Category Archives: Vehicles, Aircraft & Watercraft

1:6 Scale Custom R/C Stuart Tank by Ryan Nagata

In this screenshot from a video released by the Replica Prop Forum (RPF), professional Prop Master, Ryan Nagata, poses with some of his 1:1 scale custom ray guns at a 2012 "prop party" convention held in California. (Photo: RPF)

In this screenshot from a video released by the Replica Prop Forum (RPF), professional Prop Master, Ryan Nagata, poses with some of his 1:1 scale custom ray guns at a 2012 “prop party” convention held in California. (Photo: RPF)

21st Century Toys—Taken to the Nth Degree

It’s Thursday, so that means it must be—Tank Day! And what better way to celebrate Tank Day than by remembering the superb 1:6 scale Stuart tank produced by 21st Century Toys? You know the one. Right out of the box, that heavy, plastic beast of a machine was a ton-o-fun for GIjOE and RC fans alike. Its wheels, treads, and opening hatches were all were nicely done, but ardent “tankers” couldn’t help but want—more.

Fortunatley, along came highly talented, professional “prop master,” Ryan Nagata. Ryan’s experience in creating impeccable recreations of famous movie props made him a superbly qualified candidate to take the Stuart to the next, higher level. And so, after properly researching the extensive WWII history of 21st’s spunky “iron coffin,” Ryan soon had his own Stuart transformed to an astonishingly accurate replica with heretofore unimagined levels of detail and realism.

Ultimately, “tanks” to the internet (Ha!), Mr. Nagata’s intricately customized Stuart quickly became world-famous. It’s now an unbelievable example of a rolling, smoke-belching, gun-firing work of miniature military ART. Beautiful to behold and thrilling to operate, it’s the sort of tank all GIjOE fans dream of adding to their collections. According to Nagata:

“This is a 1:6 scale model of a WWII Stuart tank I built for an upcoming project. This one has all the bells and whistles including proportional steering, a working turret, recoiling gun barrel, a mini smoke generator to simulate exhaust, working head and tail lights, and an animatronic commander and driver.”

Bottom Line: Absolutely amazing work, Ryan. Thank you for inspiring so many fans and showing us what a 21st Century Stuart CAN become if we take our time to do—it—right. Imagine all the “backyard battle action” that “tankers” could enjoy with this beauty! If you’d like to see a video of Ryan discussing his professional prop creations, go HERE. If you’d like to see Nagata’s tank as profiled on the Patches of Pride site, go HERE. If you’d like to learn more about the man himself, visit Ryan’s personal website HERE.

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Pennsylvanian Creates 1:6 Scale Version of “Space Chariot” ATV from “Lost in Space”

Here it comes! Customizer Gary Stair's "Space Chariot" plows relentlessly through the arctic snow in search of another adventure. VRROOM!!! (Photo: Gary Stair)

Here it comes! Customizer Gary Stair’s “Space Chariot” plows relentlessly through the arctic snow in search of another sub-zero adventure. This is ALL hand-built, folks. WOW! (Photo: Gary Stair)

Among the world-wide cadre of 1:6 scale customizers and kitbashers, renowned Captain Action enthusiast, Gary Stair, continues to grow in fame, leading the way with his ever-expanding, highly inspiring “fleet” of hand-crafted and scratch-built 1:6 buildings, aircraft, and vehicles. Stair’s latest creation will be instantly recognizable to fans of the classic ’60s sci-fi TV program, “Lost in Space” (LIS), as the show’s unforgettable “Space Chariot” ATV (see photo of original version below).

Don West and Judy Robinson discuss where they can go to be alone ("I think I saw a good spot behind that rock, Judy), while the far more famous, "Space Chariot" waits patiently in the background of this scene from "Lost in Space." (Photo: CBS)

In a scene from Lust in Space, Don West and Judy Robinson discuss where they can go to be alone to perform another one of Don’s 20-minute “undergarment inspections.” Don: “I think I saw a good spot behind that rock.” Judy: “But Don, is this really necessary? It’ll be our third ‘inspection’ today. Are there REALLY such things as ‘invisible space ticks?” Don: “Of course! And the only way to find them is by FEEL. Trust me, I’m a major. I know all about ente—, entemol—, BUGS and such.” (Photo: CBS)

The LIS Space Chariot was just one of FOUR iconic machines created for the show. The other three were, of course, the “Jupiter 2″ (a flying saucer), the iconic “Robot B9″ (Warning, Will Robinson!) and the “Space Pod” (very similar to ones seen in the film, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The LIS Space Chariot made its first appearance during the best year of the show, Season 1, and led the lost Robinson family through a dangerous battle with a giant cyclops and across an ocean with a raging cyclonic whirlpool (it was QUITE the exciting time for the Space Chariot).

Stair's Space Chariot enables his explorers to conduct dangerous missions in frozen wastelands, searching for lost UFOs and other mysterious objects. (Photo: Gary Stair)

Stair’s Space Chariot enables his explorers to conduct dangerous missions in frozen wastelands, searching for lost UFOs and other mysterious objects. (Photo: Gary Stair)

Stair’s Space Chariot is not a “bolt-for-bolt” recreation of the one on the show. Rather, it is a wholly unique and exciting custom in its own right. Here’s how Stair describes his one-of-a-kind ATV:

Toy collector and customizer, Gary Stair, PA. (Photo: Gary Stair)

Renowned 1:6 toy customizer, Gary Stair, PA. (Photo: Gary Stair)

“Hello, fellow customizers! This is my new, scratch-built, 1:6 scale “Chariot,” ala the one shown on TV’s “Lost in Space.” It’s chocked FULL of extra features, including: a domed canopy top, a top-side luggage rack, 2 side ladders, a front radar dish, front canopy lights, rear space for the ER1 (environmental robot), a sliding side door, 2 rear lab stations, an elevated center platform (to give better access to the domed top), lighted(!) interior control panels, arm rest tables for computer laptops, an overhead solar shade with tie-down straps for windy conditions, side and rear platforms for easy access (and extra carrying capacity), a rear top-side spotlight, extension power cable, de-icer hose, soil drill and front power-loader bars (to carry heavy equipment, ‘natch!).”

