May 31, 2016

TRENCH RUNNER REVIEW: Steven Lowenthal Takes a Look at AK Interactive's Learning Series no.4 Metallics Vol. 1 Book

There are few things that fill a modeler with consternation like executing a metallic finish.  Some won’t even attempt them. Which is a shame because some subjects almost demand them. Many late war WWII aircraft for instance.  However, some of the trepidation is understandable.  As if the meticulous prep work wasn’t tough enough, the available products can be messy, smelly and difficult to work with. Metallic finishes are fragile. They can be damaged through handling, weathering and decaling.


Coinciding with the release of their Xtreme Metal metallic paint line, AK Interactive has released METALLICS Vol.1, the fourth book in their Learning Series line. The book’s intention is to take the mystery out of using metallics and educate the modeler on how to achieve a realistic finish on different surfaces with the currently available products.

The book is serious about educating the modeler. It begins with a quick discussion on basic Color Theory, Light Diffusion regarding both regular and metallic paints and even touches on how metal rusts. I found the information interesting and a good, albeit, very basic explanation on how matellics work. This section is only four pages long so it is by no means a focus of the book. 
While AK Interactive produces the book, it is not an advertisement for their products disguised as an instructional on the subject. The next chapter presents the currently available products. The paints, pastes, inks, pencils and foils from numerous manufacturers. Next is a Top 10 list of the most popular metals for modelers. How they weather and discolor in real life. With recommendations on how the modeler can replicate this process. Both in the description and with images. One of the best pieces of information is the next section that compares the top brands of the color Aluminum. Comparing them over several criteria and images. This will certainly help with your decision when picking a brand to work with.
OK. We’ve been given the science behind metallics, briefed on the current market, and given the hows and whys on what we are trying to accomplish. With Chapter 4 we are ready to get into the meat of the book. How to apply and obtain the best possible finish from the different materials out there. The following sections are presented by the individual product. Waxes, pigments, paints and so on. Each gives a step by step walkthrough of many techniques, all with high quality photographs.  Extra attention has been paid to the photography as the subtlety of the images tones, shades and weathering show up rather well. The subjects used for demonstration are diverse. Tanks, aircraft, engines, sci-fi and more. Frequently, books from the Spanish manufacturers have grammatical issues that can be challenging at times. I think AK must be addressing the issue as any syntax problems are few and not unintelligible when they do occur. 
Chapter 4.1.1 illustrates using AK’s True Metal Gun Metal wax to paint a German MP40. Since I am currently painting Knight Models’ 72mm Punisher, I decided to give their method a try on his guns and see if I could get a similar result to the book. Since the figure’s gun is smaller than the one in the book, I choose to use a brush to apply the True Earth Gun Metal instead of a Q-Tip as suggested. It comes out of the tube with a consistency like toothpaste. Too thick to apply directly, so I thinned it with some AK White Spirit. Just a dab of thinner was enough. It then flowed smoothly and had excellent coverage properties. However, clean up took more than other “paints”. It needed a lot of repeat cleaning to get those tiny metallic bits off the brush. If you don’t already do it, I’d recommend separate brushes for metallics. After about a 30 minute dry, I continued with the next step and applied a mix of acrylic Shiny Black and Brown Filter (thinned brown wash in my case). It had to go on thick to stay in the small crevices but otherwise it went on easily. Once dry, I gave it a rub down with a Q-Tip and then finished it off with a polish of Dark Steel pigment as the book mentions. Once completed, I was pleased with the results and it resembled what was shown in the book. Overall I would say the methodology used was easy to follow. Someone unfamiliar with the technique should be able to reproduce it. 
AK Interactive has built its reputation on quality modeling products. It’s book line included. I have purchased a number of them and have leaned many new techniques and drew inspiration from their dynamic  photography. This book is no different. I learned a few new ways to reproduce a realistic metal finishes that I haven’t tried before but now plan on using on future builds. Where the book truly excels is as a primer on the subject. Providing enough basic information, and hopefully the confidence, to get the results you are looking for. 
As the title suggests, this isn’t the last word on the subject either, as there is a follow up coming soon, Metallics Vol.2. Where they look at metallics on historical and fantasy figures.  My only question is; How long do I have to wait, AK?
Steven Lowenthal

