Q. Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
A. Because everyone would spend their lives getting drunk and having indiscriminate sex too often and not EVER tidying up. The human race would have died of dirt and disease before anyone got around to discovering penicillin or the wheel.
Q. If there is a loving God why does He permit evil?
A. My son believes it is because He gets bored. Can we have some some slightly less Frequently Asked Questions now?
Q. These internet addresses could be anywhere. What state are you in?
A. Not bad, all things considered. My back aches sometimes.
Q. No, what STATE. Of the Union.
A. None. I live in England, which is a small country comprising about 50% of the landmass of a largish island off Europe. Not to be confused with New England, which has central heating, proper showering facilities, ridiculously cheap fuel, food and booze, and which is a part of the USA.
Q. How did you first come to make military figurines?
A. Once upon a time I was a freelance graphic designer. Clients tended to call for a freelance when they were in a corner, so I spent a lot of nights frantically working for 9am deadlines. In the early hours of one morning I raised my burning eyes, and saw the words ‘Sod this for a game of soldiers’’ form themselves in shimmering script on the wall opposite. So I took it as an omen.
Q. Did you ever think of doing ‘girlie’ figures and the like?
A. Oh yes, but as soon as I started on the research I became overcome with lust and couldn’t concentrate on the sculpting.
Q. Why don’t you do a model of a Ruritanian Horse Marine? (or insert unusual subject of choice ). No-one else does.
A. There’s a reason for that.
Q. What size are the original sculptures?
A. The same size as they are reproduced.
Q. How do you get such detail into your work?
A. Hours, days and weeks of obsessive toil, aided by a complete lack of a social life, and a largely meatless diet.
Q. What tools do you use?
A. A jeweller’s eyeglass, scalpel blades, a piece of copper wire shaped into a curved point, very fine glasspaper, emery boards, milliput modelling putty and two anglepoise lamps. One to accelerate the drying process and one to see by. Oh, and bad language and a radio superglued to BBC Radio 4.
Q. What techniques do you use?
A. I prefer to shape the putty roughly when it is pliable, then harden it off and carve the final detailing. The joy of milliput-type modelling putties is that you can constantly add or take away material. It's not like carving stone!
Q. Do you ever use water?
A. Not in the modelling process, but I do bathe at least once a month.
Q. There are rumours that you are going to retire?
A. Not for a while yet. It’s still only 5.30 pm here in London.
Q. So how old are you?
A. Clearly older than you, whippersnapper.
Q. What is wrong with your eye?
A. It’s a real eye but blind.
Q. What can you see out of it?
A. Do you know, opticians always ask me that. Words fail me.
Q. Is only having one eye a handicap?
A. Not at all. I attribute the line of dents down one side of my car to bad luck and vandalism.
Q. Your stuff appears often in the modelling magazines, particularly the Hornet heads, but they can be very difficult to find. Your distribution doesn’t seem to be very good.
A. Yes, it’s a problem. Resellers vary widely in the frequency and quantities they order, and some countries are Hornet deserts. I keep a large stock of models packed and ready to go, but I cannot force trade customers to buy. Some resellers (understandably) hold only token amounts, and not all of them buy from me anyway. But if anyone tells you that the fault lies with me, don’t believe them -they’re passing the buck!
Q. So what can the frustrated modeller do?
A. Go to another supplier who is able to send the goodies promptly. It’s a big world out there and your credit card will enable you to buy anywhere and get billed in your own currency, regardless of the country the supplier is in!
Q. Can we buy direct from you?
A. No, sorry.
Q. But why not have a proper E-sales service? Carts, encoded entries, all that?
A. Basically, I am running this business alone. I am now quite ancient, and I want to take more control of my time, Filling daily orders would stretch me too much. There are resellers around who can sell more efficiently than I can. Check out ‘stockists’ on the website, or Google the brand name and catalogue number of your chosen item to find a source.
Q. Why don’t you show all 5 of the items in a headset on your website?
A. We do! If you click on the thumbnail pictures the whole set comes up.
Q. Why are the images on the site so small, and why are the heads in black and white?
A. Before sketching out the sequences on the website back in the last century, I looked at other sites. Some looked gorgeous, but took a long time to come up. I wanted a site that was simple and swift to use. All images were simplified. There was no need to show unpainted heads in colour, and mono came up quicker. Now that most of us have broadband I suppose that I could rephotograph them all in colour, but I’m far too idle.
Q. Why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why do you produce so much WW2 German stuff and neglect the other combatants?
A. I’m sure you’ve heard this before. It is because the German subjects sell much better than the others. I mean MUCH better. The appetite for them seems insatiable. I have made considerable efforts to bring in other headsets, but many of them sell hardly enough to cover the time spent producing them. In the end, I am doing this to make a living and my customers speak with their wallets.
Q. Why do you concentrate on WW2 anyway? There are much more colourful
subjects in other periods of history.
A. The same answer again, I'm afraid!
Q. I can buy a box of decent plastic figures for not much more than you charge for 5 tiny heads. Why are they so pricey?
A. If you only knew the hours that went into them! Believe me, they are cheap at the price. Also, we use resin because that allows flexible moulds, which in turn produce extremely fine detail. But the moulds wear out quickly and have to be remade constantly. The process is not automated and we cannot get economies of scale, whereas the injection moulding technique can knock out shots for pennies, but can’t get the same detail.
