Friday, June 26, 2015


Has Knuckleduster just rung the death knell for hand-sculpted figures?


With traditional sculptors like Sebastian Archer and Tom Meier stalking the Earth, the future for traditional sculpting remains safe.

That said, Knuckleduster's new digital sculpts do have the capacity to raise eyebrows.

Three years ago, I took a look at state of digital technology and made the decision to dive into it head-first. I did not want to go the way of the village blacksmith. After throwing lots of time and money at this new art form, I arrived at figures with detail and crispness to match or exceed hand-sculpted figures, and a skillset as an artist that allowed me to fully take advantage of the new medium.

I will now present the fruits of my labor!


A figure being sculpted in Zbrush.
 First of all, I should point out that digital sculpting produces a master that takes the place of the "green" that a traditional sculptor makes. These prototypes go into the mold-making process just as a handmade model does, and the product you receive is a highly-detailed metal casting, not a plastic print. I'm using the highest quality mold material for these pieces, and my tin pewter can produce razor-sharp castings that capture every detail. These are not Scruby Napoleonics!


The Dame With No Name in Digital 28, A Woman of the Gun in 28, and The Dame in 32 (Heroic 28).
These three figures are, from left to right, 28mm digital (the new OW28-500 series, which you can find in the 28mm Old West listings), 28mm traditional (this is from OW28-111, Women of the gun), and 32mm (large 28mm) digital, from the Gunfighter's Ball product line.

Notice that the two digital figures are the same character rescaled; this is a big advantage of the digital technology. I can continue to support the old 28mm scale with the same releases that are added to the "heroic" 28, aka 32mm collection.

With this scaling capability, I'm able to keep the old hand-sculpted and new digital 28mm Figures in the same product line, and I think you will find that they blend very well. I worked very hard to achieve a digital sculpting style that was not sterile and that did not look "computerized." I wanted my current customers to be able to place their old Knuckleduster figures with the new ones on the same wargame table and not have them seem mismatched. You may not realize that one of my current packs, OW28-310, Wagon Riders, are digitally-sculpted.
Here we have the old, traditionally-sculpted figures alongside the new digital sculpts:

A digital cowboy with an analog horse.

Wyatt, meet Wyatt. Size and general style are the same, regardless of the obvious quality improvements wrought by the digital technology. Care has been taken to give digital Wyatt (actually Mysterious Dave Mather) the same, exaggerated proportions of a traditional 28mm figure.


"Gunfighter's Ball" figures square off. Knuckleduster's new 32mm/Heroic 28mm line. Shown here with plastic slottas; MDF straight-sided slottas are provided in the same size as other current Old West games.
Ever the set-in-my-ways historical wargamer, I was slow to embrace the "other" side of the hobby. But after exhibiting at Adepticon, a large game convention in Chicago, I learned how the rest of the world prefers their miniatures made. While showing my old figures, I was repeatedly asked "are these 20mm?" Even though I patiently explained how this was a grand old scale with the most variety available in it; that they could get stagecoaches, civilians, animals, and even potbellied stoves in this smaller scale, they persisted in viewing the like of Knuckleduster, Foundry, Old Glory, and Dixon as passe--geezer figures--not deserving of consideration. It was clear that I had to come up with larger and better figures to offer this more sophisticated market.

So the new scale I've introduced is 32mm, which is sometimes called "heroic 28mm", or even simply called "28mm" by some manufacturers. Almost all fantasy and sci-fi figures now use this scale, so if you're looking for western characters for a Malifaux game, my 32s will fit scale-wise with any of the figures in that genre. They feature a slotta-base arrangement, but I've elected to sell them with MDF slotta bases that are almost identical to ones distributed with integral-base figures such as Dead Man's Hand. I will be filling this line out with mounted figures, casualties, and lots of characters. I will even have some weird characters for those of you who like that sort of thing!

Knuckleduster (slotta) alongside another recently-produced "Heroic" scale Western figure.
The price is higher for the digitally-created packs; I cannot lie. I have to recover the cost of some very expensive equipment. For the 32s, expect to pay about the same as a Reaper Chronoscope figure. The 28s are still considerably cheaper than Dead Man's Hand or Foundry figures. Additionally, I will not be replacing or removing the old 28mm figures; they will remain in the catalog at the old price, so you will always have the cheap and cheerful alternative available to you.

What's next? Flying cars? Robots? Silver jumpsuits?
 I don't know about any of that, but as for Knuckleduster, we have a digital horse being rigged out with his western tack at the moment and is almost ready to ride. I'll be producing new sculpts using him, and will be creating mounted versions of characters to go with them. I have lots of funky gear and strange characters mapped out, so be watching!

California Kate; surely you've seen her by now.
Dan McGann; the Three-Legged Man. Extra dice for movement?

Dan McGann and all of the other Gunfighter's Ball characters are now available, as well as a six-figure set that includes 28mm versions of the same in the old format.


  1. Is that Two Gun Corky in the bottom pic? lol

  2. ...ha. Except he needs a cap and ball pistol that can blow up in his hand!

  3. Great explanation. Do the horses push the size of what can be done digitally? Might we see 54mm sized figures for us real old time gamers?

    1. Any size can be done this way, including 54mm. There may have to be a little redesign from a style standpoint, since proportions can be more realistic in 54mm.

  4. Just received ly først 4 digital sculpts. Thye are awesome and Leagues in front of the old ovnes and Munch better than DMH. Buy Them you Will NOT get disapointed

  5. Any tutorial to start sculpting plastic figures in zbrush? Thanx! Love your work!

    1. Youtube probably has some demonstrations people have done. The biggest piece of advice I would give a sculptor using Zbrush is to exaggerate the proportions and make the figures waaaaaaaaaaay bulkier than you think it should be. Otherwise, when shrunk to 32mm tall, the details will be too subtle to stand out and the figure will have no strength.