View to Order in our web store HERE
Read Steve's Review of Volume 2 HERE

Links, Web Gems & A Somewhat Daily Dose of Useless Tidbits for May 31th, 2016

Have you seen JoshiBlob?
Nothing  warms a heart like a youngster who embraces our hobbies. Ours is as they say "a graying hobby". Not enough kids getting into the hobby anymore. Then along comes Joshua Bennett who has started a You Tube he bills as "Straight to the point no nonsense model kit tutorials, reviews and builds, other hobbies include art, cycling and baking" And that it is! This kid is fantastic and tackles modeling building like a seasoned pro. One can only hope he inspires others of his generation with his enthusiastic and expertly edited videos. View his You Tube channel HEREBe sure to subscribe and become a blobling today!!

here is JoshiBlob in his own words...

Hello, my name is Joshua Bennett, but most people know me as JoshiBlob. That’s because I have a YouTube channel called JoshiBlob where I make models. My channel is growing rapidly. I started modeling about six months ago, when I was 15. My granddad got me into modeling. He is a huge inspiration to me. He used to work with planes in hangars and on the lights on racetracks. I love listening to his war stories about all the planes he has flown in and worked on. He has since miraculously survived cancer, and I truly admire him for his bravery. If any of you modelers have an interest, you can check out my YouTube channel by searching for JoshiBlob. I hope we can all learn together.
– Joshua Bennett Wigan, Greater Manchester, England

Links & Web Gems:

Figure Painter Magazine # 37

Now Available for Download
...Check out the great tutorial " Making a Figure from Concept to Boxart" by Ian Succamore and the fascinating Insight Interview with Illustrater and miniature painter Gabriele Delg'otto.

From the publisher-
Welcome to Figure Painter Magazine issue 37.
We have a very packed issue for you this month with tutorials and reviews that will suit everyone’s tastes. Things like The Little Captain by Joan Carles Ros Magán. Making a Figure from Concept to Boxart with Ian Succamore. Marko Paunovic starts his new Post-Apocalyptic Diorama series and Fernando Ruiz starts his two part tutorial on FeR’s new Norman Knight & Saxon Housecarl. We have reviews of FeR’s major Tom, Nuts Planets Sapper and Pedro Fernández Works’ Redemption, plus many more. We also have a couple of fantastic interviews like the Inspirational with Kaha ’aka' Katarzyna Górska, but to get us all started we have something pretty spectacular and Insight Interview with the world famous comic artist and miniature concept designer Gabriele Dell’Otto.
Bats by Gabriele Dell’Otto
From Us-
STILL THE BEST DEAL ON THE WEB! FPM is available as a downloaded PDF for less then $2.00 a copy.  FPM is a independent magazine dedicated to sculpting, painting, displaying, collecting and gaming with miniature figures from all genre's. The magazine has details on new releases, reviews, interviews with the industries top painters and sculptors, show reports, tutorials!

Links & Web Gems

It's Toy Soldier Tuesdays over on our Google+ page where we take a look at the fantastic French & Indian War dioramas by the Playlet Addict. View HERE

MTSC FIGURE OF THE WEEK #119: Lafredo Mohawk

This beautiful plastic figure comes from Lafredo of Madrid Spain. Lafredo was one of the big Spanish manufactures with a penchant for the old west. The company produced plastic figures in various scale from 60mm to 160mm from 1952 until 1977. This 120mm woodland indian is from the series produced from 1961-1964 in various sizes including 70mm, 80mm, 120mm, 130mm and 160mm. Lafredo was sold in Germany exclusively by Hausser Elastolin and Cherilea did the same for the company in England. These are highlight by their outstanding sculpting given the limitations of 2-D injection molded plastic figures. The bases include skulls, cats, branches and other scenic tidbits.

To learn more about Lafredo and other plastic toy soldiers from Spain check out what is arguably the best book ever produced on toy soldiers...

