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Flags

Here's one for the experts.....what material were flags made from?

Like many here, many of my flags are ink-jet paper flags. These are perfectly adequate but are flat in terms of finish. Should they have a sheen? ie are they made of silk or something that doesn't shine such as linen or cotton?

I'm mostly concerned with flags from the ECW & ACW at the moment but my Napoleonic & Colonial flags may (or may not) need a coat of gloss varnish?

donald

Re: Flags

Donald,

Well I am no expert on fabrics, but my understanding is that flags in the era that we are interested in were often made of Tafetta: Wikipedia describes this as:

"Taffeta (/ˈtæfɪtə/; archaically spelled taffety) is a crisp, smooth, plain woven fabric made from silk"

When brand new, this would probably have had a slight sheen, but I suspect that this would wear off quickly. Given that flags would either be embroidered (mainly cavalry) or painted (mainly infantry) the finish of the original cloth would be covered by other media anyway.

My own preference is to show colours/standards/flags/guidons as 'matt' rather than 'silk' in their finish. I think that gloss varnish on a flag would look wrong, but this is a matter also of personal preference.

Incidentally, Wikipedia also says that the first balloon flight (Montgolfier brothers) in 1782 was with a hot air balloon manufactured from Tafetta; so, if you are planning an early observation balloon for your Revolutionary/early Napoleonic armies you might also bear this in mind!

Re: Flags

Varnish does not scale. Water doesn't scale either. Remember all those old films with model ships filmed in bath tubs? No doubt this is something to do with something sciencey like refraction. Point is, doesn't work. You have to alter the appearance to take account of scale.

So, for example, if you use gloss to represent a highly polished painted metal object, e.g. a steam locomotive in OO gauge, it will look horrible. To look right at scale, you would need to represent high gloss with a satin.

Applying this, I would say that any slight sheen of a real silk flag would be lost at scale and they would look best matt.

Re: Flags

I thank you gentlemen for your scholarship & your kindness in replying.

I hope it doesn't sound too ungrateful but I might do an experiment. The Yanks (talking about the flavour of lollypops I hope) have a saying: "Suck it & see".

My Vallejo "Gloss Acrylic Varnish" really isn't that shiny & I think I'll brush it over a couple of flags.

I have spare copies of most of the flags I've used so if it doesn't work, it will be easy enough to change.

donald

Re: Flags

Just one other thought Donald.

If you are varnishing for visual effect then fine, whatever finish you are happy with will work for you.

However, if you are varnishing to protect the flag - because over time the inkjet ink may rub off in some areas and fade (as per real flags!) - then you might consider an alternative solution which I use. This is to spray the flag with a fixative - I use artist's pastels spray fixative. You can buy this from any good art shop, and it helps to fix the colour particles in place on the paper and gives a very thin protective coating, but still with a matt finish.

Re: Flags

The flags I have seen from the Napoleonic wars to the Zulu wars, ie genuine article preserved behind glass are unsurprisingly very Matt and rather tatty, but I suspect they were almost Matt in the field unless brand spanking new. Paper flags do need bringing to life , they lack something , a word of caution paper flags ink can run, and I have had to replace some in the past , spray matt varnish was the villain in question.

Re: Flags

Alan Buckingham
, a word of caution paper flags ink can run, and I have had to replace some in the past , spray matt varnish was the villain in question.


Thanks, Alan.

I'll only do a few, using brush on varnish, & easily replaceable ones to see what happens.

donald

Re: Flags

When using paper flags I always used to run a black fine-line fibre tip along the edge to take away the whiteness of the cut, unpainted paper. Now I use one of the sepia coloured pens you can get. Still a fine-liner, but the colour is less jarring/obvious than the black.

As an observer of military standards, yes taffeta has a sheen but from a hundred yards away or even less that sheen is less obvious, pretty much not at all.

When I first joined the Sealed Knot - forty years ago - standards were generally made of anything people could get their hands on. It was also common to applique the designs onto them using other materials. Some of those early colours weighed a ton! In a strong wind it was all a standard bearer could do to hold them up and not take off. The move over to taffeta (or a man-made equivalent) meant that not only did colours fly in the proper manner in even just a slight breeze. Devices are painted on and the weight saved is immense. Once this was widely adopted throughout the society, flourishing the colours - standing out in front of the battle line and waving the colours in circular or figure eight motions to taunt the enemy and display the colours of the units involved - this became something that was much more do-able, you didn't have to be Conan the Barbarian to do it. (It's also why staves for stnndards are short, and with a counter weight on the bottom. So much easier to fling about)