Stan Johansen is the sculptor of many beloved miniature lines. A multi-faceted artist, he has sculpted everything from modern soldiers to aliens, to post-apocalyptic warriors. I wanted to chat with him about his creative process. Read on!

Adam: Can you please tell the readers how your hobby journey started?

I got into model-building early, 7 or 8 years old. A slightly older cousin invited me to play in a wargame he ran for the local CYO. It was played mainly with Revell and Monogram models and lots of Marx playset figures, on an indoor basketball court, and I was hooked at 11 years old.

A: When did you start sculpting professionally?

I got out of the army in January 1968 and joined a Napoleonic gaming club, they used 30mm miniatures, which was the main wargaming size at the time. Each member picked a country when they joined; all of the main countries were spoken for except Austria. (The problem was there were very few Austrian figures available.) So I bought Stadden and Suren miniatures from Midge miniatures, an importer based in Queens, N.Y. I used what they had, but I had to do a lot of hand conversions to make models they did not do, like Austrian artillery, light infantry, and cavalry. When some of the guys in the club saw what I could do, they asked for some things they wanted, but I did not charge for the work.

From 1968 through 1969 I just did this for myself and my friends. Around 1970 I met Duke Sigfried at a convention; he put me on to AB epoxy which made sculpting easier, so I lined up 30mm figures for scale and started sculpting figures of my own. I did the basic stick dolly with a soldering iron and Dremel tool, then I used the epoxy to dress and detail the figure. Again I was doing figures I wanted, so it was still a hobby not a business. I bought an old casting machine around 1970 and had molds made for me at first. The company that made the casting and mold-making machines taught me to make molds; I bought the vulcanizer and started making my own molds.

By 1972, I had 30mm Napoleonics, mostly things other companies did not make like most of the Austrian types, a couple of Prussians, and Spanish infantry and cavalry. I also started an American REvolution line, looking forward to the bicentennial in 1976, but I did not have any personal interest to keep it going. (Same with a small ancient Egyptian line both of which I sold to two brothers.) My favorite line was the 30mm samurai, which was the line I brought to my first convention: Miniature Figure Collectors of America PA. So I guess I could be considered a pro starting in 1972.

A: Was there much competition at that time?

Since I considered myself a hobby/business and still do, I never thought much about competition.

A: How did you plan to carve your niche in the market?

By about 1975 the hobby had changed a lot. 30mm was out mainly because Miniature Figurines Ltd started to make very complete wargaming lines in 25mm. Also, 15mm started getting popular; at some point, our Napoleonic club all changed to 15mm.

As a hobby/business I decided to do the smaller-interest stuff like SF 25mm, and 20mm Allies and Axis, which were figures that you needed for WW2, but Airfix did not make like heavy mortars Italians, etc. I also did a small range of Normans and Vikings and Buccaneers. It was all for fun. Things changed a little for me when I got involved with Fantasy Games Unlimited.

A: How did you come to work with Fantasy Games Unlimited? What was the tabletop wargame scene like then?

I came to work with FGU in a roundabout way. I was first contacted in1977 by Fitz McCray, a fellow Vietnam Vet, for Mark Ratner of FanTac Games. He wanted to know if I would be interested in sculpting figures for his original Space Marines rules. In our first meeting, we went over the drawings in the rule book. He wanted 25mm figures with separate arms, standing, advancing or running, and kneeling for 9 different races. The Bugs and mertun races would follow If everything went well. The second meeting was to look at the masters, which were all approved except the Hiss, which he wanted more man-sized. Using the drawings, I thought the Hiss were larger, but I re-sculpted them. The deal was I made the entire range at no cost to them but owned the right to produce them.The next thing I knew, Mark sold the rules to FGU’s Scott Bazar.

