At Brigade, Phil and I have pretty well-defined roles. I do the bulk of the sculpting and design work, handle admin, orders, the post etc while Phil has the vital task of making moulds, both vulcanised ones for the centrifuge and RTV rubber moulds for resin items, and doing all of our resin casting. We share the metal casting duties of an evening.
Last week, however, I finally dipped my toe into the murky waters of mould-making and resin casting – OK, I realise that in wargames manufacturing terms that’s about as newsworthy as ‘man makes cup of tea’, I’m not exactly breaking any new ground here. But I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve done, enough to want to share the results. So here they are:
No, it’s not some fancy cake mould ! It’s a 15mm SF colony base, or at least the first two parts of it (look carefully, there are two different modules in the four that make up this ring). During development I nicknamed it the Octo-Donut for want of a better name, but I’ll have to come up with something more snappy for the release. The final version will come with metal frames that fit between each part to hide the join, they’re still waiting to arrive from the printer. The modular design means that we’ll be able to provide plenty of options – straight corridors, T-junctions, labs, power modules, garages etc, but for the initial release these two pieces make an ideal self-contained base unit.
Look for a release as soon as the connecting frames arrive (due Friday) and can be thrown in a mould (hopefully not long after).
What this also means is that with a bit of luck I’ll be able to take over some of the resin moulding and casting duties from Phil and ease his workload a bit, which in turns means that we ought to be able to release many of the backed-up masters that we’ve not yet been able to get into production.
Long ago we used an old fashioned swipe machine with the carbon receipt slips to take credit card payments. That was until we discovered that the fees we were paying to the bank to use it were way, way more than we were taking in payments ! So we packed it up, sent it back and instead took to manually taking credit card details on paper and running the cards when we returned to base – of course the risk with this is that the payment could be refused, in which case we would out of pocket as the customer already has the goods (although in fact this never happened apart from once, and we were able to contact the customer and arrange alternative payment – wargamers are a very honest bunch in general).
However, no longer will we need to do this – for we have a new toy in Brigade Towers. It’s a little widget called a PayPal Here (no, we don’t know why either). It’s for reading both Chip and Pin and older swipe cards, which connects by Bluetooth to my smartphone and allows us to process credit card payments on the spot and send the customer a receipt by either e-mail or text message. Isn’t technology wonderful !
We’ll be using this at all forthcoming shows, with SELWG just round the corner and Crisis not far away (or which more news once SELWG is out of the way).
It’s still slow going here at Brigade Towers – I’ve been slogging away at my real job as we go through a series of project milestones, with late nights the norm, culminating in getting home from work at 1am on Friday (well, Saturday morning). This sob story means little time has been available for Brigade work, although I have resorted to taking tins to work to clean up at lunchtime !
September has always been a slow month sales-wise, usually around 30% lower than any other month of the year as everyone recovers from holiday spending and gets back into the swing of school and work. For once this has been a blessing, as Phil and I have been able to keep on top of orders in the time we are able to spare. However, it has severely hampered our attempts to work on any new releases for SELWG. We will have the remastered British spaceships, and it’s a big deal for us to get those out. I finally did a little bit more painting on a set of them last night and they’re coming along nicely. They need a little more detail work, then some decals and they’ll be ready for proper photographs (in the meantime, here’s another snap of them on the workbench).
We did spend a full day at the workshop to produce stock for the show and have another day booked next week, so we should have plenty to sell. However, as always if there’s anything that you really want to get hold of then you can always place an advance order with us to make sure we have exactly what you want. You can place an order via the website and pay in advance by selecting the ‘Collect in Person’ option, or you can just e-mail us a list and pay on the day. As always, there’s a 10% discount for any order of £50 or over placed for collection at the show (we’ll refund this manually if you order via the website).
We will also have a good selection of items from our Shapeways store available at the show – we took a number of bits to Salute and they sold well, so we thought we’d increase the range of items available at future shows. So this is a good chance to get hold of some power pylons, mooring towers, maybe a comms antenna, and save postage into the bargain.
Its a (Brigade Models) chalice, made of glass.
Over the summer a well known brand of lager ran a promotion to win personalised
glasses chalices and I was fortunate enough to win a couple (well six actually). If you won you got to choose your own message to be engraved on the glass chalice.
Naturally what more could I want than my very own Brigade Models
I should probably get out more.
It’s time for me to head off to sunnier climes again (in fact that’s a bit unfair on the British summer as we’ve had a pretty good one this year). I’m off to France’s west coast, near the fortified ports of La Rochelle and Rochefort.
We’ll remain open for business as Phil will still be around, although it does mean that order turn-arounds and responses to e-mails may take a little longer than usual so please bear with us.
Hopefully I’ll return refreshed and full of ideas for new models !
Our dear old friends the Royal Mail are at it again. Back in April they introduced a completely new price structure for UK packages with two new categories, small and large package, replacing the old parcel category. They also reviewed (ie increased) prices for overseas packages.
After a while with the new system we’ve been able to take stock of how this has affected us. The good news is that most of the inland parcels we send are still either large letters or small packages, so there’s no need for us to change our UK prices at all.
The main change for overseas parcels is that the minimum price for the smallest package has gone up again; we’ve had a few very small orders where the cost of the postage has been such that the total value of the order (goods plus shipping) has barely covered the postage costs, so we have ended up making very little if anything on those orders. So we’ve increased the minimum cost for an order by £1 for all overseas orders (Europe and elsewhere) BUT at the same time we have also decreased the percentage component of the shipping charge. The overall effect of this is to make very small orders quite expensive to ship (a couple of packs of flight stands or fighters, for example, is going to cost more in postage than the stands are worth – this is unfortunate, but it reflects the actual costs to us). But large orders won’t be a great deal more expensive, if at all (very large orders will actually see their shipping charges drop).
