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

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great job, Mike. Your work is amazing! Even though some of my stuff went missing as a child, I still love you (lol). Your one and only sister, Deb xo

  2. lana says:

    You have always been so talented and I’m glad to see ur still following ur passion for art…Amazing work!!!!

  3. GIJOEBILL says:

    Awesome work!!!
    I think the tube in his hand must be the “patience,” I am missing.

  4. Tammi Pettigrew says:

    I love how this article perfectly showcased your talent. I am lucky enough to see your hard work from beginning to end. It amazes me every time you create another masterpiece and the tiny detail in every piece. Keep up the great work!! Love you!!!

  5. Mike says:

    Thank you Mark and PATCHES OF PRIDE for this opportunity. This is why PoP ROCKS! And thank you everyone else for the nice words. I’d write more but I hear my hobby room calling me…..lol

  6. Tony Stroud says:

    FANTASTIC work. There are talented people and than there are TALENTED people.

  7. Joseph Benedetto says:

    Mike: unbelievable work, sir! You really do have the touch. Thank you for sharing it here with all of us and inspiring us to go further with the hobby. I’m going to have to up my game and move beyond 1/6 scale buildings and try my hand at vehicles as well. And Mark–thanks again for the site and all the work you do!

    • mike says:

      WOW……THANK YOU for the kind words, Joseph! It’s nice to know I can inspire fellow “creators” to push themselves further. I appreciate it very much. 🙂

  8. Wayne Faucher says:

    This is a perfect example of what I’ve always told my kids: There’s always SOMEBODY out there who is willing to work harder and put in more time than you thought possible. That’s why we work as hard as we possibly can. And then work some more. I’ll never complain about how long some of my figures take again. Mike is an absolute inspiration! Here’s a guy who found his medium and takes it all the way.

    • mike says:

      THANK YOU, Wayne. My thinking has always been when someone says “It can’t be done” that just drives me to push my way of thinking even more and figure out that “ANYTHING” can be done and “ANYTHING” is possible if you just put your mind to it and never give up. THEN, you can prove any doubters wrong when you show them what YOU have created.

      Money or no money, if I want to create something, one way or another, I’ll find a way. My mind is always looking at other (hobby) uses for common items 🙂 KEEP BUILDING. KEEP CREATING.

  9. Ron Bascue says:

    Simply amazing. Wish I had that talent AND patience.

  10. kneonknight says:

    A quick question for Mr. Conrad…do your pieces have so much detail that it would be hard to pull a silicone mold from them? If not, I think that would be an awesome way to make original masters and outfit a whole squad of custom troops. Hardwoods seem best for that application, as they are not as prone to warping from temperature, although humidity might be a problem. In any event, you do fantastic work, as only someone who truly loves the hobby can. Kudos!

    And for you, Mark, a bit of a chastisement…in WWII those were called “handy-talkies”. The walkie talkie is what most of us Joeheads call a “backpack radio”. But, what the hell…you brought us the work of this talented artist, so that attaboy will wipe clean this and quite a few future ‘aw, shucks” demerits. Keep finding these outstanding individuals!

    • mike says:

      THANK YOU for the kind words. I could probably pull a silicon mold and mass produce them. But then I’d be getting away from the handmade wooden creations. Yep, hardwood is what I try to use the most. But I’ll use whatever I have handy that I think will work.

  11. Omar says:

    I am absolutely blown away by Mike’s ingenuity, talent and sheer hard work. These are absolutely AMAZING pieces of art. I am completely in awe. Wow!

  12. kneonknight says:

    The more I look at that Stuart, the more I’m liking it…and also thinking that maybe my dreams of a 1/6 scale M24 aren’t in the realm of impossibility.

    Also, a quick suggestion for Mr. Conrad-I would put some rubber shoes on the tracks of that Honey, both to protect the wood from abrasion and to provide better traction. Other than that, I can offer nothing in the way of improvement.

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