Monday, March 30, 2009

Smudgie the Woodgrain

Three more weeks before the flea market opens! I have just about zero budget for horses nowadays, but I do try to keep a little in reserve just in case something cheap and/or fabulous shows up at my local haunts. And it does - all the time, in fact. Here’s a great example of the sort of thing that gets me out of bed before dawn on Sunday. I call him - Smudgie!

It’s a little hard to see in the full body shot, but his graining is actually smudged all over. For comparison, here’s his brother, who I picked up from the same dealer in a different day last year. He has more distinct and typical woodgraining:

(And yes, this guy is a variation too - but today is Smudgie’s day in the spotlight!)

Here’s a few closer-up shots for comparison (and proof that I don’t lie when it comes to my weak photography skills.)


Smudgie’s Brother:

When I first saw Smudgie, I thought he was either damaged, or a fake; he looked a little like some early attempts at faux woodgrains I’ve seen. But he’s passed the scratch, sniff and dunk tests; even his foam footpads are intact. I’ve had some issues with the dealer I purchased him from (mostly because he knows just enough about Breyers to be a problem) but he’s totally unaware of even the notion of fakes, so I can say with some confidence that he’s 100% original finish.

Woodgrains vary a lot: the technique was messy, difficult and hard to master. Some have very distinct graining, and on others it’s almost invisible. It can be neat or sloppy, light or dark. But I’ve never seen one smudged like this before - there might be some smudging in an awkward spot or two, but all over?

The Fighting Stallion was the last production Woodgrain in the regular run line, lasting up through 1973. Other Woodgrains were being produced through the late 1960s and early 1970s, too, but they were probably special items manufactured mainly for Dunning Industries and their Ranchcraft Lamp line.

Smudgie has a USA mark, which means he is from the tail end of the Woodgrain production era. (His brother is, too!) That suggests a couple of possible explanations for his finish. He could have been an experiment with a slightly different, more subtle-looking woodgraining technique. Or, he could have just been a touched-up/fixed up cull - his woodgraining might have gotten smudged in spots in production, and in an effort to salvage him, they just smudged the rest of him up to match.

I tend to thing the latter explanation is probably more plausible than the former. I’m a little out of the normal geographic range for finding Chicago-era oddballs, for one thing. (It's not impossible, just unlikely.) The touch-up/fix-up hypothesis also make sense for the time period: he was likely manufactured no more than a year or two before the "True Chalky" era of the early to mid-1970s, when good quality translucent white Tenite was getting expensive. Breyer did a lot of creative things then to minimize waste and salvage what they could from the discard bins. Some models were painted over - and became Chalkies. (Well, mostly.) It’s not hard to believe that Smudgie is just the product of another type of creative salvage.


Becky Turner said...

theres one of theses on ebay right now.. can you tell if its real? I know theres people talking about it n fallen leaves... it looks real to me but? its hard to tell from a picture.
Rebecca Turner

DrSteggy said...

I just found this blog via a posting to the Livejournal model horse group--and its fascinating. I mostly show the ARs and customs, but the bulk of my collection is OF Breyers.

After all that--what are the "scratch, sniff and dunk" tests?