Mt. Lebanon home shelters hundreds of little soldiers
Dave Frankowski's Mt. Lebanon home shelters hundreds of soldiers — most only about 2 1⁄4 inches tall.
Frankowski, 62, creates miniature military figurines starting with molten lead, which he pours into pre-carved molds. When the metal sets, Frankowski carefully colors the soldiers — mostly British Redcoats, as well as fighters from the Civil War, Revolutionary War and others — with glossy paints. Historically, the soldiers' details are very accurate, Frankowski says. Not to mention intricate: Even on tiny, inch-tall figurines, artisans will paint details like eyes and mustaches.
“That's part of the goal: You want to put them in the right uniforms, and you want them to look correct,” he says. Frankowski has been painting military miniatures for about 50 years, and started casting them about 20 years ago.
Frankowski will join about a half-dozen artisans and collectors Sunday at the Woodville Plantation, where they will display their creations for Military Miniatures Day. The military miniatures include hand-painted toy soldiers and war-gaming dioramas depicting North American and European armies from the 18th and 19th centuries. Military re-enactors will perform 18th-century drills and talk with visitors at the event at the Collier-based plantation. This home of John and Presley Neville, built in 1775, captures life during the late 1700s and early 1800s, although the military miniatures come from a broader time period.
The event will hopefully “attract people to Woodville, which I think is a beautiful, neat place,” Frankowski says. “People not familiar with the hobby are amazed at the detail and color. It's like a miniature spectacle.”
J. Lee Howard of Mt. Washington has made painting military figurines his full-time, home-based job. Customers send him bare figures depicting military members from eras including the ancient Roman and Persian empires, the French and Indian War, and even the current war in Afghanistan. Howard paints the miniatures with intricate detail, and returns them.
“It's a real smorgasbord of history,” says Howard, 46, who has painted as a hobby since he was 8. He loves his craft so much that he turned it into his career a few years ago.
“I'd rather paint miniatures than flip burgers; that's what it comes down to,” Howard says. “It's the kind of job that I'd do from anywhere.”
Howard is bringing an Old West diorama scene, with a miniature town and figures, to Woodville. Some of his work is on display at the Senator John Heinz History Center.
Paul Mackowick, 51, paints metal military miniatures, along with the occasional nativity scene, as a hobby. The Venetia, Washington County, resident has himself painted about 800 figures, many of which depict 19th-century French, British and Spanish soldiers. Most of the figures he makes stand no more than an inch and a half tall, yet, even the tiny ones may contain up to 40 colors.
“You just kind of get wrapped up in it,” Mackowick says about the painstaking process. “It's a wonderful diversion from the world we live in sometimes.”
Mackowick, who also maintains an outdoor model railroad, will be bringing to Woodville a collection of his European soldiers, which will be placed in a display with landscape scenery, and miniature guns, wagons, civilians and animals to add to the scene.
The craftsman hopes that visitors to Woodville will be entertained, inspired and educated by the military miniatures they see.
“It's not so much showing off,” Mackowick says about his creations. “It's really just introducing something that someone may not have encountered before.”
In past events, visitors have received history lessons, and expressed an interesting in taking up the hobby, he says.
“Maybe they can learn something,” he says. “Maybe I can.”
Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7824.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers’ Martavis Bryant facing four-game suspension
- Gameday: Pirates vs. Rockies, Aug. 28, 2015
- Steelers rookie receiver Coates learning on the fly
- Deadly heroin was laced with fentanyl, district attorney says
- State agents arrest Ford City man on child porn charges
- Hill District groups asks why locals not part of Penguins project design opportunity
- Former Consol employee wins nearly $587K in ‘Mark of the Beast’ lawsuit
- Clinton: Women ‘expect’ extremism from terrorists, not GOP candidates
- 4 arrested for allegedly robbing 96-year-old Crafton Heights woman
- Animal Rescue League, miffed at Vick signing, moves gala from Heinz Field
- Steelers notebook: Mitchell injures left ankle in practice