Monday, 18 February 2013

Frontline and the Unsung Heroes of Wargaming


The unsung heroes of wargaming are the small manufacturers operating out of modest premises and surviving by the skill of their hands and a great deal of hard work. Without them we would have access to very limited ranges indeed.

One such is Frontline Wargaming who are a family company based locally to me in the Medway Towns. They kindly allowed me to have a snoop around on a cold snowy January afternoon, when my Ford Focus was leaking like a trawl net.

The first thing one notices when entering the nerve centre of Frontline to meet Tim, the local warlord, is that this is the domain of a wargamer, one of us, a genuine nutter. The gaming table with the assortment of replica weapons on the wall above proves that.


And here is Tim, himself. Frontline had its inception in Leicester in the 1980s when he was retailing wargame gear and models. He organised a WWII game and made scenery for it including resin trench lines. Pretty soon other club members got him to make terrain for them and he had a business.

Frontline is perhaps still known for its resin models especially an extensive and very good range of WWII vehicles in 20mm (1/76). I have bought a number of these over the years and can recommend them. A number have already featured on this blog in earlier posts, notably, his early war and Dad's Army British range which is perfect for VBCW games. he even has some armoured lorries and 1930s Vickers medium tanks.



I had a peek in the resin production room, which reminds me of the surfboard factories in my home town of Newquay. I have played around with resin myself and it is very witchcrafty. It all ain't as easy as the hobby books would have you believe.


Frontline 20mm resin models in my collection


 Some early war 1940 British tanks.



 An early war and colonial warfare Rolls Royce armoured car.


 Beaverette improvised armoured cars to replace the losses in France, used later to guard airfields.

I might add that I paid full price for all these models and intend to buy more.

In recent years Frontline have branched out into 15mm metal  production and have built up a massive range of WWI figures including all the minor powers. These are marketed under the IT brand.


Metal moulds are radial, with the molten metal poured in at the top.


A mould split open to show the solid figures. Now you know why 15mm is sold in small batches.


Some idea of the range is given by the racks of moulds.

 

 
And this is why the mould are round. Molten metal has a high viscosity and you need a centrifuge to force it down the channels into the figure bays. Apparently, everything depends on the rate of pour, coupled to the spin speed and the metal consistency and the background temperature and and and...


Some of the finished product.

I am a wonderfully cack-handed person and it always fascinates me to watch craftsmen in action.

Many thanks to Tim for taking time out in his busy schedule to show me around.



17 comments:

  1. Reminds me of Zombiesmith's setup. He has youtube videos on how he makes his Quar minis, and it looks a lot like this.

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  2. Great stuff John! I agree completely, these guys are the heart of the hobby. I am sure the vast amount of my money spent on figures has gone to companies just like this one. I like your post especially because I don't think I will ever make it across the pond to see the UK shops in person. If this is as close as I will ever get, thanks for shining the light on them. Thanks to Frontline (and Tim) for setting the bar.

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    1. I try to support guys like Tim because without them the hobby will be impoverished.

      PS visiting England for an American citizen is easy. you don't even need a visa, just a passport. It's not cheap but you will enjoy it.

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  3. Thanks John:
    I always think of manufacturers like Frontline as I do the cheesemakers and butchers one sees at the farmers' market. I don't mind paying what they ask for what they've made because it is made with love and care. That's why I go to the farmers' market. I certainly do 't go there for low prices.

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    1. Exactly, and the beef is beef, not reconstituted offal and Romanian donkey.

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  4. Thanks for the behind the scenes sneak peek of FRONTLINE> Tim is a great bloke and always a pleasure to talk to. And definitely one of the local wargames heroes!

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    1. Absolutely, a very nice guy and bursting with enthusiasm.

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  5. I love these smaller manufacturers as they put more love it the hobby than some of the larger ones. One this a noticed as I have friends who are also a small manufacturer is how the equipment and sleeving is the same.

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    1. Yah, I guess this is a mature process, at least until 3D printers improve.

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  6. Thanks for the look behind the scenes!

    What a difference an ocean makes. There, the first picture is a quaint collection of a hobbyist. Here in the American South, it would be part of a militia bunker.

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  7. Dear Sons

    LOL. It is most certainly not a militia bunker. :)

    The 'gun' is a non-firing replica just for display. A real military rifle would be impossible to get a licence for here, as it has no percieval civilian function, and would not be on a wall but locked away even if you could.

    You don't need a licence for swords, etc, but are advised not to wave them around in public unless at a reanactment (with insurance).

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    1. Percevable - sigh!

      The Confederate flag sends no particular political message either. :)

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  8. A genuinely interesting article, its always fascinating to see real craftspeople at work. Thanks for that.

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    1. Dear Lee
      Especially when they live in our own back yard.
      J

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