Gary Stair's custom 1:6 scale "Space Chariot" ATV provides a sweet ride through the arctic snow for Captain Action and his second-in-command, Major Stair. (Photo: Gary Stair)

3/4 view of Gary Stair’s 1:6 scale “Space Chariot.” (Photo: Gary Stair)

Side view of Gary Stair's 1:6 scale "Space Chariot." (Photo: Gary Stair)

Side view of Gary Stair’s 1:6 scale “Space Chariot.” (Photo: Gary Stair)

Back view of Gary Stair's 1:6 scale "Space Chariot." (Photo: Gary Stair)

Back view of Gary Stair’s 1:6 scale “Space Chariot.” (Photo: Gary Stair)

“My custom Chariot even has a couple of nifty ‘homage’ additions, including a Lost in Space (2nd Season) laser rifle, and a Star Wars Droid (he seems to have a little R2D2 in him). I hope you enjoy my latest creation and these recent ‘arctic mission’ photos. In other photos (not shown here) I’ve added even more homages to Lost in Space by including a damaged weather station and giant Cyclops footprints. Yikes! Time to call for reinforcements!”

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Gary Stair for being such a regular contributor to The Joe Report and sharing these amazing new photos of his latest 1:6 scale creation. Absolutely top-notch!

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Canadian “Master Miniaturist,” Mike Conrad, Creating Meticulously Detailed 1:6 Scale Custom Weapons, Equipment and Vehicles———Out of Wood!

“Woodworking Wonder” Mike Conrad, poses humorously for an exclusive photo taken for The Joe Report. While wielding a hammer, dremel tool, hot glue gun and a tube of…something, Conrad pretends to be working on his latest creation, an amazingly detailed 1:6 scale water-cooled machine-gun, constructed predominantly out of wood and tiny pieces of metal and rubber. Out-STANDING! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Mike Conrad's superbly handmade, 1:6 scale WWII "walkie-talkie" is absolutely perfect in every way. Once it's been painted and decaled, it will be...AMAZING. (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Mike Conrad’s superbly handmade, 1:6 scale WWII “walkie-talkie” is almost completed. Once it’s been painted and decaled, it will look… AMAZING. (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Self-Taught 1:6 “Woodworking Wonder”

At a time when most customizers of 1:6 scale action figures, vehicles, weapons and related equipment are working with high-tech aids and materials such as 3D printers (see our previous article HERE), complex resin compounds (see HERE), electro-static flocking machines (see HERE), styrene plastics (see HERE), and even metals (see HERE), longtime modeler and customizer, Mike Conrad, of Ontario, Canada, has decided to eschew modern methods and materials and return to “the craftsman’s roots” by working predominantly—with wood. For even the most talented 1:6 customizers however, working with wood is believed to be severely limiting. Outside of a pile of campfire logs or some tent poles, there would seem to be little else that 1:6 scalers could convincingly create out of the material. Conrad dispels such notions.

This closeup reveals Mike's small work area where he is completing the assembly of one of his 1:6 scale (wooden) machine guns. Simply amazing! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

This closeup reveals Mike’s small work area where he is currently completing the final fit and assembly of one of his 1:6 scale (wooden) machine guns. Simply amazing work! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

A breathtaking closeup of the front sprocket and tread assembly of a 1:6 scale M3 Stuart Tank, currently being constructed by Mike Conrad completely OUT OF WOOD. Are you amazed yet? If not, wait until you see the NEXT photo! (Photo: Mike Conrad) Exclusive to The Joe Report.

A breathtaking closeup of the front sprocket and tread assembly of a 1:6 scale M2A4 Stuart Tank, currently being constructed by Mike Conrad OUT OF WOOD. Are you blown away yet? If not, wait until you see the NEXT photo! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

How is Such Fine Work Possible?

Typically, when you think of wooden toys, you think of standard flea-market finds such as wagons, horses, choo-choos and other such simplistic children’s fare. But Conrad’s work isn’t made for children. Rather, each piece is a miniature work of military fine art, replete with perfectly defined parts and realistic details. The fact that nearly everything is made out of wood is literally mind-boggling. It’s the kind of 1:6 custom work you have to see up close and in-person to believe. We asked Mike to tell us about himself and his background, expecting the requisite story of intensive training and years spent apprenticing with master woodsmiths and artisans. Surprisingly, he replied:

“I was born and raised an Air Force “Military Brat.” Our family packed up and moved away from friends and familiarity every 4 years. In 1982, we moved to Lahr, West Germany. I was 12 at the time. Shortly after we arrived, I happened upon something that a lot of us built as a kid (when the costs were cheaper)—an almighty, 1/35th scale TANK. I fell in love! My passion for model-building snowballed from that point on to include planes, ships, submarines, corvettes and most recently, 1/6th scale WWII.”

This stunning rear-view of the M3 Stuart's sprocket gears and tread assembly is an absolute MIND-blower! Can you (in your wildest dreams) imagine making all of this BY HAND and out of WOOD? Fantastic work, Mike! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

(Here’s the photo we warned you about.) This stunning rear-view of the M2A4 Stuart’s sprocket gears and tread assembly is an absolute MIND-blower! Can you imagine (in your wildest dreams) the talent required to make all of this BY HAND—and out of WOOD? Simply exquisite work, Mike! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Another view of the tread assembly reveals a flexible, underlying rubber belt, sandwiched with perfectly spaces wooden blocks. Can you imagine all the careful planning and painstaking detail work required to create this masterpiece? (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Another view of the tread assembly reveals a flexible, underlying rubber belt, sandwiched with perfectly spaced wooden blocks. Can you imagine all the careful planning and painstaking detail work required to create this masterpiece? (Photo: Mike Conrad)

“Of course, while growing up, we never had much money, so when it came to model building (or as I like to call it now, ‘model creating’), I had to make do with whatever was available at hand. Whenever images or ideas were in my head, the next step was scrounging and hunting for the various parts and pieces in my Dad’s parts bins in the basement and garage. (Thanks, Dad!). I’ve always been good at picturing the finished product from all sides and how to go about building or creating it. I have never had any formal training in model building or painting, but I’ve won numerous awards for my ‘Creature Creations and Prop Building,’ having also worked for a professional theater In Halifax.

