Louis XIV loved the dance, Louis XVI loved locks, and Napoleon was passionate about mathematics. Hobbies are essential to all people. They add character and make people interesting. Though my hobbies are numerous, there is one that stands out more than the rest. It all started when I was still just a teenager. On her return from yet another buying trip in France, my mother presented me with a small gift: a gift that would develop into a strong passion. What she gave me was a variety of lead soldier molds and casting metal. In the beginning, it was a collaborative effort on the part of my father and me. We casted a dozen or so together, and then he would paint them. However, as time went on, I gradually took over the operation.
Overall, the process takes about a day per soldier. First, I must powder the molds so the metal will cool faster.
Then I melt the metal and pour it into the mold.
Sometimes this takes multiple attempts until I get a good cast. Next I cut off the excess and file down my soldier.
Once complete, I paint the parts and glue the soldier together. This part of the process is an all-day affair, requiring patience as I wait for paint to dry.
It wasn’t until I was sixteen that I fully launched myself into mass production. That summer proved very productive. I probably casted a good forty or so soldiers. To top it all, I spent that summer making a 50” by 50” diorama. I laid out my plan topographically, making two hills and a road down the middle with trees from model train sets scattered around. I added a stone well, and constructed a scale model of a house out of wood, going as far as to make shingles out of cut-up popsicle sticks. As a hobby, it was a gradual affair. At first, all I was doing was casting Napoleon’s Imperial Guard. My options were limited then. Eventually I attained more molds; Napoleon on horseback, canons and crew, and sappers.
After I amassed a good number of troops, I realized that my French army had no enemy, and that their battle-ready positions on my diorama looked rather silly. Therefore, I obtained molds for the British foot soldiers.
Hobbies develop slowly, and there were times when I had to sell a few soldiers in order to afford supplies for more. Over the years, I have acquired books on Napoleonic uniforms and have become very detail oriented, going as far as to paint insignias and cocardes on my soldier’s uniforms. My most recent endeavors include making French line infantry, skirmishers, and developing a new diorama (I had to throw away the old one since it was too cumbersome and hard to transport from residence to residence). I’ve been asked before what I plan to do with them, or when I will reach a stopping point. I have no intention of stopping any time soon. Hobbies are meant to be fun, and quitting is never fun. I’m not sure what new facets I will delve into, but I’m sure that I’ll finish my next diorama and then expand even more. Who knows, maybe cavalry is in my future. In any case, my passion for French history has fueled some very large armies!