Monday, November 4, 2013

Native Warriors

The Mohawk (properly called the Kanien'kehá:ka), Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca and Tuscarora in the East, and the tribes of Tecumseh's federation in the West, were heavily engaged throughout the War. Native warriors fought on both sides, but primarily for the British. They are essential figures to possess in order to game the Battle of Crysler's Farm, Queenston Heights, the Thames, and numerous smaller conflicts.

By 1812, aboriginal dress had incorporated a lot of European items, so figures from the French and Indian War are not quite right for the period. Crysler's Farm is a good example; during the winter, warriors were likely to be wearing wool coats or capots and stocking caps or head scarves rather than scalplocks and linen. Can you imagine being bare-chested in sub-freezing temperatures with nothing but a loincloth and leggings? (Can you imagine a gamer dressed like that? Now I've gone and lost my appetite!)

Knuckleduster has two packs of warriors; one dressed for summer, and one for winter, plus a pair of high-ranking leaders with large blankets and traditional gustoweh headdresses. Leggings and breechclouts are worn by all, but generally covered by a shirt or coat belted with a sash.

There are numerous excellent Native figures on the market, mostly of the "naked savage" variety which depict traditional summer dress, which is why I only make one figure in that idiom. The remainder of my figures make an attempt to show what they would have looked like in 1812.

Summer dress; only one "naked savage" in this group. Linen shirts and scalplock hairdress for summer. Bare heads were plucked, not shaved (sounds painful), and a small square patch of hair was left in the back of the crown, which was grown long and braided. A decorative "roach" was attached to the hair, composed of dyed porcupine quills, deer hair, and various feathers, creating a very personalized headdress. Mohaws did not have the "Mohawk" hair style we associate with them, and popularized in the movie, "Drums on the Mowhawk." Inspiration for that movie's hairdresser must have come from certain Plains Indian tribes, such as the Pawnee, who had bristling strips of hair on the top of their scalps. 

Cold weather dress; heavier shirts and coats are worn, as well as head scarves that cover their traditional hairstyles. Warpaint is very much in evidence, black and red being the most common colors.
It's difficult to do justice to all their wampum belts and other decorative fabrics. Sashes and belts were finely decorated, some with geometric designs and others with very sophisticated floral patterns woven into the cloth. Even loincloths (breechclouts) sported colorful stripes and geometric designs. As a result, they've been painted to give only an impression of these ornate designs.

 Scalplocks, hair roaches, and warpaint present a fierce appearance. 

For more information, take a look at Stuart Asquith's excellent book on War of 1812 Uniforms, as well as Renee Chartrand's book on the British and Canadian forces.

Forrest Harris

Friday, July 19, 2013


TCL's new blacksmith shop is a tour-de-force; using only their lego-simple laser-cut design system, even I can produce a decent model.
Here are some random snapshots that give you a fair idea how the whole thing goes together:

The rear wall with the forge front, sides, and top layed out in front of it. On the table are the three pieces that constitute the hood over the forge and the assembled anvil.

A chimney plate on the back wall; don't put it on until after the interior forge assembly is completed.
The front, including the parts for the trim, doors, and windows. A with the Dance Hall, the trim must go on in the arrangement picutred; in other words, they can't overlap in a different order.

And that's all there is to it. I had watching it take shape and was impressed by how cleverly it was designed to go together. As always, you can direct your questions to me and I will be glad to help any way I can.

All the best,


TCL has just released this magnificent Dance Hall. It comes with a bar, a bandstand, and tables which can be left in (making it a large saloon with a stage where one might see a can-can burlesque) or taken out (making it an actual dance hall where the musicians occupy the stage and dancers fill the floor).

Kits like these are not too difficult to build, but since they don't come with instructions, one can occasionally get stumped. I've taken these photos to serve as a guide:

Basic assembly; note the new floor texture TCL has added. Be sure the plain side of the walls face inward.

Bandstand; the bottom part has no texture.

Table assembly.

Front with trim; it's very important to arrange the trim strips as shown, as they only work overlapping in one way.

The assembled front.

Basic layout of the bar.
A suggested starting point for assembly.
The supported beneath the counter.
After this step, add shelves.
Voila! I'll have a Johnny Walker Black, neat... On second thought, better make that a double.
So there you go! An Old West dance hall; just add a Knuckleduster piano player, some Knuckleduster can-can girls, the Knuckleduster saloon figure set (do you see a pattern here?) . . .

Till next time,

Monday, July 1, 2013


The uniforms of the War of 1812 are varied and endlessly fascinating. One of the most unusual uniforms was worn by the Kentucky Volunteer Cavalry at the battle of the Thames in 1813.