Withe the main tread assembly and lower hull in place, Mike begins adding the upper armor and turret, cannon and top .50 caliber machine gun. Yes, it's ALL made of wood. Imagine how great this will display when it is completed! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

With the main tread and lower hull assemblies in place, Mike begins to add the upper armor sections, turret, main gun, etc.. Yes, it’s ALL made out of wood. And YES…it will be R/C! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Piece by piece, bit by bit, Mike cuts, shapes, sands and carefully assembles and fits each and every part of his amazing, wooden creations. Here, he attaches a perfectly carved call-button to the side of his new 1:6 scale walkie-talkie. WOW! (Photo: Mike

Piece by piece, Mike cuts, shapes, sands and carefully assembles each and every tiny part of his amazing, 1:6 scale wooden creations. Here, he attaches a perfectly carved call-button to the side of his new 1:6 scale walkie-talkie. WOW! (Photo: Mike

Simply Fascinating!

Despite a lack of any formal art education, Mike has clearly become a VERY talented and gifted artist. And his decision to work in wood makes his creations all that more special. We confessed to Conrad that we were surprised he had chosen to create his 1:6 scale customs out of wood, when there were so many other more “toy-like” materials available. He replied:

“I’ve used anything and EVERYTHING I could find; from the wood panels off the sides of a small tangerine box (see my current .30 cal machine-gun project), to the hardwood dowels I found at local Dollar Stores (those stores are a good hunting ground for bits and pieces, by the way). No matter what materials (or media) you decide to use, I say to kids out there… Put down that video game controller or cell phone. Scrounge around the house. Raid your Dad’s parts bins. Use your imagination. And for Pete’s sake… START CREATING!”

Holy Hot Lead! Words cannot do justice to Mike’s 1:6 scale miniature M1917A1 water-cooled Browning machine gun. Here it is in its pre-paint status, revealing all of its superbly handcrafted and intricate parts. Next up, the weapon’s water tank, ammo box and ammo belt. Hooah! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Conrad's wooden creation of the lighter, more manueverable Browning 1919A2 air-cooled machine gun and tripod would look right at home in any miliatry museum (or the hands of a 1:6 scale action figure). Just wait until it's painted! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Conrad’s 1:6 wooden creation of the lighter, more maneuverable Browning 1919A2 air-cooled machine gun and tripod would look right at home in any military museum (or in the hands of a 1:6 scale action figure). And just wait until it’s painted. Yessiree! (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Going Against the Grain

Of all the materials to work with in 1:6 scale, it seems that wood would be the most artistically challenging and work-intensive. But such thoughts don’t appear to concern or deter Conrad, who describes his preference for wood thusly:

“Well, the idea of working with wood came to me just because of the simple fact that (in my head) I’m always looking for other uses for house-hold materials, and there was always scrap wood sitting around in the garage, basement, etc. And of course, it was FREE.

Personally, I find that wood is very easy to carve. If I make any mistakes—there’s always good ol’ wood filler that I can make myself out of sawdust and glue. It’s also non-toxic (and FREE). I hate waste, so I try to find uses for EVERYTHING. Gimme a dremel tool and some wood and I can make practically anything. I’ve actually just finished carving out the button for my new U.S. walkie-talkie.”

Another view of David's unfinished tank shows it beginning to come together nicely. Can you imagine the satisfaction of building something this cool from SCRAPS of wood you find around the house? WOW. (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Another view of Mike’s unfinished tank shows it’s beginning to come together nicely. Imagine the satisfaction of building something this cool from scraps of wood you find lying around the house? WOW. (Photo: Mike Conrad)

“I’m also building a 1/6 M2A4 scale tank, all out of wood, using wooden packing crate boxes for oranges that I picked up from the grocery store and some other scrap wood I found lying around. If the tooth of a gear ever breaks, I can just cut out a new sprocket, because—it’s FREE! I just rough cut the circles out on my band-saw, then spin them using my drill press and a long nut and bolt, using it like a wood lathe. Whatever I make is just for my own personal collection. I’ve never really thought of any other options, such as selling them. But if such an offer ever came up, I’m sure I would consider it!”

The first call comes in on Mike's new handcrafted 1:6 walkie-talkie: "Hello? What's that you say? You want to buy Mr. Conrad's 1:6 scale wooden tank? HA. Get in line, fella!" (Photo: Mike Conrad)

(The first call comes in on Mike’s new handcrafted 1:6 walkie-talkie): “Hello? What’s that you say? You want to BUY Mr. Conrad’s 1:6 scale wooden tank? HA. Get in line, fella!” (Photo: Mike Conrad)

Bottom Line: Our sincerest thanks to Mike Conrad for his contributions to this article. His extensive use of wood as a customizing material gives his 1:6 creations a unique tactile and artistic esthetic that few others can claim. And Mike’s suggestion of using inexpensive (i.e. FREE) supplies is great advice for hobbyists of all ages. There’s no better way to begin an artistic pursuit than boldly jumping in and spending practically nothing. He’s also living proof that you don’t have to have a formal or expensive art education in order to begin creating your own 1:6 scale masterpieces. Remember, anything created by you becomes an instant keepsake and family heirloom, possessing far greater memories of satisfaction and accomplishment than ANY mass-produced hunk of plastic. So, as Mike likes to say… “For Pete’s sake, start creating!”

