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Topics - libertee

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51
Eye Candy / Kevs workbench 18.11.11
« on: November 18, 2011, 12:24:15 PM »




with regard to the female dwarf he has just asked me if she should have 'normal sized knockers or huge ones'..........

52
Eye Candy / Finished Grymn Walker
« on: November 18, 2011, 11:32:30 AM »
Kev says "Standard version being cast as resin, price to be confirmed as we will have to wait for the caster to get a copy done.
The open version with the seated pilot still has a few more cockpit details to be done before it can go to production.
The standing figure will be cast in metal and be sold separately to the walker."

Enjoy! and have a nice weekend!






53
Announcements and News / Christmas/New Year painting competition
« on: November 17, 2011, 08:31:28 PM »
We were trying to figure out what to do with some masters of previous Christmas figures and someone on FB suggested a competition.  This then led rise to exactly what kind of competition which led to this one......

This year we are going to have a bit of fun and run a painting competition for the kids, not the adults.

It runs from now until the 2nd January 2012 when the photos have to be online in a dedicated thread that i am going to create over Christmas.  I will create the 'Before' thread tonight so as soon as they have decided what they want to paint take a quick shot/scan and get it online so we can see.  Its not that we dont trust you all not to cheat but....well we know how competitive some adults can be!...lol!

The results will be announced on HF's 8th Anniversary which is 7th January 2012.  We chose these dates as we felt that it would give the kids a chance to have bit of quality 'mummy/daddy/aunty/uncle/grandma/grandpa' time over the school/christmas holidays where they can get a chance to watch you paint and you can teach them some skills.  It isnt about teaching them highly competitive NMM techniques and making them choose traditional colours for things, it is about them and you having a bit of fun together with a prize at the end.  If they want their Mesaan Grunt to be pink with yellow polka dots whilst sitting on a green Hamlet then that is how it should be!  Over the last 15 months we have come to realise how important our kids are to us and how 'real life' has a way of stopping us doing things with them, its nice to see kids have some fun....keeps us remembering exactly what we are living for.

The prizes are yet to be figured out but i have so much 'stuff' unearthed from the changeover and stock take that i can put together a nice parcel for them.


There are 3 age groups

1: Under 8's
2: 8-12 yrs
3: 12-16 yrs.


They can paint anything from the HF range that they want in whatever colour choices they want, they can base it however they want. They get to keep it, all we want are the pics posted so we can chose a winner from each group.  Pictures uploaded need to a maximum of 72dpi and a maximum pixel size of 600 pixels wide and 600 pixels tall.  If you dont have anywhere to host them then email them to adminAThasslefreeminiaturesDOTcoDOTuk and i will host them for you.

The thread will close for new pictures on the 2nd January 2012 and we will then set up a poll where you all get one vote to vote for your favourite.  The winners will therefore be decided by the FOD and not us which we think makes it a bit more fair.  As our kids will no doubt want to have a go we will arrange for their pics to be uploaded by someone else so they dont get any preferential treatment.

Now is the time to dig around in your metal mountain and see what you can find for them to paint.  If you havent got anything then dont worry, tell us when you place your next order and we will throw something in for free for them, just tell us in the comments box whether it is a boy or a girl and their age and we will sort the rest.

Remember this is about having fun with the kids, not about competing with each other to score points and make your childs entry super-dooper technical and perfect.  Its about having a bit of fun!

54
Announcements and News / Website Registration
« on: November 15, 2011, 08:55:31 PM »
Currently we send your login details to you when you register.

We hadnt thought that it would be a problem as no financial details are stored on the website, everything is processed through a secure payment gateway linked to the payment processing facility, SagePay.

However some customers have said they feel this poses a security risk as sending a password in an email isnt safe.

From a business point of view, my customers welfare is my priority and if even a small percentage are wary then I can ask the webmaster to change the process.

My personal view is that i dont mind (for me), i am careful to use unique passwords on sites i log into and dont use the same password across all sites that i frequent.  I never store card details on even secured websites or any kind of payment information at all and wont use sites that do store it as a default option.  Therefore if someone hacked into my personal email account to get my password to log into my customer account on a website that i am registered with all they would have access to for their labours is my home address.

So can i have some feedback please guys

Thanks in advance

55


Had planned to start it on the 26th/27th but i asked the webguy to implement some
new features for me specifically for the bonus time and they are being tested on the
test server today and tomorrow so to be on the safe side i held it back until monday.
Fingers crossed it may still be up tomorrow afternoon


From Royal Mail: Last posting dates for Christmas Deliveries:

UK : Tuesday 20th December
USA/CANADA: Friday 9th December
Europe: Monday 12th December

56
Announcements and News / Clearing out old stocks, new stuff and bonus buys
« on: November 11, 2011, 09:57:55 PM »
Over the next few weeks we will be blitzing old and discontinued stock from the office onto the new website.  As the new website has a stock counter we dont have to worry any more about back orders and selling something we dont have as if we dont have it then it wont let you buy it and it is will also visibly vanish from the shop catalogue

Items include the Armorcast resin scenery, chain, lead foil, copper and metal meshes, basing materials, metal sheet .. in fact anything we have lying around that we have bought and taken to shows or had on the website but that we have now stopped selling for various reasons including import taxes and freight charges making pricing unviable.

We will also be able to use the new feature to get trial packs of new products in to see if they sell or not and if so what things customers buy with them.  This way we hope to be able to find new products that will add to and complement our existing ranges without tieing up too much cash

I have put the first batch up tonight and hopefully some more over the weekend.  Where we have end of ranges that are incomplete packs i will combine a number of items into a bumper bargain pack, perfect as stocking fillers for loved ones who are miniature nuts or just to 'hoard for the next big project'....

57
Announcements and News / Why the shiny new website and what can it do?
« on: November 10, 2011, 08:47:40 PM »
As always we thank you for your support.  Tony Stapells our current webmaster has been amazing in getting us started but i dont think anyone could have predicted the last 8 years rollercoaster!

