My latest reclamation project was a unit of 18 Cavemen that I purchased from Buck Surdu or Dave Wood back in 1983 or 1984 (not sure who). These were from a line that Minifigs made around 1980 that was quite extensive. Like my other projects, these have been sitting around for quite a long period – 30+ years since I acquired them and 35 years since their manufacture! I thought that it would be interesting to have a large unit of Cavemen armed with Neolithic weapons.
The individual figures did not look very special at first glance. There were three types of cavemen in each package of six. One was armed with a large bone and a shield, a second had a stone dagger and a Neolithic spear, and a third had a shield and a Neolithic spear. There was much less detail than what you would find in later miniatures. I found that there was a lot of flash which I cleaned off, filed down, and saved for future miniature molding. The spears were very soft, and removing the flash felt like I was performing surgery to save the spears. I straightened them out with needle nose pliers. This was also true of the shields. There were 12 shields. I then used dishwashing liquid and a toothbrush to remove oxides and any other residue from everything. Buck had suggested fender washers, so I bought a package of 1” fender washer at Home Depot, which I used as initial bases. These washers were the smallest that Home Depot had, although later on I did find a source for ¾“ fender washers on eBay for future uses. I mounted two figures each on numbered popsicle sticks. Surprisingly, they cleaned up fairly well. I then used Krylon white matte spray paint to prime them.
As you can see above, the rectangular bases really stood out and I was not happy with this. I thought that before I base coated the figures, I needed to address this and my final basing plan. I used simple home vinyl spackle on the washers. By simply putting small amounts of spackle in water and using clay modeling tools I was able to hide the sharp linear edges. I let these dry overnight.
The other issue I had was how they were going to be based. I saw that the spears were soft, so I did not want to see them bent or broken easily. I additionally knew that this unit would fight in a mass formation. In my quest to determine how best to take care of these two issues, I arrived at hexes. I used my Skil scroll saw to cut ⅛” plywood into the shapes for the hex bases. To get the hexes correct, I traced one from my Settlers of Catan game. I then used other 1” fender washers to determine spacing – and ended up with six figures per base.
The painting went well as these figures were obviously mostly unclothed. To get the skin looking swarthy, I used a combination of Raw Umber from Americana and Ryn Flesh from P3. I then used Brown Ink from P3 as a dark shade on all the muscle recesses, darker areas, and where skin touched non-skin areas. I also added definition to the figures’ chest areas and faces. I lightened and highlighted high areas by making the base coat combination with more Ryn Flesh from P3. The cavemen’s hair, loincloths, boots, and stone weapons were painted with Americana Ebony. This was also the color for the eyes and eyebrows. Lastly, I used P3 flesh wash to add even more definition. The shields were painted with a combination of Armory Musket Brown and Armory Leather Brown from 1996. The shield edges were painted with Americana Ebony, and then darkened with Sewer Water wash from Secret Weapons Washes I then affixed the shields with E6000 epoxy and applied a spray varnish with Krylon Matte varnish.
I glued a series of six additional 1” fender washers to each hex base. Sequentially, I then glued each figure to the washer that was affixed to the base. I worked in Polyform Air Dry modeling clay around each figure to hide the washers and to make each base look like a continuous landscape. This required that I glue a few figures, and then work in the clay, and then let the clay cure before moving to more figures being added. This took a few days.
The final base work was done with flocking by Army Painter. I used three different types in random patterns – Ash, Green Grass, and Brown Battlefield. I then used Army Painter Battlefield Rocks painted with Apple Barrel Pewter Gray and Americana Ebony in conjunction with Wilderness Tuft (also Army Painter).
Overall, I am thrilled with how these came out. They were a lot more work than I anticipated, but the bases are solid, heavy, and look great. The figures speak for themselves and I look forward to the first game with them! Basically, I learned that you can do a lot with any figures if you take the time to plan and execute on the details.