Notes From The Bench
My name is Ken Osen and I am the owner of Hudson & Allen Studio. We have been operating as a design and model-making studio for over twenty years now servicing the museums and the collectible industry. We have research and designed figures, vehicles and scenics for several collectibles companies you may be familiar with including: Ertle, W. Britain, Valiant Enterprises, Conte Collectibles, Corgi, Old Northwest Trading Company, 1st Gear and of course Hudson & Allen Studio. After may requests we have established this web site to offer our products and services direct to those that do not have a source. This will also allow us to give some background on the models we produce, something that often is not practical with the marketing models used by some of our clients. Please check back here from time to time, as I will be posting news on new products and musings on the hobby. Feel free to e-mail us with any questions or concerns and if they are of general interest I may post replies here.
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Some Thoughts on Scale and Compatibility
When we went live with this site, I mentioned that from time to time I would chat about new products or modeling in general. Well, on various forums the subject of scale and compatibility comes up quite often. Many of the products that we make work with just about everything currently made. To a certain degree this has been fairly straight forward, as we have not offered figures or vehicles yet.
Scenery and structures are a bit more forgiving as far as compatibility because there is not any one size that is right for trees and bushes, and many of the structures we model are prototyped from building styles that pre date standardized building codes for windows and doors.
So what things should be considered when choosing figures and vehicles that are compatible enough to display together? Well, the obvious answer is: If they look good together, then it will work.
This may mean that one or two manufacturer's collections will be compatible, but be warned that the marketing identifiers such as scale may be a bit misleading and should only be used as general guide. The real test will be side by side, and may be just an aesthetic choice for general proportions or color. Here are some thoughts that have lead me to my conclusions…
There has been a movement in the past few years for many of the companies producing 20th century vehicles to standardize on 1/32 or 1/30 scale models. This is pretty straight forward, as simple calculations should be used reducing something from a real world size to 30 to 32 times smaller.
The problem has really been the production models and the distortion that can occur depending on what material is used to duplicate the original models. Some filled resins that are used for economical reasons can shrink a fair amount, and not always in a predictable fashion. This coupled with poor calculations or pattern making can create a production model that is too large, too small or even has parts of mixed scales within one model.
A search for historical data to double check a model is now much easier with the Internet, and this coupled with a ruler and a calculator will confirm how accurate your vehicle is.
One of the models I recently added to my collection suffers from all of the above listed issues: Miscalculations in scaling, oversized details, improperly placed details such as engine access panels, improper modeling of the main road wheels, and distortions in production duplications. With all of these problems it looked good and I bought it. I will fix a few things to improve it, but it really isn’t worth trying to fix the major problems. I will probably replace it at some point as the industry is always offering improved products.
This can be a subject that can generate some really hot debates. I have come to a conclusion that makes it all much easier to accept however that at least for the foreseeable future, it is an aesthetic choice. The scale listed on the box by most manufacturers is a marketing choice. Listing a figure as a 54mm or 60mm model is almost meaningless from a strictly scale standpoint as this is an overall height of a miniature. Is it a man standing 5” 4”’ or 6’ 3” in the real world?
Here is where I would like to think that the same standard that should be used to scale vehicles would be used for miniature representations of a soldier. The height of the model human form is not the real issue and variation is acceptable.
Weapons and equipment are usually only made in one size in the real world. With few exceptions, a WII US M1 Garand or a WWII German M31 Gas mask canister will always be the same size in the real world. This will mean that they should always be the same size in any given scale too. Look at your figures too see how much variation there is between manufacturers to evaluate compatibility.
I suppose one of the exceptions to the above rule that come to mind here might be a German WWII steel helmet. The Model 35, 40 and 42 steel combat helmet shells were produced in 6 different Metric sizes. I own one that would never fit on my head and another that is a perfect fit.
As a model maker and sculptor, I often start with the correct proportions of the weapons and equipment on paper and then adjust them in size and proportion to be more viable to the process and end use of the miniature. Let’s go through an exercise in scaling a few weapons to make the point.
I will use three real weapons that we can measure at 1/1 scale and then reduce the scale to 1/32. I will keep it to a few smaller parts to make my point for now:
WWII German K-98 manufactured in 1937
Barrel diameter at muzzle is about 5/8" at full size
This would calculate out at .019" or .496 mm
Cleaning rod diameter at about 3/16"
This calculates to .005" or .148 mm
Sling thickness (one layer of leather) at 1/8"
This would be .003" or .099 in 1/32 scale
British new land pattern musket manufactured between 1795 -1803
Barrel diameter is about 7/8" at the muzzle
This would be .027" or .694 mm in 1/32 scale
Ramrod diameter at 5/16"
The scale size would be .009" or .248 mm
US Rose pattern NCO sword 1795-1820
The blade thickness is 5/32" at midpoint
The scale thickness would be .004" or .124 mm in 1/32 scale
Just with these few calculations it becomes clear why most of the pre-decorated figures that are currently offered are often inaccurate from a scale point of view. If we held the dimensions to true scale most of the fine details would most likely be destroyed in the simple shipping and handling required to bring them from the manufacturer to the collector. Because of this some manufacturers will model the patterns to an aesthetically acceptable adjusted size.
A scale model rifle or musket barrel may be too small at a given scale to be viable for a pre-decorated mass produced product. Consider the K-98 barrel scaling at .019" or .496 mm in 1/32, or even .020" or .529 mm in 1/30. This will most likely have to be increased in size to produce even in small production runs. This is done to insure that the mold cavity fills consistently and that the part will not get distorted or broken somewhere along the line, all the way from factory to the collector.
The simple problem is that there are proportional issues that must be taken into account if the barrel diameter is increased significantly. If it grows very much then many, if not all of the other parts of the weapon must be adjusted to maintain the look and lines of the real world item. This can also translate to the length of the item... if the barrel is bigger in diameter then it might appear too short if the scale length is held to.
This has been done so often now that to some eyes a true scale weapon may even appear too small. To compound things some companies have intentionally over scaled weapons as an artistic statement. This makes most of the products currently offered in our industry semi scale miniatures. They give the impression of a human being or an animal in a particular time and place.
Although I would prefer our figures to be closer to true scale, I accept some of these discrepancies when I buy a figure. I look at the sculpting style, the color palette and overall scale of equipment that the figure is wearing to make the decision if it is compatible with my collection or not.
Will there be any real standardization in scale in the near future? Probably not from the standpoint that it can force a collector to maintain some continuity in the overall look of their collection, at least by subject.