These Things Are Sent To Try Us

Yesterday the power went out at the workshop, mid-casting session, and didn’t come back for the rest of the day. Unfortunately this plunged me into pitch darkness and meant I wasn’t able to finish all the outstanding orders, which is a pain. Everything placed up to last Friday (Feb 3rd) has been packed and sent, but after that you’re now in the queue. With a bit of luck it will have been fixed today and I should be able to get back to casting tomorrow.

Sunday sees us (well, me) attending a new show – Red On Blue In Nottingham, or ROBIN for short. Given Nottingham’s position as the centre of UK wargaming’s Lead Belt, being the home of an awful lot of the major players (us excepted, of course) it’s surprising that there hasn’t mean a show held there in recent years. I’m heading up Saturday afternoon ready to set up Sunday morning first thing. I should have a decent stock of all of our new releases (assuming of course that I get power back tomorrow !). Because this is a solo show, I’ll have a full quota of army packs, starter packs, rulebooks etc, but no individual stock of 6mm, spaceships, Squadron Commander or Aeronef (although we have started carrying a selection of Aeronef capital ships) – I just don’t have the space or the will power to lift and shift that much stock. I will have individual 15mm vehicles and figure packs, Celtos and Magpie figures, Great War Belgians and the full 2mm range.

Another Day, Another Dilemma

I feel like we’re fighting a constant stream of niggling problems at the moment. PayPal are rolling out updates to their shopping cart software which keep breaking (if only temporarily) our website in minor but irritating ways – firstly there was the issue with shipping costs, which was then followed by the (fortunately brief) problem with VAT calculations. Touching as much wood as I can find, I think I’ve solved (or worked around) both of these.

The Brigade printer (barely two years old) has been playing up and the black heads are constantly clogging, which is costing a fortune in ink for head cleaning – to the extent that a new printer might be cheaper than the ink cartridges I keep buying. The last gasp is a third-party head cleaning kit, so wish me luck with that …

The latest one ? Back in early November I noticed we were getting low on flying stands and put in an order to get us through the sale. We received a partial order before Christmas (most of the black stands but no clear) and we’ve now been told that the manufacturer’s injection moulding machine is out of action and it could be weeks or even months before we get any more of either type. This is a pretty critical item to run out of, since they are supplied in all Aeronef fleet, flotilla and starter packs.

So at the moment we’re limited to just black bases. However, as an alternative they’re offered us white flying stands so we’ve ordered a big batch of those and will be using them as replacements in Aeronef fleet packs as soon as they arrive.

On the plus side, yesterday I cleared the order backlog and everything up until the end of this weekend has been cast up, packed and will be sent later today (woo-hoo !). And Phil has been churning out moulds like there’s no tomorrow, so the new release list is looking good 🙂

Christmas Holidays

So the sale is all over for another year – this time we’ve been unusually efficient with turning orders around, although there are still a few remaining that came in on Thursday and Friday for me to mop up this week. However, all sale orders should ship by Christmas barring anything unforeseen.

I’m at the workshop for the first half of this week and will continue to process any new orders as they come in. The last posting date for all overseas destinations has gone, so although I will still post out orders, don’t expect to see them until well after Christmas now. The exception is UK orders – I will endeavour to get all remaining sale orders for the UK posted before last post (Wednesday), but anything else will probably not make it for Christmas Day.

The website will remain open as always, but we’re taking next week off, so any orders placed after the middle of this week will have to wait until the New Year. Once the sale orders have gone I’ll be concentrating on admin, some maintenance and tidying around the workshop, and hopefully some design work on new items. I’ll return to the workshop on Tuesday January 3rd after the New Year bank holiday.

Ten Sale Days Remaining

The Christmas sale is merrily sailing along (excuse the pun), and I’m going up to the local post office almost daily with piles of orders to be dispatched. It has ten days to run, so you still have plenty of time to make a saving (although be mindful of the last posting dates if you’re hoping to receive anything before Christmas). As things stand we’re pretty much up to date with orders – I have managed to clear the backlog so orders are being turned round pretty swiftly. We have a couple held up by a failed resin building mould that Phil is rapidly remaking, and we had run out of Imperial Skies turn rulers (again). However, new supplies of those were delivered today so they’ll be out the door in the next day or two, and are also back on the website.