Andrea Press
Plastic Toy Figures Made in Spain, 1948-1978
By Juan Hermida (ref. AP-047 )
View to purchase HERE
Lafredo Cowboys & Indians 1961-1964 from the above book
Click all images to enlarge


May 30, 2016

MTSC PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: Open Fire! Flames Of War Tabletop Miniatures Wargame

Flames of War is arguably the most popular historical wargame on the market today. Flames of War is a World War II tabletop miniatures wargame produced by the New Zealand company Battlefront Miniatures Ltd. The 1st Edition set of rules was published in 2002.

Flames of War allows players to wargame company level battles from the European and North African Theatres of World War Two, using 1/100 scale miniatures (15 mm figure scale) and miniature armor. The 2nd Edition of the rulebook was published in 2006. The 3rd and current edition of the rules was released on March 10, 2012.

Open Fire! has been carefully designed for someone who has never heard of Flames Of War before, or has seen the 256 page rulebook and not known where to start. Open Fire is not a simplified set of the Flames Of War rules, but rather a complete introductory box for a new player! Open Fire is your ticket into World War II wargaming.  It’s got everything you need to discover many aspects of this exciting hobby, from assembling and painting miniatures to playing games on the table top.

The Box Contains:
• 36 Page Full Color Open Fire Rule Book
  The Open Fire Rulebook is designed to be learned quickly and get you playing in no time. They are informative, with helpful picture diagrams to walk you through the steps of the game. Over time you can choose to stick with the Open Fire Rulebook, or choose to take a field promotion and move on to the Flames Of War rules.
• 40 Page Full Color Forces book with German, British, American and Soviet Army Lists
  The Forces Book gives you the information you need to assemble an army. There is a lot to explore with Open Fire Four major nations are represented and each offers their own unique equipment and styles of play. After you choose a nation, easy-to-use company diagram show you how to choose and add platoons to your force with. Platoon diagrams that tell 
• 11 Finely Detailed tanks, including three StuG G assault guns, six Sherman V tanks, and two Firefly tanks.
• 2 Grenadier platoons, one PaK40 platoon, and one US Paratrooper platoon, for a total of 105 infantry figures and 2 guns.
• 1 V1 Flying Bomb Terrain Piece
• Cardboard Terrain
• Game Tokens and Objective Markers
• Open Fire Army Quick Reference Sheets
• 20 Dice
• Measuring Stick

From the manufacture:

Over eighteen months ago we decided that we wanted the third edition to be a new milestone for the game, not just a more graphical and polished set of rules. We wanted to create the ultimate starter set for Flames Of War. With this lofty goal in mind, and the new technology of plastics to learn, we started down the path to Open Fire! 

We ended up using three differing methods of plastic manufacturing (zinc casting, pantography and digital design) to produce the two complete forces in the box. These two forces give you a British armoured squadron with support from some fearless US paratroopers to deal with the German grenadier company defending their V1 launcher (yes that is in the box as well) with the aid of a StuG platoon and some anti-tank guns. As well as the plastics, the box comes with a quick-start booklet, terrain, tokens, dice and a complete 296 page copy of the rules for you to dive into after you have played a few games.

Available to order on our website by clicking HERE


May 29, 2016

Memorial Day 2016

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.”

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow, this ground – The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.

It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. 
Abraham Lincoln.

May 28, 2016

Memorial Day 2016 “In Flanders Fields”

Inspiration for “In Flanders Fields”
During the early days of the Second Battle of Ypres a young Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed on 2nd May, 1915 in the gun positions near Ypres. An exploding German artillery shell landed near him. He was serving in the same Canadian artillery unit as a friend of his, the Canadian military doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae.

As the brigade doctor, John McCrae was asked to conduct the burial service for Alexis because the chaplain had been called away somewhere else on duty that evening. It is believed that later that evening, after the burial, John began the draft for his now famous poem “In Flanders Fields”. Read the complete article HERE

Inscription of the complete poem in a bronze "book" at the John McCrae memorial
at his birthplace in Guelph, Ontario

The Story Behind the Remembrance Poppy
From its association with poppies flowering in the spring of 1915 on the battlefields of Belgium, France and Gallipoli this vivid red flower has become synonymous with great loss of life in war. Yet the scope of the poppy and its connection with the memory of those who have died in war has been expanded to help the living too. It was the inspiration and dedication of two women who promoted this same “Memorial Flower” as the means by which funds could be raised to support those in need of help, most especially servicemen and civilians suffering from physical and mental hardship as a result of war.

