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135
A visit to Signifer

Introduction
Opening a kit box is a very special experience for a modeller. It´s like opening the door of a new world. There is always expectation and fear: is the purchased kit a good one? How is the moulding quality, the level of detail and the overall fit? One mind starts to wonder: how was it possible to design such a kit? It probably required years of meticulous researches by an army of historians, years of drawing to make accurate scale plans and a battery of computers working with CAD programs. Then huge machines operated by engineers in working suits must be required to produce thousands of plastic sprues. This may be the case for Companies like Tamiya, but it´s not always like that. You may be surprised how some high quality kits are produced!
Amongst the Short Run and Resin manufacturers which are producing some of the most original and detailed kits, there is Signifer. If you have already purchased one of their kits, you know what I´m talking about: crispness and detail are the tradmarks of this French manufacturer. As I was given the opportunity to make a visit to M. Meissonier, owner of Signifer, during my summer vacations, I just couldn´t let this chance pass and decided to take a look behind the scenes. This feature will hopefully give you some insights into the world of alternative modelling, without whom we couldn´t speak of a "Golden Age" of modelling right now!

The Company
Signifer was created around 1998 and his owner, M. Jérome Meissonnier, is aged 45 years. It´s a "Family business" as his Father works with him and helps him the best he can despite his age (83 years). M. Meissonier "Senior" was an "Armée de l´Air" mechanic during WW2 and he serviced planes such as Bostons and Airacobras. He told me he was impressed by the way the aircraft were produced in the States when compared to French ones. U.S. planes were much more easier to work with because of their internal design. Electric cables for example had different colors, always the same independently of the manufacturer, and switching from one to another was no problem at all. American effectiveness! I think it is not necessary to tell you who gave M. Jérome Meissonier the modelling bug. As a kid, in the late 30", his father saw Latécočre 298 floatplanes flying regularly over his head. 60 years later he made a kit of it (with the help of J. Niot)... talk about passion! The French manufacturer is based near Montpellier, in a small village called Clapiers. The family house is also the place where the kits are designed and produced.

l' atelier (the workshop)
When I arrived, M. Raymond Meissonier kindly showed me the way to his son´s "Atelier" under the roof of their house. After climbing some wooden stairs, I arrived in the "Saint des Saints", where the typical smell of resin couldn´t be missed! M. Jérome Meissonier appeared and a four hour conversation started!
The first thing I noticed about M. Meissonier, is that he is a real modeller. He built a lot of high quality models of various themes: aircraft, armor, figure etc... and his display cases are full. He won several prizes at contests but it´s not too important for him. He always prefered the contact between modelers over competition. He likes Dragon products but also Czech short run kits and Classic Airframes is also high on is list. Unfortunately, as soon as he started to produce his own kits, modelling time became less and less and he didn´t built a kit (other than his own) since a few years now. It´s sad, but since he got into business, his spare time did become almost non existant! He confessed that he didn´t had vacations for years and that every hour is dedicated to Signifer, sometimes late in the night.
The place were M. Meissonier works isn´t very big. In fact, when you see the house from the outside, you couldn´t imagine model kits are produced here. But everything a resin kit manufacturer needs is present on a single place: a workshop, a milling machine, shelves, a workbench to produce the resin parts, a vacuum machine, a spray both and a Show Room with a computer and Internet access. M. Meissonier isn´t a computer freak, but he believes the web is the best (maybe only) way for a small manufacturer like him to sell kits. You can buy Signifer kits directly from M. Meissonier on E-bay for example.
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About the Author

About Jean-Luc Formery (TedMamere)
FROM: MOSELLE, FRANCE

I'm mainly interested in WW2 aircraft and I build them in 1/48 scale.


Comments

Jean _ Luc Thanks for bringing this to the light of day, very informative. I am familiar with resin casting and know Eric Hight from Copper State Models. I swear I have heard him make identical comments on the very same subject. It seems smalll business' like resin companies all face the same problems.
OCT 27, 2006 - 03:15 PM
Hi John-Luck Great read ... i like such stories! Some notes: Could you please change the bottom nav bar ...the numbers of the following sites are hardly visible. .... I saw Stephens comment and thought "what tthe heck he is talking about" .. I had to search a moment to find where I had to click ... that maybe does not speak for myself, so if I am the only one who gets fooled from time to time .. it is maybe lack of intelligence ... If you look for a subcontractor ... better do not give it to eastern companies, at least make sure you have a contract that assures your intellectual property ... I wonder how Jules Bringuier, Mr. Classic Airframes, protects his rights ... this is from experience (luckily not my own but from a friend) and is not aimed against anyone here .. In one of the cases I know the model was faster out under another label than the customer got the parts he had ordered (and he was providing all the research and so on) cheers Steffen
OCT 27, 2006 - 04:44 PM
Greetings Jean-Luc: A very interesting article, a good read, and well written. Thanks for taking the time to present it.
OCT 27, 2006 - 05:08 PM
Hi all! Thanks for your kind comments! Yes, the modelling business is a jungle. Sometimes one can live peacefully in it and sometimes one is eaten by predators. Always keep in mind, when complaining about the price of a resin kit, all the work involved in designing and production... Steffen, unfortunately I can't change the bottom nav bar. You must ask the Big Boss for that! If you have any contacts with small (or big) manufacturers, don't hesitate to write a feature about it... Jean-Luc
OCT 29, 2006 - 03:44 PM
Hi Jean-Luc thanks for the info .. i won't ask Mr. Starkweather, as we seem to collide always when we have a communication try .. I just will have to live with it and miss one or another page of the articles. best wishes from rainy Schwerin Steffen
OCT 29, 2006 - 06:13 PM
Nice article Jean Luc, interesting reading it.
OCT 29, 2006 - 06:23 PM
Great article Jean-Luc! Keep them coming, they're always a interesting read.....
OCT 29, 2006 - 07:30 PM
Hi all! Thanks again for your kind words! I just noticed the Signifer feature was the most read article in the past weeks (see here ). I think M. Meissonier will be happy to know that! Jean-Luc
NOV 13, 2006 - 11:20 PM