We’ve had a cold spell here in the UK, so the workshop is, to say the least, a little nippy – this was the temperature inside the workshop when I switched on the machines the other day. I have a fan heater that keeps the casting room warm (if I don’t then the oil inside the air compressor motor is too viscous and it won’t run), but the main body of the workshop tends to resemble a walk-in freezer !

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We’ve managed to stay on plan this year, so I’ve spent the majority of the last couple of weeks casting, packing and posting orders. I’ve also managed to find time to do some design work on new releases for next year and we have some interesting new bits lined up – there are new releases planned in the spaceships, Aeronef, Small Scale Scenery, 6mm and 15mm SF ranges for the first three months of next year. For now, here’s a preview of the hull of a new 15mm tank I’ve been working on…

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PacFed Upgrades

One of our most popular 15mm ranges is the PacFed (Pacific Federation), probably because of their futuristic look with the wide grav skirts and rail guns. The designs are based on their 6mm counterparts but with a rather different styling and much more detail (as befits some of the first 3D sculpts we made). We decided recently that we would upgrade the models in the Polyversal pledge to the standard of the 15mm designs and showed off the 3D models. Now we have the models in hand and we’ve started casting in anger to fulfil our part of the pledges.

We thought it might be interesting to show some side-by-side images of the old and new models for comparison. As you can see, we’ve kept them pretty much the same size and layout as the originals but otherwise they’ve had a commplete facelift. One lesson learnt from previous rescales has been to beef up the proportions of the guns otherwise they can be too spindly. In addition, I’ve also found it can be a good idea to increase the thickness of turrets as well, as a straight scaling from the 15mm models can leave them looking a bit thin. I’m sure it doesn’t need pointing out but, just in case, the old models are on the left of each picture 🙂

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We have now finished remodelling all of the PacFed range in 6mm, including a couple of 15mm vehicles that haven’t previously been available in 6mm (the Raeside and Dundas). We have masters of all of them which are just about to be committed to moulds (in fact I picked up a fresh batch of blank moulds from the manufacturers this morning) so there will be more photos once we’ve been able to cast the first masters.

SALE UPDATE

It’s all hands to the pump here right now – the Black Friday offer seems to have kicked the sale into overdrive (it was going well enough anyway). I’ve been trying to turn round orders as fast as possible to avoid any sort of backlog building up, but this weekend’s flood of orders means that I’m now running about 4-5 days behind – so orders placed up to yesterday will hopefully be posted by the end of this week.

Normally I try to process orders in the sequence that they are received, so that everyone is treated fairly. However, as the first of the last posting dates starts to loom into view I will prioritise orders so that they have the best chance of arriving for Christmas. Essentially, this means I’ll try to make sure orders get posted in time for their respective dates.

Last Posting Dates 2016

As mentioned in the sale announcement last week, one of the reasons for bringing the sale forward is to allow overseas customers to place orders in time to receive them by Christmas.

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All of our orders are sent by First Class mail (UK) or International Standard mail (overseas). The Royal Mail’s last recommended postings for various destinations are:

  • Saturday 3 December – Africa, Middle East
  • Wednesday 7 December – Cyprus, Asia, Far East (including Japan), Eastern Europe (except Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia), Turkey, Malta
  • Thursday 8 December – Caribbean, Central & South America
  • Saturday 10 December – Greece, Australia, New Zealand
  • Wednesday 14 December – Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland
  • Thursday 15 December – Canada, Finland, Sweden, USA
  • Friday 16 December – Austria, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland
  • Saturday 17 December – Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg
  • Wednesday 21 December – UK

I’m afraid that the last posting date for Antartica has already passed…

Obviously we aren’t always able to ship out orders on the same or next day, some may take several days to a week to process, so if you want to place an order as a present, please, please don’t leave it to the last minute.