The origin of the red Flanders poppy as a modern-day symbol of Remembrance was the inspiration of an American woman, Miss Moina Michael. Read the complete article HERE

May 24, 2016

Links, Web Gems & A Somewhat Daily Dose of Useless Tidbits for May 24th, 2016

It's time for another Toy Soldier Tuesdays over on our Google+ page

Rubén "HeresyBrush" Torregrossa has a fast & fantastic S-B-S on his blog featuring vignette he did for Wargames: Soldiers & Strategy magazine for their special Salute issue. It's a  28mm scene featuring Norman knights from Conquest Games. You will find more information in the WS&S 84 issue. Although this post it is quiet simple, I think that it is very interesting to see this talented modeler at work. You find a wealth of awe inspiring work on Rueben's blog HERE

Mel, The Terrain Tutor, is on a mission – a life long wargamer with a passion for making terrain, he’s using YouTube to share his passion and to see better terrain and gaming boards! He latest is the Bolt Action D-Day Board.

from his You Tube description...
I'm Mel, The Terrain Tutor and I want to help you build better battlefields, no matter what game you play. I'll be posting various videos and projects ranging from quick tips to make terrain building easier to back to basics videos covering all the important tools, materials and techniques used in scenery building. I'll also be posting terrain projects, product reviews and much more.

How It's Made
The Canadian made program 'How It's Made', just featured a really cool segment on Perry Miniatures and show how they create and sculpt figures and how both spin cast metal figures and injection molded plastic figures are manufactured. Well worth watching!! 
The following link will lead you to the listings

May 20, 2016

The Hunt- Woodland Indians Diorama by Arley Mitchell

The Hunt
by Arley Mitchell
This 1/72nd scale diorama features Woodland Indians on the hunt during the French & Indian War period. The figures are resin plastic by Nikolai. The trees were made using the Scenic Factory tree system. The plants are laser cut paper by Frederius Rex. Woodland Scenics turf, lichen and moss was used for the forest floor. The river was made using Magic Water. The rocks are plaster, made using Woodland Scenic rock molds. The figure were painted using Vallejo Model Color and the washes and wearthering were done using various AK Interactive products.

May 19, 2016

"I'M SAYIN' WHAT?" Contest #12 Winner + This week's teaser for "I 'M SAYIN' WHAT?" #13

"I'm Sayin' What?" #12 WINNER
It's Thursday so...we have a winner for last weeks “I’m Saying What” contest. Parker Carr has snagged one of the most coveted prizes on earth...which is of course is a $25.00 Gift Card from Michigan Toy Soldier.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - 
"I'm Sayin' What?" #13 Teaser

Here's our image for this weeks contest. All you have to do is come up with the wittiest quote for the word bubble and you will win a $25.00 gift card from Michigan Toy Soldier Company. Just think... you get free stuff and you get show off your comedic charms that will fly around the world via  ‘Over The Top’ ‘News From The Front’ Google+ & Facebook pages. We will post the winning entry right here next Thursday.

Email your entries to:
FYI- Have a cool image you'd like to get captioned? Send it to us at and we will give you $25.00 gift card for any images used.

May 18, 2016

MTSC FIGURE OF THE WEEK #118: Woodland Indian Hurdling Wooden Fence by W Britain

For the next month or so we are following a French & Indian Wars theme here in the shop so what better way to kick off F&I month but with this beautiful Woodland Indian figure from the W Britain Company as our FOTW. Titled The Raid #1 - Eastern Woodland Indian Hurdling Wooden Fence and carrying the product ref. no 16017 this is part of the Clash of Empires range. This unique figure captures the motion  of hurdling a fence in 1/30th scale pewter like no other company can.

