A while back I was seized by the urge to build up some Civil War forces for epic tabletop clashes. Big blocks of black powder troops called out to me as a wargamer in a primal way. But while I love the spectacle, the painting load is way beyond me. So, for the first time in my life as a wargamer, I put some figures out for commission painting. Some web searches and TMP scrolling turned up several solid options, from which I selected Fernando Enterprises. Below is a review of my experiences. Bottom line: I will use them for my future commissions!
(NOTE: All figures are from the superb 15/18mm Blue Moon range)
Who are they?
Fernando Enterprises is a commission painting group out of Sri Lanka. According to their website, they have been in the business since 1994 and employ upwards of 75 painters. I can’t verify any of that, but I have seen some of their work posted on TMP over time and read good reviews. Fernando Enterprises provides a range of services including painting (posted examples include every scale from 6mm to 80mm), assembly, basing, and more. They provide three levels of painting quality in most scales: showcase, collector, and wargamer. My commission was all at the collector level, and I’ll discuss my impressions later.
The price here is about as low as you can find, and certainly lower than you can find in the USA. As might be expected, the costs break down for foot troops, cavalry, and cannon primarily, but FE recognizes several additional categories too, such as camo/highlander. FE’s website includes a nice painting cost breakdown here. For my 15mm ACW “collector” level troops, the price came out to $1 a figure. FE is currently offering a discount of 10% on orders over $300 — get your order in before 31 December 2016 to take advantage of the offer.
Keep in mind that you will need to factor in the postage cost to get your models to Sri Lanka. That’s a little steep, but the size of my commission still made this by far the cheapest option I found. I was not charged any extra for the return postage.
In my experience, FE’s customer service was superb. They responded quickly and accurately to my request for a quote. They provided thorough instructions for mailing the unpainted figures to them (even if they could use another English translator to improve the clarity of the instructions). FE notified me upon receipt, then sent me updates every week or so once the models hit a painter’s table. In these updates, FE included pictures of example models and asked for feedback in case I wanted to make any changes. I was happy with what I saw, so I did not request changes, but I got the impression that FE would have been responsive.
Not bad! Postage took about a week on either side. FE painted my full commission of over 300 figures in about two months. I was happy since I was not on a schedule of any kind. I’m not sure how much longer a commission would take if painted to a higher quality.
I was impressed overall with FE’s painting quality. They were not up to the quality of figures I paint myself, but frankly they were of a quality I wish I could paint so that I could finish large projects fast. The figures are not individually worthy of museum display…but as a group, and especially from wargaming distance, they look great!
I asked for FE to make my Confederates look like a motley collection with an emphasis on gray and brown colors to tie them together. FE used a lot of colors I would not have thought to apply, but I like the end result. My only regret was that I was not more specific about officer uniforms. The officers I received are wearing a lot of different, a-historical colors…but I can live with it. From a distance, nobody will notice.
If you want something specific, consider sending an example figure, or at least some pictures. I will send some more detailed images with my next commission. Be specific with your requests–FE is responsive!
Shipping costs were reasonable. I paid postage on the front end (around $30), but the return postage seems to have been wrapped up in the commission cost. Take care sending the figures because a few of mine arrived broken, though admittedly I had not taken many precautions. FE’s return packaging is superb. I sent mine divvied up by regiment, and they returned my figures in the same batches. Each batch was individually sandwiched in a folded cardboard shell with foam sheets between. More foam sheets buffered the cardboard-and-foam sandwiches from one another and from the box itself. All my figures arrived very nicely organized and in great condition. I’m taking notes for my future eBay sales…
Bottom Line: Great service, good product, price is hard to beat. I will use Fernando Enterprises again, and I recommend it strongly.
Quick Note on the Project: This is part of my ongoing build-up for Black Powder (ACW variant). I’m aiming to commission the bulk of a division for both Confederates and the Union, then fill in interesting or scenario-mandated units myself. As a bonus, Dan Brown’s new Pickett’s Charge rules were just released, and my basing will work well for it. I’ve read through the rules and they look fun — can’t wait to give them a shot!