Creation of 1:6 Scale Structures a Daunting Yet Rewarding Challenge for Many G.I. Joe Fans

This jaw-dropping masterpiece, a full 1:6 scale castle fortress created by Steve Bugg and Mike Gardner appeared at the 2011 Joelanta Show. (Photo: Joelanta website)

“If you build it, he will come.”

Kevin Costner can’t believe what he’s seeing in 1989’s Field of Dreams. (Photo: Universal)

Kevin Costner heard a voice in his head telling him that during the classic 1989 baseball film, Field of Dreams. But to Kostner’s character, the idea of plowing down his valuable corn crop to build a professional-sized baseball diamond seemed foolhardy and absurd. And yet, much to the chagrin of his creditors and the disbelief of his wife, he went ahead and did it anyway. His blindly optimistic, go-ahead-in-spite-of-all-common-sense attitude is at the heart of the film. And it’s the REASON anything gets done.

Another angle of the castle reveals even more action. Look at all that space! (Photo: Joelanta website)

To collectors and fans of 1:6 scale action figures, the creation, transportation and storage of giant, 1:6 scale buildings and large diorama set pieces is a similarly daunting (and equally illogical) undertaking. In fact, most won’t even attempt such large-scale projects, choosing instead to satisfy themselves with a simple stack of cinderblocks, or possibly a home-made cardboard structure splattered with mud and other textural effects. Other fans with no artistic ability whatsoever, can only resort to using their <gasp!> imaginations. “See that pile of rocks over there, Joe? That’ll be yer secret headquarters, okay?” Ultimately, the creation of monumental-sized structures boils down to SPACE and TALENT. And let’s face it. You either have both—or you don’t.

Courtyard closeup of Gardner and Bugg’s astounding German Castle Fortress. (Photo: Joelanta website)

Fortunately, within our vast and creative GIjOE fandom, there DOES exist a handful of such “Top Talents” who are capable of creating these massive, impressive works. Some have professional careers in related fields such as art, set building or signage construction. Such backgrounds prove invaluable when attempting to turn any 1:6 scale “diorama daydream” into reality.

Like Kostner’s character in Field of Dreams, these unique individuals are also blessed with an inner drive that pushes their project forward and through to completion. Many are now making their own buildings, bunkers, courtyards, cathedrals, old west towns and even entire city blocks—all handcrafted in 1:6 scale. According to “Maestro” Mike Gardner

“Everyone that came by during Joelanta commented on how much they loved the diorama. The things receiving the most comments were the stained glass windows, the gargoyles, the weathering on the “stone” walls and the feral cats. People kept repositioning the cats but no one took them. It was entertaining to keep hunting the cats.

Steve Bugg and I really appreciated everyone’s comments on the diorama, it almost makes all the long, long, long, LONG, hours worth it. (My wife even said this was her favorite of all time.) Our dream is to have the Cody Lane Memorial Toy and Diorama Museum come to fruition. Then the dioramas will have a home where they can be on permanent display.

Mike Gardner and Steve Bugg’s gritty and ultra-realistic 1:6 scale western town of “Bloody Canyon” was first displayed at Joelanta 2008. Click on pics for closeups. (Photo: Joelanta website)

Interior view of Joseph Benedetto’s Arctic Station reveals astonishing detail and accurate 1:6 scale. (Photo: Joseph Benedetto)

Can you imagine the thrill of setting up your D-Day Paratrooper figures, scaling the walls and attacking a German Fortress Castle? Or ridin’ your rough-n-tough Cowboys through the dusty streets of an old Western mining town? How about bivouacking some of your Snow Troops, Canadian Mounties or Arctic Park Rangers in their own mountaintop Rescue Station? Whether it’s a bunker, an office or a NASA control room, these 1:6 scale diorama structures are about as cool as it gets. According to Joseph Benedetto in Pittsburgh…

“While researching through my old National Geographics, I could not help but notice the government-issue pre-fab housing in the background of several pictures, which led me to wonder if my Arctic Joes should not have one to call their own.

Benedetto’s building even includes an insulated attic. (Photo: Joseph Benedetto)

I had to rip down and cut-to-scale all of the studs, joists and rafters I used, running them out of much thicker pine stock. (Kind of makes me sound like Norm Abrams.) I’m no carpenter, however, so it was a lot of hand work along with the use of an old, wobbly table saw. Considering my previous attempt at a Joe House was a cutting up a cardboard box when I was like 10 years old, I had a lot to learn on the job with this project.

Exterior view of Benedetto’s reveals perfect 1:6 scale doors-n-windows. (Photo: Joseph Benedetto)

The walls were built up exactly as a real studwall would be, one board at a time, and then stood up onto the rimjoists. The exterior sheathing is cut to scale, with the seams covered by wood strips as in the pre-fab original. The studs that make up the walls were all nailed together, and the sheathing and plywood sheets then in turn nailed to the studs, using “3-inch framing nails” which are actually 9/16 Brad Nails shot in using a Craftsman Easyfire staple/nail gun (and when it sometimes failed to insert the nails fully into the wood, nailed VERY CAREFULLY using a tack hammer).

