Tools of the Trade: Minis – Metals

The next few weeks in the Tools of the Trade series I’m going to be talking about what kinds of things minis are made from.

In these posts. I’m going to break down a little bit about what the different materials are, how they are used, and how to prep and just generally work with each material. This particular post is about metal minis, specifically lead and pewter.

“Okay, what’s first?”

First up is lead. Lead was not the first material that minis were made of; miniatures date back to ancient Egypt where they were made of stone, clay, wood, etc. and were mostly for the rich or nobility. It wasn’t until the late 18th century that lead minis were mass produced for the general population.

Lead is a very soft metal which means it is very easily bent, has softer details, and are heavy. Lead is mixed with tin to make it less fragile. Lead minis can almost be treated like any other metal miniature. It will need washing with soap and water. You still need to prime it before painting.

However, lead is toxic so it should be handled with care. If handling with your bare hands you should take care not to put your fingers in or around your mouth, eyes, and nose. After handling wash hands well. You can avoid most of the exposure by wearing latex or nitrile gloves. If doing any filing or mold line removal you should take extra caution to not ingest in the lead filings or dust.


“I’m not sure if lead is for me, are there any other metals minis are made of?”

Yes, pewter is the more common metal used these days. Pewter is a mixture of tin, antimony, and other metals. Common day pewter, generally, doesn’t contain lead. Pewter is considerably lighter than lead and has better detail. However, it is more expensive than lead. It can be more difficult to work with as it doesn’t bend as easily as lead. Preparation for pewter minis is just like any other mini. Wash, prime, paint. While free of lead you still should probably be cautious of ingesting filings and dust from the miniature.

If you are concerned that your pewter minis may contain lead it is suggested that you contact the company you are purchasing your miniatures from.


“What about plastic miniatures?”

Next week is all about resin and plastic minis! There’s too much information to squeeze all of this into one post.

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