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Sunken WWII Imperial Japanese Navy I-400 Class “Super Sub” Located Off Hawaiian Coast of Oahu

This realistic painting of the I-400 shows that is was truly a MASSIVE vessel. While you're looking at this image remember—it's longer than a football field! (Image: Harry Cooper)

Japanese Imperial Navy I-400 submarine with aircraft hangar and launching ramp. (Image: Harry Cooper)

In this WWII image, an American sailor inspects the sub's massive, open hanger door that leads to the interior of the ship where the bomber seaplanes were stored. (Photo: US Navy)

In this WWII photo, an American sailor inspects a captured I-400 sub’s massive, (open) watertight door that leads to a distinctive round hangar where 3 bomber seaplanes (with special folding wings) were stored. (Photo: US Navy)

Longer than a football field, “underwater aircraft carriers” scuttled by US Navy to keep secret from Soviet Union

Imagine if you will, during WWII, having the ability to surface a massive submarine anywhere off the coastline of an enemy nation, quickly launch 2 or 3 bomber aircraft which could fly fast and low so as to avoid easy detection, attacking any designated target and then retrieving the planes and slipping silently beneath the waves to make good your escape.

If successful and frequent, such “stealthy” attacks would have struck terror in the hearts of any nation and possibly altered the outcome of the war. Not surprisingly, the navies of many countries, both Axis and Allied, were experimenting with such “underwater aircraft carriers” and similar deadly innovations. But of them all, by the end of the war, the Japanese Imperial Navy had achieved the greatest success rate, having built 3 of the fearsome, deadly, and game-changing “Super Subs.”

The painting on this model box shows how the I-400 would have looked at speed on the surface, after having launched its 3 bomber seaplanes. (Art: Tamiya Models)

The painting on this model kit box shows how the Japanese I-400 sub would have looked while running at speed on the surface, and after having launched its 3 bomber seaplanes. (Art: Tamiya Models)

In this undated, captured WWII photograph, Japanese submariners can be seen crouching for cover as one of their bomber seaplanes is launched by catapult, somewhere in the Pacific. (Photo: US Navy)

In this undated, captured WWII photo, Japanese submariners can be seen crouching from the prop-wash of a bomber seaplane as it is launched by catapult off the ship’s deck, somewhere in the Pacific. (Photo: US Navy)

The Enemy Below—Discovered!

Editor: I know I’ve “buried the headline” somewhat today, but here’s where we were headed:

In a surprise announcement made last week by the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory at the University of Hawaii, it was revealed that one of the three known I-400 submarines, which had been scuttled by the US Navy after the war, has been discovered—again—at the bottom of the ocean—just off the coast of the island of Oahu. It is yet another startling WWII-related find, the latest in a string of such finds (many of them reported here on The Joe Report) concerning lost, crashed or sunken warships and military aircraft. According to CNN:

“The I-400 submarine was discovered in 2,300 feet of water off the southwest coast of Oahu. ‘Finding it where we did was totally unexpected. All our research pointed to it being further out to sea,’ said Lab Ops Director and Chief Sub Pilot Terry Kerby.”

This authentic (color-enhanced) B&W WWII photo of an I-400 sub at sea gives an idea of just how long and imposing they were. Absolutely breathtaking! (Photo: Rtas Vaduum)

This authentic (color-enhanced) B&W WWII photo of an I-400 sub at sea gives an idea of just how long and imposing these Japanese warships were. Absolutely breathtaking! (Photo: Rtas Vaduum)

Aptly named “Super Subs” Remained Unparalleled in Size Until 1960s

It’s also important to remember that at the end of WWII, there was nothing as large as the I-400 submarines (operating underwater) anywhere on the globe. These massive vessels made the vaunted “Wolf Pack” U-Boats of the Kreigsmarine (German Navy) look absolutely puny by comparison (see previous story on the famous U-505 HERE). The CNN article went on to say:

“At nearly 400 feet long, the I-400 and its two sister ships were the largest submarines ever built before the nuclear age. Initially conceived as a weapon to target the U.S. mainland and capable of reaching any point on the globe without refueling, the subs were effectively underwater aircraft carriers outfitted with three folding-wing seaplanes capable of carrying an 1,800-pound bomb.”

This WWII photo shows the battle-scarred deck and conning tower of a captured Imperial Japanese I-400 class submarine, with its "game-changing" water-tight hangar door (located just forward and below the deck gun) shown in its surfaced, open position. Bomber seaplanes (stored inside) would exit, attach to a catapult, and launch from the sub to attack targets both at sea and on land. For retrieval, the aircraft would rendevoux with the sub and be lifted aboard with the ship's crane (not shown). (Photo: US Navy)

This rare closeup WWII photo shows the hangar and conning tower of a captured Imperial Japanese I-400 class submarine, with its “game-changing” water-tight hangar door (located just forward and below the deck gun) in its surfaced, open position. Bomber seaplanes (stored inside) would exit, attach to a catapult, and launch from the sub to attack targets both at sea and on land. For retrieval, the aircraft would rendezvous with the sub and be lifted aboard with the ship’s crane (not shown). (Photo: US Navy)

This revealing bow and stern view of the I-400 class submarine shows how its conning tower was constructed in a very similar way to that of a traditional aircraft carrier. (Image: subcommitte.com)

These bow and stern views of the I-400 reveals how its conning tower was constructed in a way similar to that of a traditional aircraft carrier. (Image: subcommitte.com) Click to enlarge.

Imagine the damage the I-400 submarines COULD have done to Allied interests had they had more time or been produced in greater numbers. But as the CNN article revealed:

“The ships were never used to attack the mainland United States and saw only limited service before Japan surrendered in 1945. But their novel design represented a tactical shift in thinking about the use of submarines, which until then had been strictly seen as anti-ship weapons.”