This cavalry unit, which also included men from the area where the River Raisin massacre took place, was trained to fight mounted or dismounted in the wilderness, and were armed with a rifle, hatchet, and long knife.

During the battle of the Thames, Harrison used them to overrun the British 41st foot deployed in the woods on the American right. He commented that nobody could gallop through wooded terrain like American backwoodsmen, and the result of the charge, one of only two cavalry charges undertaken in the War of 1812, was a complete route of one of Britain's most heavily-engaged and well-regarded regiments in North America.

I finally painted a unit of these figures in their distinctive black hunting shirts with red fringe. Their gear was, in reality, probably black, but I chose buckskin belts to stand out against the black shirts, reasoning that it would not be uncommon to find natural colors of leather in use among troops such as these.

They are armed with the Model 1804 Harper's Ferry Rifle, the official rifled longarm of the US Army during the war. It was a half-stock weapon with no sling. I've thrown in a dragoon pistol, since they were ubiquitous among mounted troops of all types during the Napoleonic era.

"Ok you, hand over that bugle . . ."
  (I really need to glue the flag on one of these days!)

The command figures include a bugler and standard-bearer, and in a separate pack is their leader, Richard Mentor Johnson. I posed this figure to be reminiscent of an illustration depicting his supposed duel with Tecumseh, whose death many credited him after the battle (a fact trotted out when he ran for Congress after the war); after I painted my sample, I learned that his white horse was not the sentimental hyperbole I had supposed, and that he in fact rode a white horse into battle!

Forrest Harris

Monday, March 11, 2013


One day in January, having realized my boyhood dream of being able to create a Napoleonic army out of thin air in an afternoon with a few spins of the centrifugal casting machine, I sat down to figure out what I would need to put on the battle of Crysler's Farm using my Knuckleduster figures. Turns out, I needed a new type of uniform for most of my American troops, and I hadn't yet sculpted it.

Knuckleduster's new 1813 figures painted as a variety of units.
So, as is my wont, I sculpted it! Now I have filled this gap in the product line, and a colorful gap it is.

My American troops at that time all fell into three basic types; 1812, 1814, and various militia. But none of these were quite right for 1813. Turns out, the American army throughout the 1813 campaign season (a third of the war), wore a hybrid of the 1812 and 1814 uniform. On paper, the US Army had an entirely new uniform in 1813; a plain coatee without much of the lace adorning earlier incarnations of the garment, and a durable, smart new leather shako. But as any student of military history can tell you, the dictates from on high do not always translate into changes in the field; at least not right away.

Brown coatees. These troops wear the M1813 shako with
the large, brass shako plate issued the first year this new
headgear was distributed.
The leather shako was delivered very quickly to the front lines, and most units had them in hand for the 1813 campaign season. The coats were another story; the old laced 1812 coatee continued to be worn by a substantial number of units, and because of shortages of blue dye, it was delivered to units in various shades of grey,"drab" (which could theoretically be dyed blue at a later time), brown, and black. According to Chartrand, the Army specified that, "the mixed color coatees and garments were to be cut as prescribed in the February 1812 regulations, with red collars and cuffs, and white lace binding."

Drab coatees, which could be dyed blue if the unit happened to
capture an indigo dye factory somewhere in the Canadian wilderness.

Chartrand put together a listing of what was issued during the winter of 1812-1813. There is no guarantee that these were the uniforms worn at Crysler's (not "Chrysler's") Farm, but it is a decent guess. The units wearing this old coat/new cap (as we know, a shako is a "cap" and a bicorne or tricorne is a "hat") configuration, were as follows (coat color follows listing):

12th US: Drab, red facings
14th: Brown for some, Drab faced with Red for others.
21st: Blue, red facings
16th: Black, red facings

Black coatee (black is surprisingly difficult to photograph
so that it looks like black and not blue or grey!)

The 25th had the old felt shako and a blue coat faced with red (and with minimal lace). I have no information on the 13th or the 9th. Most would have black leather belting, however on the very dark uniforms, I have used white to make them stand out (for shame for shame). Also, apparently some units had black lace instead of white. If you'd like to track down that information, you are welcome to do so!

If you have corrections or additional information, please pass them along.

All the best,
Forrest Harris

Soure: A Most Warlike Appearance, Renee Chartrand, 2011

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Tri-City Laser has created a line of laser-cut wood building kits that are relatively easy to assemble and etched with detail that look fantastic when given the kind of dry-brushed highlighting technique that is in every gamer's basic skillset. I was tasked with creating painted samples of the entire line and photographing them for the sell sheets which make up the line's basic promotional package. That meant finishing a lot of buildings quickly. This experience helped me build the following technique which I have found gives the neatest, cleanest result the most efficiently.

