Start Again!

I’ve got a stash of quite a few figures and vehicles prepared for painting, so after finishing the latest batch of Franco-Prussian War French infantry, the question was “what to paint next”? I don’t often do work-in-progress posts, but I’ve not posted much lately, so why not!

Since I’d primed and started undercoating them ages ago, I decided to go with some HaT plastic 1:72 WW2 Japanese infantry on bicycles. Since all of my WW2 Japanese infantry were painted and then shaded with a wash I decided that these should be no different. I’d already painted the basic uniform colour, so the next bits to get painted were faces and arms, after which I decided to paint the basic bike (see the picture above – not great pictures I’m afraid, but they’ll do to illustrate the process). After painting two (I’ve got eight to do) I realised that this was going to be time consuming and fiddly, so decided to resort to my normal method for painting figures in this scale!

Since the Japanese wore khaki uniforms and brown leather equipment (and I assumed the bike would be painted in their standard artillery brown shade) I just painted a test figure, bike and all, in a very dark brown (Vallejo German camouflage black-brown) to act as the shading coat to the subsequently applied layers (picture above – the camera flash has made it appear more shiny than it is). Normally I’d have painted the bike’s tyres and the soldier’s rifle in black, but I was feeling lazy and decided that the black-brown would work OK as shading on those bits! The only other colour I added was Vallejo saddle brown to the face and hands, since the black-brown would be too dark a shade for flesh.

So I then just finished the figure off in my usual fashion, applying single layers over the shading (picture above). I did, however, opt to use a darker khaki on this figure compared to the Vallejo Japanese uniform khaki I’d used on the figures originally. The bike’s tyres were painted in black-grey and I thought that overall it didn’t look half bad. The soldier’s slung haversack was painted khaki drill, so this displayed the most obvious contrast between the shade and layer colours, but it’s a small area really and didn’t look out of place (it’s not visible in the photo). This guy’s finished apart from his base being drybrushed.

So, having got that done, I thought I’d try a second figure in the same black-brown shading colour but now with the much brighter, more yellow/green, Japanese uniform khaki as the predominant clothing colour (shown above). I painted his face and hands (I always do them first on any figure) and then painted the lighter uniform colour and . . . it looked OK! This is far as I’ve got with these, but I’m now happy that I can repaint the remaining figures in black-brown and they’ll look fine as far as I’m concerned! And painting guys on bikes is easier than painting cavalry!


    • Thanks Dave! πŸ™‚ There’s less to paint on a bike and I can use standard military colours, so they just happen to work out easier to paint! Unfortunately, after this bunch, I’m not planning on doing any more so it looks like cavalry will have to represent my mobile elements!

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    • Thanks Dave! πŸ™‚ Well it’s obvious that I must have painted the spokes in background colour before I did anything else! πŸ˜‰ I have a feeling some plastic figures come with bikes with solid wheels with spoke patterns moulded on, but I think just the wheel rims look much better! I think in larger scales you can get brass etched spokes for motorbike wheels at least!

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  1. Oh I like the bikes!!!!! Tyres are only ever black in a showroom anyway John. No-one puts back-to-black on bike tyres surely? Maybe if you were a bike ‘anchor’ and belong to the Glascoed Bombers…. Hope you’re keeping well and keeping busy.

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    • Thanks Lord Commander! πŸ™‚ I think models of bike-mounted infantry are available in 20mm/1:72 in both plastic and metal for some of the nations that used them. HaT make WW2 Germans, WW2 Japanese and WW1 Belgians in plastic and SHQ do WW2 Dutch in metal, but there are no doubt others around! I’ll be slowly working my way through this squad!

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          • They started some strange packing ideas one day, I guess. Remembering how HΓ€T always used to pack Officer and Troop sprues in two different kits, I see how they would do this.
            Netherland East Indies, I always forget those micro nations or ex-colonies when I think about ww2, but I heard even the Japanase tanks could beat them… There is this funny story how they beat the Brits and Indians once, considering those things were almost worse than Panzer II and probably not even on par with Panzer III this was an impressive feat, all the more as the Indian/Brits had anti-tank guns in that battle I think , none of their own tanks though but armored vehicles…
            well that’s that, so I can see them riding into battle on their bikes, I mean Germans also had dem Bike squadrons and Krad-Squadrons, though it always amuses me,
            aren’t the Netherlanders also still using Bicycle units even today?

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          • I think the Japanese early war success with tanks was down to their opponents not expecting to come up against them, or having never encountered them before. As you say, Japanese tanks were not impressive and certainly not up to the standard of the Panzer III or even the American M3 light tank (Stuart). I did plan on doing some Dutch/NEI cyclists, but it turns out they were converted to motorised reconnaissance units before the Japanese invasion, so I’m going to get a couple of early jeeps for them!

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  2. I am surprised to see minis for Japanese soldiers on bikes but perhaps I shouldn’t be. I could see them being handy in the jungle terrain and also a way for Japan to save oil as the US embargo hit them quite hard if I’m not mistaken. You did a great job painting these and I think they’re some really unique and charming pieces to have in your collection as well πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks Jeff! πŸ™‚ They certainly are different and the only cyclists I’ve got in all my armies! Whereas bikes could provide some tactical mobility in regions with good roads e.g. Malaya in 1942, and they’re quiet, they also make the riders vulnerable if they’re ambushed, so there are pros and cons to using them!

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      • You’re welcome! I don’t know how soldiers felt about the bikes but I think I’d feel pretty exposed riding one anywhere near enemy territory but I suppose a tank or airplane is much more combustible so maybe that line of thinking is a bit of a wash πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks Azazel! πŸ™‚ There are four different figure variations in the box of HaT figures and one of them looks like he’s pedalling furiously and holding on to extra wide handlebars – this made me think of them more as “BMX Bandits” rather than a mobile infantry squad!

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  3. I do like cyclists sets and I’ve attempted a couple myself. I always think that they’re quite complicated sculpts and it’s really satisfying when they are brought to life in full colour in this way.

    I think I painted my tyres in a light colour on the edges based on photos of the original. I think your off-black colour works perfectly.

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    • Thanks Marvin! πŸ™‚ I didn’t find the test figure too complicated to paint once I reverted to my usual dark shade undercoat method, but they were fiddly to assemble. I always use black-grey for black on figures and vehicles, apart from the recent French tanks I painted where it seemed more appropriate to line the camouflage in black!

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  4. While I started off with HΓ€T as one of my first companies to collect, I always felt their casts weren’t detailled enough for me, which came from their method of casting full body miniatures. In the process they had quite a lot of details obscured.
    But you simply cannot deny their huge catalog of the most obscure minis, which I love them for. I remember their bicycle troops pretty well and you’ve done them a good service looking great. If I remember correctly they were one of the first companies to display painted examples of all their kits with the help of their community, which I always loved them for.
    That said, I’m looking forward to them being finished.
    Will you let them fight the US or rather India, Britain and the Chinese?

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    • I think I’d agree with most of what you’ve said there, but their range of figures is impressive!
      I’ll be aiming to use these in the early Pacific campaigns and can pit them against Chinese, British, US or Netherlands East Indies forces (all of which I already have mostly complete).

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  5. Pretty neat. πŸ™‚ You know, I think they had it pretty rough back when. It is one thing to ride bikes to get places on the battlefield (I can think of a number of times I would have liked a bike when I was out on training maneuvers) but those guys had to get around on bikes with only one gear — the one you get pedaling forward! Ouch!

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