Q. But I have seen heads that look identical to yours but at a fraction of the price!
A. They are pinched, nicked, stolen, purloined, remoulded and taken without the owner’s permission. When all you have to do is pop someone else’s hard work into a mould of course you can cut the price. You can usually buy stolen goods at dirt cheap prices. Gentle reader, only buy if it is genuine Hornet!
Q. Why don’t you do the obvious and get the models made cheaply in China?
A. China has been a major source of illegal copying. At the moment the pirates have to remould production sets with consequent unavoidable loss of quality. If they get their hands on the original sculpts they could have a field day!
Q. It is really bizarre that you sell HH10 as female heads - but they have no hair! Why?
A. Women are always changing their hair. What style should I choose? Instead, I have carved soft female features and I leave it to the modeller to add the hair or headgear. That way the women can be of any period of history.
Q. You produced both 1:35 scale and 1:32 scale items. Similar sizes, so why do both?
A. An accident of history. Once upon a time a British company established the 1:32 ratio, and in the UK this became the standard size for at first toy soldiers and later for more refined figurines. In the 1960s the Japanese selected 1:35 as the ratio for their then pioneering model tank kits, and inevitably applied it to their figurines as well. When we set up Hornet and later Wolf, we decided to adopt 1:35 for the WW2 period military figures, but retain the traditional scale (now commonly called 54mm) for the historical figurines in the range. At the time this was a radical decision, but most other companies take the same line these days.
Q. A lot of us are still confused about scales and ratios. For example, how high should a 1:35 figurine be? Of course, we all know how high a 54mm figure is - 54mm, right?
A. Good grief! Don’t they teach you anything these days? 1:35 (ratio) simply means that a figure is 1/35 of the height (or length or width) of whatever is being portrayed. So obviously the actual height of the various model figures will vary too. Small soldiers will be portrayed as smaller than large soldiers, just as in real life. As to ‘54mm’ I wish it were that simple. I interpret it to mean 1:32, but the term can mean different things to different sculptors and manufacturers. It has variously been said to mean the overall height of a figure including headgear of any type, the height from ground to eye level, the height of a figure without headgear....and how tall is the man anyway? Oh, and how long is his rifle in ‘54mm’? A nightmare. This is why the Saunders Megacorporation tries to stick to ratios.
Q. Sometimes when I use a Hornet head on a figure it looks too small or too large, yet you say you pay great attention to scale.
A. Human head sizes and shapes vary a lot. I can’t make a universal sized head because it doesn’t exist. The Hornet heads do vary, and some of the bare heads will even look ok on some 1:32 scale figurines if bulked out with hair. But I have no control over what figure the modeller is putting the head onto! Just try it and see -if it looks right it IS right!
Q. Why don’t you make sets of headgear which the customer can then place on the bare Hornet head of his choice?
A. Same reason. Even (most) steel helmets were issued to soldiers in varying sizes. I want to make the fit of the helmet look authentic, so I model it with the head inside! Besides, the technical problems of producing hollowed out headgear are too great, even if there was a universally sized soldier’s head!
Q. Sometimes I notice very similar faces to the Hornet range on other manufacturers’ products. Do you sculpt for anyone else?
A. No. There is nothing to prevent another manufacturer from imitating my general style, but if he actually uses a Hornet head or figure on a commercially produced model he is a thief and should be boiled in oil. Slowly. Excuse me - I need to kick the cat.......
Q. What happened to the Hornet and Wolf figurines?
A. In the 1980s Nic Adams and I came together to produce the Hornet range. I made the models and Nic marketed them. After a few years Nic started the Wolf resin range, sculpted by other designers (but not me). Later still, Nic asked me to run both Wolf and Hornet while he took a back seat. The agreement ended in December 2011, and I sold my remaining Wolf stock as a job lot. I continue to run Hornet, but in 2013 I decided that my figurines were no longer profitable and stopped restocking them. Now I only make the heads.
Q. Why keep calling the site Hornet and Wolf then?
A. The website is well known and printed on all our packaging! And I still want people to visit the website for my own Hornet headsets.
Q. I envy you, making a living by modelmaking. Was it difficult?
A. It’s true that it is a great way to make a living - IF you can make a living! To anyone that wants to try it, I suggest that you do not give up the day job. It would be a bad idea to think that there was a huge market out there just because of the coverage in various magazines, and competition is fierce. It has been enjoyable, but yes, at times it has been difficult. And, by the way, it doesn’t earn you much kudos with the uninitiated. I dread the question at social gatherings ‘...and what do you do?’ Strangely, you don’t meet many women either.
Q. Do you have a family despite all that?
A. Yes. When I met my wife I told her I was a financier.
Q. What do they think about your peculiar occupation?
A. My wife has a lingering suspicion that I spend most of my time watching daytime TV. My son and daughter are both grown up, but I still have to hide when they visit with their friends.
Q. So who will take over when you hang up your scalpel?
A. Apres moi, le deluge.
Q. So no more Hornet if you give it up?
A. Well, there’s always a chance that some entrepreneur will arrive and offer me a lot of money to take it over. I’ve always fancied a larger yacht.
Q. Would you like your milky drink now?
A. Is that the time already?