1:6 scale accessories help complete the realism of Benedetto’s Arctic Station. (Photo: Joseph Benedetto)

It took a lot of time, but the entire substructure of the house is actually nailed together with 1:6 scale nails. It’s almost impossible to see, especially with the paint on, but I’m damn proud of it. (Would I do it again? Good God, NO! It took forever!) I took the effort pretty seriously, shooting for something museum-quality in detail. Although my wife regarded it more as an obsession with architecture than with me making something useful.”

Rick Pelletier’s 1:6 scale German building reveals superb craftsmanship. (Photo: Rick Pelletier)

Some fans have no previous experience with building 1:6 scale buildings, or even any idea of how or where to begin. For Rick Pelletier in Pawtucket, RI, a bout with insomnia proved to be an effective way to get him started…

This early pic shows Rick’s building during construction.
(Photo: Rick Pelletier)

“When I hit 40, I began having frequent panic attacks, waking up at all hours and pacing around. I decided that I needed a project to keep me occupied whenever sleep was non-existent. The concept was roughly modeled after the German buildings I’d seen on Hogan’s Heroes. Without a clue on how to start, I took some measurements of actual lumber and converted the sizes to 1:6 scale. The structure was all hand-built and has over 5000 pieces.

Here, the roof is going on. Amazing work.
(Photo: Rick Pelletier)

I bought a table saw, and some mini razor saws and mitre boxes and off I went. All the walls are individually framed, then put into position, then side planks were all cut from ¾ pine, and assembled plank by plank.

The entire roof section of Rick’s building is hinged to raise up for easy access. (Photo: Rick Pelletier)

The front panel was designed to be removed, and the roof is hinged for set up access and display. Windows, complete with black out curtains, and doors are fully functional. The tables are all hand-made, the stove was made out of a Formative toys 55 gal. drum with a Kool-Aid mix lid on the top, and some flex gas tubing.

This shot shows just how big Rick’s building really is! (Photo: Rick Pelletier)

I also used 1/16” pine flooring, all individual planks, that are hand-nailed. The roof is covered with individual wooden tapered shingles. One and a half years later I was done and able to add the figures and accessories. It had been in storage for the last 6 years, until I was determined to get it home for the first NEGCC meeting which was held in my garage this March.”

Fighting rages in a courtyard outside of Jose Serrano’s astounding 1:6 scale cathedral.
(Photo: Jose Serrano)

Jose Serrano of Puerto Rico has gained quite a reputation for his excellent work creating custom 1:6 scale courtyards, cathedrals, taverns and bombed-out buildings. According to Jose…

“I enjoy creating 1:6 scale buildings and dioramas, and get a lot of my ideas for scenes from films I’ve seen and documentaries shown on the History Channel. I also have two brothers who help me with my dioramas.

When constructing my buildings and dioramas, I use 8×4 Styrofoam panels from Home Depot, while the others are from boxes of refrigerators and TVs.

I also use spray paints (all flat colors), tempera paints, pieces of wood, plastics, medical depressors, metal, sumo glue, 3M glue and super glue. Plus, my trusty dremel tool!”

Hyper-realistic details make Jose’s work stand out.
(Photo: Jose Serrano)

For more of Jose Serrano’s amazing work, view some of his other 1:6 scale constructions on the GIjOE Collections website found HERE. Of course, we could go on listing all of the hobby’s talented craftsman, but that would require a LOT more bandwidth than we can afford. So we’ll close instead, with a few more examples of the high-quality structures currently being produced.

Hopefully, the work of these talented artisans will inspire you to try your own hand at creating a 1:6 scale structure. There’s nothing like giant diorama set pieces to attract crowds at Joe shows.

Remember—If you build it, THEY will come!

Robert Mitchell’s German Bunker is made of wood, then sprayed with thick “splatter” paint to create a very realistic concrete effect. Superb! (Photo: Robert Mitchell)

Kampfgruppe Von Abt, a UK-based 1:6 scale enthusiast’s club, is the world’s recognized leader in 1:6 modeling and diorama photography. Its members meet regularly to set up and create stunning photo scenes like this one of a V-2 rocket being loaded onto a train. Click on this picture to jump to their website. (Photo: Kampfgruppe Von Abt)


7 thoughts on “Creation of 1:6 Scale Structures a Daunting Yet Rewarding Challenge for Many G.I. Joe Fans

  1. toysgot2go says:

    Castle in first picture is by Steve Bugg and Mike Gardner.

  2. toysgot2go says:

    First paragraph… Costner is spelled wrong (with a K). It is spelled correctly on the credit by the picture.

    Not criticizing… I loved the article… and the Joe Report. Keep up the good work!!!

  3. GIJOEBILL says:

    Outstanding Dioramas!!!

  4. […] Scale Blog the Joe Report features a wonderful profile of sixth scale structure builders. The realism and detail that goes […]

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