PayPal Problems

UPDATE 11/11/2016 – we’ve been informed that this issue has now been fixed, so all should be working again.

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We’ve had a notification from PayPal this morning that there is an issue at their end with the shopping cart system – they’re apparently working on it. For some customers it’s fine (we’ve had several orders this morning) but for others it’s been playing up for a couple of days.

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In the meantime, if you’re unable to complete your transaction at the checkout stage, you can send us a list and we can send you a PayPal invoice in return – this part of their system is working fine and you can pay that way.

Back Again

Back from my break, today’s first task is to tackle the order backlog which has built up while I’ve been away. Hopefully this should be cleared within a week or so.

I’ve been in Menorca, which has a much richer military history than I realised. Of special interest are the network of defensive towers, very similar to Martello towers, dotted around the coast. There are fourteen in all (plus one other which has been incorporated into a larger fortress). Expect to see at least some of these, plus other buildings that I’ve spotted which have given me ideas, popping up in the Small Scale Scenery range. In fact, it seems that Menorca is a favoured spot for Inspiration Particles, as I’m returning with a head (and notebook) full of ideas, some of which will come to fruition, others will be consigned to the ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’ dustbin.

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In other matters, we seem to have a small pocket of missing/undelivered orders, including some Imperial Skies ones. At first glance some of these appear to be from a large batch which was posted on the same day – I’ll be doing some investigating when I get a chance. In the meantime, if anyone has not received an order or their Imperial Skies pledge, please either e-mail us or in the case of Imperial Skies, you can contact Robin via the KS page and he’ll pass it onto me.

We have one more show to go this year – Crisis in Antwerp on November 5th – so now seems like a good time to post a reminder about pre-orders. You can select the Collect in Person option on our website, then create your order as normal in the shopping cart, pay for it by PayPal or credit card, but without any postage charges. Alternatively, you can just e-mail us a list and pay by cash on the day. Because of geographical restrictions on our credit card machine, I cannot take card payments at Crisis, just cash (sterling or euros).

Right-o, off to the workshop to fire up the forges…

Last Minute

The Brigadieress and I are off for a short break for a few days starting today (in fact we’ll be in mid-air when this is posted). It’s a bit of a last minute decision, but it’s the only time that we can squeeze in a break between shows. I’ve literally chucked everything out of the van from SELWG yesterday, grabbed a suitcase and a couple of hours’ sleep, then headed off to Gatwick. All orders up to the end of Thursday last week have been cleared, but anything placed since then is going to be delayed a little, although Phil will try to clear some while I’m gone. I may also not be responsive to emails for a week or so either.

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I have left a couple of scheduled blog posts for your entertainment, including a new release announcement for Friday.

Photo by Ken Fielding/http://www.flickr.com/photos/kenfielding, used under a Creative Commons license.

Imperial Update #1 – First Post

I had a bit of a blitz on packing Imperial Skies pledges yesterday while Phil was fiddling with his moulds. A big pile of orders will be going to the post office this morning (it’s only a small local branch, so they’ve been pre-warned to expect them !). So far we’ve completed just over 30% of the pledges, and this doesn’t include those North American customers who will have received their books but are still waiting on models or other components. I’m hoping to get even more done at the start of next week – although there’s a planned power outage at the workshop all day Monday, so I may not get much done in the dark !

31% of pledges have shipped

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Phil brought the new Lexington master mould along and has cast tins to make the replacement production mould over the weekend, so that will hopefully allow us to ship pledges which need those. The last hurdle will be the Japanese cruisers – the mould for the new versions is not playing ball, with the side guns not casting properly. We will first try making a new one with the ships aligned differently to see if that cures the problem, or in the worst case we’ll have to modify the designs slightly, get new masters printed and try again – this will put a delay of potentially several weeks on things, so in this case we will ship pledges without the cruiser and send those on as soon as they are ready.