This WWII photo showing the sub's crew massed up on deck, provides an even better idea just how BIG these Japanese "Super Subs" really were. (Photo: Rtas Vaduum)

This WWII photo showing the entire ship’s complement amassed up on deck, provides an even better idea just how MASSIVE these “underwater aircraft carriers” really were. (Photo: Rtas Vaduum)

What we find especially interesting is that after almost 70 years, the (re)discovery of this submarine is still considered somewhat of a sensitive subject, requiring the University of Hawaii researchers to proceed carefully and slowly before announcing their findings to the world. According to CNN:

“The sub was found in August, but the lab didn’t notify the public (in November) until after informing the US State Department and the Japanese government. With tensions rising between the Soviet Union and the United States after the war, the US Navy scuttled the ships to avoid their advanced technology falling into the hands of the Soviet Navy in what would become one of the first intrigues of the Cold War.”

In one of the last photos of an I-400 taken before its heading out to sea (and subsequent capture by the US Navy), this peaceful sunset image (colorized B&W) provides a good view of the sub's unusual round aircraft hangar and a few sailors for a sense of scale. (Photo: Rtas Vaduum)

This peaceful sunset image (colorized B&W) provides a good view of the sub’s unusual round aircraft hangar and a few sailors up on deck provide a sense of scale. (Photo: Rtas Vaduum)

I-400: Japan's Secret Air Strike Submarine, by Henry Sakaida, et. al, (Photo: Hikoki Publishing)

I-400: Japan’s Secret Air Strike Submarine
(Photo: Hikoki Publications)

Bottom Line: What an amazing discovery! And there’s so much MORE to this story than we could possibly hope to cover here. For example, did you know that one of the 3 Super Subs had been tasked with destroying the Panama Canal, thereby greatly slowing Allied ship movements to and from the Pacific? And…that one of the subs was even painted in US markings for its final mission? What happened to them all? If you’d like to find out, we highly recommend reading “I-400: Japan’s Secret Air Strike Submarine,” a 2006 book by Henry Sakaida, et. al, that can be purchased in bookstores and on Amazon HERE.

Finally… if you’re a submarine fan or WWII history buff (and who isn’t?), we highly recommend viewing the excellent (1-hour) “Super Subs” video that we found over on YouTube (click on link HERE). Enjoy—and “Dive! Dive! Dive!”

Inspired by Love of Family, Country, and G.I. Joes, Florida Man Creating Historically Accurate and Authentically Detailed 1/6th Scale Vehicles

This GIjOE Marine looks proud to be riding on one of Bob Jason's amazing custom vehicles. In this closeup, you can see Bob's addition of custom drop-down windshield armor, hand-crafted machine-gunner's box and addition of correct yellow-colored USMC ProSeries decals by Patches of Pride. Amazing work all around! (Photo: Bob Jason)

This 1st Marine Division GIjOE looks proud to be riding in one of Robert Jason’s amazing 1:6 scale customized vehicles. In this closeup, you can see Robert’s addition of a custom windshield, a hand-crafted machine-gun “pulpit” and the addition of service-correct (yellow-colored) USMC stars and other ProSeries waterslide decals from Patches of Pride. OOH-Rah! (Photo: Julie Kostick)

GIJOE fan, collector, and customizer, Robert Jason (58), details and customizes 1:6 scale vehicles for sale on ebay. (Photo: Julie Kostick)

“I grew up listening in AWE to their stories of sacrifice, bravery and courage.”

One Man’s “Commemorative Customs”

As members of America’s “Greatest Generation” continue to slip away, concerned family members have begun to transfer their fading WWII photos, slides and movie reels onto to more permanent storage media such as DVDs, Blue Ray discs and USB hard drives. Other relatives, grateful of their loved ones sacrifices, are “getting creative” and producing commemorative keepsake objects such as scrapbooks, artwork and shadow boxes, comprised of their family member’s service medals, unit patches, war mementos and other personal effects.

Not surprisingly, many collectors and customizers of GIjOE (and other) 1:6 scale action figures are now busy creating commemorative custom figures (see HERE), custom uniforms (see HERE), custom figure boxes (see HERE) and even full-blown custom dioramas (see HERE) depicting the military exploits of their own family members during WWII. One such customizer, Robert Jason of Cudjoe Key, Florida, has chosen to produce (and sell) historically accurate and heavily detailed custom 1:6 scale vehicles. We asked Robert to describe how he became interested in GIjOEs, 1:6 scale vehicles, and the production of his exciting “commemorative customs.” He replied:

“Well, I’ve been doing customization for a while now and collecting GIjOEs for a very long time as well. I played with them when they first came out waaay back in the day, and now this is my hobby. It’s a great means of relaxation for me from my full-time job.

My interest and motivation comes from my Dad who served in the Italian campaign of WWII. He was an infantryman with the 85th Infantry Division as US troops marched through Italy. He became a POW for a year until liberated by Patton’s 3rd Armored Division.

Another inspiration was my Uncle, who was a Marine with the First Marine Division and fought through the entire Island campaign. I grew up listening in AWE to their stories of sacrifice and bravery and courage. I knew I was listening to true American heroes! I make these customs to commemorate their service and of all the other heroic WWII Veterans who unselfishly fought for our country.”

This overhead 3/4 view of Robert's 1st Marine Division halftrack reveals the addition of side and rear storage racks, gun emplacements and much more. Outstanding! (Photo: Robert Jason)

This overhead 3/4 view of Robert’s 1st Marine Division halftrack reveals the addition of side and rear storage racks, gun emplacements and much more. Outstanding! (Photo: Julie Kostick)

This 3/4 front view of Robert’s USMC halftrack reveals even more detail including a tow rope, gas cans, bumper markings and .50 cal ammo box decals from Patches of Pride. Fantastic work! (Photo: Julie Kostick) Click to enlarge.

“I am a Detail Guy.”

Judging from his work, Robert has an affinity for the many variations of American Jeeps, ambulances, armored cars and halftracks of WWII, leaving the more “heavyweight realm” of tanks, etc. to others. We asked him what he hoped to accomplish with his custom creations and he replied:

“I try to put that ‘personal feeling’ in each custom with pin-up photos and what limited personal comforts there were back in that era. These vehicles were the soldiers homes , they lived in them and fought from them and I want people to see that in each vehicle. Whenever I build one of these custom vehicles, I use actual WWII combat museum photos to be as accurate as possible.

