Figures add realism to every layout. Railroads, industries, and businesses exist to serve people. Many modelers take great pains to add fine detailing and proper finishes to structures, scenes, and equipment. But why put them in a deserted scene? Figures bring layout scenes to life and remind us that people, pets in neighborhoods. And wild animals in forests and deserts are all part of the model railroad landscape.
John Allen made his figures by adding candle wax over a wire armature and then carving it to shape. Most military modelers (NOT wargamers!) use Milliput (now available from Micro-Mark) to make some of the best miniatures. The low-temp clay found in craft stores works well too. You can make your own figures too by pouring molten soft metal into molds. A lot of people don’t like fooling with it because it contains lead and it’s easy to get burned if you’re not careful.
If and after the casting process the figures are detail painted, they look factory made. You could create miniatures using the lost-wax method. Carve a figure out of wax, then cast it in a mold, melt out the wax, and add molten metal. There are several low-temperature metals that can be used for casting–the Micro-Mark carries several that can be melted on a conventional stove. But, really, the only reason to make your own figures is that you have a dire need to occupy your time. Miniatures aren’t cheap, but unpainted ones aren’t that expensive. And even if you need to modify and paint a miniature. It’s a lot less work and eyestrain than making your own from scratch.
Making figures would be a daunting task at least. Even some very skilled modelers have ended up with figures that looked like they were made at playschool. I have seen 2 figures handmade and could hardly keep from bursting out loud. Luckily the makers agreed how bad they were. Most modelers proceed with purchasing good figures and spend time on painting them properly and according to your taste.
- HO scale figures range between 0.7 and 0.82 inches tall depending on the height of the modelled person. HO is based on 1:87 scale – which means a 6′ tall person would be 72 inches divided by 87 inches – or approximately .8278 inches.
- scale is not as precise – it can be 1:43, 1:45 or 1:50 meaning that a 6′ tall person would be 72″ divided by 43, 45, or 50 – giving you the equivalent height of the model.