As most regular Fod'ers are aware, the last couple of years in particular have been really hard for us at HF.  Ongoing family and health issues means we have not had as much time to spend on HF as we would have liked and add to this a seemingly perpetual stream of disasters it seems like we are always chasing our tails and never quite catching up!  If we said that we hadnt considered at least a dozen times on just walking away then we would be lying!  However in true HF fashion our stubborness and bloody-mindedness comes through and we find another way of coping.

Something that has been on the cards now for at least 2 years is a new website, one that will not only be easy for you to navigate but also help us out with the ever-increasing levels of admin.

Over the course of a year before commissioning the new website we undertook various time and motion studies, work logs, customer comments and questionaires and have tried to iron out presenting issues as much as we can with features integrated within the new website.

We have tried to keep the feel of the old HF site with similar colourways but have (we hope) taken in a big step further into an efficient E-Commerce site without losing the personal touches.  We didn’t want HF to become ‘Faceless’, it is still Kev and Sally just with a bit of botox to try and make life easier for us and you.

The new website does indeed look shiny and pretty but it is also very practical and we have tried to make it ‘intuitive’.  What you can see and play with now is the fully functional first phase.  This is the foundation E-Commerce site which will enable us to build customer levels back up to fund our continued growth and further development not just in the other planned phases of the website but also in our release schedule and what we offer you as customers.

The second phase will add extra features, some of which will be led by you in your feedback forms that we hope you will fill in for us online eiother as questionairres or forum polls.  We have always been ‘customer-led’ and this aspect hasn’t changed.


1:  Tidier front page:


For you:  Shopping and browsing at the top,  latest releases as scrolling images just in case you missed something, news and notifications in the middle including Facebook, legal and other stuff at the bottom.  We have tried to put the stuff you look at most often near the top so you don’t have to keep scrolling to find things.

For us:
  Easier to update means as regulations change we can ensure we comply straight away, images of releases stay on the front page longer so we get less emails asking about figure x,y,z and if it has been released yet.



2:   Customer accounts: 


For you:    These will enable you to track your order and see when it is despatched, you will also receive an email when your order is shipped complete with tracking info if you have chosen that shipping option.  You will also be able to select different addresses for orders to go to.  Orders placed but needing to go on hold for a few days can be stored in your account.  We are also adding ‘wishlists’ and the ability to store credit vouchers in your account so you don’t need to rely on us to manually process anything anymore and if you lose your balance slip you can check online.

For us:      Less emails querying order statuses means less admin time. Currently we manually email when an order is shipped but now we just press a button and it does it for us. Credit balances stored in your accounts means less admin for us



3:  Online stock levels: 

For you:    These will show you if something you want is in or out of stock.  These means less back orders and more efficient shopping for you.  Pictures of codes that are currently out of stock will still show, you just won’t be able to add them to your basket.
If a pack is made from multiple single codes then it won’t let you add the pack if one of the codes is out of stock, again removing the chaos of back orders.
Adding soon are email notifications so that if you want something that is out of stock the website will email you when it comes back in stock.

For us: No more manual stock checks, no more back orders which cost time, money and packaging resources,  less emailing of notifications.  We also have a facility where we can now see which codes will need restocking in what period of time based on current sales which allows us to restock more often as we need it rather than just guessing if we don’t have time for a full stock check.


4:  Searching. 

For you:  The database has been updated with tags for product codes.  Only basic ones are in at the moment but it will make browsing easier for you.  New tags will be added as new media/ranges develop. Tags being added reflect popular culture and weapons as well as genres.

For us:  less emails asking if we still sell x,y,z and if so where is it as you can’t find it.



5:  Streamlined product categories: 


For you :  One of the usual gripes with the old site was that things got ‘hidden’ in multiple layers as the ranges expanded over the years.  The new site has made browsing easier with a main category bar across the top with pulldown menus…less clicks to find what you want has got to be easier.  The control panel also allows us to enter product codes into multiple categories whilst still taking from the same stock levels and using the same information.

For us:  Easier manipulation of the control panel on the server lets us recategorise and cross-post codes into categories to make your browsing more efficient whilst minimising admin time this end.  It also allows us to easily add new categories as well as short runs of items efficiently so that we can clear out the odds and ends that you guys say you want to buy but the labour needed to do that on the old system makes this unviable.


6:  Product codes:

For you:  everything has a code, so instead of lists on item pages you now have a code and an associated thumbnail for everything  we have…less scrolling through deeper shop levels for you and less potential mistakes in your orders.

For us:  Efficient stock checking.  Easier order picking, easier restocking.


7:  Shipping prices.

For you:  Everything in the shop has been weighed.  There is a shipping matrix that has been implemented that will calculate your shipping costs based on where you live, what service you choose and the weight of your order.  Some prices on items will now fall as they had a shipping supplement previously added to them to cover the heavier weight/shipping costs.

For us:  Shipping has been an area where we have consistently lost money over the years with us having to price some lower priced but heavier items higher than they need to in order to try and cover the shipping costs for that item.



8:  Payment system.

For you:   Issues with Paypal have meant that we relied on a manual invoicing system with the old website, now when you proceed through to payment you will automatically be directed to the secure server for both Paypal and Credit Card payments.

For us:   We will halve the amount of paper/toner we use immediately for order processing.  Time we currently use directly for order processing will also reduce by about 50%  immediately with a knock-on effect to other admin systems including emails when Paypal mucks something up or an invoice gets lost!


9:  Promotions

For you:  More efficient use of promo codes that don’t rely on manually processing orders or refunds.  Codes can be entered at checkout for specific discounts or cross-purchasing.

For us:  Less admin and manual processing = more efficient.



10:  VAT implementation

For you: If you are shopping from a country that doesn’t need to pay UK VAT then you can purchase without paying it, this means ultimately you get more for your money.  UK customers however still have to pay VAT, sorry but we can’t do anything about that as much as we would like to.

For us: Fairer pricing for you means happier customers and less emails asking if we can refund VAT!