When I first started selling them, I discovered there was a need (and market) for reasonably priced 1:6 scale custom vehicles for serious collectors. Yes, there are much higher priced all-metal kits that are extremely well detailed, but one must have model-building experience and the time required to assemble them, and as you know, TIME is often very hard to come by!”

Robert's superb M8 armored car was upgraded and customized with a new OD paint job, "circle-n-star" decals from Patches of Pride, storage racks, .50 cal machinegun and a GREAT looking custom GIjOE driver. WOW! (Photo: Robert Jason)

Robert’s custom M20 armored car was upgraded with an OD paint job, “circle-n-star” decals from Patches of Pride, storage racks, bed rolls, a .50 cal and a custom commander. (Photo: Julie Kostick)

This closeup of Robert's Army halftrack reveals some of the many additional details that make his customs so special, including gas mask bags, radios, food stuffs and much more. (Photo: Robert Jason)

This closeup of Robert’s Army halftrack reveals some of the many additional details that make his customs so special, including gas mask bags, radios, food stuffs and much more. (Photo: Julie Kostick) Click to enlarge.

“These Vehicles Were the Soldier’s HOMES.”

Robert’s recently completed a pair of halftracks for two lucky buyers, an US Army version in OD green (shown at right and below) and a yellow-starred USMC version with unique “machine-gun pulpit” (shown above). We asked him to describe his production techniques and methods in greater detail and he replied:

“On the USMC halftrack, the machine-gun pulpit, the side racks, the rear racks, and the rusty tailpipe were all scratch-built from sheets of Plastruct and strip plastic. The machine gun ring is from a Hasbro M8 armored car, although I usually scratch-build those as well (I just happened to have one in my parts bin). All of the miniature screws and bolts used on my vehicles are from MicroMark as are a lot of the miniature tools and brushes.

Each custom I create is a one of a kind. I use Patches of Pride decals exclusively, because of their high quality and accuracy. I’ll also add some light paint ‘distressing,’ as on the USMC one, creating a ‘rusty’ tailpipe, paint variation on the star on the hood to indicate a field repair or battle damage. I’ll airbrush or use rattle-can paint to achieve the effect I want. I will be expanding my weathering and distressing in future projects.”

This side view of Robert's custom Army halftrack shows the addition of rear and side storage racks, decals, props and a multitude of tiny rivets and bolts, all of which add greatly to its realism. (Photo: Robert Jason)

This side view of Robert’s custom Army halftrack shows the addition of rear and side storage racks, decals, props and a multitude of tiny rivets and bolts, all of which add to its realism. (Photo: Julie Kostick)

“The detail of WW II equipment and uniforms these days from manufacturers like Dragon, DID, Ultimate Soldier and others is incredible ! They are spot on. I am a detail guy, and I believe ‘It’s all in the details.’ And I feel that is also what collectors are looking for—at a reasonable price.”

Even tiny objects such as radios and medical kits benefit from Robert's keen attention to detail. (Photo: Robert Jason)

Tiny objects such as radios and med kits benefit from Robert’s keen eye for detail. (Photo: Julie Kostick)

Robert's taken an ordinary Jeep and converted and customized it into a perfect 1:6 scale replica of MASH field ambulance. Outstanding! (Photo: Robert Jason)

Here, Robert’s taken an ordinary Jeep and converted and customized it into a perfect 1:6 scale replica of a MASH Army field ambulance. Head to the front! (Photo: Julie Kostick)

A second custom Army ambulance sports Robert's amazing, hand-crafted canvas top, complete with racks for the stretchers, medical accessories, a hood flag and decals. (Photo: Robert Jason)

A second custom Army ambulance sports Robert’s amazing, hand-crafted canvas top with racks for the stretchers, medical accessories, a hood flag and medical decals. (Photo: Julie Kostick)

This 3/4 rear view of Robert's custom ambulance is breathtakingly realistic! (Photo: Robert Jason)

This 3/4 rear view of Robert’s custom ambulance is breathtakingly realistic. Look at all the tiny straps and buckles!  (Photo: Julie Kostick)

Bottom Line: Robert states he was inspired by the heroism and sacrifices of those from the “Greatest Generation.” Well, we’re inspired by his attitude and his superb custom vehicles. Hopefully, he’s signing the underside of each of his creations, because to us, they seem like works of ART! You’re an inspiration to us all, Robert. Keep up the great work! Contact Robert HERE.

TJR’s “Video Pick of the Week” #16: “The Adventures of GIjOE: The Kayak Attack”

CIGCC logo.It’s a Sea Sled vs. SUPER Sea Sled Showdown!

The members of the Central Illinois GIjOE Collector’s Club (CIGCC) have just released another of their entertaining club videos. As usual, the members hope to remind other fans and collectors of the fading fact that GIjOEs were meant to be played with, and demonstrate yet another way to do just that.

In their past videos, the CIGCC has shown us how to create a self-towing convoy of vehicles using only pieces of nearly invisible fishing line, how to have a huge “backyard battle,” how to “swap noggin’s” between figures, and how to practice for and participate in the time-honored tradition of a GIjOE “parachute drop.”

This time around, the club has created an all-new, fan-fantasy GIjOE commercial entitled, “The Kayak Attack.” In it, a son decides to pit his vintage 1966 Sea Sled against his Dad’s modern-era “Super Sea Sled” to in attempt to determine which is the fastest.

Bottom Line: We love seeing children, teens, men and women (of all ages) playing with and enjoying their GIjOEs. Here at The Joe Report, we say, FREE YOUR JOES! When you grow tired of looking at them from behind all that cellophane, we recommend that you follow the lead of the members of the CIGCC and rediscover just how fun it is to PLAY with GIjOE. Go, JOE!

