Friday 10 February 2023

Dave Sparrow, sculptor for Hinchliffe Models and more!


An article on Dave Sparrow who sculpted many later Hinchliffe pieces including the FA sci fi range... from Military Hobbies magazine August 1993... I have merely typed it out as written and produced here for educational purposes. All qdos to the original writer who's name I don't have unfortunately.

FOCUS ON - Dave Sparrow

From Cavemen to Colour Party. From Plasticine to Pewter

These five little words plot the course of Dave Sparrow's rise to prominence as a sculptor of both toy soldiers and figurines. At age 56, Dave can look back over a considerable time which has always seemed to have some association with models, model making and toy soldiers.

He first realised that he had in his fingers a talent for producing model figures at the age of eight, when still at primary school, his skill had been noticed and his headmaster asked him to do a series of figures in plasticine to illustrate the history of dress. His first figure to go on display was a caveman!

This artistic ability was to lead Dave at 15 to Harrowgate art College where he spent two years following a general art course, which included sculpting, but Dave never even went through the process of drawing his subjects to reproduce as sculptures. (The same applies today - his figures are in his head and are unlocked by his hands.)

At that time he had a collection of Britains toy soldiers (didn't we all!), but whilst doing his National Service, Mum gave them away, along with his Dinky Toys (didn't they all!). On leaving the army he took up a printing apprenticeship, which was to keep a roof over his head for many years to come - but never far away was his interest in modelling and when time allowed he began to rebuild a Britains collection and build up a collection of 54mm figurines. His printing career took him abroad but soon after his return to this country he changed his career and began the long march along the road of full time sculpting and model making.

It was not all straightforward and there were several changes of job, working for Hinchliffe, Bassett Lowke and Mettoy but all directly connected sculpting and design production of figures and associated items. He also worked as a security officer for a local health authority, doing shift work which gave him time to develop his own business contacts and his big break came when there were health service cut backs!

This decided Dave upon his course to set up his own business of S&S Miniatures, named after his son and daughter. He began by producing 54mm figures for two companies in the USA, a range of wild animals and reproduction Viking jewellery for a business in Cornwall. But it was only eight years ago that the first toy soldiers appeared from S&S and initially he was a one-man band, researching, casting, painting and selling his wares. He had been investigating the new and growing interest in toy soldiers that really took off in the early 1980s and produced his first sets.

Now he has a range of some 90 sets, including civilians, Indian Army and Modern RAF but his main ranges are British Army of the late Victorian period, both Home and Foreign Service troops all performing on the DRILL SQUARE, which of course is the name by which his toy soldiers are known. His figures are finished to be of a higher standard than most toy soldiers, so they look more like figurines and there are five or six figures in most sets, the one exception is his 39-figure set called 'The Blessing of the Colours'.

No longer a one man band (his toy soldiers are all sold through MKL), Dave has time to continue his research and the end results are of course regularly reported in MH. Perhaps one day we might even see one of his dreams come to fruition - he really, really wants to produce a complete Mounted Band from the late Victorian period, a period which first inspired him in the form of his long lost first collection of Britains toy soldiers.


His work for Hinchliffe Models, in the form of a weird science fiction range is on an older post;

He must have been the designer of some of the Hinchliffe Models fantasy range as well as some are certainly not in Peter Gilder's style. The FA55 Super Hero Wielding Axe for one;

MKL Models are going strong;

Edit - found some Americab Indian flats he sculpted, sold by Bash Models on Facebook;

If anyone has any further info on Dave's career, please let me know! (Edit; check the comments below)


Independentwargamesgroup said...

Well Ive learned something there. I honestly thought I knew the sculptors at Hinchliffe but Im embarrassed to admit Id never heard of Dave Sparrow. The sci fi range was never of interest to me, so I can use that as an excuse. Great post, thanks.

Big Andy said...

I think he also made the 30mm crews for the Napoleonic Gun diorama sets when Hinchliffe did those Calder craft sets. - and the Spanish camp fire set in the same series. I also seem to recall Duncan Macfarlane telling me he did some work for Stratagem- my memory says some Highlanders but I could be mistaken.

James Shepherd said...

He certainly made the 30mm range, I last met up with Dave when he was casting for various companies, at The Drum Towcester. 1980s early 90s. He told a hilarious Peter Gilder story.

David Wood said...

Hi James,

Please tell that story!


James Shepherd said...

Sorry for late reply, must try harder!
Dave recalled a visit to the Hinchliffe factory, to deliver masters I guess, and Peter Gilder was there at the same time.
When they both left, Frank said to down to the petrol station and full up, put it on my account.
Dave reckoned Peter Gilder must have coasted halfway to Meltham, judging by his much he got into the tank!
PG had a mercedes.

I will send the other tale of PG another day.
All the best, oh, and please pass story onto independent war games group. I am not tech.savvie!!!

David Wood said...

Thanks James. Keep them coming please!