The firm Jon Smith Modellbau is based in Germany and is focused on the Great War 1914 – 18. The scales of these model figures / kits are 1:32nd, 1:16th & 1:10th and are produced in resin and (for the larger bases or trench parts special modelling plaster). These are kits for the model-maker and collector and are sculptured using the original photos, measurements and items from this period.
In addition, there is further information on construction and painting the kits, plus some history of the particular figure.
Jon Smith Modellbau did not appear overnight, but was a process of many years interest in the 1914 – 18 conflict, the people who took part and figure model making in general. It probably all started way back in the 70s when buying those Japanese plastic kits and then checking beforehand the sides of the box to see how many figures were supplied with the model. To me, even in those early days the figures gave the model an understandable scale and I believe it is what people will look at first when confronted with a vehicle or building diorama, military or otherwise.
The obvious next steps were the simple figure kit conversions – swapping heads, arms and legs etc. Of course they would never always fit correctly and gaps had to be filled / small alterations applied – the first stages of figure sculpting had begun.
It was only a matter of time before the first full scratch figures were attempted. There were never any commercial interests at this stage and it was probably more of a challenge than anything else.
The end of the 80s and a new large era of resin figures had been introduced to the model market, mainly from that particular Belgium model making firm Verlinden. I had in the meantime produced for myself a small series of 1:25th scale German Infantry 1944 – 45 in winter snow-suits, a British Observer from the Royal Observer Corps 1944 in the same size and a larger scale Prussian Guardsman 1914, holding a child on his arm. The last two produced based on the original photos.
The response from friends, particularly with the Prussian Guardsman gave rise to the first small resin and white metal figure production, using 2 part silicon rubber casts. Of course the results were never as good as one hoped and it soon became apparent that to bring out a commercial figure a professional caster would have to be brought in.
JSM was born.
Why The Great War
It is really a combination of different reasons why I chose The Great War period to base the figures on. Firstly, there was not really much on the market in this scale at the time and I believed the interest was certainly there. Secondly, in order to make the figures I needed to research, measure and photograph the original equipment, weapons and uniforms etc. This was and still is achieved mainly through museums and collectors, which are never more than a few hours’ drive away from home. From the two sources, the collector is by far the most helpful and knowledgeable and will talk for hours about their own subject. Naturally, some of this information is then passed on in the infosheets and painting instructions supplied with each model kit.
Actually it is Jonathan Peter Smith and I was brought up in the county of Warwickshire in the Midlands, UK. Later, the family moved to Sussex and then on to Bath, in the southwest of England. It was whilst in Sussex that I joined the British Army as an infantryman. This virtually put an end to any model making and it was not until the mid-80s that I slowly picked up the reins again. Like many ex-servicemen I married a local girl and settled down here in Northern Germany.
An apprenticeship as a painter and decorator was followed some years later by trade training as a professional Industrial and Architectural Model-Maker in Hanover, Germany. A natural advancement to the professional model making was the upgrade training to a technical draughtsman CAD Specialist in building construction during 2001.
The Meister qualifications were completed shortly afterwards at the FBZ Trade College in Garbsen, near Hanover, followed by a position as Technical Officer in a Facilities Management firm here in Germany.
At the beginning of 2015 and parallel to the traditional master figure (prototype) construction, the new 3D technology was added to the workshop. The first JSM 3D mastered models were launched at the end of April 2017 – the new Trench Rats and British SRD Rum Jars. Further 3D mastered models were released later in 2017. Further model figures are planned for the spring 2018.
In recent years the business has expanded in both range of products and customers, with JSM kits being sent to all corners of the world. I always look forward to receiving mail from home or overseas and will attempt to answer any critic, comments, or suggestions within a few days. I am particularly pleased with the current interest from Japan and it seems that what started so long ago with the purchase of those first Japanese kits has now turned a complete cycle.
My thanks goes out to the many people in various different countries who have given their support over the last 25 odd years or so – friends, fellow figure sculptors and pattern makers, customers, customers who have become friends and last but not least the family for the never ending support.
Today I live with my family in the small town of Walsrode on the edge of the Luneburg Heath, in Northern Germany. In recent years, I have gone back to full-time employment and now work again as a building technician. The firm Jon Smith Modellbau now runs as a part-time business.
Jon Smith, Walsrode, Germany, December 2021