Filipino “Master of Metal,” Jonathan De Guzman, Creating Vehicles, Weapons & More———In 1:6 Scale

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Expert tinsmith, die-maker and metalwork artisan, Jonathan De Guzman, takes a break recently in his workshop in the Philippines. De Guzman’s work has evolved from creating tiny Christmas tree ornaments to fabricating intricate 1:6 scale vehicles, weapons and accessories. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

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OUCH. As with many great artists, De Guzman has had to sacrifice for his art and livelihood. But unlike Van Gogh’s intentional ear amputation, De Guzman lost the tips of the fingers on his left hand in a “power press machine accident.” Regardless, he continues to produce the world’s greatest metal miniatures in 1:6 scale. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

Artisan (noun)
1: A skilled manual worker who makes items that are functional or strictly decorative. Artisans practice a craft and may through experience and aptitude reach the expressive levels of an ARTIST.

An Artisan Becomes an Artist

A few months ago, eagle-eyed TJR Field Reporter, Kent Williams, alerted us to an incredibly talented, “up-and-coming” customizer in the 1:6 scale hobby: Jonathan De Guzman. After reviewing a wealth of online information regarding De Guzman’s work, we noticed the phrase “master of metal” was repeatedly used to describe him. We’re happy to report that his unique sobriquet is well deserved. From his origins as a “tinsmith and die-maker” in the Philippines, the humble De Guzman has since evolved into something much greater and his fame continues to spread around the world. According to Field Reporter Williams:

“I’m sure readers of The Joe Report will enjoy learning about this awesome custom scratch-builder and his 1:6 scale, all-metal masterpieces. I first heard about him over in the pages of Fine Scale Modeler Magazine (FSMM) of all places. I thought they were more interested in the smaller scale 1/24 to 1/72 scales, but I’m not going to argue with their decision to feature Jonathan’s work!”

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Jonathan’s workshop and tools are simple and basic, while the customs he creates are anything but. Here, an old, tattered chair sits next to his well-used drill-press, waiting patiently for “The Master” to return. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

From Humble Origins…

Intrigued, we contacted De Guzman in his workshop in the Philippines and he confirmed that indeed, he is “a tinsmith making seasonal ornaments for export, and a die-maker for press machines.” Okay. That’s all well and good. But Jonathan’s skills clearly elevate him above such simplistic description. Whether he realizes it or not, he truly is an ARTIST of the highest caliber. Jonathan’s chosen medium is metal, and HE—is its master.

…To Worldwide Acclaim

Word of Jonathan’s expertise continues to spread among fans and collectors of 1:6 scale, but it’s only a matter of time before other groups, businesses and organizations learn of him as well. In fact, ANYONE interested in commissioning miniature museum-quality vehicles, equipment or weaponry will find his abilities highly intriguing.

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You see what he sees. De Guzman’s ordinary tools include a hammer, pliers, soldering iron, etc. There are no secrets behind Jonathan’s success. Only hard work and great skill. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

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A sampling of De Guzman’s superb miniature swords in perfect 1:6 scale. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

We asked Jonathan to tell us a little more about himself and how he works:

“Please pardon my not-so-good-English. Thank you for looking at my work. I really appreciate that. I’m 37 years old and known as ‘Fullmetal’ on the various online fan forums. I am a ‘mold and die-maker’ by trade, and am also scratch-building scale models. All of my custom works are produced on commission based on an hourly rate. I work with the help of machines such as press drill, angle grinder, soldering iron, scissors, files, and sets of pliers and cutters. I use tin, brass, steel, aluminum and steel plates for my medium, sometimes adding wood, acrylic plastics and anything else that can be found in my backyard or at the junk shops here. I use lead solder and ordinary welding for assembly.”

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A closeup of De Guzman’s new 1:6 scale “Humvee Gunner’s platform.” (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

With his busy 1:6 scale customizing business, we wondered if Jonathan ever had free time to enjoy the very hobby he was now working in, and he replied:

“I am not a collector myself (for now), but I’m trying hard to become one! And I don’t keep copies of my work, aside from the excess that Sir Dave and I haven’t sold yet. By the way, ‘Sir Dave’ (Davinator65 on OSW and SSF forums) is my Korean friend. He is the one who helps me sell my customs. He is also the one taking commission works for me, as I am not so good in English. In fact, I am having nosebleeds here (lol).”

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De Guzman’s children happily pose next to his first 1:6 scale masterpiece, a Vietnam-era M113 CAV armored personnel carrier. The all-metal beauty was quickly snapped up by a happy collector in Spain for $4,000 plus shipping. WOW! (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

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This view of Jonathan’s M113 reveals a rear loading ramp for troop access. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman) Click to enlarge.

The Universal “Language”
—of EXCELLENCE

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Jonathan produced THREE of these astounding Simba APC vehicles at 1:32 scale. When he was all done, the process had so drained him that he swore off working at that small of a scale for good. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman) Click to enlarge.

Despite any language difficulties, De Guzman’s work speaks volumes by itself. Perhaps his most famous 1:6 scale custom to date is also the first one he ever made, a Vietnam-era M113 ACAV armored personnel carrier (see photo above). Sold for a whopping $4,000 + shipping, the all-metal masterpiece remains something fans around the world regard with awe and respect. We asked Jonathan for a quick rundown on the M113 and any other custom 1:6 vehicles he’s produced in recent years:

“The very first scale model I built (believe it or not) was the all-metal 1:6 scale M113 ACAV. I started by buying a 1:72 scale Tamiya model kit as reference. I’ve also ventured into 1:35 and 1:16 scale customs, making tank sprockets and a set of three 1:35 scale Simba APC vehicles used by the Philippine Army (view all photos of the Simba build process by going HERE).”

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The view of Jonathan’s M113 reveals a fully finished interior with a wealth of details, all hand-crafted (no robot welders or computers) out of solid metal. THIS, my friends, is art. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

“After all that hard work on the 1:35 scale Simbas, I felt really exhausted and decided 1:16 and 1:35 scale model building was too small and hard for me. I no longer accept commissions in that scale. After I posted photos of the 1:6 scale M113 on the OSW forum, response was so strong, it confirmed my future was in 1:6.”

