Monday, March 31, 2014

New American Civil War Diorama / Display Base Pt 3 - Carving and Covering

You'll notice I've added a hill in one corner by layering up scraps of Styrofoam. The next step is the worst - carving everything. Carving out the riverbed, shaping the hill, etc. This is messy because the Styrofoam gets all over the place but my method is to carve a little, vacuum a lot, then repeat. I used an old ginsu knife and another cheapie knife to do the carving.

The riverbed sides and hill were covered with lightweight joint compound. I've never used this for making scenery before but in spots where it was applied rather thickly cracks developed. Joint compound is meant to be applied on walls in very thin layers but this is no real biggie as the cracks will be filled in with more compound. This stuff doesn't cover the Styrofoam as well as plaster nor have the same workability but it also doesn't dry rock hard like plaster, a major bonus when trying to 'plant' trees or make changes in your diorama.

Tried my hand at a bomb crater

Everything looks  kind of rough right now

A rough spot of Styrofoam is left in the riverbed where the glue stuck really well. This isn't a drawback but rather something that can be used as a scenic element. It was covered with a thin coat of joint compound.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Americana Souvenirs and Gifts Item#98535 ACW Action Figures Set (Wagons & Soldiers)

Americana Souvenirs and Gifts is an American company based in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania which offers a wide variety of American history based products. They have quite an extensive product line offering everything from flags, to coffee mugs, to collectible figurines, to games, to toys and much much more. For right now though, our interest here at Toys and Stuff will center around their Civil War toys.

I have been trying to photograph Civil War toys for several weeks now, along with building the ACW-themed display base and I'm glad the whole thing got started because it ended up being a collector's wake-up call. After having these sets sit around in The Cave for many a moon, I never realized the disparity of designs and sizes until I finally started breaking into these packages and taking a good look at them. My approach to presenting them here on the blog will be a little scatter-brained - a set from this company, then a set from that company, and so on. But cracking open packages from different sources and then comparing them all has allowed me to see the differences in size, scale, quality, and details. They all have good and bad points to them but overall it is a fine selection of products the like of which we Baby Boomers never saw growing up in the '50s and '60s when we pretty much had Marx, MPC, and Rel for the large toys and Marx and Giant of Hong Kong for the really small stuff.. Enjoy!


As a recap, back on 19, 20, and 21 March, Toys and Stuff featured Magic (Hingfat) set #7524 Blue and Gray Soldiers as our first look at header bag American Civil War soldiers. Compare those figures with what we see in the set featured today, Americana Item#98535 ACW Action Figures Set (Wagons & Soldiers) and you'll see the common ancestry. Today's set features four supply wagons each having a two-horse hitch. There are four each Union and Confederate soldiers included. 

Concept and Realization

The set is actually well conceptualized. Supply wagons were as much a staple and necessity of warfare back then as they are today, except of course that today's 'wagons' are motorized.

Each side required them and so it makes sense to have a grouping of soldiers from both sides. The wagons themselves would make a fine adjunct to an artillery scene using other Americana sets. A Civil War artillery battery consisted of six cannons. Each cannon was attached to a limber having an ammunition chest. This was pulled by six horses. Each battery was supported by a Caisson consisting of two ammunition chests (each chest having its own set of wheels) and a spare wheel. It too was pulled by six horses. Each battery had its own supply wagon, forge wagon, and ambulance.

In profile, the Americana wagon is very close to the ACW supply wagons.


The wagons are too small for a true 54mm diorama. IF anyone out there made 45mm Civil War figures, these would be fine. They are toys of course and can still find use on a display or in wargaming and the tops and hitches are removable for more display options.

So, the conceptualization is fine, however, the realization falls short of the mark. The wheel sets are one-piece castings, two wheels and an axle. Every one of the wheelsets in my bag was warped! For the photos shown here I had to cannibalize the 'best' wheels from the other wagons to make decent enough examples to photograph. Straightening plastic parts can be done by first dipping the part in very warm water, then while holding it the shape you want it to remain in, dip in cold water (I usually put a couple of ice cubes in the water), but this is time consuming.

The horse/hitch combination is just plain terrible. The pegs which fit into holes in the horses sides are all too long. Although you can snip the tips off, I figured the best way is to just drill a hole through the horse allowing the pegs to nearly penetrate both sides. In addition, the horses have pegs on their feet probably meant to be fitted into separate bases not included in this set. The horses also have an odd granular surface to them. And they're small. When placed alongside 54mm figures they look like Shetland ponies!! Because of these flaws the horses keep coming out of their hitches and they never stand upright. Even as a toy this is a 'fail'.

The figures on the other hand are okay. While not the finest sculpts on the market they're actually nice. Their biggest flaw is the abundance of flash, parting lines, and mold pin marks just about everywhere you look. Each side gets four figures in four separate poses. The Union side is molded in a dark blue while the Confederates are in a medium gray. They are kind of a matte/eggshell type finish.

Union figures

Union Flag Bearer

Union: Advancing, Rifle Across Chest

Union: Standing, Firing Rifle

Union: Standing, Rifle at Side

Confederate figures

Confederate Flag Bearer

Confederate: Advancing, Rifle Across Chest

Confederate: Advancing, Rifle at Side

Confederate: Standing, Firing Rifle


Americana figures on the left, original Marx on the right

Americana hitch horse on left, Magic (Hingfat) horse on right

Magic (Hingfat) on left, Americana on right