Britains LTD repair project: Prelude

After an Ebay deal, I found myself with a box of Britains mounted and foot toy soldiers of various conditions. I’m not proficient enough to know exactly what I’ve got, but one figure that looks like a British Life Guards cavalryman has a mount that’s missing its right left lower leg.

I wanted to modify the figure as little as possible, but it doesn’t even stand as it is and a missing leg is a pretty major defect. I decided on a wire glued into the stump with a remade leg of greenstuff. With the other legs intact, it was easy to get the shape and length correct.

I then painted it with oil-based black and varnished only the portion I’d reconstructed. The principal is taken from historical architectural restoration – if you add or modify something you want to make it obvious what’s original and what’s not. Here the restored leg is clearly in better shape than the rest of the figure but doesn’t stand out too badly.

From a little bit of research, I believe this figure was made before World War II based on the painted reins. To save money, the company ditched this detail after returning to toy production in 1948. There was further damage to the figure – signs of the weakness of a hollow casting by the crack on the front saddle seen below – but I didn’t see a reason to mess with it. A new leg is all the repair this fellow gets.

So, what’s this a prelude to? There’s another Ebay shipment headed my way with 19 cavalry figures in rough shape. Very rough shape – no legs, missing heads, horrific stuff.

I’ve found a few resources, though. Most encouraging is a company, London Bridge Collector’s Toys, that sells spare parts for Britains figures, including horse legs. I’d considered casting my own but this is much easier, and saves my mold putty for other things. They’ve even got painting tips for correct Humbrol colors. Check them out here.

In case of lead rot, or maybe as a preventative measure, George R. R. Martin (surprise, surprise, he’s a toy soldier nerd) has an excellent article on a mixture that’ll take care of that bane of old figures, as long as you’ve caught it early enough. That’s here.

Next up is a collector’s guide to Britains toy soldiers to figure out what I’ve got and what it’s supposed to look like. I haven’t been able to find very much online that’s comprehensive – if you know of anything drop me a line!

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