Around 1980 I met with Scott about the deal I made on the miniatures with Mark, which he also agreed to. Scott had just had a very bad experience with adding miniatures to his business. His 15mm Space Opera masters and molds vanished along with the company that was producing his figures. So he asked me if I would like the same deal I made on the Space Marines with him on any figure lines he asked me to do.The first was to take some of the 15mm Space Opera sets he needed to fill orders and make molds and enough miniatures to fill all his backorders. And I could add to the line as I wished; all of these figures are still available.

The next big project was making 20mm figures for his Merc rules, which I started in 1980 and have added to continuously. They are now part of my 20mm Counter Terrorist line.

A: Let’s talk about Gaslands! Your minis and accessories for Gaslands are fantastic. Were you a Car Wars or Dark Future player?

Yes, I owned and played Car Wars, a great game, but you need a lot of time to play it. Dark Future was OK as a beer and pretzels game, but GDW canceled it very fast. I guess for a big company it did not sell enough. I started making the Road Warrior line around 1981, with the movie and a comic called “Rebel” in Heavy Metal magazine as inspiration. I did not tie the line to any rules; I figured gamers could use almost any modern rules. Gaslands gave my sales a good boost for about 4 months when they first came out; now its back to normal. The Road Warrior line has been and is the best-selling line I ever made.

A: Road Rage looks like lots of fun. What sets it apart from the aforementioned games?

Keep in mind that for me, the Road Rage rules are a way to sell my miniatures. So when I asked Phil Tortorici to write them I asked him to write a set of rules where a scenario can be played in a 4-hour session at a convention. Gamers seem to like the fast pace of the game, especially the Death Race scenario.

As for what sets it apart from Car Wars I think it is faster-paced and more exciting but simpler. f you want a more involved game and have the time, Car Wars maybe is more your cup of tea. Gaslands is more a SF/Fantasy game, not a post-apocalyptic game. Aliens control things, and ray weapons are just not my thing. I only played the first rule book, not the new rule book.

A: What inspires you when sculpting? Do you feel that you were affected by any particular artist or style?

I think movies have inspired me the most: “Road Warrior” of course, and “55 Days at Peking” inspired the Boxer line. I grew up on Tom Corbit and Flash Gordon science-fiction serials. The moderns were inspired by my time in the army and Vietnam. My first 20mm line was a Vietnam line, which I sold many years ago. I also did a 25mm John Carter of Mars line.

When I first started, I think Suren had the most influence. His soldiers looked like they just came off the battlefield and I liked that. Stadden figures were great, but they all looked like they were still on the parade ground.

A: There has been a revival in Old School Roleplaying lately and lots of fervor for both classic RPG and miniature games. What do you think the factors are that are causing folks to return to older games?

I don’t know for sure, but maybe they are just simpler to play. I have watched some of the new games being played at conventions and they are never completed, and when I talked to some players they said they did nothing for as much as 45 minutes. Some just walked away, but maybe it’s not the game but the game master.

A: What do you think of 3D printing?

I wish I was younger, but at 74 I don’t have the memory for new programs, and none of my kids are interested so equipment investment would be a waste of money. One of the gamers in the Florida club has done about 5 vehicles and a boat for me.

A: If you could impart words of wisdom to a beginning sculptor, what would they be?

Sculpt what you enjoy and remember if you decide to sculpt for a living it can take the fun out of it.

A: What are your favorite games? Any kind of game applies.

Modern skirmish, Road Warrior, Colonial, and WW2 skirmish in that order.

As a fan of sci-fi and post-apocalyptic miniatures I really love the offerings on Stan's website. The miniatures would be right at home for either of those genres of games. I plan on adding the Ssss Snakemen to a force for Stargrave and to use with games of Starguard.

I encourage you to check out the website and pick up some of these fantastic miniatures. I have highlighted some below, check out his website here and see them for yourself!

Some super cool Boomers! Space Kangaroos for the win!

The aforementioned Ssss! They would fit with any sci-fi game and look so dynamic.

Some 20mm Road Warrior miniatures, perfect for Road Rage, Gaslands or Dark Future!

Vintage packaging for Stan's Space Marines miniatures. You can read more about Space Marines in my previous article.

