Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My tour of Reaper Miniatures, Part 2: Casting & Paint

Quick recap: My wife, twins & I went to Texas to visit family for Thanksgiving, and I managed to coax my wife to join me on a tour of the Reaper warehouse a few days before Thanksgiving.
More here:
Part 1: Entering the Reaper's lair
Part 3: Minis galore

After seeing the rows upon rows of minis we were taken to see the area where miniatures are cast.
You turned a corner to see a hallway broken up into several bays. Matt picked up a small brick of pewter (another proprietary mix) and told us to watch how quickly it melted.

 He rested it in a smelting pot, and waited for about 5 seconds before the whole thing shifted and slipped completely into the melting pot.
A pile of recently cast Gloom Wraiths. If you think about it, this pile of metal is probably worth about $125
On the way to our next stop I saw this table of familiar looking minis. If you watched the Kickstarter 2 countdown you probably saw these at one point or another. I was most excited to see the "Heroes & Villains" minis.
These were all metal, primed white. I personally prefer the heft and feel of metal, and it gives me hope that some of the bones I like will make the shift to metal one day.

Next we visited the packaging area. Here, high-tech machines tirelessly printed cardboard backings and shuffled miniatures into their proper boxes.
 Just kidding. It's done by hand, by this guy (I don't remember his name, sorry).

Two guys were in charge of the boxing process while I was there. The wood boards had cutouts that held up to ten plastic box fronts. They placed the mini inside, and glued the back in place. The backs themselves were pre-printed by another company, but labeled in-house. (Matt inferred that that was going to change in the near future)

 From there we went to see "Thomas," Reaper's new plastic casting machine.
It took me far too long to figure out why they called it Thomas. My wife had to point out that it looks like a blue train engine (she might have been rolling her eyes at the time).
 This is one of the purchases the company made with the proceeds from their first Kickstarter. They'll be able to pump out miniatures nearly 24/7, only stopping to refill the machine with Bones plastic (if I remember correctly). Here Matt passed me a handful of plastic Warlord bases to show what it could do. I've already started using the bases for minis (more on that later).

We then stopped over in the corner where paint was being produced & pots filled. Matt made sure to point out that Reaper is the only game company that makes it's own paint.
Apologies for the poor photo quality. This shot was far blurrier that I'd like to post, & I did my best to make it passable
The paint mixing and filling was also done by hand. One person was tasked with making sure the colors of each new batch were spot on, which is pretty incredible. All the paint pots are filled by using kidney laboratory pumps (above). *edit: One reader pointed out that they couldn't be dialysis pumps, and since I can't read the writing on the pump to confirm I downgraded it to "laboratory"*

Here they also had walls full of their paints organized into tubs. I typically use Citadel & P3 for my painting needs, but I might have to give Reaper's line another shot.

Next: Sculpting & Gallery

Friday, January 17, 2014

My tour of Reaper Miniatures, Part 1

At the beginning of the 2013 school year my wife realized her union negotiated several furlough days into the last week of November. Sounds boring, yes, but since it coincided with Thanksgiving it meant she'd have a ten-day vacation.

We hadn't traveled outside of the state since the twins were born, so we decided to jump at the chance. Long story short, we decided to accept an invitation to visit my cousin's family in Texas. I'd never been, and my wife had only ever gone as part of a college swimming trip. Plus, I figured South was a pretty good direction to travel in late Autumn, so we booked a flight to Fort Worth.

Over the course of the Reaper Bones II kickstarter I'd noticed the company's headquarters was in Denton, Texas. Lo & behold, it was a 30 minute drive from my cousin's house.

My wife thought I was kidding when I said we had to take a tour.

The exterior of the shop looks more like a warehouse than a game store, (Probably because that's what it is) but had my wife not pointed out a few signs noting that this was the place I probably would have passed it by.
Photo taken from the Wargames and Railroads blog
Inside however is a fully functional game store, similar to many I've seen throughout the US. It had a full complement of games, dice, and HOLYCRAPTHAT'SATONOFMINIS. Seriously. Wall to wall.

(There weren't any Games Workshop inventory, but I certainly can't fault them for that.)

The cardboard boxes on the right-hand table were filled with plastic minis I'd never seen before. They appeared to be stylized grey aliens, some in sci-fi armor.  Apparently it was a commission for another gaming company that they'd produced and were sorting out before shipment.

They had every available Dark Heaven, Pathfinder, Chronoscope, Bones, etc just lined out across the wall in numerical order. The only thing they didn't have in the main room was their Warlord line. One of the workers had to run to the factory to get one that I wanted.

My wife, myself, and our 10 month old twins were all super excited to get to see where miniature magic happens*, so we asked if anyone was available to give us a tour of the factory. Fortunately one of their services guys, Matt, was kind enough to show us around. So with that we were escorted into the warehouse itself. (*enthusiasm on the part of any family members is greatly exaggerated)

The warehouse itself was all business.
These suits of armor came from fan who'd a local armorer. They're fully functional, and apparently have been worn on a few occasions
 The first place Matt took us was to the very back of the warehouse where the casting process begins. They press minis into wheels of almost gooey rubber to create molds, then vulcanize the wheels to make them as hard as car tires.
Funny story, I was asked not to take any images of a bit of proprietary swag on the table, so I carefully positioned myself so it'd be behind her arm as I took my picture, only to discover that she was reaching for a whole trey full of the same proprietary items (I shopped them out though)
This is the cast for Kargir Tundra Beast Rider from Warlord. If I remember correctly Matt said each wheel is good for about 20 "spins" so this wheel could make upwards of 100 minis before being replaced. Smaller casts that don't have a lot of width (like weapons sprues) can go for much much longer since they don't cause as much wear & tear when they're pulled from the rubber.

They had row after row of these wheels in the warehouse with their individual codes written on the side to identify what they were
That's a lot of potential minis right there.

And here's a lot of actual minis
They also had row after row of small yellow bins filled with minis waiting to be needed. I could have spent a good while peering into each bin deciding which to buy while ignoring the sticky-fingered devil on my shoulder.

More here:
Part 2: Casting & Paint
Part 3: Minis galore