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False load of cattle

by DP
Having more or less completed a couple of John Campbell's open topped Tralee and Dingle cattle wagons, I thought it would be good to have some stock. I looked at the various commercially available cattle and they were either too crude or too big. The best are Schleich and I think they are about right for scale if you stand a Busybody next to them, but the wagons are slightly underscale for 16mm, being 15mm to the foot. You could only fit 3 Schliech Friesians in such a wagon and they were supposed to cart ten juveniles. Besides, three identical cows would look awful and you would have to chop them about to allow for them to nestle up.
We are all used to false loads of coal and so on so I got to thinking this way. If you were to look down onto a load of catttle in a pen or a wagon, what would you actually see? They would be well packed in to support them against each other on the trip and they would be stacked at a level that would make commercial sense anyway. Why not just mould a bunch of backs?  But how?

The idea progresses

I like Miliput and have used a fair bit of it. I decided that the test of feasibility was whether I could actually make a master of the back of a cow but slightly reduced in size. I bought a Schleich Friesian and got cracking. I soon found I had to divide the matter into a body and a head and this suited me because I did not want uniformity of posture. In particular, I wanted heads thrown up and noses over the backs of others.
The Miliput reproductions are about 3/4 sized to allow for 6 or 7 animals in the wagon. They are crude but this was a feasibility exercise and at this stage I was vague about the way I was going to proceed.

The 'little bit of luck' stage

Having created the masters, now I needed some way of making at least 6 sets to position on top of a sheet of plasticard cut to drop inside the wagon. I had a little silicone rubber mould material left over and so, carefully bedding the two masters down on a flat surface, I built a wall around them each, fuilling up cracks with plasticine. There's nothing worse than having mixed rubber stuff creep out from a crack at the bottom of a mould.

But, once these rubber moulds were made ( well after they had cured for 24 hours to be truthful) I still had the problem of the material in which to cast the  cattle. Here's where luck came in. I have a sculptor daughter who, some birthdays ago, gave me some alginate casting material and I had stored it away and forgotten all about it. It's lovely stuff; slightly green and smells of mint. You mix up a powder with tapwater and have 4 minutes to pour it before it sets like jelly. Now I know that this site has strict rules of the sorts of things you can say but the reason this stuff smells minty is that it is used to mould body parts. You can use your own imagination to work out what sorts of body parts, can't you? And no, I have never used it for that! What sort of man do you take me for?

It worked a treat. Best of all, I ended up with cattle backs that were bendy, carvable with a craft knife and could be placed in groups to look about right. Once I had decided on the grouping, I mixed up some more gloopp and used it to glue the parts to each other and to make up for deficiencies, air bubbles and so on. I used a watery mix to fill in the gaps. End now, here is the final result that will be the master from which I will take a silicone mould then cast my loads in resin. I may titivate it a bit but, in truth, once they are cast and painted, I doubt if anyone would notice small blemishes.

I am assuming that if I paint the rather open space on the right dark grey, it will look OK but I might actually leave that open. If I do, however, I'll have to think about legs. I may change my mind and put a seventh beast in there but I'd rather not