Thanks for reading! Please follow me here and on Instagram @eyecastrestoration. If you want to support this blog and future posts you can do so here

Editing by the insanely eldritch Brian White.

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Updated: Oct 7, 2020

One of the reasons I started this blog was to share with the hobby community my love for vintage miniatures and wargames. When I stumbled across this interesting piece of hobby history, I felt it would make an excellent article.

Back in the late 1960s, there were far fewer options than we have today for buying miniatures. The popularity of Napoleonic gaming spawned a desire to push into lower scales, so more troops could be on the field and mass battles could be gloriously recreated. That is where a wargamer and hobbyist named Andy Callan came in.

Mr. Callan wrote an article about the use of an everyday object to create mass amounts of small 3mm elements for mass battle wargaming. The object he was describing? A plastic hair roller!

I was just as flabbergasted at this ancient hobby wizardry! How!? So I read the article and many Google searches later I had my answer. Before I begin the tutorial, I suggest giving the original article from the late 60's a read. I have it on .pdf, you can access and download it here.

I want to stress that I give all the credit for this technique to those that have come before, I am not reinventing the wheel here. My aim to have you experience this super cool way of making your own toy soldiers. It also needs to be said that this method is archaic, as there are many fine producers of small scale miniatures out there today. My favorites being The Little Corporal, Baccus, Pendraken, and Alternative Armies. Please check them out!

A final note on this project. The proper type of curlers are very hard to find these days. They would have been readily available back then, but now they are vintage items found only in specialty stores and on eBay. I urge you to experiment, and if you come up with a cool way to use this technique on modern hair curlers, let me know!

On to the tutorial!

These are the only "how-to" images from the article, and I inferred a bit from them as I want along. Please see each photo for detail.

So with these two photos, I set out to recreate this for myself. I wanted to make some American Civil War Union Infantry and Cavalry. I also thought it would be perfect for Dark Ages gaming so I made some Viking Bondi.

To start you will need the following:

  • Plastic hair curlers of the proper type

  • A sharp hobby blade

  • Very sharp snips or scissors

  • Superglue

  • bases and basing materials

  • paint and brushes

  • well lit working area

  • paper if you will be making flags or banners

I also used the bristles from a plastic broom and some plastic 1mm rod, but those are only necessary if you want to make spearmen with shields.

The first thing you want to do is plan beforehand what types of troops you will be building. Infantry or cavalry? Both? Construction is similar for both and requires only a little cutting. You don't want to do more than three ranks deep for infantry, after that the natural curve of the roller causes the plastic to warp out of shape on the base.

Following the article posted, cut the roller into strips, like shown. You want to trim it so the infantry stands are about 10-15 "troops" wide, and three deep.

For cavalry, you will want maybe 10 wide and one row deep, two of these to a base. Feel free to do what makes you happy and to suit whatever rules you are using.

After cutting them, it helps to mount the raw strips onto a spool or holder with some poster putty. I find this makes handling them easier before priming and gluing on the base.

When making the cavalry there is the extra step of cutting out a single strip to make the riders. Just cut them out like so and superglue onto the horses.

If you are making spearmen or shields, then you will want to do the next step. Make a small dot of superglue on a surface, and cut yourself some thin rods of plastic from a broom or hairbrush. They should be the same as a cat's whisker.

Carefully cut this with your snips and glue it onto the infantry strips. You want to glue more than you will be using, and cut it to size after it dries.

The next step will be to make the shields. Take some 1mm plastic rod, and cut it into thin slices, and then apply with some glue using tweezers. It takes patience and lots of cursing.

When the glue dries, trim your spears to shape and attach the shields. You are now ready to prime and paint!

Before we paint, I want to show you an indispensable tool to work in this scale. They are cheaply found online and I suggest a pair for anyone with aging eyes like myself.

Use a water-based brush-on primer. I use Black 2.0 from Culture Hustle but Vallejo or GW brush on primer would be just fine. Prime up your stands of troops and let dry. As they are drying, paint your bases a neutral brown.

