I was always interested in exactly HOW little toy soldiers were made. The stages that they had to go through, from design to actual plastic figures in a bag... I was never exactly sure how it was done. And now that I've gone through the process myself, I'm still not exactly sure... but I have a better idea. So, in case you're wanting to waste a few minutes, here are the stages we went through to create our first set. This could bore a few of you, and I encourage you to discontinue reading if it does... but if you're intersted, read on!
1. Finding a Sculptor. Not as easy as it sounds. For one, not many sculptors are interested in doing "toy soldiers". And not many have a clue about our hobby! Finding one that has an interest in history, the talent level needed for us to stand out amongst other quality figures, and the time to actually do the work, proved difficult to say the least. We talked to probably 8 sculptors... none of which were easy to find, before we settled on the guy we wanted. It really comes down to having a repoir with the artist. Being able to communicate what you want, and them understanding and reproducing your wishes in the sculpt.
2. The Sculpting. This is the most fun, because you can acutally see the figure coming to life. I would send him pose and uniform ideas, and from there, the sculptor would manipulate those ideas into somthing that could be molded. We'd go back and change things here and there till we got it just how we wanted it. The sculptor would make a resin master, send it to us, and start on the next figure.
3. Making the Molds. Working with China was a real treat. I couldn't believe how hard they worked for us, and how much they treated us like their ONLY customer. I remember the factory agent telling me, "We want you to do well. If you do good business, we do good business too". I wish more companies understood that simple idea. Anyway, what they did was recreate the sculpt 5% larger than the original master, to make up for the shrinkage of the figures coming out of the molds. I review those recreations, we make a few changes, and then they use those recreated figures to create the actual molds.
4. Packaging. We decide what we want our packaging to look like. More important than you might think. It needs to have all the legal mumbo jumbo on it, plus our company information, plus what exactly the set is supposed to be.
5. Test Shots. The factory sends us some "Test shots" from the molds. These are usually done in a cheaper odd colored plastic. Ours were done in a sparkly gray. We look them over and make sure they are just to our liking (very small changes can still be made at this stage).
6. Production. The factory starts running the figures in bulk. They cast them, assemble the pieces, bag them up, and get them ready for the boat ride over.
7. Shipping. We work with a whole group of people to make sure these arrive safely in the United States. Everyone from the factory, to the company that gets them to the China docks, the people that load them onto the boat, the people who actually sail the boat, the people that get them through customs when they arrive, and the people who get them to our home in Indiana. As long as we fill out the right forms, and talk to the right people, it should go fairly smoothly.... hopefully.
That's about it. After we get them, we start selling them, hopefully make enough back to finish up set #2, and go from there. Fun stuff.
If you've read this far, aren't asleep, still interested and have more questions, feel free to email me.