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Making Miniatures

As many of you are probably not familiar with the details of producing miniatures, I want 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 - 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 and miniature count of sets.

I usually start with sculpting the first few figures while I am still figuring out the details.   Miniatures start as a wire armature or a prepared metal dollie to save some time.

I have a set of 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.  Early on, I try to figure out how I want to pose the miniature - considering how to arrange body, weapon, face, arms and so on to make interesting poses.  The difficulty is to avoid extreme undercuts, otherwise it cannot be produced.

 

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. 

The mould is prepared using a mould frame and moulding silicone. The figures are pressed into the silicone and the silicone is shaped in a way that allows the mould so seal the entire miniature.

 

 

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 under pressure, the silicone has to cool down. Then, air vents are cut in where they are required. Otherwise air pockets might prevent the flow of molten metal, 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, they 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 from the sprue 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 paint the miniatures, take pictures, edit the 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!