While the troops are drying, use some PVA glue and paint your bases with them, and then dip into all-purpose flocking. You want a fine grain of flock so it isn't too tall. It looks good with some ballast mixed in. Let it dry. Time for a cup of tea or coffee!

When the bases and the troops are dry, you can begin painting. I am crazy so I glue my minis to the bases and then paint. I don't suggest that route, so painting them on the holders is fine. Dab some super glue on the feet and push down onto the flocking. They will stick just fine.

I used some strips of corrugated cardboard for holders. It works great and is cheap or free and can be cut to size. Poster putty will hold them on tight.

Using your chosen colors, you want to apply multiple thin layers to your models. Less is more when painting at this scale. You want to give the illusion of detail because there isn't any! So pick three or four colors to apply and go for it.

In this case, I used a dark blue for the coats, light blue for the pants and brown for the horses. Apply in layers and don't worry about highlighting, you won't do that except for on the caps.

Next up we paint the horses a flat brown, and the heads a flesh color. The heads are a neat process. Paint them completely flesh, then let them dry.

When dry, we are going to take our very sharp snips and cut off about a .5mm slice off the top of the head. It is ok if these cuts are not consistent, it actually adds to the overall effect.

We will be painting black onto this cut, and it magically becomes caps! It works the same for helmets.

Paint the tops and sides of the head black. You can highlight this with a neutral grey drybrush, and then paint in any fine detail. The blaze on the horse's forehead, tails, and carefully painted jacket piping and gloves. Go wild! You can be as detailed or not as you like.

Keep in mind the strength of painting like this is to make MASSES of troops. You are meant to look at them from 4-6 feet away, so the overall effect of uniformity is what you are going for.

Give them a quick brush on matte or gloss varnish, and you are done! I added a flag to some of my ACW Cavalry, this helps to identify the stands on the gaming table and looks spiffy. It is just painted printer paper.

Here they are all finished. You can see the level of detail can vary. I went a little overboard with the Vikings, but I wanted to show what is possible with this simple project. I urge you to give it a try if you can get ahold of the materials. Please drop me a comment and let me know how you liked this article! Have fun!

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Alternative Armies just might have the most diverse offering of any miniature gaming company that is active today. Whether you are a fan of historical, fantasy, or science fiction you will find something to suit your tastes. 

I contacted Gavin B. Syme of Alternative Armies to see if he would like to talk to us a bit about Alternative Armies and my favorite game of theirs, Flintloque.  

Happily, he obliged!

Eyecast Restoration: How did you come to work at Alternative Armies?

Gavin Syme: An unusual tale this one; not the norm. It came to me really. Alternative Armies has been a part of my life since about 1996, and I worked for the company as a student and travelled around a bit to various shows and conventions (Gen Con and such). Great fun and crazy times. It is a family business now, since 2000, and when I left university in 2002 I entered high finance and lasted about a year before I decided it was not for me. I went into insurance after that, and that was kind of the same.

The choice was made by me in 2004. Alternative Armies or moving to London or perhaps further abroad for corporate ladder jobs. I chose the family business, as I love wargaming, history, and writing fiction; plus life by the seaside is mighty fine. Making miniatures brings joy to people and that is a reward in itself. Here I am all these years later, and now I recruit fresh faces.

ER: Have you always had a love of history?

GS: You would be correct in that assumption, yes. I have a master’s degree in modern history, as well as a personal library of some 2,000 books, most of which are history titles. I must have been about 5 when the past began to fascinate me. After all, if you know where you came from, you can plan where you are going. Ancient Greece and tales of brave Leonidas, the legions of Rome and Caesar, the raids of the Vikings, Cromwell, and more. History is a friend to me and offers new stories and events every day. For the moment I am reading about the development of the Swiss Confederacy and the rise of pike warfare in the late 15th century.

ER: While further developing Flintloque what were some of the hardest obstacles you faced?

