Airfix 54mm English Pikeman 1642.

Well, it's been a while since I've had anything to add to my blog, work, family life, Christmas, winter colds and a big birthday have all conspired to get in my way, plus I was working on a model for a friend whom I occasionally produce pieces for, which duty took up a good portion of what free time I had left for my hobby. I return to my own fun time, though, with  a real blast from the past, namely two of the old Airfix Collectors Series figures that were available when I was a kid, an English pikeman and musketeer from the start of the Civil War.

I came across them in a small model shop, which I recently discovered near to where I work. Such shops are a bit of a rarity getting themselves, but it's good to find somewhere you can walk in and just browse idly among the shelves. I was originally going to buy a Miniart Samurai which I'd seen on a previous visit, but when I spotted these along with a bunch of others from the same series, all stuffed into a box, my mind changed instantly. The kits themselves are rather antique, both dating from the 1970s - just look at the age of that packaging - but unfortunately I didn't snap them up for the 75p listed on the packets, though the £5.99 each that I paid was reasonable enough, I thought. I would probably have paid a bit more as I've long wanted to tackle some of the Airfix Collectors Series figures that I never got around to when I was younger and these two have long been at the top of the list. Suffice to say I came out of the shop with a big grin on my face.

The model comes on two sprues of white plastic, which in this case had taken on a rather yellowish tinge, either through age or from the yellow colour of the card backing. Once I started scraping back the seams, though, it was clear that the plastic was still white underneath as can be seen in some of the pictures. Assembling the figure would be relatively easy if I was just going for one of my normal out-of-the-box builds, but I was determined to get the figure looking right, so a little trawl through the net and my reference books at home showed where the problems lay with the kit.

Anyhow, I started the build, assembling the legs and torso easily enough. The head came in three parts which also went together without much trouble and required no filling. I then attempted to attach the tassets or skirt armour to the figure. These have a groove along the upper edge that obviously locates on the bottom edge of the cuirass and there are lugs on the tassets and holes in the tunic skirts to join the them to the figure correctly, but I quickly found that these did not marry the tassets to the cuirass as well as they could, so I cut off the lugs and filled in the holes. When the filler was dry I attached the tassets correctly and left the figure overnight.

The next day I attached the helmet, with added feathers, to the head and glued the whole section into place on the body before moving on to the smaller details and accessories. First I extended the length of the shoulder straps on the breastplate - which were much too short, barely poking out from under that voluminous collar. I did this by adding small cut sections of plastic card which I pierced with a few holes using a bradawl. The figure has a waist belt, a small plastic buckle was supplied with the kit, plus a small sheet of plastic card to make this. I've had dealings with Airfix plastic card in the past and I don't like it, preferring instead to use some of my shop bought plastic sheet, but I also had a problem with the belt itself, which seemed much too wide for a waist belt. Sure enough, Civil War re-enactors wear quite a thin belt around their armour, so I chose to do that. First I cut a thin strip of card, stropped it back and forth around a cocktail stick to get it more pliable, then glued it around the cuirass. In place of the buckle supplied I used a small buckle from some of my Historex leftovers, which I did with all the rest of the belts on the figure.

The instructions have the soldier's sword, knife and a haversack hanging from this belt, but in reality Civil War soldiers seem to have hung these items around the body on separate belts and baldrics. The sword as it came was made to hang down from the belt to a certain height and angle so that the figure could rest his left hand on it in a relaxed fashion, which I liked, but I wanted to hang it on a baldric, so cut and sanded the moulded straps away and replaced them with a belt made from plastic card suspended around the torso. This I finished off with another, bigger Historex buckle.

The dagger I attached to the figure as per the instructions, but one item I could not get to fit was the haversack, which jutted out from the figure with far too much of a gap behind it. I could have packed this gap, but instead I decided to replace it with a more authentic 'snap sack', a simple leather sack, tied at one end, which was suspended by a strap. As the name implies, the soldiers kept their food and a few other personal items in this. This I moulded out of Milliput, shaping it on the figure itself before attaching another strap and buckle around the shoulder and chest. I shall just say here, hooray for big collars! The puritan-style collar may be something of a conceit, but it was a real boon on this figure as it enabled me to secrete the ends of the straps out of sight without needing to make the effort to cut them into fiddly curves so that they would hang around the body correctly. One final item suspended on a strap was a bottle-like canteen. This proved rather difficult to fix directly as the now hardened snap sack got in the way somewhat, but finally I managed to glue it in place.
At the time of posting I've already fixed the figure to its base and am currently painting it up. Hopefully I'll get pictures of the finished product on here in a few days time.

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