Heraldry Decals & Design Commissions
This article is extracted from a longer one I originally produced for the Round Table of Bretonnia® website that provides some techniques you can use to modify any plastic or metal miniatures to help make them unique and customised.
See also Guidelines for using decals with Brass Wire Banner Staffs & Blanks following this article.
In addition to my wanting to maintain the medieval appearance of my Bretonnians®, I like to modify my miniatures in small ways to introduce an element of customisation, and thereby make them unique. I accomplish this objective through simple methods, such as replacing the plastic banners and standards with my own home-
I therefore thought it might be helpful to share some of the techniques I use to modify my Bretonnians® to accomplish their customisation. This article covers the technique I use to replace a plastic banner with a home-
Tools and Materials
Replacing banners not only requires patience, a steady hand, and practice, but some tools and materials, plus replacement parts too, to help make the job a little easier. So this section covers the tools and materials I mainly use to assist in the process of modifying my miniatures.
In Figure 2, domestic electrical cable (1) provides a good source of soft, copper wire of various sizes, which can be easily stripped out of the insulation, and then cut into any desired lengths (F in Figure 4) for making banner staffs.
For filling gaps and repairing any damage caused by the removal of unwanted raised detail, two-
Lead, or sometimes aluminium, foil (Figure 3) is used to seal wine bottles that are traditionally stoppered only with cork. This foil is a very versatile and malleable material from which to make banners and standards. The foil can be removed either all in one piece (a), by carefully twisting and sliding it off the top of the bottle, or it can be sliced carefully from top to bottom and then peeled off. An ordinary craft or utility knife, or even a small pair of scissors, can be used to cut the foil. Once the seal has been removed from the wine bottle, slice away the cap from the top (c) to leave either a sleeve or sheet of foil (b) – depending on the method used to remove the foil from the wine bottle. Incidentally, larger sheets of aluminium foil can be obtained by using pie dishes or some types of take-
Whatever type of foil you use, it can be flattened (d) and most of the creases removed by placing the foil onto a firm, flat surface, such as a cutting mat, and then using a firm but gentle and continuous downward pressure, dragging the edge of a steel ruler or the round metal handle of a craft knife across the surface of the foil.
Figure 4 shows a variety of wire types used to make a staff (G) for banners and standards. Paperclips (A), crochet needles (D) and copper wire from domestic electrical cable (F) are all made from soft, malleable wire that can be bent and cut easily with side cutters or GW cutters. Hardened wire, such as brass wire (B), ‘piano’ wire spears (C) and piano wire (E) are all fairly rigid and therefore not easily bent or cut. Hardened wire should only be cut using a pair of pliers or sawn with a hacksaw while the wire is clamped in a bench vise.
Making banners and standards, and replacing the moulded plastic or metal banner and staff
A feature of the 6th edition Bretonnians® I usually replace are the plastic banners that are included with each of the boxed Knights, Men at Arms and Peasant Bowmen units (Figure 5a below). By replacing the plastic banner, I can uniquely customise my Bretonnians and maintain their medieval theme, simply by using a very basic but effective modification, as described below.
The tools I most prefer to use are shown in Figure 1 below. I use a MiniCraft power tool (1a) and a variety of milling bits (2) to remove most of the unwanted raised plastic detail, such as the shields from the horse barding and harness. The variable power control (1b) allows me to remove the detail without melting holes in the plastic, which is what happens if you use a milling bit at too high a speed; believe me I know from personal experience!
As an alternative to the power tool and milling bits, the unwanted raised details can be removed with the craft knife (3) and a variety of blades, which incidentally should be as sharp as possible to help remove the unwanted plastic cleanly and easily. The two blades on the left are called ‘chisel ended’ blades and are probably the most useful for shaving away unwanted plastic details.
I use a variety of needle files (4) to remove any vestiges of the raised details not removed by the milling bits or craft knife. The fine grade Wet & Dry paper (5) is used to remove any scratches left by the needle files on the surface of the plastic.
The pin vises (6) -
The side cutters (8) are used to cut lengths of soft wire, such as copper wire from domestic electrical cable, while the needle-
NB: Never use side cutters to cut hardened wire, because the wire will permanently damage the cutting edges of these tools. Always use a pair of pliers that have hardened cutting edges or, better still, use a hacksaw to cut through brass and ‘piano’ wire.