***********************

Overall we have tried to take away a lot of the old manual systems that relied on people (specifically Sally most of the time) for interventions.  This means we can train staff easily in the current computerised systems and give Sally time to rest when she needs it therefore reducing the admin backlog she seems permanently trapped under.  This means that when she is ill or the kids are on school holidays then HF won’t stop and she can focus on things that aren’t essential  for daily admin but things that will help us get new figures to you more efficiently including keeping on top of productions schedules, maintaining cashflow, newsletters and notifications, advertising and PR (plus cracking a whip over Kevs head).

The new website allows us to delay the publication of front page new notices to specific dates and also allow us to keep new products on the system but hidden so if a release is due it can still go ahead with a click of a button whether we are away or if Sally is ill.

Phase 2 of the new website will go ahead in January. 

The workbench facility will be active by then as will also other older features like ‘Fluff’ and ‘tutorials’ .  There might not be a lot of other noticeable changes on your side however for us there will be more interventions that allow us to more efficiently function as a business and will include allowing us to produce specific financial reports including VAT, range sales without manually writing excel spreadsheets or adding up sale lists.  This will reduce admin yet again and ensure we don’t keep falling behind with our taxes and bills, something that again happens when Sally is ill and leads to the knock-on effects of slower email responses and late releases as she deals with the urgent stuff first.  We are also hoping that the entire catalogue will also be downloadable as a pdf by this stage.

58
General Ranting / Shiny New Website for Hasslefree
« on: November 10, 2011, 08:44:07 PM »
As always we thank you for your support.  Tony Stapells our current webmaster has been amazing in getting us started but i dont think anyone could have predicted the last 8 years rollercoaster!

As most regular Fod'ers are aware, the last couple of years in particular have been really hard for us at HF.  Ongoing family and health issues means we have not had as much time to spend on HF as we would have liked and add to this a seemingly perpetual stream of disasters it seems like we are always chasing our tails and never quite catching up!  If we said that we hadnt considered at least a dozen times on just walking away then we would be lying!  However in true HF fashion our stubborness and bloody-mindedness comes through and we find another way of coping.

Something that has been on the cards now for at least 2 years is a new website, one that will not only be easy for you to navigate but also help us out with the ever-increasing levels of admin.

Over the course of a year before commissioning the new website we undertook various time and motion studies, work logs, customer comments and questionaires and have tried to iron out presenting issues as much as we can with features integrated within the new website.

We have tried to keep the feel of the old HF site with similar colourways but have (we hope) taken in a big step further into an efficient E-Commerce site without losing the personal touches.  We didn’t want HF to become ‘Faceless’, it is still Kev and Sally just with a bit of botox to try and make life easier for us and you.

The new website does indeed look shiny and pretty but it is also very practical and we have tried to make it ‘intuitive’.  What you can see and play with now is the fully functional first phase.  This is the foundation E-Commerce site which will enable us to build customer levels back up to fund our continued growth and further development not just in the other planned phases of the website but also in our release schedule and what we offer you as customers.

The second phase will add extra features, some of which will be led by you in your feedback forms that we hope you will fill in for us online eiother as questionairres or forum polls.  We have always been ‘customer-led’ and this aspect hasn’t changed.


1:  Tidier front page:


For you:  Shopping and browsing at the top,  latest releases as scrolling images just in case you missed something, news and notifications in the middle including Facebook, legal and other stuff at the bottom.  We have tried to put the stuff you look at most often near the top so you don’t have to keep scrolling to find things.

For us:
  Easier to update means as regulations change we can ensure we comply straight away, images of releases stay on the front page longer so we get less emails asking about figure x,y,z and if it has been released yet.



2:   Customer accounts: 


For you:    These will enable you to track your order and see when it is despatched, you will also receive an email when your order is shipped complete with tracking info if you have chosen that shipping option.  You will also be able to select different addresses for orders to go to.  Orders placed but needing to go on hold for a few days can be stored in your account.  We are also adding ‘wishlists’ and the ability to store credit vouchers in your account so you don’t need to rely on us to manually process anything anymore and if you lose your balance slip you can check online.

For us:      Less emails querying order statuses means less admin time. Currently we manually email when an order is shipped but now we just press a button and it does it for us. Credit balances stored in your accounts means less admin for us



3:  Online stock levels: 

For you:    These will show you if something you want is in or out of stock.  These means less back orders and more efficient shopping for you.  Pictures of codes that are currently out of stock will still show, you just won’t be able to add them to your basket.
If a pack is made from multiple single codes then it won’t let you add the pack if one of the codes is out of stock, again removing the chaos of back orders.
Adding soon are email notifications so that if you want something that is out of stock the website will email you when it comes back in stock.

For us: No more manual stock checks, no more back orders which cost time, money and packaging resources,  less emailing of notifications.  We also have a facility where we can now see which codes will need restocking in what period of time based on current sales which allows us to restock more often as we need it rather than just guessing if we don’t have time for a full stock check.


4:  Searching. 

For you:  The database has been updated with tags for product codes.  Only basic ones are in at the moment but it will make browsing easier for you.  New tags will be added as new media/ranges develop. Tags being added reflect popular culture and weapons as well as genres.

For us:  less emails asking if we still sell x,y,z and if so where is it as you can’t find it.



5:  Streamlined product categories: 


For you :  One of the usual gripes with the old site was that things got ‘hidden’ in multiple layers as the ranges expanded over the years.  The new site has made browsing easier with a main category bar across the top with pulldown menus…less clicks to find what you want has got to be easier.  The control panel also allows us to enter product codes into multiple categories whilst still taking from the same stock levels and using the same information.

For us:  Easier manipulation of the control panel on the server lets us recategorise and cross-post codes into categories to make your browsing more efficient whilst minimising admin time this end.  It also allows us to easily add new categories as well as short runs of items efficiently so that we can clear out the odds and ends that you guys say you want to buy but the labour needed to do that on the old system makes this unviable.


6:  Product codes:

For you:  everything has a code, so instead of lists on item pages you now have a code and an associated thumbnail for everything  we have…less scrolling through deeper shop levels for you and less potential mistakes in your orders.

For us:  Efficient stock checking.  Easier order picking, easier restocking.


7:  Shipping prices.