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Inside the M113, there’s plenty of room to arrange 1:6 scale troops. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

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Even the deck plates of the M113 utilize the correct scale pattern. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

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A top-view looking down through the gunner’s station. Stunning! (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

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The treads, sprockets and wheels were ALL hand-made and then painted and weathered by Jonathan. Absolutely amazing work from stem to stern! (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

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Exotic PKM tripods, Russian night-scopes and custom ammo cans like these require the skills of a true artist such as Jonathan De Guzman in order to pull it all off correctly. Remember—it’s ALL hand-made! (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

1:6 Perfection Isn’t Cheap

Creating intricate custom works in metal is an expensive proposition and commands top-dollar prices from serious collectors. So we wondered about De Guzman’s customer base and whether or not if, during these tough economic times, such expensive commissions were difficult to obtain. Jonathan replied:

“To be honest, in the beginning, it was really tough. Only one man, Enrique Royo Pastor, from Spain, was buying my customs. Business has grown significantly since then, but if I am given any opportunity in your article to thank someone, other than David Park, I would like to thank Enrique, and of course, all of the great members of the OSW, SSF and OSP forums.”

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We can’t imagine how Jonathan makes tiny 1:6 scale sunglasses. WOW! (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

With Friends, Anything is Possible.

Jonathan’s friend, David Park, took the opportunity to chime in with his own opinions of De Guzman’s work, saying:

“I met Jon when he was trying to sell his M113. He wanted money very badly, and was offering to sell his M113 for a mere $2000. I said I would help, and long story short, we ended up selling it for $4000 + shipping. Later, he showed me some weapons he had made in 1:6 scale and I was impressed. I remembered a collector in Spain. He bought several of the weapons and we became friends. His name is Enrique Pastor. Anyways, Enrique bought all of the weapons Jon had made. He was the sole clientele for almost a year. Then slowly, other commissions started to come in, and then more and more. Now, Jon is fully booked-up out to about 2~3 weeks. Jon is a great guy and a great friend. Thank you so much for writing an article about him. You could not have found a better guy to write about!”
As hard as it is to comprehend, this superb samurai sword, scabbard, display rack, machine gun and magazines were ALL made by hand. According to De Guzman, "The scabbard is made from wood, cut to shape by a saw, then cut in the middle for the blade. I cut a piece of wood that lays with the pattern of the scabbard, then glued it and used an angle grinder to shape it. Then, I used files and sandpaper to make it all smooth." (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

Superb weapons in miniature even include this samurai sword, scabbard, and display rack. According to De Guzman, “The scabbard is made from wood, cut to shape by a saw, then cut in the middle for the blade. I cut a piece of wood that lays with the pattern of the scabbard, then glued it and used an angle grinder to shape it. Then, I used files and sandpaper to make it all smooth.” (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

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Jonathan’s ultra-realistic harpoon gun in perfect 1:6 scale (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

Jonathan's amazing all-metal 1:6 scale ammo cans. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

Jonathan’s amazing all-metal 1:6 scale ammo cans. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

Although rescuers were too late for this poor Joe, Jonathan's superb all-metal rescue stretcher is an exact miniature duplicate of the real thing. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

Although rescuers were too late for this poor Joe, Jonathan’s superb all-metal rescue stretcher is an exact miniature duplicate of the real thing. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

De Guzman's intricate, all-metal 1:6 scale wheelchair with oxygen bottle and bell. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

De Guzman’s intricate, metal/leather/rubber 1:6 wheelchair w/ oxygen bottle and bell. Can you IMAGINE the level of skill required to create this beauty from scratch? (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

All-metal, fully-functional 1:6 scale rescue tripod. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

All-metal, fully functional 1:6 scale rescue tripod. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

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Even simple props like a 1:6 scale crutch look better made of real metal. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

There are no better 1:6 scale nunchuks made anywhere in the WORLD. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

Jonathan’s 1:6 scale nunchuks made of real metal and wood. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

Jonathan's superb 1:6 scale rendition of Han's deadliest claw from the film, "Enter the Dragon." (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

Jonathan’s superb 1:6 scale miniaturization of Han’s deadliest claws from the film, “Enter the Dragon.” (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

How about a massive, 1:6 scale jail or prison cell for the "worst of the worst?" (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

How about a 1:6 scale jail or prison cell for the “worst of your worst?” (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

If you have a 1:6 scale cannabilistic serial killer you need to transport, what better way than with one of Jonathan's outstanding, all-metal human "dollies?" Don't forget the fava beans! (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

If you have a 1:6 scale cannibalistic serial killer in need of transport, what better way than with one of Jonathan’s outstanding human “dollies?” Don’t forget the fava beans! (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

Highly realistic machete weapons at perfect 1:6 scale. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

Highly realistic machete weapons at perfect 1:6 scale. (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

1:6 scale club billy club, ready for a RUMBLE! (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

With Jonathan’s superb custom 1:6 scale metal billy club, your Joe’s will soon be ready to RUMBLE! (Photo: Jonathan De Guzman)

Bottom Line: Jonathan De Guzman’s all-metal 1:6 scale customs are probably the best available anywhere in the world today—bar none. Yes, some items can seem expensive, but the actual cost per piece varies greatly depending on the amount of work involved. For what you get, his work is actually priced very reasonably. Remember, this sort of custom product is all created by hand, and upon completion, each unique work becomes an instant (and valuable) collectible.

Mark these words: As time goes by and Jonathan’s fame and popularity inevitably spreads, we can foresee the day (very soon) when Jonathan’s rates will begin to rise. So, if you have a custom 1:6 project in mind for the Master of Metal, it would be wise to “get in line” sooner than later. Ordering seems to be a fairly informal process, and either Jonathan or David can help you through the steps involved. Our thanks to “eagle-eyed” Field Reporter Kent Williams, and to Jonathan’s friend and assistant, David Park, for their help producing this article. And our sincerest wishes for a rewarding 1:6 scale career to Jonathan De Guzman. We look forward to seeing his next great masterpiece! Contact Jonathan via email HERE. Or contact David HERE.

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