My first serious attempt to make wargaming figures was at University. I had been introduced to wargaming by a flatmate, and since at that time I collected Les Higgins 20mm ECW figures, I attempted to add to the range. They were modelled in Vinagel, an early version of Polymer clay that was used in my laboratory, and I used silicone rubber moulds, and solder for casting. The figures (I still have them) were quite crude, but filled a need at the time, and I certainly saw the possibilities of the technique.
Life intervened, and although I became a fulltime model-maker, mostly working in archaeology, and made figures frequently, these were larger items for museum displays rather than for gaming. I also did a lot of drawing, as a hobby, which laid down the basis of future sculpture work and illustration.
By the mid-1980s I was broke, since Thatcher cut the museum funds that gave me work.
By chance, I met a plausible man who suggested I make a range of wargame figures, which he undertook to produce. Battle Honours was born, and did very well for a few years, until the plausible man fled the country, stealing money from various friends, and selling the figures to a third party without consulting me. My attempts to assert my rights and regain the figure range failed, since I didn’t have the funds for a legal action.
So, a couple of years later, in 1990, I restarted the whole project as AB Figures. This time I arranged for the figures to be produced as a franchise, with me retaining ownership and being paid a royalty.
And we have been going on like that ever since. There have been various mistakes, tantrums and hiccups along the way, but now all the ranges are under one roof at Eureka.
I have always done other work, since despite what people might think there’s no fortune to be made making wargame figures. I have worked mostly for museums, creating displays of historic food, painted wall hangings, illustrations and costumes for videos, as well as the occasional large-scale model.
When I started the AB Napoleonics, I made a deliberate choice about size. The original very small 15mm size was very hard to keep to, so I decided to make them at 18mm, much easier to work with given my technique.
Unlike most sculptors, I make my masters in Fimo, an oven-cured polymer clay. It’s very soft and smooth, and requires no armature, since I work in full relief on a small tile, then free the figure from the tile once it’s cooked. It can then be carved and completed by adding pieces and firing them as many times as needed.
That master is then cast into metal using a Centricast system in order to make enough copies to fill the production vulcanised mould. The Fimo original is then very easy to convert to the next figure which helps when making variants. I also innovated by making as many variants of the most basic soldier as I could reasonably manage, and producing them as a random mix, something now regarded as normal practice.
My intent was always to make figures that I would want in my own army.
The WW2 20mm range started when I made a couple of figures to go in a model tank, something I had always had an interest in. A collector friend egged me on, the selection grew a little, and we tried them out on the customers, and they went well. I had got rather tired of making Napoleonics, so it was a minor refreshment to make something different. Of course one thing leads to another, and before long I was heavily committed to a growing range. It took a great deal of work, and they are often technically more detailed, but can be more satisfying because of the wider range of poses.
There have been other periods and ranges too, made for various reasons over the years. They are all now here.
Age has now caught up with me, and prevents me working on new figures for very long. I try to fill in the gaps whenever possible, but it’s not physically possible to work as I once did before the arrival of arthritis. There will be new figures, in dribs and drabs, but they will emerge slowly.