For you:  Everything in the shop has been weighed.  There is a shipping matrix that has been implemented that will calculate your shipping costs based on where you live, what service you choose and the weight of your order.  Some prices on items will now fall as they had a shipping supplement previously added to them to cover the heavier weight/shipping costs.

For us:  Shipping has been an area where we have consistently lost money over the years with us having to price some lower priced but heavier items higher than they need to in order to try and cover the shipping costs for that item.



8:  Payment system.

For you:   Issues with Paypal have meant that we relied on a manual invoicing system with the old website, now when you proceed through to payment you will automatically be directed to the secure server for both Paypal and Credit Card payments.

For us:   We will halve the amount of paper/toner we use immediately for order processing.  Time we currently use directly for order processing will also reduce by about 50%  immediately with a knock-on effect to other admin systems including emails when Paypal mucks something up or an invoice gets lost!


9:  Promotions

For you:  More efficient use of promo codes that don’t rely on manually processing orders or refunds.  Codes can be entered at checkout for specific discounts or cross-purchasing.

For us:  Less admin and manual processing = more efficient.



10:  VAT implementation

For you: If you are shopping from a country that doesn’t need to pay UK VAT then you can purchase without paying it, this means ultimately you get more for your money.  UK customers however still have to pay VAT, sorry but we can’t do anything about that as much as we would like to.

For us: Fairer pricing for you means happier customers and less emails asking if we can refund VAT!

***********************

Overall we have tried to take away a lot of the old manual systems that relied on people (specifically Sally most of the time) for interventions.  This means we can train staff easily in the current computerised systems and give Sally time to rest when she needs it therefore reducing the admin backlog she seems permanently trapped under.  This means that when she is ill or the kids are on school holidays then HF won’t stop and she can focus on things that aren’t essential  for daily admin but things that will help us get new figures to you more efficiently including keeping on top of productions schedules, maintaining cashflow, newsletters and notifications, advertising and PR (plus cracking a whip over Kevs head).

The new website allows us to delay the publication of front page new notices to specific dates and also allow us to keep new products on the system but hidden so if a release is due it can still go ahead with a click of a button whether we are away or if Sally is ill.

Phase 2 of the new website will go ahead in January. 

The workbench facility will be active by then as will also other older features like ‘Fluff’ and ‘tutorials’ .  There might not be a lot of other noticeable changes on your side however for us there will be more interventions that allow us to more efficiently function as a business and will include allowing us to produce specific financial reports including VAT, range sales without manually writing excel spreadsheets or adding up sale lists.  This will reduce admin yet again and ensure we don’t keep falling behind with our taxes and bills, something that again happens when Sally is ill and leads to the knock-on effects of slower email responses and late releases as she deals with the urgent stuff first.  We are also hoping that the entire catalogue will also be downloadable as a pdf by this stage.

59
Announcements and News / Phase 1 complete!...woohooo!...shiny new website!
« on: November 10, 2011, 06:22:06 PM »
Okay, finally we get a chance to unveil what we have been working on lately.  Live payment gateway was established a couple of days ago and we have been testing it.

  The next week or so we arent going to announce it anywhere except here and the Facebook page whilst we ensure that there arent any bug or glitches we havent ironed out.  As soon as the kids are in bed i will be posting a guide to whats new and why.  This is phase 1, phase 2 and 3 are planned and i will give you more info later on.

Dont worry about changing bookmarks as very shortly the page for www.hasslefreeminiatures.co.uk will be redirecting onto the new site at www.hfminis.co.uk

thanks lots for your patience guys, check out the new releases already up and have a look aroudn the nw shop layouts, see if it is is easier for you to find stuff.  Any issues etc contact me please!

60
Eye Candy / Grymn Walker Image updates
« on: October 26, 2011, 09:05:20 PM »







61
Announcements and News / Production release dates
« on: October 06, 2011, 10:26:31 AM »
Mornign guys, this is a provisional projected Release Schedule for the rest of 2011:

Monday 17th October: HFP018 Godwin (metal), HFP019 Smudge, HFA074 Destiny

Monday 7th November: HFH057 Ferrus (Metal), HFA072 Isseki, 2 x Kindred Rocket Launchers

Monday 28th November: HFP020 Andreah (metal), HFN021 Rae, HFN022 Gina, HFG401 Admiral Almos, HFG402 Col.Hogan

i still need to work all of the new dwarves into this plus resin Andreah and Resin Ferrus plus we alo have some gun sprues mastered up but hopefully by staggering things this way i can afford to release everything Kev makes!

62
Eye Candy / 40mm scale Kalee
« on: September 30, 2011, 01:18:43 PM »
Some pretty pics for you.  Kev has done two arm options for each side






63
Hasslefree Babble / What RPG character are you currently looking for?
« on: June 26, 2011, 12:11:47 PM »
What are you/have you been looking for and have had trouble finidng.  If you have found one that is partway suitable but havent bought it, why havent you bought it.

64
Eye Candy / New Human troopers
« on: May 27, 2011, 12:00:58 PM »

65
Eye Candy / Salome 54mm female
« on: May 27, 2011, 10:17:06 AM »
Cant access the ftp upload to the server from the Ripley office so will have to get them online here tonight.

I can however get them onto the facebook page...

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hasslefree-Minis/205953016103650


66
As a child your priorities are all about getting what you want without getting into trouble, you dont think about what might happen in the future, you just live for the moment and dont even give whatever is around the next corner any thought.  You dont think that what you might do will affect anyone else or their lives, you just do it because you want to.  And to a certain extent that is expected and accepted as part of childhood...you makes mistakes and learn from them (maybe) and grow as a person. Money is something that is there for you to have fun with, who cares where it comes from so long as it keeps coming. You expect certain things to happen like planning for a birthday party 6 months ahead, there is no reason for you to think it wont happen after all it is your birthday and therefore there will be a party. 'Assuming' is part of being a kid.

