01 February 2023
From Miniature Wargames Magazine's Last Word
Article by Bob Black.
There’s not many of us who can say they have been wargaming for over six decades, and much of it with their own range of figures. But Jack Alexander, the man behind Jacklex Miniatures, can as he celebrates his 93rd birthday.
Back in 1962 Jack’s wife gave him a copy of Wargames by Don Featherstone and he started making his own 20mm figures, based on Britains toy soldiers minimal detail style. There was little detail on the first figures and if the gamer wanted Sam Brown belts he painted them. Jack told me he has never able to paint the straight lines for belts, so he cut strips of electrical tape and glued this on instead. He said it was easier! For all that the figures had a charm and a style of their own, different to highly detailed modern figures.
Jack started making ranges that complimented and expanded the Airfix 20mm plastics: Colonial, ACW, French Foreign Legion, Mahdists and Pathans as well as an extensive range of artillery and equipment. Jack sculpted the masters, made moulds and then hand cast each figure.
But the hobby was expanding and other manufacturers were busy. Peter Laing and Minifigs halved the 30mm figures from Tradition and Suren and produced 15mm soldiers. Others went “large” and the 20mm became 25mm and then grew upwards. Centrifugal casting machines from the jewellery business took over from drop casting meaning higher quality figures but Jack never moved from 20mm, making them by hand in his workshop and in only limited poses. The figures were taken off the market in the late 1980s, although he was still making soldiers, and often produced items for the wargames he played with Stuart Asquith, Alan Cook and myself.
In 2002 Spencer Smith Miniatures bought the Jacklex range. They made centrifugal moulds for the range and then offered the figures to a new audience. Then in 2019 Mark Lodge, Jacklex enthusiast and a former Army Officer, bought the range from Spencer Smith and is now marketing Jacklex to old friends and new converts, including some items never before seen to add to the normal range.
For just one example, whilst looking for a figure I moved a pile of moulds and bits of metal and underneath, covered in several years dust was a British Colonial Standard Bearer and a Scots Colonial Standard Bearer. When I showed them to Jack he thought and then said that Stuart (Asquith) had wanted them for a Colonial game so he made them. He never added them to the colonial range and... then forgot about them! Mark now has these, has made moulds and they are available along with other conversions and lost figures. Mark also had a chance to talk to Jack about the range and the figures and get to know not only what Jack produced but why.
Jack still makes and paints figures, although he now prefers making buildings and ships: bigger and easier for a 93 year old to work on. But he really enjoys having his figures on the table and playing games with them. He mounts all his figures singly on pennies and moves them individually: a hangover from those early days when all figures were used singly and casualties were taken off at the time.
For his birthday we had a quick wargame with some of my Napoleonic figures (a period that Jack never took to) and then with some of his own figures: Pershing’s Expedition to Mexico chasing Pancho Villa. Great fun which we both enjoyed!
The hobby has changed since Jack produced his first figures but there is a group of wargamers across the world who enjoy those simple stylish miniatures that recall an earlier time in the hobby. Have a look at them at Jacklex Miniatures and raise a glass to one of the hobby’s pioneers: Jack Alexander.
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