GS: I came to Flintloque when the game was about to go into its second edition in 2004. I had a small amount of input into that edition but not much. I took over the full development of the World of Valon in 2008. At that time the hardest obstacle was the size of the story of the game. For 10 years, articles, magazines, web posts, journals, and several books had told a disjointed overall tale. Organising that and creating a definitive map of “Urop,” where the Mordredian Wars are taking place, was arduous. Frankly had I not had the training as a historian it may well have been impossible. That took nearly a year. It was a challenge to get to third edition as well.

In 2009, War in Catalucia was releasedthe first third-edition Flintloque book. I worked closely with my American friend Mike White, and there was a very tangible excitement from the fan base of the game… would the rules be any good? It turned out they were and in fact the best yet by a long shout too. Deepest, widest, solid, and with more and more. Three more books followed and I was so pleased.

I took a break from them at that point and will return to it. The hardest continuing thing really is that Flintloque has more than twenty different armies in it, and every week we are asked for more for each of them. We have to choose what to release next (we have a list and that list grows; then we choose the top requests). To keep any game in print and expanding for more than 20 years is an astounding achievement, to keep it fresh, to keep it vibrant. As always I extend my heartfelt thanks to the wargamers who have been players of Flintloque for so long; some from the beginning.

ER: Was educating as well as being entertaining your plan for Flintloque?

GS: Interesting way to look at it. It was not my intent but it is a byproduct of creating material for Flintloque that a deep knowledge of the time period 1750-1820 is needed, along with the same for the wars of Napoleon. I suppose my love of history seeps into the pages as each title contains a little element of the real world. I do recommend that every person who is keen to try Flintloque outsay using the Escape the Dark Czar beginners setreads up a little on the 1812 Russian Campaign to get a grounding. It is not vital but it helps. There are many general books on what was really the first global conflict, often for pennies secondhand.

ER: Humour is peppered throughout the gamebooks. Do you find humour to be an important tool when writing?

GS: For Flintloque humour is vital. It is a pivotal part of the game world. Since the World of Valon is Earth but not quite, the names of the nations and of the principal characters are twisted in a way to make them recognisable, and where possible, chuckle-raising as well.

Every real-world nation has its unique culture and history, and this allows for jokes, which are always meant kindly. And since we have players in virtually every real nation featured on Valon, I know they love the fact that they feature in the game. As a Joccian Ratman (a Scottish Man), I am a Lowland Rat fond of fighting and chasing women, loyal to my friends and liable to drink to excess if given a chance. Jokingly true.

Humour as a tool is useful, but I do not use it all the time. For instance in the Patrol Angis series of books, which are science fiction, there is little humour; instead, a more intense action form of writing is employed. In games such as Erin and Typhon, which are based on mythology, there is more invention but not a lot of direct humour… Fomorians don’t laugh much.

ER: How do you feel about the evolution of miniature games over the last twenty-five years?

GS: Twenty-five years is a bit longer than my involvement in wargaming as a living and a job, but I have seen most of that time. I have no feelings on the changing market really, as it is what it is. I just moved along with it.

My own way of working has changed totally in that time though, as has the company. Social media being the biggest change. I never used to interact with our customers so directly in such large numbers. I enjoy this, but it can take up several hours in a day at times, and I tend to be around seven days a week.

I would say that the rise of resin as a medium has been the biggest evolution of the last quarter-century, allowing the creation of models simply impossible in metal, such as bigger monsters and tanks. Though 3D printing is now fairly common, that will be an evolution over the next couple of decades.

The games themselves in my experience have become more streamlined and less complex than before, with sadly less of an emphasis on artwork internally (my favourite thing). There is now more choice than I can follow in the industry in choice of games and miniatures and that is a great thing. Alternative Armies has doubled and then doubled again its size of ranges as well as its print and virtual gamebooks all as part of this evolution. Overall the hobby is more fragmented now, but larger than ever and it's a positive change.