As you get older other things start to take priority, you start to look to your peers and socialise...making more mistakes and probably being as selfish but as a young adult the consequences of your actions can start to be more serious ...being rude and cocky with your mum might be fairly safe but say the same things in a pub to a complete stranger and you will probably get punched!  Money takes on more value especially when you have to earn it and the 'bank of mum and dad' shuts for business...suddenly you realise that if you want to spend all your wages the moment you get it on complete junk 'just because you can' then you may not be able to pay the rent.  Ultimately though your money, time and energy is still your own to do with as you want.  You are still immortal.

Then comes kids, nothing is your own anymore.  every moment of your life revolves around their needs and expectations, every penny you have goes on them first...and we arent talking just buying toys but mortgage, gas, electric and everything else associated with keeping a child from nappies through to childcare to school uniform...the list is endless.  Things you used to take for granted like hour-long baths, cash in your pocket, music turned up loud at all hours, freedom to do what you want when you want to do it without the military precision planning that comes hand in hand with the child carseats and the 'roomier' cars.  You plan for 'what if's'...you take out insurance, get wills done and do your best to protect them from the really scary evil people that you know lurk around every corner. and you dont begrudge a penny or a moment that you do this for them, because providing for them is your responsibility.  You work your butt off to lay foundations that will serve them through life.

However you still think you are immortal.........yeah okay everytime you look in the mirror you see a few more wrinkles, a few more grey hairs but that happens to everyone.  you tell yourself that the average age of living for females is 82yrs old and you are only halfway there so plenty of time to do x,y & z.  You still assume things like planning for a holiday next summer or a cruise when you decide to retire.

Then something happens.  For me it was two-fold, watching someone i loved be struck down with a condition that i am regularly tested for as it runs in my family through to returning from holiday to be accused of something that i didnt do but being powerless to stop that accusation damaging my kids.  The complete frustration of watching my children suffer at the hands of 'responsible adults' (even though i was proved innocent almost immediately) led to the suspected heart attack i had on 12th October 2010.  A cardiologist confirmed my heart was healthy but that the extreme and prolonged stress had at the time caused raised adrenaline levels in my body.  7 months on from the heart attack, this situation is still ongoing with almost daily interactions that affect all aspects of my life from sleeping to eating to reassuring small children that everything is going to be fine.

The only way to avoid further attacks is to avoid stress and eliminate the cause.   I carry a GTN spray permanently now as any form of stress at all causes my heart to literally skip a beat and i get pains that radiate across my chest as the adrenaline levels rise.  You suddenly realise that you arent immortal and that is scary.  Things that you used to take for granted like going to sleep and waking up each morning go completely out of the window, when you say goodnight to your kids you wonder if you will be there when they wake up.

Throw into this the pressures of a small business with its own ongoing issues to deal with and suddenly priorities change again.  Is it worth actually dying for?  Nothing is worth me risking leaving my kids for...i love my work most of the time and i like to make people happy but my responsibility is to my family, not toy soldiers.  Just because i love what i do doesnt mean i couldnt live without it, weighing up potential gains against probable losses is something that happens most days in businesses.

Its easy to be angry with others ....their selfishness, lack of grasp of reality, bad attitudes when their issues spill into your life making you adapt your priorities to fit their issues.  But when do you say "go sort your own head out, stop blaming me because you have had a bad day, stop looking for a scapegoat because you dont like consequences."  How do you tell people around you, even family members,  that they are literally playing games with your life and the welfare of your kids without sounding selfish and petty?  How can you say to someone that you get so scared to even go to bed some nights because you cant stop your heart from pounding and you have a paralysing pain down your left shoulder without being accused of trying to elicit sympathy and attention-seeking.

Changing priorities.  I don't think i have ever thought i was immortal but a year ago i don't think i ever imagined my life would be like living on a knife-edge waiting for the next 'issue' to rear its head.  My priority used to be trying to make life better for my kids, now it is about surviving on a daily basis to have a life with my kids.  Now i pray before sleep, not for winning the lottery like i used to years ago when i wanted a new car, but that i will wake in the morning.


What am i trying to say?  Don't worry it isnt a hint that we are dumping HF ...stop panicking you will still have toy soldiers for at least a little while longer!  However i really would advise people not to have their own businesses, its not all its cracked up to be.

Go out, live life, don't assume that it will be there tomorrow, look at what is valuable to you and hold on tight to it, get rid of things that don't reward your efforts, give your kids that extra 10 minutes when they want another story at bedtime, give your partner that extra big hug.   

don't argue, life is too short.   Never assume anything is certain

67
Libertee's Miscellaneous Musings II / Do you remember ...
« on: May 01, 2011, 12:35:32 AM »
Bovril flavour crisps and pink 'pink panther' strawberry flavoured candy.

i used to love Bovril crips, the Marmite ones that Walkers do nowadays arent as good.

68
Information / Costings
« on: March 23, 2011, 10:25:02 AM »
I know Andy has remarked how the cost of metal has gone up and how he needs to alter his pricings so i thought i would look into ours as it has been a long time since i actually costed metal figures.

Two main differences though, Andy does all of his casting in-house and we do ours through contractors. Roughly they balance themselves out but ours will always come in slightly higher simply because we get charged for the actual labour of the casting on top of the materials whereas Andy uses Craig.

Our caster currently charges us £25 plus Vat per hour ...which with the current VAT rate works out to £30 per hour.  The metal is on top of that.

I took 6 bills, 3 from 6 years ago and 3 from recently.

We use two casters for metal, Griffin Moulds and Anthony Epworth.  As we hadnt used Griffin 6 years ago i only priced based on Ep's bills.  Griffin bills are slightly higher due to how they price their work, but this isnt a complaint as you get what you pay for.


Metal costs (excluding VAT):

August 2004 = £4.05 kg
August 2010 = £13.63 per kg
February 2011= £16.96 per kg
March 2011= £18.85 per kg.

Caster rates (excluding VAT):
August 2004 = £16.00 per hour
March 2011 = £25.00 per hour

Shipping rates (excluding VAT):
August 2004 = £8
March 2011 = £16

You can see how the prices rise but what does it actually mean.?  What i have done is taken the total cost for each bill and divided it by the amount of kg of metal we actually get to get an actual cost per metal weight that it costs us to buy in stock.