The ‘duck billed’ or square-
The mini utility knife (11) and steel ruler (12) are used for cutting out banners and standards from lead or aluminium foil. The utility knife is also useful for removing the outer layers of insulation from domestic electrical cable and copper wire when making banner staffs.
Something about the ‘Citadel Hobby Drill’ that may not be known to most people (including the staff of the GW store from where I purchased mine) is that the ‘collet’ – that’s the part that holds the drill bit – is reversible.
The three parts that comprise the GW Hobby Drill are shown in Figure 1a above. The collet has two ends: one that is used to grip very fine drill bits (at the top in the picture), and the other end to hold slightly larger (medium-
If the fine drill bit end is pushed into the body / handle (as shown by the arrow), then the other end of the collet, that is squeezed closed by the chuck as it is screwed in towards the handle, will grip medium sized drill bits. However, for very fine (thin) drill bits, push the medium drill bit end into the body / handle of the Hobby Drill, as shown by the lower arrow in Figure 1a, and then tighten up the chuck.
The materials I generally use when I’m either making banners and standards or modifying my miniatures are shown in Figures 2, 3 and 4 below.
First, using either a pair of side cutters (GW cutters are fine for this) or a sharp craft knife, cut away the plastic banner staff immediately above and below the banner bearer’s hand (Figure 5b above). Next, using either the MiniCraft power tool or a pin vise (the GW Hobby Drill is suitable for this step) and a fine drill bit (Figure 5c), bore a pilot hole through the banner bearer’s hand. Then use a drill bit with the same diameter as the wire (Figure 5d) replacement banner staff to enlarge the hole in the banner bearer’s hand (Figure 5e).
The next step is to make a replacement banner or standard, using lead or aluminium foil, and a staff, using either soft or hardened wire.
Mark out a banner shape onto a flattened sheet of lead or aluminium foil (Figure 5f), using a fine tip marker pen and straight edge, such as a steel ruler. Next, using a sharp craft or utility knife and straight edge, cut out the banner shape (Figure 5g).
To make a suitable staff for a medieval style banner, I use 0.25mm2 copper wire and 0.10mm2, or similar size, brass wire. I cut the copper wire to a length of 6cm, which is about the right length for the main banner staff. As a general rule, the base of the main banner staff should be level with the banner bearer’s foot, whilst allowing sufficient length of banner staff above the bearer’s hand to support the full depth of the chosen banner or standard shape, plus a gap of 5-
For a 3cm-
Now comes the most difficult step, and that is to drill a hole through the copper wire into which the brass wire will be fixed. To make this process a little easier, I use a needle file to make a small groove in the surface of the copper wire (Figure 5h). This groove helps to prevent the tip of the drill bit from slipping off what would otherwise be a curved surface. I hold the copper wire firmly with a pair of square-
Once the hole is successfully drilled (it takes a bit of practice to master this technique), the brass wire cross piece is fitted into the main copper wire banner staff, so that about 1.5mm of the brass wire protrudes beyond (Figure 5j). Either a small drop of superglue or solder can be applied to the joint between the two lengths of wire, to secure them in place. Now fold the foil banner around the wire and apply a small amount of superglue to fix the foil to the staff (Figure 5k). At this stage you can gently bend the foil to make the banner or standard look as though it is fluttering with movement.
Once this step is complete, carefully thread the staff through the hole drilled through the banner bearer’s hand (Figure 5l). Fix the staff in place with a very small drop of superglue. You can now paint the banner bearer, banner and staff, apply any decals and then a finishing coat of varnish. And voila! you have a customized Bretonnian Banner or Battle Standard Bearer, as pictured below.
Incidentally, it should take no more than 20 to 30 minutes to carry out all the steps, I’ve described in this section; that is to:
1. Remove the plastic banner and modify the banner bearer’s hand to take a replacement banner staff made from copper wire.
2. Make a medieval style banner and staff; even adding the Fleur de Lys from the top of the plastic banner to the wire banner staff, as illustrated in Figure 4 (G).
3. Fit the medieval banner and staff into the banner bearer’s hand.