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"Any castings these days as good as in the old days?" Topic

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R Strickland Fezian Inactive Member05 Mar 2015 10:47 p.m. PST

So I have been struggling with difficulty through cleaning some poorly cast contemporary figures from one of the most recognized historical manufacturers today who I won't name as my purpose today is not at all to drag anyone through the mud

They're cast in a dubious, overly shiny, very soft and very gritty alloy.The surface of the figure is pocked and uneven and so you kind of have to "find" the blades of the halberds with a file, and in so doing great swaths of dust fall down making a disconcerting gritty sound. The faces, though, you can't file down like the blades so I fear what they will look like after a prime.

I count three sets of mold lines on some of them in the thigh areas.

But my fear is these figures aren't an anomaly buy are par for the course these days.

By way of comparison I have some minty fresh boxes of vintage lead I took out. There are some castings from the old days I literally take them out to marvel at them sometimes. The fullness of the cheeks or a blade, for example, showing just the right amount of pressure to fill the mold completely, but none more so to distort the shapes. You don't have to file each side of a blade like nowadays because the surface is concave rather than flat, being squashed by too much pressure, for example.

The mold lines on some of these figures are difficult to spot at all, and they need just a light scrape of a sharp blade to remove them entirely.

Some examples of these beautiful castings that come to mind are some Guthrie elves and trolls from her Grenadier 700 line (, a Metal Magic demon, a pair of early to mid 80s Ral Partha balrogs, and a box of Heroic Fighters of the Known world by citadel. I could come up with lists of hundreds of other examples, but they are all before that horrible time when things shifted to pewter. Often it seems like the late 80s was a high water mark in terms of quality.

To come to the point, I'm wondering if you know of any historical manufacturers that care deeply about the quality of their castings, that preferably use a lead alloy that can hold detail better than the common tin alloys used today, and generally can hold a candle to the figures of yesterday like those of Grenadier, Ral Partha and Citadel (and I realize my examples are fantasy… maybe there are historical examples I could point to but not amongst my own collection).

At times like this I wonder if it would be better, rather than to get caught up in a period and see who makes nicely sculpted figures in that period at the scale of preference, to go the other way and start by just looking at those things the people who take pride in their work are casting these days and hold out for something amongst those more limited offerings to truly appeal to me.

Also let me know if you feel the same way and generally let's see if we can sort the wheat from the chaff.

raylev305 Mar 2015 11:46 p.m. PST

Not at all…there are way too many quality manufactuers out there today.

Cyrus the Great06 Mar 2015 12:00 a.m. PST

They're cast in a dubious, overly shiny, very soft and very gritty alloy.The surface of the figure is pocked and uneven and so you kind of have to "find" the blades of the halberds with a file, and in so doing great swaths of dust fall down making a disconcerting gritty sound. The faces, though, you can't file down like the blades so I fear what they will look like after a prime.

I count three sets of mold lines on some of them in the thigh areas.

My question is whether these were bought from the manufacturer or from something like Ebay or a flea market. It has all the qualities of poor recasts.

R Strickland Fezian Inactive Member06 Mar 2015 12:37 a.m. PST

@Cyrus: Direct from the manufacturer, from whom I received 5-star service.

As I said I don't consider these figures unusual. They are pretty much par for the course in terms of experiences I have buying figures new, or maybe just a little under par. I also think few would agree they were overly faulty, but then few have high standards or have pristine examples of the casting from the period I mention as a basis of comparison. By comparison, the new figures I buy tend to be of sub-par alloys, often misaligned and squashed, amongst other undesirable traits.

I can think of another example from a few years where some of the figures the manufacturer supplied were lead, and others were pewter, where the lead figures were stock on hand from before the switch. There is an incredibly market difference in the quality. The lead figures are robust, clean… more or less perfect. The pewter figures are squashed and have excess pewter where the molds are obviously torn. It's not just a case of the molds wearing out. It's the move to pewter and an associated loss of regard for the art of casting that I hold responsible.

These days I have 95%+ satisfaction rate with vintage figures I buy off ebay, which I can see right there in high res, the actual figures. Meanwhile, while I'm not sure enough to put a number to it, my satisfaction rate with new figures is so low I pretty much stopped buying new.

Anyway, I'd rather not focus on the negative, but instead focus on which manufacturers we can bring forward who have castings that favorably compare with the ones of yesteryear I mention or similar.

Yesthatphil Inactive Member06 Mar 2015 4:31 a.m. PST

Few of today's manufacturers match the quality of the old Les Higgins 20mm figures …


FABET0106 Mar 2015 5:05 a.m. PST

I have just had a similar experience. Unfortunately it's getting way too common these day. Well know manufacturers are becoming victims of their own success. Molds are getting run into the ground and the casting are getting turned faster than they can be inspected.
Rule of thumb: if you don't get into a popular line when it first comes out, expect to get sub-par product.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Mar 2015 5:20 a.m. PST

It depends who does the casting. I use Griffen as does Fife and Drum and Galloping Major. I defy you to find any of the problems that you mentioned on castings from Griffen.