1::  In August 2004, the price per kg was £4.05 (excluding VAT) but once shipping, labour, vat had been added on and divide by the number of kg's we got an actual price per kg of £15.52

2::  In March 2011, the price per kg is currently £18.85 (exc VAT), but once shipping, labout, vat had been added on and divided by the number of kg's we got an actual price per kg of £41.54


Hasslefree prices have for the part not risen since 2004/2005, even though the actual cost of production just to get the figures in has tripled.  Throw on top of this the packaging costs which have doubled, utilities which have tripled, and the fact we have to pay staff wages which involve extra costs such as NI, Paid Annual Leave etc, insurance costs, rent, petrol...and it goes on.  The more i went through old bills the more stressed and scared i got.

Gradually as we have added new ranges we have slowly increased prices in line with our extra costs but never in line with actual costs.  this means that over the last couple of years with the other issues we have had affecting production our bottom line has dropped considerably to the point where on paper we arent viable.  So prices have to go up and some of them may seem steep but if you think they havent moved for 6 years then i hope you can see why they are as they are.  Some of the ranges i have been updating over the last few days but the rest i am doing gradually over the next week.

i know in a recession that is the last thing we should be doing and i know a lot of manufacturers who would just do it 'on the sly' and not even notify people what is going on but you all know that i dont work that way.

we have no choice and i hope you all understand.

69
Information / AN EXAMPLE OF RESIN CASTING COSTS FOR A LIMITED RUN
« on: January 09, 2011, 09:33:09 PM »
This topic is also posted in 'Eye Candy' (http://forum-of-doom.com/index.php?topic=14199.new#new) but i thought it could do with going
here as well as an example of production costs of a Limited Run figure.  I know sometimes when we announce the prices for something that you
**gasp** or think "sheesh they must be making some serious cash on that one" ...it would be a very natural reaction.

However we dont make a lot of money on these runs.  We do them because we want to push the boundaries on what is in the marketplace,
we do it to hold our beliefs and philosophies true about what can be achieved if we think 'outside the box', we do it because that is what
HF does....something different to everyone else.  Some of you who may be new to HF would think "well whats the point if you arent making any money".
The point is that if you don't do these things then the hobby will stagnate, it wont grow and progress.  Kev will get bored just thinking of how
to make something to be cast in metal instead of getting excited about a new type of resin or a new production process.  
If we do something new maybe we will inspire others to try thing new as well and life will get a bit more fun!

So next time you see a fantastic new figure from any manufacturer, remember some of the costs involved as shown here and hopefully this information
will help you understand their pricing structure.  Obviously some of the costs will vary according to each manufacturer and the standard of the casting
they use or even if they do it in-house ... these are prices from the top end casters who take pride in their work and who do justice to the sculpts Kev produces.
If you want something that looks and feels cheaper and is a nightmare to put together with millions of airbubbles to fill then i am sure Mark can point you
in the direction of some of the dodgier resin casters in the industry!


BTW, in case you hadnt noticed.....making toy soldiers isnt a licence to print money even if you are married to the sculptor and are busy
breeding your own team of packers!


*************************************************************************************************
THE EXAMPLE
*************************************************************************************************



Kev has changed the gun to make it more in keeping with his inspiration.  This gun will later be available on a weapon sprue
but i wouldnt hold your breath as to exactly when as there is a loooong list ahead of it in the casting queue!

There have been a number of discussions about getting this figure cast in clear resin.  
We have looked into this in detail….we like to keep you all happy and want you to know that we do take your suggestions seriously.  
The idea is to cast in a clear resin so that the painter can make her 'invisible', 'partially visible', 'visible' and anywhere inbetween.  
This is a one piece casting, no assembly required!


There are limitations to this kind of resin casting though.  

1:  The first is that the clear resin itself is very damaging to the silicon mould so whereas a standard HF blue resin casting
of this kind of size/level of detailing we could maybe get 45 - 50 castings before the mould starts showing signs of wear/damage
nd the quality drops...a clear resin piece we are looking realistically at 35 - 40 castings per mould.
2:  The resin itself is a variable entity.  It is a specialist material that can have slight variances in transparency from batch
to batch, this means we may get 15 crystal clear castings and then 10 or so not so clear, then another 10 or so slightly less clear
from each mould.  

What the two variances above mean for us and for you is that we cant guarantee how many of each transparency we will get per
mould until we physically get the castings in our hands.

Our plan is to use 3 moulds for the limited run.  We will use 1 mould until it is unusable and then grade the total castings from this
mould and sell them in 2 price brackets depending on the clarity.  As the stock from this first mould is nearly sold out we will commission
the second mould, and so on until all 3 moulds are finished.  That will then be the end of the run in clear resin.  
This means we will have for sale over a period of time between 90 and 120 castings.

********************

Now for the nitty gritty.

It has been a long time since i have shared any costings with you all so this is as good an example as any to let you know how the
cost of raw materials has affected costings/profits over the last few years.  I have broken down for you the costs we incur getting a
figure of this kind of specification from starting point to in your grubby little hands to admire and cherish!  I have colour-coded the two
quantity variables to (hopefully) make it easier to follow.

Grey Matter Figures have quoted us the following.  Just to clarify, we have no issues with their costs.  You basically get what you pay
for and their casting is top notch...clean, virtually zero mould lines, lovely to handle....they do Kevs work justice.  
We don't often get a chance to use Fenris for figures but i should imagine his charges would be similar as his quality is on par with Grey Matter.


MOULDING:
Each Mould is going to cost £50 plus vat ...so with VAT at 20% this means each mould will cost £60.
If we break this down to the amount of castings per mould we get a cost of between £1.71 per figure (with 35 in mould) and £1.50 per figure (with 40 in each mould).  
THIS IS NOT THE TOTAL COST, JUST THE COST OF THE MOULD PER FIGURE

CASTING:
They estimate £5 plus VAT per casting ...that works out £6 per figure cast.