A further change we’re going to make is to introduce additional shipping charges for large/heavy items which don’t fit well in our percentage-based system. In particular this is aimed at the Celtos books, which weigh a ridiculous amount (the rulebook is getting on for a kilo !) and always leave us out of pocket on shipping costs. So these will now attract a higher percentage rate than other items. We show the cost of shipping on each item’s individual page on the website so it should all be very clear, but to emphasis this, any item that we categorise as heavy will have a weight symbol (below) shown next to it.
One advantage of having implemented this is that we can also do the reverse for lighter items that we can justify charging less in shipping. These include small-scale aeronef and spaceship fighters, Land Ironclads contraptions etc. These will have a feather symbol shown on their page to signify that the postage charges are lower.
So that’s it for now – hopefully these changes will keep our shipping charges reasonably accurate (until the next set of Royal Mail updates !).
There’s been a shortage of activity here on the blog for a few days.
It’s not that we haven’t been busy – just the opposite, in fact. We’ve been hit (in the nicest possible sense) by a bunch of large orders all at once, including two for new retailers (of which more anon). This is great, because it replenishes the Brigade coffers and allows us to spend more on developing new models, buying moulds, upgrading the stand etc. But the downside is that it doesn’t leave us enough time to actually do all of these things (remember, Phil and I both have full time jobs as well as Brigade). Every evening we spend at the workshop casting orders is an evening we don’t get to spend cleaning masters, making moulds etc. The price of success I suppose ! However, we’re getting close to clearing the orders which means we can get back to the task of releasing new models (such as the much-delayed British spaceships).
In the meantime, here’s something I made earlier … a Chain Home radar installation in 1/1000th scale, including transmitter and receiver towers and assorted buildings. These will be released through the Shapeways store since it would be utterly impossible to cast the lattice towers in metal !
And to go with them, a WW2 airfield set – based on a small airfield with blister hangars for 1-2 fighters, Nissen huts and various other buildings (including a couple of pillboxes). These will be metal castings in the 2mm range.
And finally, still on the same WW2 airfield theme, a larger hangar based on a T2 type.
Many years ago, when we first started selling fleet packs for some of our ranges (Aeronef being the first, followed by the spaceships range when we adopted Starmada) we hit upon the idea of providing a CD with stats on for the appropriate rules system. All fleet, grand fleet and starter packs had a CD with playsheets which could be printed off as many times as you like. When we started to do this, the idea of everyone being permanently wired up to the internet on a broadband connection was still some way off – those were the days of 28k dial-up connections (56k if you were lucky) and we still received a significant proportion of our orders through the post, indicating that not everyone could reach our website.
Nowadays we receive few, if any orders through the post (we might have had one or two so far this year), which means that just about everyone can reach the website. The information on the CDs we supply is all there on the website anyway, you can download playsheets and other information for a variety of rules systems from our gaming pages. Because of this, we’ve made the decision to stop shipping CDs with any of our packs – the only exception will be Aeronef starter packs and the Wrath of the Syren scenario pack, because these contain rules or other publications that aren’t downloadable. If you buy a copy of the Aeronef rules or Captain’s Handbook, these will still come on a CD along with the playsheets.
By doing this we save a little bit on the cost of each pack (plus the time saved in burning the CDs) which means that we can put off any sort of price rise for now. It also makes it easier to keep everything up-to-date, as we only have to add stats for new releases to the website rather than worrying about the contents lists of several different types of CD.
Talking of new releases … look out tomorrow for the first of the Salute items to hit the website.
So we know what you’re thinking … you released all of these shiny new models at Salute, why aren’t they on the website yet ? So here’s what’s going on …
Firstly, we’d built up a bit of an order backlog over the last month or two (well, if truth be told we’ve had an order backlog ever since the 25th anniversary sale which we’ve never been able to clear). So to be fair to those people waiting for orders, we wanted to complete them before putting up the new items – after an order packing session last night this is almost done, there are only 3-4 left outstanding.
Secondly, some of the new items were rushed to be out in time for the show, and we haven’t quite got them ready for full release – we might have moulds and stock (well, what’s left after Saturday), but we don’t have decent photos of the new items for the website, we haven’t finished the stats to support the models in various sets of rules, etc. So we have a little bit of work to do to take the photos, generate stats etc.
And thirdly, we didn’t simply want to put up fifty new items to the website all at once and be swamped by subsequent flood of orders – having just cleared one backlog, we’d simply generate another. Frankly, Phil and I are knackered after Salute (it’s amazing how much work goes into preparing for one seven-hour show). So we’re going to release the new items gradually, one range at a time, over a couple of weeks or so in order to manage the demand. First will be the 6mm items – the Indonesian tanks and fighters – later this week.
So after weeks of preparation, late nights and long casting sessions Salute has come and gone for another year. Its always a busy day and again we didn’t get to see much of the show ourselves so have to resort to other people’s photo reports of the day to see what what was going on.
As ever we’re completely knackered. Fatally I sat down with the kids last night to watch some tele. Suddenly it was a quarter past midnight and we were all asleep in the lounge. After I got them off to bed I stupidly sat back downstairs. Once I’d woken up again at half three I finally made it to bed!
After having a couple of days off, we’ll get all of the new releases on the website to buy over the next few days.
Until then its time for a bit more sleep…..