Saturday, July 8, 2017

For the pikes must be together...

I bear orders from the captain, get you ready quick and soon
For the pikes must be together at the rising of the moon
OK, different rebellion (but there were so many), but it's apt. I've completed the Border Reivers Irish pikes, a.k.a. The Baldrick Brigade. (Actually some time ago, but I've only got round to blogging about them now.) They were a quick and delightful paint—something which I've found to be generally true of Jim Bowen figures, which is why I love them so much.

These are the first figures I've completed for the 16th c. Irish company for The Pikeman's Lament. All the others I have are cleaned, primed, and have some kind of paint smeared on them, so they're soon to follow.

Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn
I wasn't sure at first how to paint them. After a bit of pondering, I decided to treat the figures' coats as a kind of leather jerkin and went with painting them different variations of leather colors: Vallejo Tanned Leather, Oiled Leather, and Red Leather. The sleeves were an assortment of lighter colors with Howard's Hues Linen predominating. I also used some Vallejo Dark Sand as a saffron-dyed linen color. The Irish in the 16th c. were apparently very big on saffron dye. The Dark Sand is yellow without being too saturated. I'll use it a lot for the kern and gallowglass.

The trousers (or trews maybe) I painted an assortment of browns, tans, reds, grays, greens, grey-blues. I could have painted a sett (tartan) on them, but I'm too lazy and not sure if they would have them anyway. My general rule for painting is that unless I'm very inspired to do so, I don't opt for flashy. Painting one tartan pattern on a pair of pants is a chore; doing it for 12 figures is insanity. Someday I'll paint highlanders, then Katie bar the door.

The nice thing about it is that the above considerations were the majority of the paint work. Bowen sculpts are simple, clean, and free from a lot of the fiddly detail that tends to drive me insane when I'm finishing a batch of figures. The Renegade/Bicorne figures, for example, seem to sprout extra detail as I paint them. I think I'm done and then I notice that some fiddly-bit on a musketeer needs to be detailed, then another... I "finish" those figures several times before I actually finish them.

Once the figures were block-painted, I prepped 'em for dipping with a sprayed-on coat of Rust-Oleum Satin Clear Enamel. It gives it a semi-gloss that allows the Minwax stain to flow and settle better—and prevents rust. The dip itself is the part of the process that still gives me pause. Once you start to dip, you pass the point of no return. If somehow you manage to screw everything up, you don't have a lot of options for fixing it.

Assuming I haven't turned several hours of painting effort into hammered poo, I let the Minwax dry for a minimum of 48 hours before I apply dullcote. What I've found is that after about 8 hours, the dip is dry enough to start basing the figures. An awful lot of time in my painting process is "curing". That's true mostly with the dip and with basing. The basing material I use is good ol' Golden Coarse Pumice Gel medium. That takes at least overnight or all day to dry to the point where I can trim off the excess from when I slopped it on the base. It's best actually after a couple days. Too soon and the gel is still kind of rubbery, but with a sharp X-Acto knife you can trim it off after 8 hours or so without undoing things. It's amazing how long things can take to dry and harden. But by combining the Minwax drying with the gel medium drying, I can cut 24-48 hours out of "curing" time.

I used my now-standard 3-2-1 basing. It seems a little odd for pikemen, whom you expect to be in tight ranks and files, but they look alright on the table. They did actually take part in a game back in March where they arrived as reinforcements to save me from being overrun by Polish hordes

Axe me about what else is completed

Since I started this post some time ago, I've also completed a unit of fearsome, axe-wielding gallowglass.

We will, we will axe you!
These figures required a bit more prep work because they had to be made to hold the two-handed axes cleanly. I spent a bit of time with a drill and little round file to get it all right.

I also completed the command set with a rather natty chieftain, his priests, piper, and a couple kern. These turned out nice, but I dullcoated too soon (maybe?) and got some crinkling in the paint. It's mostly noticeable on the priest's robes.

The Ó Súilleabháin blessed by his priests and serenaded by his piper
I wanted to stick with a yellowish theme on their clothing. All the info I have points to the predominance of saffron-dyed clothing for these guys. Rather than make them all a uniform yellow color, I varied between plain linen color, diluted yellow, and deeper yellow. I used various pictures of 16th c. Irish soldiers as my guide.

The kern, which I'm still working on, will have the same variety of yellowy/strawy/linen-ey colors.

The rest of the colors for the gallowglass kind of fell into place since it was mostly steel with a few accents that I could make up.

I have two more units of gallowglass almost done. I've completed painting/dipping them and am basing them now. I also got some English pikemen—the first of my colonialist oppressor units—wait for another post on those. I also just ordered some Irish shot, Scots red-shanks, and some Irish horse from Timeline.


  1. Hi
    Enjoyed reading this. Are the Jim Bowen figures the ones from Alan Rudd at Timeline/Hoka Hey miniatures?
    I picked a dozen painted up at spares counter at a show two years ago and was very impressed with them. I have been buying more since and have 18 arquebus/caliver men and two mounted with my painter friend at the moment.

    I do a little of my own painting but am busy with an imaginary setting in the NW frontier of India in the 1920's.
    Anyways, thanks for posting. A very enjoyable read.

    1. Yes, Alan Rudd is my dealer. I get my Bowen fix from him. Great service to the US. Every order arrives about 10 days from the time I make it.

  2. Beautiful work David. This is the perfect period for Pikeman's Lament. What figures are the pikemen?

    1. They're "EI17 Irish Kerns with Pikes Up" from Timeline Miniatures/Hoka Hey Border Reivers range ( Timeline also has an Elizabethan range that fills the gaps in the Border Reivers range. The Irish horse and Scots redshanks I have on order are from the Elizabethan range. They also have English demi-lancers, petronnels, musketeers (the Border Reivers range has only calivermen), etc.

  3. Great looking pikemen, David. The statue of them is eerie as they look like they're in modern clothing and holding ancient weapons. BTW, I read that you coat the figures with an enamel spray prior to the Minwax staining. I've never done this but it makes sense about the stain flowing better. That said, I once had issues when I used the stain over an enamel basecoat - it was metallic gold, and the stain started to break up the gold like thinner. Since then, I use the stain over acrylics only. Your method works though!

    1. The statue is a memorial to the rebellion of 1798, so the men are dressed in the civilian fashion of late 18th c. Irish countrymen. The lines quoted are also from a ballad about that rebellion, "The Rising of the Moon."

      I wonder how much bad reaction there is between acryllic and enamel, especially enamel spray.

  4. Wonderful figures and post, congrats!