TOTAL COST per figure to get cast = £7.50 - £7.71

PACKAGING:
This will work out per figure for blistering/insert card to approximately 40p per figure.

POSTAL PACKAGING:
As this figure will need to be packed in a box with a depth of greater than 25mm, it will add an extra £1.50 to the packaging
costs of sending a normal figure through a PIP box.

This brings a total cost of producing the figure to the point of sale to between £9.40 and £9.61


SALES COSTS


Web sales costs/commissions for processing the payments average at between 8 - 10% depending on the provider.  
We usually estimate 10% to make it easier.
Now KJ suggests a selling price of £20 per figure which would mean our selling costs amount to £2 per figure.
The taxman will take 20% of the selling price which amounts to £4.00


So to total it up.

1:  Point of sale costs between £9.40 and £9.61
2:  Add on payment costs takes us to between £11.40 and £11.61 per figure
3:  Add on VAT and this takes us to between £15.40 and £15.61 per figure.

So with a RRP of £20 per figure we get profit of between £4.60 and £4.39 per figure.

However this isnt net profit, this is gross profit.  We havent yet had to pay Kev for his work.  He averages for a freelance
piece between £250 and £350 for something this size.  So lets take the middle ground and say we pay him £300 for it.
£300 divided by 120 castings gives a payment to Kev of £2.50 per casting.

Add this onto the above and you get a total production cost per figure of between £17.90 and £18.11, giving us net profits of between £2.10 and £1.89 per casting.



If we sell all 120 castings at £20 each then we make a profit of between £252 and £226.80 for the whole run.
That is assuming there are no breakages during transit and that all of the parcels arrive where they are supposed to be.
If it is a month like November/December during the snow or the Icelandic volcano earlier in the year where we have re-shipped 25% of parcels at our expense
that were missing or delayed then for each order of this figure that we have to reship we look at losing the figure cost (of between £17.90 and £18.11)
plus shipping charges of between £3.00 (UK recorded ) to £6.00 (EU) to £7.00 (Non-EU).  
If we have to reship even 10% of figures (12 figures) then we are in trouble.

For example to illustrate this point if we reship 12 figures ( 4 from each postal groups) we lose between
£17.90 x 12 plus £64 (postal charges ) = £278.80 and £217.32 + £64 = £281.32.  This means we make no profit at all and instead incur a loss of between £54.52 and £26.80.


If we think positively and assume that we will get no breakages and will not have to re-ship any castings then the profit from
this run then goes into the general pot to pay Marks wages, Rent and utilities for the workshop (heating, phone , internet, tea/coffee etc),
Rent for the storage unit, general running expenses like paper/toner/consumables, upgrading equipment, insurances, packaging, petrol ...
everything bascially we pay out from sweets to sending out free figures as prizes for competitions.



*************



Does this open anyones eyes or are these kind of figures you expected to see?
Bear in mind that the initial outlay for this figure is higher than usual because of the resin type, however the other expenses are the same.



70
Information / Resin Masters
« on: December 18, 2010, 08:57:59 PM »
There are two ways that we use to get greens into productions.

1:  We send the green to be moulded by vulcanisation into a rubber mould.
We then get Griffin to spin this mould x amount of times to get the amount of masters we need to then send into a production mould.

Good points:
  Used to be relatively cheap and if we have a fair amount of greens to go into a mould ( 16 units) then it is a fairly quick turnaround.

Bad points:  a)Sometimes we dont get good castings straight away as the mould takes a few spins to warm up enough to cast properly,
Griffin are good about replacing miscast masters however this does slow down the production schedule sometimes. 
b)If Kev is doing a fair amount of freelance then we have to wait a while to fill the mould which delays production further.
c)Each stage of vulcanisation moulding reduces surface detail on the finished figure  and also overall size of the figure as metal shrinks slightly when cooling.
d)Casting costs have gone up exponentially over the last few years.


2:  The green goes to be cast in transtional resin

We give the green to Grey Matter who make a silicone mould from it and then cast us x amount of figures in a resin that withstands a high temperature. 
These resin masters then go to Griffin to be vulcanised into a rubber mould for production castings.

Good points.
a)One less vulcanisation stage means less shrinkage and clearer detailing. The masters are an exact copy of the green therefore
the metal production figures have the same high quality of detail as metal first-stage master castings have.
b)We dont have to wait for a whole mould before we get a figure through mastering as they cast each one individually
c) It is easier and quicker for KJ to convert resin masters than metal ones

Bad points.
a)We lose the resin casting in the mould, it crumbles once its job is done, which means that when the mould wears out we
have to ensure we have at least one resin copy intact somewhere safe to make new masters from.
b)It can be expensive, although we have estimated that it is now on a par with metal mastering.

****************

Okay lesson over, so why am i telling you this?

We are going to do a trial period from January until June of sending all greens (except Grymn cos they go somewhere else!)
to Grey Matter to be cast into transitional resin masters.

We hope this will speed up the time from you guys seeing something tasty finished in 'Eye Candy' to getting your grubby
little glue-covered, paint-stained fingers on it.

We will keep tabs on when Kev finishes the figure, when it goes to Grey Matter, how long it is there, how soon until we get workable masters,
 when the masters got to Griffin and when we get production castings back.  We (okay, probably me unless i can browbeat Mark into doing it)
are going to keep detailed production costs at each stage to judge its viability.

Over the last year we have trialled selling a fixed amount of metal master castings as a way of funding initial costs of getting a figure into production.
 We are going to continue with this however you guys wont be offerred metal master castings anymore but resin ones.  I will ask Grey Matter to
produce a fixed amount of masters in a  resin colour different to our usual blue/grey (so we can easily differentiate masters). 
Although transitional resin is expensive, we dont anticipate the standard resin masters to be much different to our usual prices for masters although i
 am only using estimations, once the first set of invoices have come in then i will be able to adjust the pricing accordingly if necessary.

By switching over to resin masters we will be able to provide a steady stream of releases instead of a bulk amount irregularly as we wont have to
wait to fill a mould.  I am hoping if this works out that we will be able to get back to our previous way of 2 - 4 releases every 3-4 weeks.