ER: What are the most gratifying and most challenging parts of your job?

GS: The most challenging aspect of my job is balancing time. I am the public face of the company, which commits my time, as well as the creative manager for choosing projects and designs and lead author for titles; plus I run the website too. I manage this by splitting my day into pieces and never working more than 11 hours a day… well, maybe 12 some days.

The most gratifying part of my job is rather simple. Two things: Firstly, seeing a project from conception to release, and secondly, getting nice messages from customers in thanks and so forth for what we do.

ER: If you could impart words of wisdom to a budding author, what would they be?

GS: Keep trying and expect the first book or series or articles you write to be poor. It takes a lot of practise to get good at prose, at dialogue, at setting, and of course at article- or interview-writing such as this.

Try to write for an hour a day. You will develop your style and improve, and when you get the first word in print it is a big moment. The market is more open now for authors than ever with virtual books outselling print ones and ground-floor access to platforms such as Kindle. That is half the battle already won. I myself do what I can for new authors and also new designers with things such as “write an article,” which we publish with your name on it, or the SHM Range, where we mold a miniature which would otherwise never see the light of day. Both of these are “toe holds” in the public eye giving exposure. It helps you on to more work, and it helps us, which is totally fair. Alternative Armies always rewards those who create for us.

ER: What are your favourite games?

GS: Now that is a question. My favourite Alternative Armies game… well that would be telling… the answer would upset fans of all the others! I do not play as much as I would like to, as with this job and three children (and now a puppy too) time is not an ally most days. I still get a real kick out of Rogue Trader, Dark Future, and especially Space Hulk and Adeptus Titanicus, all games of my youth. I also like Gruntz. Beyond that my eldest son and I play Minecraft Dungeons which is enough like Heroquest to make me smile.

ER: Will the timeline of Valon be moved forward toward the present?

GS: Never say never, but it is not likely. There is so much to do with Flintloque that I am not tempted to move towards the 20th century or beyond. We have moved back in the timeline of Valon with DarkeStorme and forward a bit, with Frontear covering the Amerkan Civile Warre. The 18th and early 19th century have the perfect balance of technology and science to blend with fantasy and magic. I can see me being Georgian for quite a while.

ER: Thank you for agreeing to this Interview!

GS: It was my pleasure. If anyone is keen to ask me a question or to know more about Alternative Armies, Flintloque, or what we do, then they are most welcome. You can find me all over the place but by email to is sure to reach me. Thanks.

Alternative Armies has so much to offer the wargamer and hobbyist. This is usually where I break down the different miniatures and games available. There are so many amazing miniatures and rules to choose from!

I will break from the norm here and list my favorites with a quick blurb, and enthusiastically encourage you to visit Alternative Armies and click away and explore. Enjoy!

Photos courtesy of Gavin B. Syme and Alternative Armies.

Kitton lies far to the east of Urop, shrouded in mystery. The Kitoka live there, honorable and valiant. These feline samurai, ashigaru, and others are amazing miniatures. I ordered them when they first released and I am super happy with them. You can check them out here.

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of the "oldhammer" movement and vintage games and miniatures make me happy. Alternative Armies manufacturers to this day some of the most classic of miniature lines. I especially love the Asgard Science Fiction miniatures. Do check them out. A great way to collect vintage miniatures without breaking the bank!

Saving the best for last, we have Escape from the Dark Czar starter set. This was my first foray into the world of Flintloque and Valon. It is amazing and a fantastic value. I fell in love with the scenarios. It pitches desperate survivors fleeing from the Czar's undead through the haunted woods of the Witchlands. Moody, exciting, and the miniatures are absolutely top-notch.

Thank you for reading all about Alternative Armies, and I hope this spurs you on to check out some of their amazing games and miniatures. Please give us a follow on Instagram @eyecastrestoration and on Facebook here. Thank you!

Our first giveaway is coming up fast, so look for a post next week.

Editing by the amazingly talented Brian White.

Pictures by Alternative Armies, used with permission.

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