Home Forums General General Are modern sculpting standards higher?

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 15 total)
  • Author
  • #70045
    Avatar photoNorm S

    I have just visited a link for some rather splendid new  28mm releases and while gazing into the detail, I wondered why many figures of yesteryear (long ago) lacked that level of detail.

    I have no idea how the production side works. With charm and personal preference aside, is it sculpting, process or material that has allowed this to happen?

    I don’t think it is just size, because it seems that all scales are seeing an uplift in detail.

    Avatar photoCerdic

    I’m guessing it is something to do with moulding or casting technology. I doubt that the human artistic ability to sculpt something has suddenly got better. The ancient Greeks and Romans were pretty good at knocking out a statue…

    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage

    Once upon a time close enough was good enough. Then more talented sculptors came along. It’s an evolutionary thing.


    Peter Laing 15mm.

    Laing 15mm

    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    Avatar photocraig cartmell

    I am finally getting around to cleaning up and painting a few dozen  early 80’s, 25mm Ral Partha dwarves and orcs/goblins.

    The sculpting is superb and easily equal to what people are creating now.

    Avatar photoMike

    I’m guessing it is something to do with moulding or casting technology. I doubt that the human artistic ability to sculpt something has suddenly got better

    Expectations are greater so people have to up their game in a very competitive market.
    The internet has enabled people to gauge quality between companies/sculptors.
    It has also allowed sculptors to learn from those better than them and thus offer a ‘better’ product.

    Ability may have gotten better a bit, but people accepting close enough is less of a thing, when the same people can get good instead.


    Avatar photoOB

    Leaving aside technological improvements there has been some very fine stuff about for at least 35 years.  There was also a lot of poorer stuff too.  That said for me this is the golden age of figures.


    Avatar photoHoward Whitehouse

    Obviously, we need an actual sculptor to tell us exactly, but my understanding is that there was a huge leap when various forms of putty came in, replacing older methods of building up the figure on the dolly, which had involved things like sculpting in hot solder. I think this around  1980. I recall reading Tom Meier’s blogs about this.

    Modern green putty is far better than the stuff available thirty plus years ago, of course, as anyone who recalls the graininess of original Milliput will recall. I say this as someone whose abilities extend to, say, adding a turban or a big hipster beard to a figure, but not actually creating one.


    I do all my own stunts.

    Avatar photoAngel Barracks

    I find greenstuff easier to work with than miliput.
    Plenty of people mix the two together, people are getting into beeswax at the moment, then you have digitally crafted masters.

    I can’t help but feel that over the years as artwork has improved in boxed games and even traditional games, that people want their models to be as cool as the glossy character artwork seen on the covers.

    People are willing to pay £10.00 for a single 28mm model which means sculptors can be paid more, so they can take longer to make a nicer figure.

    There are still plenty of bad figures out there but overall I feel that the quality is better.
    I would like to think that in terms of pushing expectations, that my 6mm sci-fi character models have helped to show that small models can have detail and character…



    Avatar photoAutodidact-O-Saurus

    I bought my first figures c. 1977, Minifigs Macedonians. The quality was OK. A couple of years later, though, in 1980 I bought some 25mm Norse god figures from Superior models. The detail was just as good as what’s produced today–and that corresponds with the availability of new putties. However, I think the real push for detail (as well as scale creep) came in the 1990s. There was a court case in New York which alleged lead poisoning from toy soldiers and a banning of the sale of figures containing lead. IIRC it was a nasty divorce case and the allegation was disproved, but all of sudden companies rushed to use lead free pewter just to avoid liability. Seems like figure prices doubled in a year. I think customers suddenly wanted to see an increase in quality (e.g., detail) for the increased price and focused on smaller gaming collections since large collections were no longer reasonably priced. I also think this is one of the reasons DBA became so popular–you could field an army and play a decent game with a maximum of 48 figures per side! But with that few figures… detail matters.

    Just my thoughts and reminiscences.

    Self taught, persistently behind the times, never up to date. AKA ~ jeff
    More verbosity: http://petiteguerre.blogspot.com/

    Avatar photocraig cartmell

    Here are the Tom Meier dwarves from the early 80’s. Note that these dwarves average 18mm in height:

    TM's Dwarves


    I agree with what Not CS said.  Things evolve.  I think some good old fashioned competition also has something to do with it. (Mine have to be better in order to sell!)  Finally, there is sculpting techniques for small figures that almost certainly have been developed over the years to make it easier to sculpt.


    "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

    --Abraham Lincoln

    Avatar photoPhil Dutré

    Yes, sculpting standards are higher. Actually, I think they are too high. Some modern fantasy figures (GW…) have become too difficult to paint for the casual painter.

    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    Thank goodness!

    I thought my eyesight was getting a lot worse than it already is.

    Avatar photoBlackhat

    The original minifigs were carved from blocks of lead solder (on the train by the sculptor while commuting….), other figures were constructed from wire armatures and soldering.  You can produce very high quality figures using the solder technique – it is how jewellery is made and how all the All the Queen’s Men figures I have are originally made – all the masters are metal but it is a very slow and skilled process.

    The advent of kneadite and other puttys made it far easier for people to sculpt.

    Also, the rubber and silicon used in moulds have improved a lot, as have casting machines and techniques which means you can mould and cast figures now that were simply impossible without cutting them up into different parts.

    I don’t believe that the actual quality of the sculptors has improved but the tools they have now to create their work and for it to be reproduced certainly have…




    Avatar photoRhoderic

    I think there’s some merit to the supposition that better sculptors have come along within the industry. Some people have the visionary drive to do something new, but not the talent to do it “best”. Others have the talent but not the visionary drive. The amateur visionaries build up the tradition to the best of their abilities, and as the established tradition gradually sets in place (proving itself as a viable, worthwhile pursuit), the more talented people can come along and outcompete the trailblazers without having to boldly invent the practice all their own.

    A few rare individuals might have both the visionary drive and the talent (Tom Meier? The brothers Perry?). I imagine they’re a multiplier for the establishment of the tradition, but neither integral nor preemptive for the aggregated process described above to unfold.

    Obviously I’m talking specifically about sculpting within a distinct, arguably esoteric set of customs and conventions (in this case those of the wargaming hobby), so your Michelangelos and Rodins don’t count.

    There are other factors for the gradual improvement of sculpting quality as well, of course. Better materials and tools seem to have greatly remedied some of the impediment. Higher standards within the customer base necessitate that sculptors sculpt to their fullest potential moreso than earlier. Increasing willingness within the customer base to pay more for higher quality (as budget DIY hobbyists gradually drop out of the market and “prestige” hobbyists gradually drop in) enable sculptors to put in more time and effort. Some of the “knack” for sculpting might potentially be communicated as transmittable knowledge, rather like how agricultural crop yields have risen historically with the spread of written manuals on effective farming. Some factors I’m probably ignorant of.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 15 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.