Have a look at our post

MTSC PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: Clash of Empires from W. Britain

Joseph Svec's Plastic Fun With Dioramas - The Marx Alamo

While medieval knights are my favorite subject for dioramas, I feel I must start with a 54mm Alamo playset based diorama. I do specify 54mm for a reason. Those are the size Alamo figures that I played with as a child, and when my son was a child. Yes, the 54+mm Conte Alamo is excellent, with great detail and outstanding poses, but it is a larger, more husky 54mm figure. The true Marx style 54mm figures evoke the feelings and memories of the MARX Sears Heritage Alamo that my son and I played with together, and the Marx Alamo that I had as a child. Those are the figures that evoke a nostalgic feeling of the past, so that is where I will begin.

The Marx tin litho Alamo fort was a simple rectangle with a main gate in the front, and a chapel building in the back. It was only 24" x 18", with about sixty figures. Even the two Sears Heritage Alamos combined into one fort only produced a slightly larger fort and right around one hundred figures. It was great fun, but it was calling loudly for more figures and a larger Alamo fort.

My son and I attempted to remedy that by adding Airfix 54mm WWII Desert Outpost and Strong Point buildings to our double Sears Heritage set, and adding some stiff plastic reissue Marx Alamo Mexicans in grey and cream from Heritage Toy Figures. It worked well, but we still wanted to add more.

When CTS started releasing new 54mm Alamo figures in the same sculpting style and size as the original Marx figures, they did a great job. At last one could start increasing the size of their Alamo diorama. CTS, along with Airfix, and Call to Arms 54mm Napolionics did wonders to increase pose selection. Of course the very reasonably priced BMC Alamo playset and figures also helped immensely.

But there was still the issue of the Alamo fort itself. Once again, CTS addressed that with their Legend of the Alamo playset that offered a greatly enlarged and more accurate Alamo fort, that was still in tin litho, just like the ones we had as kids. Amazing! Now with a much bigger fort and a whole lot more figures we can really have some fun. 

For 54mm enthusiasts, a ping pong table, a large bucket of sand, and a bag of lichen are the foundation of quick and simple dioramas. The standard 5'x9' ping pong table is the perfect size, in that it is large enough to create a really big diorama, but one can still reach any point on the table. And it is forest green which is the perfect color for most ground types. For roads, beaches, and desert terrain, this is where the bucket of sand comes in. It is perfect to add a realistic base to most any diorama. The lichen is used to create bushes, shrubs, trees and adds a higher level of realism.

While the CTS tin litho Alamo fort was bigger, combining it with a reissue Marx Alamo chapel building and wall makes it bigger still, so that is what I have done.

In addition to reissue Marx Mexicans and  Boonesborough Pioneers; as well as CTS and BMC Mexicans and Texans, there are a number of other 54mm figures that will work well in an Alamo diorama. I have added Napoleonic figures from Barzso, Call to Arms, Dulcop, and Heritage Toy Figures, for Mexican troops, as well as Timpo ACW figures in red brown, and Reissue Marx miners, trappers and cowboys, for Texans. The result is a grand Alamo diorama that features over 1,000 figures. My younger self is totally pleased, and satisfied.

Here is a picture before adding the sand. Click to enlarge
Here are pictures with sand and lichen added. You can see the difference some sand and lichen make to add realism without a great deal of effort. One can also see a Pegasus river, Barzso tents, Awesome kids ACW fences, BMC cannons & mortars and other add-ons. That is what makes large dioramas such fun. You get great detail and enjoyment, all in just a day. I hope you enjoyed it as well.

Here is the left side you can see the reissue Marx chapel
building and wall with wooden doors.
 Click to enlarge

CTS Mexican cavalry in red, and reissue Marx round hat cavalry in blue,
crossing Pegasus river. 
Click to enlarge
Along the bottom, from left to right, reissue Marx Mexicans in cream, metallic blue,
silver, and medium blue, with a group of CTS Mexicans in cream. 
Click to enlarge
Here is the left side you can see the reissue Marx chapel
building and wall with wooden doors. Click to enlarge
Overview of Alamo court yard. BMC Mexicans line the upper edge of the photo. Click to enlarge.