, and other patriotic designs.

I have yet to sculpt command for these figures. I will be adding some Pennsylvania and New York uniform flourishes to the command packs. For instance, New York militia commanders wore cocked hats and coats with lapels as Napoleonic French.

The new militia packs can be found here at

All for now!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Add caption

Canadian militia attire in the War of 1812 is a confusing subject. In attempting to put together a unit to represent the Lincoln and York Militias at the battle of Lundy's Lane, I turned first to standard wargame references such as Renee Chartrand's excellent Osprey volume on Canadian troops and Stuart Asquith's more recent uniform book. As good as these references are, it wasn't until I had consulted reenactors portraying the Lincoln militia that I felt I could confidently field a wargame unit.

Note: This unit should not be confused with the Incorporated Militia posted on the British left at Lundy's Lane, a unit which more closely resembled British regulars and which will be the subject of a future post.

My first question was whether the Lincoln and York militia men wore uniforms or civilian clothes. It turns out that although they very much wanted to present a uniform appearance, it was very rarely achieved. Throughout the war, red coats with yellow facings, green coats with red or yellow facings, castoffs from the 41st Foot, and the ubiquitous "gunmouth" blue trousers were sporadically issued to the militia. The troops who came the closest to military uniformity were the flank companies, who tended to have uniforms, including lace and possibly wings. These troops served (or were "embodied") for longer tours of duty than the center companies (a term which was not used in the militia), which tended to be sedentary militiamen called away from their farms and businesses only during times of dire emergency. The latter only sometimes had uniforms. If no uniform was available, the sedentary militiaman was instructed to report for battle turned out in a coat made of a dark cloth, and to avoid grey, which was the color frequently used by the Americans.

I next asked what headgear should be worn, and specifically if the Belgic shako was in use at Lundy's Lane. I thought this would be the more difficult question, but it turns out there was broad consensus that all the regular troops and most of the incorporated militia had been issued the Belgic by this time (the incorporated militia was made up of volunteers from the other militia formations and served for longer periods of time). The sedentary militia, however,  had to content themselves with castoffs from the regulars, and if they had any military headgear at all, probably wore stovepipe shakos, even at Lundy's Lane in 1814. The remainder of the men would have turned out in a variety of headgear, including straw hats, civilian round hats, tams, fatigue caps, or wool caps of various sorts. Officers in the militia by 1814 would have been expected to report for duty in red coats with blue facings and scarlet sashes, but many militia commanders still preferred the round hat.

 Some of the sedentary militia 
were instructed to tie white cloth 
to one arm to identify them 
as King's troops.

In portraying the Lincoln and York Militias on the wargame table in the Niagara campaign, a mix of figure types should be used. Here are the figures I will be using to create my 36-man unit (I'm partial to the big battalions!):


I've tried to make these figures compatible with the newer plastic figures, so you could augment these with figures from other manufacturers, or wait for my upcoming releases. More uniformed flank company figures are on the sculpting table right now and will be available soon.

Here is a very helpful discussion from an 1812 reenactors site. It explains how the Upper Canada militia was uniformed throughout the war, and the research all comes from primary documents.

If you are not completely decrepit, don't mind sleeping rough in order to reap the reward of a night singing old songs around a snapping campfire, and have a few bucks left to throw around when you're finished filling your Knuckleduster shopping cart, please consider reenacting the War of 1812.

All the best,
Forrest Harris