As a gift, your present will be remembered. Whether sitting upon the mantelpiece, guarding a desk or displayed upon a side table, tin soldiers will always be a conversational topic. And the young mind can always salute and say goodnight to the Guards on the nightstand.
Where did they go?
Traditional tin soldiers are increasingly hard to find. Almost a forgotten craft, tin (or ‘pewter’) casting is often referred to as a crude, rather outdated and quite obsolete production method. Nevertheless most of us carry some memory of ‘those heavy soldiers grandfather kept in his box’, ‘those soldiers in that display case’ or even ‘that set I got as a child’. The arrival of the industrial hollow cast and the introduction of plastic figures however, seems to have wiped out every home foundry, usually located in a shed.
My grandfather made me my first tin soldiers in the late 70s. Christmas was definitely a magical time back then. Completely enthralled as I was, grandad subsequently taught me how to cast in the early 80s, once I was old enough. And ever since the tin soldiers have been a constant.
How are they made?
The 54mm & 40mm soldiers are cast from ‘white metal’, in this case an alloy of 50 percent tin and 50 percent lead. Lead for sturdiness, tin so it is somewhat pliable and therefore ‘workable’. Each soldier is cast in several pieces, in vulcanised rubber moulds produced by ourselves, Prince August® and Schildkröt. Every piece is then sanded and brushed by hand, before being assembled and fastened either with glue or by soldering. A base coat of white paint is then applied. All individual colours are up next. They are painted by hand in enamel paint, each colour being left to dry for a minimal of eight hours. Often a colour coat is applied twice. When completed, a final coat of varnish finishes off the process. Restoration of older figures also happens in our workshop.
A single soldier weighs in at about 40-50 grams when finished. Cavalry on the other hand, weighs upward from 240 grams per figure.
Are they toys?
No. At least not in the sense of modern-day toys. The old and much used soldiers one might find in antique shops, will often show chipped paint or missing arms or legs. However sturdy the material of which they are made, the soldiers can be fragile. Lifting a standard bearer by his flag for instance is not a good idea, nor would it be wise to try to lift a heavy cavalry figure from its box by the sabre. Always pick up a tin soldier around the legs or torso, or in case of a horse, at the back of the animal figure. Dropping a soldier might result in breakage.
Please also keep in mind that the soldiers contain lead, which means they cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 14.