Making Model Horses is an art form- and one that we have learned about very quickly! Each Copperfox Model starts life as an idea and goes through several steps, processes and mediums to become the final piece. In this article, we take you on the journey of making a model, from start to finish.
When we have an idea of the breed or type of horse we want to join the Copperfox herd , the next step is to gather reference pictures and to sketch out possible shapes and poses for the new model. Things we have to consider at this stage is how the model will stand, four legs or three, and what other features it has to have. For example being tack friendly is important. After a pose is decided upon, we will commission an artist to sculpt the model which can take months to complete.
Once the clay model is finished and approved, it's off to be cast into resin so multiple copies can be produced. Having multiple copies means that you have a backup if a model has an accident before the the start of the long manufacturing process. At this point we will also use the resins to test out sample colours and in some cases offer resin versions of the mould for sale.
All of our Copperfox models are hollow and made of two halves that are joined together. These halves are created by injecting hot molton plastic into a steel tool which moulds the liquid plastic into the shape of the horse. It's very clever stuff! Those who already own a Copperfox Model will know that our models have quite a weight to them; this is simply due to the fact we use more plastic in our models, giving them a weight that feels substantial in your hands.
Our models are created from a mixture of plastics, PolyCarbonate and ABS, which creates a model that has an amazing amount of detail and features, whilst being durable, substantial and possessing a delicate finish and feel when you hold it.
Once the halves of the model are cooled and solid, they are bonded together to create a whole horse. We use a method called Ultrasonic welding which uses sound to join the two halves together. Trot on over to our blog to see more pictures and videos from this process.
The next step is polishing. Any excess plastic created by the moulding process, like seam lines, are polished away delicately by hand using tiny sanding tools and files. The models start to get their own character and personalities at this stage too. As each one is polished by hand, it means that they can be slightly different, depending on who polishes them and what is being polished. Hand polishing means we can get into all the nooks and crannies that a mechanical polisher could not reach and also by feeling the plastic you can sometimes feel it before you see it.
Here are some images from the polishing stage. The big grey blocks on the table are for sharpening the sanding tools and files, and the squares are tiny pieces of sandpaper. When we said hand polished, we truly mean by hand.
Once a model is assembled the painting can start. This is the stage that a model transforms from plain plastic into a little work of equine art, each with it's own character and personality. As each model is hand painted and detailed, there will be slight differences in each one so each one is totally and utterly unique in it's own way.
Painting is a very large stage can be broken down into smaller steps- Base Coating, layering, detailing and varnishing, with other smaller steps in-between too. These include Quality Control checks as well as polishing and re-coating.
Base Coating is a very important step in painting. A base coat provides a smooth layer and a foundation for other paint layers to adhere to. All of our models are completely based coated, even the white bits, so everything gets a spray of paint.
Once models have dried, they are checked for any large lumps or bumps that may require additional polishing or any other major defect, that results in the model being discarded completely (and recycled). Creating a model horse is a little like snakes and ladders, moving up and down. If a model passes it's checks it moves onto the next stage. If it doesn't, it's down the snake and back to the previous step!
At this point, our model has come quite a way from where it first began. It's been heated, moulded, cooled, assembled, welded, polished, sanded and base coated. Quite a few processes just to get to the point in which a model starts to look like a model horse!
Each model receives between 7-8 layers of paint, depending on its colour and tone, building up shading and depth to the horses final coat colour. It is a very long process, as each time a layer of paint is applied, the model needs to be completely dry before the next layer is added. Paint layers are applied by hand using an airbrush to spray the colour onto each model and as the paint builds, the models start to come to alive!
For coloured models, like Henrietta and Bertie, a copper template is used to create their patterns rather than using a mask that sticks to the model. This template is held over the model whilst the paint layer is applied and once dried, it is removed.
Once models have received all their paint layers and their coat colour is complete, it is off to detailing. Details like face and leg markings, chestnuts, eyes and hooves are done completely freehand. In some cases, manes are hand painted too, like on our Henrietta and Bertie models, which are two tone in colour.
Below is a little gallery of pictures of Superman and Sovereign getting their details. Sovereign is having his mane painted a snowy white. He would also get his face and leg markings, hooves painted and varnished, chestnuts added, nose pinked (and greyed) and eyes glossed. Superman is getting his hooves added in the picture(s) and once this is complete, he will have his chestnuts and star added, as well as getting his eyes and hooves glossed. Phew, that is quite a list of things!
Once models have completed their detailing stage, they are left to cure for at least 24 hours to ensure all the paint is dry. After they have dried, models receive a light coat of matte varnish to seal everything in and to give a protective layer. They are then left to rest and dry for another day or so (the drying time depends on the weather), before being checked, approved and packed into their Union Jack boxes for the journey to Copperfox HQ.
Creating a Copperfox Model Horse is quite a long process as you might have gathered from our Behind the Scenes posts. We've had 5 different parts- Moulding (Part 1) Creating a Blank Model (Part 2) and Welding (Part 3) Base Coating (Part 4) and Painting (Part 5). It's a process that not only creates wonderful models, it creates models that are as unique and as individual as the people that create them.