Start to Finish: Perry Miniatures’ French Dragoons (pt. 1)

As the guys at Brush and Boltgun know, I’m not the guy to show you how to paint display standard models. I don’t have the patience, skill or ability to see colours enough to sit there and meticulously layer a model to look like it’s about to get off the table and stab you with its tiny sword.

What I’m best showing you is how to get large numbers of models on the table quickly. For that reason, this article is a whistle stop tour through the gorgeous Perry Miniatures’ French Dragoon set, from sprue to tabletop.

To follow this guide you will need:

  • Plastic cutters/clippers
  • Hobby knife
  • Modelling files
  • Polystyrene cement
  • Wood filler
  • Clay Shapers
  • Sand/basing material
  • Box of Perry Miniatures French Dragoons (1812-15)
  • Appropriate bases (either those that come in the box, or whatever matches your army. I have used eight 20mm x 20mm bases, for the infantry, and 13 25mm x 50mm bases, for the cavalry).
  • Airbrush and Black Primer

Sprues

So, first let’s look at what you get in the box: there are eight dismounted Dragoons and 13 cavalrymen. These are split between the following sprues:

Assembly

I started by building the horses and infantrymen first. This is as these will need to dry before they can be based. And whilst that is happening I can be building the riders. Time saver!

Because I will have to add swords, heads and muskets to the Dismounted Dragoons, I first stuck the bodies of the infantry to their bases. These were cut off their sprues using plastic cutters and then cleaned up using a craft knife and file. The remaining pieces from the Dismounted Dragoon sprues were also cut off, cleaned up and placed into a small plastic pouch for safekeeping whilst the infantry set on their bases.

I have chosen to mount these models on old 20mm Games Workshop-Slottabase style bases I bought from Ebay because this matches the army that they will be joining. Whilst the infantry dried, I moved on to the horses.

These handily came in just two pieces. These were also cut off their sprues using plastic cutters and then cleaned up using a craft knife and file. Whilst this can be time consuming, I find it is more than worth it for the final effect: even the best of paint jobs can be ruined by a mould line running across a smooth surface.

I have chosen to mount these models on old 25mm x 50mm Games Workshop style cavalry bases I bought from Ebay. I find this easier than using the green Renedra bases that come with the kit, as I don’t like mounting multiple models on one base- it’s harder to get the brush in to paint in between them. That’s time consuming and we are going for speed here!

By the time the horses were all completed, the infantry had dried sufficiently to have all arms, heads and weapons added.

When doing this, I took care to ensure that the sword was positioned so that the loop met the Dragoon’s sword belt. It is quite fiddly and without care the sword will look like it is floating in mid air!

Whilst the Dragoons and horses were drying, I spent this time cutting the cavalry off their sprues and cleaning up the pieces, as well as cutting off the accessories that come with the kit: muskets and swords to add to the mounted models and some dead Frenchmen to use as markers or base embellishments.

By the time all of the cavalrymen pieces were cut off and cleaned up, everything had dried sufficiently for me to move on to basing. The cavalry weren’t built yet but there is plenty of time to finish these whilst we wait for the basing materials to dry.

Stage 1 assembly

Basing

As you can see from the picture above, the models sit proud of the bases. If I simply add sand over these, it will look pretty odd indeed with a big bump in the middle.

For this reason, I prefer to use wood filler to even out the gradient. I use a clay shaper to manipulate the filler. These fine detail tools ensure that I don’t get any on the models’ feet or the sides of the base.

Whilst this is drying, you will have plenty of time to finish assembling all of the riders. I would recommend leaving this to dry overnight, as you need to paint glue over this in the next step. If this is even vaguely damp by this point, things will get very messy!

Once this has dried, you can paint the bases with PVA glue and dip into the basing material of your choice. I have used Games Workshop hobby sand in this example, again because this matches the army they will be joining.

Assembly (part 2!)

Whilst the glue and sand was drying, I finished off assembling the riders. These are fairly simple, needing an arm and head adding for the most part.

When assembling the troopers, there are a few considerations to take into account. The first is that three of the bodies are split at the waist. These are to make the Elite company and the bugler. You need to add the plumed or bearskin hats to the two elite company models, and a separately uniformed body to the bugler. These models have specific arms, which you can see with the tasselled shoulders below:

Once all riders are assembled, it’s time to add their scabbards. There are scabbards with and without swords. It might seem a simple point to make, but make sure that the troopers with swords drawn have empty scabbards and the command models without swords drawn have the ones with swords in!

After that, the models are ready for spraying! I haven’t added on the muskets yet, as these cross over the front of the model and will impede painting. The riders also need to be glued in place before adding these, and I prefer to keep rider and horse separate whilst painting. It’s quicker than poking a brush into hard to reach places!

Muskets

This gives you your models in this state. Apart from the muskets, they are fully assembled and ready to undercoat.

I will now be taking these and spraying with black primer through an airbrush.

Ready to spray!

These guys will be back in a few weeks with a full painting guide.If anyone wants to follow along, that’ll be more than enough time to get yours assembled and up to this stage.

As I said, we are going for speed here. Because of drying times, the shortest time from sprue to sprayed will be around 72 hours, with about 4 hours work. It’s definitely doable!

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