The foundation of this technique is painting the building before it is assembled. By doing so, you don't have do as much fiddly stuff around the details and can more or less slap the paint on. You must be warned that it can cause some swelling in the wood, especially if you use too much paint; but although I've had tight fits at time, I've never had a building that failed to go together.

The building I've chosen to illustrate my technique is the newest release, a small store with a fancy stepped-front. First off, lay out all your unpainted parts and give it a dry test-fitting to make sure you know how everything goes together.

Let's start with the exterior surfaces. The front, sides, back, roof, and floor need a thin coat of dark sepia brown paint. Because I need large quantities for terrain and buildings, I mix this color myself with black and red craft paints (make sure they are a good quality, opaque variety). Use a fairly stiff brush and work the paint into all the cracks and crevices.

Once this coat has dried and the missed spots touched up, it's time for the first dry-brushed layer. I use a medium brown craft paint which is a bit like raw sienna. Michael's craft store sells it by the exciting name "brown."

This will be brushed over all the surfaces which are meant to be plain wood. (Isn't it interesting how wood looks more like wood when you paint it?)

I also do a bit of dry-brushing and dappling on the roof, making a pattern that suggest a sun-baked spot in the middle of the surface.

The next shade for the plain wood portions of the building is a very subtle mustard-yellow-brown; something like yellow ochre. At it's most basic it is a mix of brown and yellow. This is dry-brushed over all the surfaces that got the brown treatment earlier.

Now on to the more colorful parts of the building. Often times, the false front was only part of an Old West building that was painted. I've chosen green with yellow trim, but these are very subtle, muted colors and not GREEN! and YELLOW!

I want the final highlights to give it an olive aspect, so I begin by adding black to olive (you can create olive from black and yellow, just like Napoleon did for his gun carriages) to get a nice dark olive drab. Paint the top half of the front and the back of the front (the part that shows above the roof when viewed from behind). The lower half of the front will get a different treatment.

The lower half of the front and all of the trim pieces will receive a basic coat of yellow ochre, the mustard-brown color mentioned earlier. Notice how I do all the windows very thoroughly with this coat, working it onto every surface of the window sashes, and painting slightly beyond the window frames, but not so far that it will extend beyond the trim piece, which will be glued on later.

This will be followed with a dry-brushing of a lighter version of the same.

The interior of the walls recieve a tan which you can dapple and highlight to your heart's content to simulate a smoke-stained white wall.

Now you're ready for assembly with white glue. You will need to use rubber bands or clamps to hold it together tightly while it dries. You can us superglue, but you may run into problems getting everything lined up before it dries.

Once everything is put together, I look for more highlighting I can do to really make details pop. I add some light tan dust on the wood surfaces in strategic places, and even a little fine dusting on the green front (carefully).

And there it is! I plan on making this into an undertaker's shop; Rigor and Mortis, Undertakers (for you Bugs Bunny fans).

Take a gander at the whole collection at There are painted samples of all the buildings in this collection in the catalog pages of the shopping cart.

Friday, January 25, 2013


US M1813 Shako (missing its lefthand plume)
     In February, 1813, the US Army issued a new shako; one made of leather and featuring a false front, much like the British "Belgic" shako. This durable article became very popular in the Army and quickly supplanted the earlier simple felt design.
     There were two models of this shako issued. The M1813 was the first. Its front was fairly square in appearance, and was sometimes outlined in white paint. It featured a large shako plate, and the crown seems to have varied in height.

 The second model was the M1814. The examples I've seen are more conical in appearance than the M1813, and feature a crown that was considerably more rounded; I honestly don't know if this was a universal change for the 1814 model, or a case of different contractors interpreting the specifications differently, but every M1814 I've seen so far was of the conical type, and every M1813 example I've seen had a front that presented a more flat and square appearance. The 1814 model also featured a smaller and lighter shako plate.

US M1814 Shako
The subject of uniforms of the War of 1812 is very complex. Uniforms changed considerably throughout the war and units didn't always receive new items immediately when they became available. This shako is a good case in point; the 9th, 11th, 21st, 22nd, and 25th infantry, which comprised Scott's brigade, did not receive any supplies in the spring of 1814, except for the infamous grey roundabouts and pantaloons. Scott's bitter rival, General James Wilkinson, diverted all other clothing issues to his own command, which would have included the new 1814 shako. It can be surmised that Scott's command was wearing the 1813 model during the Niagara campaign.

Knuckleduster figures in M1813 shakos.
Chartrand, Rene. A Most Warlike Appearance: Uniforms, Flags and Equipment of the United States in the War of 1812. Ottawa: Service Publications, 2010.