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"Can old miniatures be recycled?" Topic

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Frothers Did It And Ran Away16 Feb 2020 12:20 a.m. PST

The ever increasing cost of white metal is often cited when manufacturers raise their prices. Assuming metal is ultimately a finite resource, can our old, unused, figures be recycled?

I have a fair few figures which are so crummy I know I'll never paint them, or broken ones not worth repairing, and what about those bendy metal spears we all have lurking or the struts between cavalry figures legs which we clip off when we clean up our figures? There must be tons of metal every year being thrown away or just sitting in our cupboards.

Can any of this usefully be donated to figure manufacturers? Could they incentivise us to do so by offering a couple of free packs in exchange for a set weight of "scrap" metal?

Black Hat Miniatures16 Feb 2020 1:57 a.m. PST

The problem is knowing what the metal is. We all use different formulas of metal with certain flow properties and the moulds are cut to work with that metal. Casting with "scrap" tends to be a bit hit and miss.


UshCha16 Feb 2020 3:33 a.m. PST

Srap metal merchants will give you something and at least you know it will be re-used if they pay you for it.

Fitzovich16 Feb 2020 4:43 a.m. PST

What about using them for outreach to build the gaming community? They might not be great figs, but to someone starting out they could be superb as a starter set. Alternately perhaps at a convention, game day as a make and take to teach painting skills.

You just gave me an idea for my gaming group.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Feb 2020 4:54 a.m. PST

Can old miniatures be recycled?


Can any of this usefully be donated to figure manufacturers?


Could they incentivise us to do so by offering a couple of free packs in exchange for a set weight of "scrap" metal?


The real question, as with most science and technology questions related to industry is not "can" this be done, but rather do we want to incur the costs to receive the benefit?

Costs are not necessarily fiscal. Often times they can be transformed into a fiscal cost such as equating human effort, time, and skill into labor cost. Even so, skills are often rare and time is inelastic, so there is an associated effort cost in finding and maintaining them.

Black Hat Miniatures "hit or miss" above is a good top level description of part of the trade space. In this case "metal" is not "metal". So there is a cost associated with potential incompatibility, possibly up to 100% if Manufacturer X's mix just wont cast in Manufacturer Y's molds (you know … the ones you want).

There's a lot more to quality control than that. We're assuming these are all free of paint and other contaminants. Either you wash them or the manufacturer does, raising their costs, and thus the amount of metal you need to send to make it worth their while to "give" you one figure.

The metal mix is harder, unless you are sending one Manufaturer's figures back to them, it's likely one end has to test the mix. If it is your end, then you need some type of quality control guarantee (certification). I doubt many manufacturers even have this skill set. They buy specific materials and work with what they know, not buy random materials and figure out how to work with them.

Unless you live right near an amenable manufacturer and they will let you on the premises, there is a double-shipping factor. This would easily be rolled into fiscal cost since a manufacturer can likely charge for shipping and receive money without needing to have you pay in extra metal. You can likely pay to send the stuff to them. But you are doubling the figure cost. At least. But the manufacturer is also creating and maintaining a new receiving, handling, storage, inventory, marketing, and accounting process. Some part of that may not be trivial to them or may limit the size of transaction they can support, limiting economies of scale in shipping.

Don't forget zero-product return shipping if "Nope … we can't use these. Try someone else." Or perhaps you could go out and create and maintain a cross-compatibility database.

Considering loss, overhead, and shipping, this could easily run into a 20:1 figure recycling ratio. Or more.

Then there's the reality of these amounts. If you have a lot of never to be painted figures, maybe 20:1 is OK for you. But on the manufacturer's side, the size of the run has to be worth the overhead. For example, the manufacturer may need to fill a whole mold of 20 figures, so at 20:1, you need to send in multiples of 400.

With respect to spears and cavalry straps … how many of those do you need to accumulate to equal one figure?

There's more that goes into it. But this is a decent baseline idea.

That doesn't mean that the recycling idea is a bad one. It just means that figure recycling is most likely to happen if you "know a guy", set up your own casting process, or find a way to make some of the costs transparent … like talking a manufacturer at a show you already go to into taking some stuff from you and bringing something back next year.

That last option brings up a cost we haven't discussed yet. It's entirely possible you and the manufacturer both think 5:1 will work, but then six months later you find out it is 15:1. I am not saying this is you, dear reader, but in such a situation it is possible one side might overreact on the Internet … just a bit. This creates a cost in terms of reputation risk for the manufacturer. Reputation risk is often a barrier to entry.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP16 Feb 2020 5:19 a.m. PST

I believe the nice people at Prince August will offer you a workable way of recycling your lead.

Personal logo Virtualscratchbuilder Supporting Member of TMP Fezian16 Feb 2020 7:15 a.m. PST

Reaper Minis is here in town and last time I took the back room tour they had bins of figures ready to be remelted.

If I remember right (and this could be faulty) they once had a figure for credit program going during one of their Reaper-cons, but they also published a list of excluded manufacturers. Naturally most of my extra minis were from those.

arthur181516 Feb 2020 9:42 a.m. PST

The late Bill Leeson used to melt down unwanted model soldiers and cast Kriegsspiel troop blocks from them.

Syrinx016 Feb 2020 1:58 p.m. PST

If reusing metal or plastic was viable for some firms, collecting it at conventions might be more realistic than mailing. I personally would not expect any return on recycled figures but it could be an opportunity to hand out introductory freebies for a new game promotion.

I brought a lot of older unwanted figures to a kids paint and take group at the last convention I was at. The NIB figures that had value plus some books I gave to their charity auction. Of course, I bought more stuff at the convention so it didn't upset the balance of the hobby room.

JAFD2616 Feb 2020 5:03 p.m. PST

I'm a senior citizen, living in a studio apartment in the oldsters' residence, have limited space, so I clear my workbench two or three times a year, cover it with old newspaper, and deflash, wash and prime a season's supply of figures to paint.
Have put the 'scrap lead' – flash, sprues, miscast figures – into baggie. Have about a half-pound now. Will bring it to Cold Wars, bestow it upon anyone who can make use of it.

evilgong16 Feb 2020 5:14 p.m. PST

All the off-cuts can be used in basing figs, especially to give weight to plastics. If the off-cut stuff doesn't look right on the base, it can then be covered with your usual flocks.

There are few figs that are so bad somebody won't want them, even as spares to harvest body parts or to use as casualties.


Zephyr116 Feb 2020 9:56 p.m. PST

An alternative is to save your metal to sculpt and cast your own figures… ;-)

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP17 Feb 2020 2:42 p.m. PST

I've read some use them as fishing weights.

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