Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Reaper Miniatures Factory Tour...

I've been meaning to post something on my Reaper Miniatures factory tour and Reapercon 2017.  The Reapercon article(s) might take a while (Reapercon 2018 might come around), but I'll take some time this 4th of July holiday to post some thoughts and pictures of our fantastic tour through the factory.

Flamingos at DWA
Dealey Plaza
Three months ago I took my boys up to Dallas (we live in Austin) for a weekend to take in a Monday night Dallas Stars hockey game.  Over the weekend we spent time in downtown Dallas doing the touristy stuff.

JFK assassination site and The Sixth Floor Museum at what was the School Book Depository at the time of the shooting (which was surprisingly interesting and well presented).

The Dallas World Aquarium which I think has more birds and mammals than fish.  If there ever was a bird that was more fantasy than reality, it would have to be the flamingo - everything about them from how they look to the way they walk is just amazing and as if taken right out of the D&D Monster Manual.

Monday we had time during the day prior to the evening's hockey game and decided to make a visit to Reaper's HQ.  We called ahead of time before making the trip and they said yes, come on up and they'd schedule us in.  I have to say, in a world where seemingly the art of customer service is lost, the folks who work for Reaper have it and then some.  Everyone we encountered from my initial phone call until the end of our visit was extremely courteous and helpful.

The facility is located at 9062 Teasley Ln, Denton, TX 76210.  The location is all-in-one - game store, showroom, factory, and office.  Here's what I wrote in my 5-Star Google review...
The ultimate mecca for fantasy miniatures.  This store carries all their product lines.  The display room is amazing - filled with glass cabinets with thousands of amazingly painted miniatures.  Can spend a solid hour and still not see all.  We had the factory tour by John who is caster and mold maker.  He was fantastic!  Really understands the business and enjoyed taking us around the facility and explaining the process of what goes into manufacturing paints and miniatures.  Highly recommend the visit to anyone interested in the hobby or American manufacturing.
That's the summary of our visit.  The public entrance is through their game store where they have wall pegs of all their various miniatures, some open boxed boardgames, and several tables to sit around.  We were quickly brought into the miniature showroom which was simply awesome!  Every painted miniature that graces their website was presented in glass cabinets with plenty of lighting.  No matter how good the picture, there's nothing like seeing these miniatures up close, in person, and in 3d versus a flat 2d picture.

Glass cabinets filled with painted miniatures.
There's glass shelf upon glass shelf of models as well as many of the dioramas that have been created over the last 20 years.  Here's a sampling (I snapped over 100 pics)...

We were able to take in quite a bit of eye candy as we arrived just a bit earlier than our designated time slot.  However, I could have easily stayed in that room all afternoon.

The factory is typical of an American small manufacturing facility - I've spent a career implementing enterprise software in small to medium size manufacturing and distribution facilities.  There are shelves for inventory, machines producing product, computer terminals, and all sorts of conveyors for moving material around.  The difference is this factory has very cool pirate flags!

Inside Reaper Miniature's factory operations.
Our factory tour was guided by John.  Whatever they pay him is not enough for his courtesy, enthusiasm, and knowledge of the operations and casting.  He was an encyclopedia of knowledge and provided details on every aspect of what goes into producing your miniatures.

John took us through the rubber mold making area where we viewed the process of how they generate the molds in casting metal miniatures.  He then brought us into the booth where they pour molten metal into a spin-caster which fills the cavity of the molds.  Pretty much instantly the metal hardens and upon opening the mold there are approximately a dozen miniatures.

The miniatures then go to a QC inspection area where they look for any bubbles or gaps in the figure - if so, then those are reviewed to determine why prior to being re-cast.  After passing QC the miniatures go to packaging where they're inserted into blister packages.  Upon being sealed, the packages move into shipping as they momentarily wait for your internet order - the computer prints out a pick ticket and your miniatures are pulled, packed, and shipped.

A great operation!  When we finished the factory tour we did get to see the paint mixing and bottle filling.  A piece of customized robotics fills and seals the little dropper bottles of paint.  We were also taken upstairs to the office area where we saw new miniatures being designed on CAD equipment, a very cool 3d printer, Reaper Ron in his office (super nice - takes time out of his day to greet and thank you for visiting), and marketing.

There's lots of eye candy in regards to drawings, posters, etc. everywhere but what really caught my eye, which is hung by the stairs going up to the office, is a Keith Parkinson lithograph in a shadow box which also has their first box set miniature sculpted by Sandra Garrity.  Displayed in the bottom of the shadow box are three items: an unpainted set, the box itself, and a painted set.  Super cool!

If you can't tell, I highly recommend making a visit to Reaper Miniatures facilities if you live anywhere near Dallas or happen to be heading there.  They're located in Denton which is a suburb north of the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area.  In the middle of the day, we were able to make the trip from downtown Dallas in about 45 minutes.  There's a Chick-fil-a as soon as you get off the highway which is a good stop for lunch prior to making your visit.

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