The ancient Chinese made moulds. The ancient cultures along the Indus, Euphrates and Tigris made moulds. The Vikings made moulds for casting hammers of Thor and Odin figures of gold and silver until the point where they adopted Christianity, when they turned to casting crosses instead. In actual fact, when the model soldier enthusiast finds himself working with his moulds, be it industrially manufactured or home made, and melts his lead alloy, he or she only constitutes the latest link of an exciting ancient craftsman culture, spanning back thousands of years.
The field of moulding has, obviously, been characterised by substantial developments. Stone, clay, gypsum and other materials have been replaced by rubber, allowing for undercuts and very fine details.
There is always a certain degree of excitement affiliated with pouring the liquid lead into the mould and opening it after the hardening, before taking out a hopefully complete figure, which subsequently has to be assembled, grinded, possibly converted, and painted before you finally add it to your collection. It is, however, not a huge disaster if the first attempt proves unsatisfactory. Then it is back in the ladle again until the result meets with you approval.
Prince August launched its series of 54 mm Napoleonic moulds in 1995. Today, 8 years later, Prince August has marketed 20 sets of moulds, each containing 3 moulds, corresponding to a total of 60 moulds, all in identical size; 10.7 x 8.8 x 2.6cm. It could, accordingly, be interesting to look into the outcome of this effort. Model soldiers is the "salt of life" for a society like Chakoten (The Danish Society of Military History) and a company which has survived for more than 40 years by developing and selling moulds for figures with emphasis on the 40mm scale must be subject to a certain amount of curious attention in a time when lead is considered one of the most severe dangers to the environment.
A number of the rather fundamentalist members of the Society could hardly dream of dealing with figures, which are not fully round, and furthermore feature in a scale as unauthorised as 40mm. But at the same time it is duly noted with some concern in the Society that the average age of the members is increasing year after year. Maybe new and younger members can be recruited to the Society if the gap to semi-round 40mm Prince August model soldiers, painted with glossy enamel lacquer, can be successfully bridged.
|A brief description of the history of Prince August|
Prince August was established in Sweden in 1958 by Jan Edman. He was the father of the present owner, Lars Edman, who has been with the company since 1968. Originally, the company focussed on manufacture and sale of model railway accessories, but parallel to this a modest production of moulds made of gypsum was commenced. In 1965 the black rubber moulds were introduced, which still constitute the foundation for the manufacture today.
Table No. 1, Overview of Prince August's mould assortments and ready-made fantasy figures since the beginning in 1958
Until 1978 the figures were modelled by the Swedish designer Holger Eriksson, who enjoyed world fame for his figures. He was replaced this year by the English designer Chris Tubb, who is still responsible for the modelling.
In the beginning it was a rather modest company, which until 1971 sold its products in Sweden only. From that year the moulds were marketed in Germany, and this triggered rapid development. Soon the marketing expanded to many countries, and sales increased. In 1976, production was shifted to Ireland in order to benefit from Ireland's favourable tax rules adopted to attract new companies, which could boost employment. Today the whole company has moved to Ireland, and the mould assortment has been expanded with various accessories and a model paint assortments.
The factory is located in the Southern part of Ireland in a village named Kilnamartyra. The village is close to the bigger town of Macroom on the road between Cork and Killarney. The factory comprises a building of around 1,100 square metres. It is divided into two equal parts. In one part the manufacture takes place, and in the other the raw material is stocked. A little more than 20 persons are employed, and the factory is managed by Lars Edman, who owns the company. Apart from himself and the English designer, all employed are Irish. The factory is open for visitors.
Above information can be obtained on the homepage www.princeaugust.ie and in the booklets issued by the company in the time elapsed. Some of the issues concerning the 54mm Napoleonic range, which I cover in this article, was in more detailed form translated into English and forwarded to the company more than a year ago in order to receive their comments, but unfortunately it has not been possible initiate a dialogue and obtain more information from the company. The designer was apparently offended by the criticism and would not comment on it or explain his points. Subsequently however, adjustments have been noted especially concerning packing and leaflets.