Your "well known" maker is no secret and I suspect that everyone here knows exactly who you are refering to. They just refuse to address the issue.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP06 Mar 2015 5:34 a.m. PST

I know who nevinsrip means. To mention their name and use " poor casting quality" in the same sentence will draw cries oh "Heresy!" around here.
We had a nice acrimonious debate about that a few months ago.

Mister Tibbles06 Mar 2015 5:37 a.m. PST

I've had many such experiences from premium manufacturers, not just one, who used to be known for excellent castings. Since this is a publuc forum, I am loathe to mention names for fear of reprisal.

I have even bought brand new sculpts with said badly aligned mould lines running down the side of the face and across the top of the head, along with the rest of the body. I have complained and gave returned figures only to have the replacements in the same dire condition. This seems to be a problem with today's 28mm metals. It upsets me and causes me to hesitate.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Mar 2015 7:48 a.m. PST

Ah the good old days, when prices were fair and politicians were honorable.

goragrad06 Mar 2015 5:07 p.m. PST

Well, I inadvertently set the oven to 350 when setting some primer on a mix of newer and older castings (15mm) a couple of months ago. The resultant havoc was much worse with the newer pewter figures.

With the older lead models some horses came off their bases. Most of the new pewter models (cataphract horses) lost some legs entirely.

On another note, I had been thinking of posting a topic 'I like Lead!!' for some time. Even some of the old castings with serious flash problems have been easier to prep than some of the newer pewter figures. Also easier to deal with the misalignment problems.

P.S. As to quality differences, I have some old Metal Magic figures sculpted by Josef Ochman still in blisters that I got off ebay. They are so nice I have been reluctant to break them out. Some day when my painting skills are well enough developed…

Cyrus the Great06 Mar 2015 7:41 p.m. PST

Are we talking about Perry Miniatures? There have been several threads decrying their lack of quality control. I've had to clean the casting sprues and "worms" that ensure the casting to all parts, but I haven't encountered the problems you've described…yet.
As to the good old days, when figures were of lead, it was easier to correct a lot of mistakes, especially slightly misaligned molds…Minifigs anybody? It happened every once and awhile.
This is a miniatures site. If we can't discuss miniatures lines openly, what's the point!

Left Bank Inactive Member06 Mar 2015 10:56 p.m. PST

I remember making a comment about Perry figures two or three years ago (maybe longer) and the OFM replied that there is going to be a lynching any day now (paraphrasing of course). Who cares, if a figure, or whole batch of them, is not up to par you should be able to say so openly. I'm of the opinion that companies dont sit around planning to make dodgy figures. Yes it can happen from time to time and a reputable company will try to get on top of it.

Just as an aside for gritty and pock marked surfaces I have found a coat or two of gloss medium (gloss tends to work better than matte) will even out the surface somewhat for you. Only apply it where you need it, and remove any excess with a brush in areas you think you might lose fine detail, it does work. It is a pain to have to do it but I think you will find it is worth the effort

Say what you will of the sculpting and style but I found Dixon figures to be consistently good as far as the finish of the castings were concerned.

Personal logo ACWBill Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2015 4:36 a.m. PST

I find the frequency of these issues to be directly in proportion to the casting company used by the manufacturer. I use Griffin in the UK for most of my figures and Toby Barrett here in the US for much of my equipment and all of my guns. No such issues are evident when using high quality casting companies. Most of my figures come out of the bag ready to paint. Occasionally you have to remove a worm from the tip of the bayonet or bottom of the base. Try asking who does the casting for a manufacturer before you buy. If they give you the name Griffin, buy as many as you like and feel safe that the castings will be of high quality.

LeonAdler Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Mar 2015 12:22 p.m. PST

Its just a question of keeping up with the replacement of production moulds, can be hard with a big range. Always easy to say oh I'll remake that mould next time someone orders a big batch………….

snurl110 Mar 2015 3:04 a.m. PST

I had some Heritage figures back in the '70s that were firmly in the "Lump of Lead" category. It was like "Carve Your own Miniature"

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Mar 2015 10:16 a.m. PST

Nothing is really as good as it was back in "the old days".
Russ Dunaway

LeonAdler Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Mar 2015 2:25 p.m. PST

Very true Russ, we were both much better in the old days :)
For a start in my case I could just get up out of a chair without having to think about first…………..

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Mar 2015 3:29 p.m. PST

Leon, Back then I actually wanted to get up out of the chair in the first place.
Russ Dunaway

Henry Martini11 Mar 2015 8:17 p.m. PST

I hear the USAF has a DNI(Direct Neural Interface) ejector seat in the works that could perhaps be adapted to your requirements, Leon.

Just be sure that you want to get out of the chair before you think about it.

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