Thursday, January 9, 2020

Building a New 15mm Ancients Army

A Headless Body Production
Venue: From the Desk Of Phil Gardocki
Rules Set: L'Art de la Guerre
Theme:  Japanese

As most of you know, my toy soldier collection is way past their best buy date.  Poor things should have been pensioned off a decade ago.  But with a new gaming system, the old boys have lots of new opportunities to embarrass their owner. Figures that just didn't work in older game systems are just fine in L'Art de la Guerre.  And some <cough, Anglo-Irish> should have been better left in their boxes.

This is nothing new, many of us boomers are just recycling their old lead.  But with the growing popularity of L'Art de la Guerre, brand new, fresh paint just dripping off the lead armies are hitting the tables. Besides, with high def photography the age  of my figures are really showing, and there is only so much that a fresh coat of flock can fix.

Many of my opponents are getting their figures painted by Fernando Enterprises, the figures are being painted in Sri Lanka.  And I finally decided to take the plunge.  The monograph below is not a litany of complaints, but a summary of the process involved to getting an army painted by a service, literally around the world.

This article started with a conversation with a buddy on the cost.  To which I had to say, I didn't remember.  I had some vague ideas of what was the approximate amount, but for a numbers guy, it was embarrassing to just not know. So, I researched my email.  I don't throw out my emails, because you never know when you need to know that one of thousands from years gone by.  Then I thought, but what did the lead cost? And the shipping?  And then I sent the compiled results to my friend and thinking, I've got a blog post here.

First, there were my expectations.  They were simple. I go to their web site, and order an army.  6-8 weeks later a box of new toys arrive.

I...  Had...  No... Clue...

Fernando does have a clue, they know exactly all the issues of a first world mindset in dealing with a third world nation.  And they are very detailed on the difficulties involved and have done their best to mitigate everything.  But it is a learning curve.

First, Fernando will not receive lead straight from the manufacturers.  After thinking about it, I came up with valid reasons for this, but I am not going to get into that.

Second, Fernando wants to do the best job, which requires a lot of thought on your part ahead of time.  When I paint figures, I tend to do assembly line processing.  A lot of thought devolves down to "What paint jar do I happen to have open."  Sit down for a couple of hours, and put a bit of paint on a couple hundred figures.  Come back a week later, repeat.  

Obviously, this is not the way a skilled artist wants to work.  But this requires planning on your part.  This not something I was expecting.  

So, I spent an evening stealing whole cloth images from the web, printing them, and putting them in baggies with the relevant figures. 

All the time, there is an email exchange going on with Fernando over what I am shipping, quality, and explanations as to the requirements.

Box them up and ship them.  In the US, Fernando has a PO "Drop" Box in New York, so you don't have to worry about shipping them half way around the world.  But you do have to pay attention to the customs form, which Fernando provides.

Shipping to Sri Lanka via this box office was 5 days.  (8,700 miles)

A few days later Fernando was analyzing what I sent and had questions.  All good so far.
A month  later I had sample pictures of the work that has been done, and two weeks later more pictures.

A month  later I had sample pictures of the work that has been done.

A month  later I had sample pictures of the work that has been done.

It is now a week before Christmas, and I have explicit email from Fernando that the figures are all finished.  All the previous emails where I thought the job was done were just updates showing progress.

They will ship after Christmas, to avoid any complications of the holidays.

The army arrived on 1/8/2020. 

The detail in wrapping was far above expectations.

The box was tightly packed so there is no rummaging damage.

Less fragile figures were wrapped in custom made books and annotated.  The annotation comes directly from my writing when I shipped the figures.  "Sam 20" is the Essex part number for this lot.

The more fragile figures were individually wrapped.

Opening the Cavalry"book"  The figure are each separated by a piece of piece of foam.

Back to back Ronin.  Notice the detail on the pants.

Tightly wound, and could take a grenade to damage them.
More fragile long Yari each individually wrapped.
You can't see the detail here by the pants have lotus flowers, but you can see that the uniform sleeve has a decorated undershirt.
Mounted and awaiting the glue to dry.
One of the services provided by Fernando is that each of the bases have been leveled.  I put one on a stand, expecting it to fall over, and it stood!  I glued the second one, and it stood as well, and the third.  Very impressive.  The bits of Plasticine above are more to prevent the figures from falling over from jostling the table.

Yoshitune and his cavalry.
Daru and his Samurai.
His brother, Daru with archers, and Yari.

Details of the cost:

162 foot, 29 mounted









+ credit card commission 3 % for money conversion $11.14
Cost Essex figures 142 GBP, or $182
Litko stands,  $24.  
Shipping to Fernando's drop box in New York, about $20
I really was caught up in the exuberance here.  The total cost of 1 army is $610.
And I did it twice!  I ordered an army of Koreans, which will be painted by a local artist.

Time line, all dates are 2019, unless specified:
7/28 Ordered Essex figures
8/13 Opened negotiations with Fernando
Several back and forths with Fernando regarding shipping details including invoice and customs forms
8/28 Shipped raw lead to Sri Lanka
9/2 Acknowledgement receipt of figures in Sri Lanka
9/9 Received query about odds and ends on the job from Fernando
9/30 Received query about odds and ends on the job from Fernando
10/1 Received picture of sample work from Fernando
10/15 Received more pictures of sample work from Fernando
11/5  Received pictures of sample work from Fernando
12/6  Received pictures of sample work from Fernando
12/18  Received email announcing final completion of the work, to be shipped on 2/2/2020.
1/3/2020 Received email announcing the figures have shipped.
1/7/2020 Received email asking for PayPal ID to send a refund for over estimated work.
1/8/2020 Received refund via PayPal
1/8/2020 Received shipment
1/8/2020 Mounted figures onto stands.
1/9/2020 Figure stands flocked.

Would I do it again?


  1. Great stuff, not used his service yet, but thought about for a 28mm Samurai army

    I hope they fight well for you, they certainly look the part

    French Wargame Holidays

  2. The form has three rates:
    I think I know what 'showcase' implies 'display quality'; and I would have to guess that 'collector' means 'table quality'; what is TSSD?

  3. Nice write up.

    I have used them several times and while there can be a bit of communications struggle I have always been happy at the end of the day.

  4. Phil this is great. I considered using Fernando, but this is the first article with the step by step process. Very helpful. Thanks.

  5. Great post: very useful. Thank you.

  6. Have used them loads and another order goes in a couple of weeks.

  7. Thank you very much for your wonderful write up on Fernando Miniature Painting service.
    Look forward to serving you again shortly.

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