Monday 3 January 2022

Japanese pirates: Scheltrum Miniatures' Wako


For some years now, I have been searching for more Sengoku-era Japanese bandits with which to populate my games of Test of Honour.  Some models are available from the usual suspects (such as Perry Miniatures, Warlord Games & Footsore Miniatures), but I want more variety.

Scheltrum are a long-established model manufacturer in Scotland.  They have a wide range of figures for some fairly unusual genres - but they really don't do the internet at all.  Eventually, I managed to track down this elusive company at last year's Carronade show in Falkirk, where they had a large stall.

I was curious about Scheltrum's Wako models - feudal Japanese pirates - and so I purchased one of the several available packs.  I thought that these would be suitable for use as generic bandits.  Read on to find out whether I was right!

First Impressions

There were 8 models in the pack I had bought.  Two of these were unique and three were pairs of duplicated figures.  Six of the eight had open hands for weapons, whilst one pair of figures were moulded with exceptionally large swords.  Other than the separate weapons, the models were just a single piece.

The supplied weapons were all spears with a variety of lengths.  Some of the longer poles had attachments just below the head; I'm guessing that these were "fire lances" - primitive gunpowder weapons.

A few of the figures had noticeable amounts of flash on them, but this was easy to remove (and quite soft metal as well).

Finished Figures

It took a while to paint all my Wako.  In the end, I replaced a fair number of the weapons with spare spears and swords from another manufacturer (AW Miniatures, if I remember correctly?).  This was because I didn't wish to have my bandits armed with fire lances, even though the supplied weapons were perfectly acceptable parts in all other respects..

The entire set.  What a bunch of ruffians!

Two figures with "half helmet" (not sure how else to describe this?).  The sword (from AW Miniatures) looks a little odd, perhaps - but I didn't want to make them both into spearmen.

The pair of swordsmen from the Wako pack.  I've converted the one on the right by removing the sword and replacing it with a spear.  In my mind, these both look a bit odd, as the remaining sword is huge and the overarm spear thrust is not something I associate with Japanese/samurai fighting styles.

Two bandits with spears, headbands and partial armour.  Good, serviceable figures.

The two unique models from the pack:
The left-hand figure - with the hat - would work fine with either a spear or (as shown) a naginata.
The right-hand figure is perhaps the most generic model in the set: there's nothing about him that makes me think of Sengoku-period Japan (maybe the hair style?).


There is a distinct lack of information about Scheltrum's products available!  Hopefully, this article goes some small way towards fixing that.  Note that their Wako range has several other packs as well; these have greater or lesser amounts of armour, I believe.  Indeed, one model even has a Spanish-style helmet, presumably looted from some unfortunate sailor!

The style of these models is definitely a generation or two behind the best available today.  I've already mentioned a bit of flash on the castings; as well as that the figures are anatomically a bit exaggerated (the heads & hands are big, for starters).  Add to that the soft metal and it all screams "old fashioned".

Having said that, I think they are perfectly acceptable crowd-fillers.  These models will help to bulk out the back ranks of my bandit warband and add some welcome variety to such motley crews.  I will most certainly use them in my games.


Because there seems to be some interest in contacting Scheltrum, I have scanned the part of their catalogue that has contact details.  I cannot vouch for the accuracy of any of the forms of communication printed there; all I can say is that this comes from a paper catalogue which was handed to me in person at the Carronade show in late 2021.

Note: I do know that they have (at the time of writing) no website.  There is an old website name floating around for Scheltrum, but it seems to have been abandoned for a long time.


  1. I do like the look of these as the remind me, in shape and scale, of the Redoubt Miniatures. You have done such a great job on them that they look a lot more than just crown fillers.

    1. Thanks, Michael. When I first saw them I thought of the similarity to Dixon Miniatures. But I can see that Redoubt is something similar too.

  2. Those look excellent.
    I presume it's a pirate landing party or "away team".

    I've heard a little about the Woku, and sources differ.
    Weaponry appears to be a mix of any military kit they could lay their hands on: all the usual bladed weapons, arquebuses, swivel guns and small cannon.

    Portuguese contact introduced the arquebus to Japan, but they were soon manufacturing large numbers of their own design, with homegrown improvements.
    There was also some influence on armour - some samurai depicted in "European" style headgear and cuirass.

    Where sources differ most is on the origin of the pirates.
    Official Chinese sources insisted these were Japanese preying on their coasts and shipping.
    Other's speak of Chinese fishermen and sailors "going Woku" during hard times.
    It's probably that, like most pirate brotherhoods, racial purity was low on their recruiting priorities.
    You could certainly justify adding the odd Chinese weapon (crossbow, "big" sword, ultra-light artillery) to the crew.

    1. Well, I'm planning to use them as landlubber ("regular"?) Japanese bandits, rather than as pirates. Although the idea of a crossbow or stupidly big sword does have some appeal...

    2. This faction certainly offers potential to mix in the odd auxiliary for a bit of variety.

  3. I think you've done well convting these pirates to your needs, especially given thst they're fairly old-styles figures (reminding me a lot of Dixons samurai). Giving duplicate figures different weapons is a good way to get individual looking models.
    A job well done imho.

    1. Again, thanks! They are indeed somewhat old-style and I also thought of Dixon as a close equivalent. They'll do well enough for me.

  4. The post got me thinking about the interchangable spear/short weapon pose.
    HaT have used it for variety with their plastic figures.
    Usually a spear or javelin, with a sword of axe at the other end.
    Cut off the one you don't need.

    The odd look is down to biomechanics.
    The requires a linear thrust or throw, a very side on pose with arm extended back.
    A sword or axe in similar position could only be used in a massive overarm "power blow" - the delay providing an excellent opening to an alert enemy, an invitation for a nasty injury under the off-hand ribcage.

    A short weapon fighter will generally be much more square on, will less "wind up" for the blow and more attention to shield position.

    That's enough dull biomechanics.
    Is the dual-weapon pose useless?
    No at all, there are plenty of figures with slightly odd poses.
    I'd be inclined to place it among a group, where such things are less prominent, as opposed to using it as one of your character figures.

    1. A very thorough analysis, Steve! I'll justify such a pose by saying that maybe this bandit isn't an expert swordsman. Indeed, maybe he's a crude thug who is barely capable of understanding which part of the weapon to hold :-) . It wouldn't do for one of the top samurai, of course...

    2. I think I've been watching too many YouTube videos form the likes of SchoaGladitoria (Very good viewing) and a few others.
      They spend a pot of time on esoterica like blade alignment, draw cutting and wrist angles.

      I agree that your pirate (Unless he's some kind of Ronin gone rogue) would probably use his sword like an edged club.

  5. Just knowing the Scheltrum figures are still in production and available is Great news! I need more Ming troops and thought I would never be able to finish my Chinese. Central Scotland is a very long drive BUT, there is at least hope now!! Thank you for this!

    1. In theory they still operate a mail-order service as well as attending some shows, or so I believe. I can give you the contact details from the catalogue I was given last year, if you like.

      Mind you, this catalogue includes a website address that I know to be abandoned as well as a FAX number (which could still be operational, I suppose). I have no idea if any of the street address, telephone number or e-mail address would work, but maybe?

    2. That would be a most wonderful thing! And thank you. It will at least be a good place to start.

    3. I've updated the post above to include a scan of the last known contact details for Scheltrum. I cannot tell you if they are still responding to any of these forms of communication; you'll have to find out for yourself!

  6. Is there an email address for them?

    1. There's an e-mail address at the bottom of the scanned order form (in the "Addendum" section). However, given this company's aversion to the internet, I personally wouldn't hold out much hope of it working. Still, you can but try!