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Making Miniatures

As many of you are probably not familiar with the details of producing miniatures, I have dedicated this part of my page to give you an overview of the effort involved in creating a miniature in metal.

The process usually starts with an idea or a concept while thinking about which figures is going to be produced next. Several factors are considered here - how well has a range sold in the past? Which are the major holes in my portfolio that might be preventing sales of other sets, which are figures that have been requested by people in forums or by email (yes, requesting stuff actually has some effect on us small scale producers) - and so on. After figuring out which miniatures and sets are needed, I plan how to fill the mould. My casting service usually fits 15 figures into a mould, anything above that can be tricky. So I´m usually trying to bundle up new sets in batches of 15 miniatures - this can sometimes dictate the order of sets and can cause some rescheduling in my production plan - if priority number 1 is a set of 8 and priority 2 a set of 4, I can´t produce any set larger than 3 minis.

Anyway, while figuring out the final combination of sets, I usually start with sculpting the first few figures.  To do this, I have a set of metal dollies in different basic poses. I keep these dollies rather basic to make customizing easier, so my dollies are just legs, torsos and basic head shape - any details are added later. These are mounted on a socket using bluetac-ish glue-gum. With the weapon (the second pre-manufactured part) I then figure out how the figure should be posed, i.e. - which weapon angle, which gesture, the orientation of the face and so on. 

Then I start the sculpting in earnest, usually at the legs working upward.

I´m usually able to keep working on the mini in three steps:  I´m sculpting the entire legs, torso and face. After letting the putty set thoroughly, I add the basic arms (either wire or putty) and headgear (hair, helmets, etc). After letting things set again, I finish work on the arms and all the other minor details that I didn´t do earlier.


This goes around until I have fifteen figures prepared for casting. At that point at the latest, everything gets packed up thoroughly, new product codes are distributed and labeled onto the packs. Then it gets shipped around 300km to the north into the old heartland of German Industry. Here, my caster takes over. He prepares the mould by putting the silicone into the mould frame and adding the middle piece to pour in the metal later.  Then, he lays out the mould to find out how to best distribute the figures. Some minis can be tricky to cast, so he has to anticipate how the metal will flow into the mold. 



Then the second half of the mould is added on top after dusting the mold with talc, the mold frame is then sealed and put into the vulcanizer for two hours.


After getting cooked in there under pressure, the silicone has to cool down. Then, air vents are cut in where they are required. Otherwise air pockets might prevent the inflow of molten metal later so that figures will be missing parts (rifle barrels are the usual candidate). The mould is then putinto the casting machine and a series of test cast is being run. Should any issue come up there, it will be fixed as required - usually that means adding more air vents)


Now we are set up for production. The cast pieces now have to be removed from the mould, cut off and sorted into the correct sets. The sets are being labeled, an invoice is created and everything gets sent to me. Before I take the figures into storage, I check if they are ok or if there are any defects that have to be sorted out. Finally, I have to take pictures, update our mold plan and put everything into the webshop.


That´s pretty much it - now you know how Enfilade Figures are being made!