How does this sound?  Does anyone have any questions?

Our first Resin master will actually be a pre-order going up as the 10th Day of Christmas tomorrow night (Sunday 19th December) to ship
by the end of January and it will be of the unlimited production version of the new Wolf. 
Any other resin masters will be available as per our usual procedure of we get them in before we ship them out, you know how much i hate
pre-orders! ...admin-wise they are a complete pain!




71
Mantic Games are going to produce under license a total of 10 box sets over the next year.  
I have done the image work so far for 4 of them and have popped them below to show
you what sort of things to look for on your local retailers shelf.  
Each box set has a minimum of 1 figure that is exclusive only to the Mantic sets, some are
minor conversions of existing figures and some are more complicated.
If you arent aware of how Mantic box their sets, they use a case similar to a video box,
the printed inlay slips between the box and the clear cover.  
The artwork i have been working on obviously reflects the fact that the box has a spine hence the sideways writing in the middle!
I am still tinkering so be prepared for them to change a bit

Hope you like my self-taught photoshop skills!

I have just shrunk the print-ready pdf so some of the small print my not be clearly visible at this resolution.  
If you really want to see them close up let me know and i will pop them on the server and post the link here.










72
Supposed to be editing pics of Kindred and Grymn...it is going veeery slowly.

VS

what i am really doing....listening to an old album called 'Viva Elvis' and swearing at Photoshop

73
Libertee's Miscellaneous Musings II / Thinking of Emigrating
« on: October 13, 2010, 02:01:47 PM »
Where should we go?

I have family in New Zealand and Canada but have always fancied living somewhere close to the sea ( but not touristy beaches ..  think windswept rather than bikinis!) , not too hot but dont mind snow (just not for more than 2 months of the year).

We will probably leave Mark here to run the business or just wait until he wins the lottery and sell it to him!

Suggestions please along with embassy urls!

74
Information / RETAILERS
« on: August 17, 2010, 09:55:36 AM »
This is a topic broached a few times over the years but never actually answered fully in one place. 

 I very often get emails from customers asking about why we dont use many retailers.  I also get emails from retailers asking to stock us, but we quite often decline.

I thought i would list some of the thinking around this topic here and also invite you guys to give your opinions/perceptions. As usual i will answer as honestly as i can.


PLUS SIDE TO USING RETAILERS


1:  You obviously shift more stock long term.
2:  Each time a retailer cross-links and sells a HF product to someone who hast come across us before it generates a potential future sale if that customer is happy.
3:  We benefit indirectly from their advertising.



NEGATIVE SIDE TO USING RETAILERS


1:  The dreaded bottom line.  The deal we offer retailers is 40% off RRP.  We think this is pretty generous as, for example, they get to buy a £3.00 figure in for £1.80 and sell it for £3.00 making £1.20 profit on it.
2:  We reimburse retailers their shipping costs in free figures so if shipping their order comes to £12.00 we give them a minimum of £12 RRP worth of stock free.



However we get retailers ( alot of them) telling us that they want 50% , 60% or even 70% off RRP before they will stock us. We then have to deal sometimes with some quite agressive retailers who arent happy that we have said"no" to this.  Yes we know they have running costs too, but they dont have the manufacturing costs that we do ... remember they get supplied with a finished product all packed nicely and ready to sell.


This is how we explain it to them.

"If we sell you a £3.00 figure for £1.80 you make a potential £1.20 profit on that figure.  Technically we get £1.80.  But is that profit?....course not!!"

For that £1.80 per figure that we get we have to pay

1: moulding/casting costs, metalprices have risen again as have rubber prices so the price we pay per figure is going up again.  If you assume that 1 casting bought in costs 80p that just leaves £1 'profit'. 

however this £1 'profit ' has to pay the following.....
2: sculpting costs (even Kev has to get paid occassionally you know, love doesnt pay the mortgage!). 
3: staff wages at all stages from mould allocation through to shipping to caster, sorting the figures, quality control, packing the production castings, labelling the production castings,
4: Stock storage
5: postage costs to and from the caster for green, masters & production castings.
6: finance charges for processing the transaction

Cumulatively also the little profit we then make goes toward the running costs of the unit...rental, power, utilities, equipment, paper, bags,...basically everything needed in a day to day form.


If we drop our bottom line we cant afford to run, we will be to all intents and purposes just giving our stock away....doing all of the work so someone else can profit.

Is that fair?....i dont think so and i have 4 kids that don't think so either!



I can hear some of you saying "arent the potential gains from one of the larger retailers stocking your products at a lower rate going to help long-term?"

You would think so, wouldnt you.  However, on the order form we invite customers to let us know how they have heard of us.  The majority of comments arent retailer based but through word of mouth and forums.

We do supply 2 larger retailers (no names mentioned .. one UK and one US) at a lower rate of 50% discount.  I have worked out (time and motion study) that if one of them places an order for £1000 RRP worth of stock (they pay £500), once all of the charges. labour etc are covered in processing that order we actually physically make on average approximately 18p per figure (small figures with lower retail price like Katie, Sarah, Little bits we make a loss and larger pieces like the multi-part adventurers we make a bit more profit...it balances itself out.  However if their £1000 RRP worth of stock is mainly low value items we make a loss for that complete order).   So on average thats 6% of the RRP in 'profit' which then goes towards running costs above.  So we are giving the stock away. They get 50% per figure to play with for their running costs and we get 6%.   This is called a 'loss leader' and apparrently lots of major retailers do this.  Long term we hope that the gains of supplying them ...some of their customers coming over to us direct, benefit from their advertising etc will even this out a bit more in our favour.



So next time someone wants to badger us about selling at a lower than current discount, please point them to this topic first!  We do have a right to make a profit, we arent just here to supply the industry with funky toys for the hell of it!

75
Suggestions (HF) / Which of the older ranges to work on first?
« on: January 22, 2010, 07:47:39 PM »
As it says above, vote for the one you want him to tackle first and then (if possible)  give us a reason in the reply box............have you got a spot in a game that needs filling?  A space in a diorama?  Or do you just like a particular range

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