Fighting 1:18th member pickelhaube, well known for his realistic Modern Era and WWII custom 1:18 scale vehicle kits, recently took time away from his busy schedule to answer questions posed by The Fighting 1:18th forum members.
Q1 – I imagine you were collecting before you started customizing. When did you start collecting and what was it that drew you into collecting 1:18 scale vehicles?
pickel: I have always been a collector. I Started with Nazi Helmets, switched to WW1 steel Helmets, then switched to Nazi Daggers, and finally ended up collecting WW1 style spike helmets (Pickelhaubes).
Prices went sky high. So, I had to stop collecting militaria and discovered 1/18 planes and tanks. Nice and big!
Q2 – When and why did you start customizing?
pickel: I started trying to convert a P-40 into a P-36 about 6 years back.
Q3 – What caused you to make the jump from making customs for yourself and start making kits available for purchase?
pickel: After I made the P-36 mod a few guys wanted to know if I could make them one.
Q4 – How was the process of learning to make molds, and consequently, making casts from those molds? Was it something you picked up on quickly or was it a lot of trial and error?
pickel: No way. Nothing comes easy. Trail and error. I am still learning new tricks.
Q5- I’m certain there are some people that don’t realize how time consuming making molds and casts is. How long does it normally take to make a mold? How long does it take to make a cast?
pickel: Generally it takes about 1 hour to make a mold. It depends on how many parts and how big the part is.
It took me weeks to make my latest project’s molds!!
A cast of one piece will take a minute. More complex pieces about 10. That is the max because the resin starts to kick in. It takes about an hour for the resin that I use to cure.
Q6 – How many casts can you get from a mold and what are some steps you take to prolong the life of your molds?
pickel: I can get about 30, plus or minus 10. It depends on the complexity of the pieces. I have had one mold last 50 pours, and others shot in 2 pours.
Q7 – Given how much time it takes just to make molds and casts, how much time do you normally contribute to working on kit projects/commissions a week?
pickel: That depends on my real job. If things are not kicking, I work 7 days a week, about 10 hour days. Sometimes, I do take Sunday off.
Q8 – What is the process you go through in determining a kit that you’re going to make and sell?
pickel: I usually put out polls to see what interests you guys have. When there looks like I have a top 2, then those will have a run off. Then, I build that piece.
Q9 – How long does it take to go from deciding what kit you’re going to make next to making it come to fruition?
pickel: That depends on their complexity of the piece. The fastest I made a prototype has been 3 days, the longest 3 months. That is a 3 solid months of hands-on building.
Q10 – Have you ever come across a kit you were wanting to make that you just couldn’t make, and if so, what was the reason(s) that you weren’t able to?
pickel: There are quite a few. I have tons of personal project subjects that I would love to make, but nobody else is interested in them. So, they do not get made.I just do not have the time to work on anything personal.
Q11 – Which kit is the most time consuming and how long does it normally take to complete one?
pickel: So far, my latest project is now into its 10th month. I have shipped the kits, but I am still working on the full builds.
Q12 – How have sales been for modern kits/projects vs WWII?
pickel: Well… I love doing WW2 stuff, and not a lot of modern stuff. By all means, my best sellers have been modern. The Pavehawk project and my HUMVEE turret , hands down, have been my best sellers. Hundreds.
You would think that I would see the light.
Q13 – Have you ever thought about getting into small-scale projects (weapons, helmet, etc)?
pickel: I have been on a small scale. I make Russian head gear along with a British helmet. I do make a few small arms as well: Ppsh-41, mg-34, m-42 and 2 Russian figures to go with my T-34s.
Q14 – Although Joe vehicles aren’t exactly accurate when comes to real world vehicles, have you ever considered doing upgrade kits for G.I.JOE vehicles?
pickel: No not really.
Q15 – A lot of people enjoy making dios for display and/or for photos. Have you considered making dio pieces, or even play sets?
pickel: No not really.
Q16 – Do you see yourself sticking strictly to the 1:18 scale, or do you see yourself branching into other scales? If you do see yourself branching into other scales, which scales?
pickel: I like doing 1/18 scale. I hate doing anything smaller. I have done some 1/6 scale stuff, but those take a very long time to do as well.
Q17 – What are your future goals and where do want to take your customizing to?
pickel: I would like for the hobby to support my family and be able to quit my real job.
Q18 – When you’re shopping for toys at retail, are you able to enjoy them like an average consumer or do you automatically start thinking of ways that you can improve the toys?
pickel: Yes, I do enjoy them. The fact that I can just get it off the shelf and not have to build it is enjoyment itself!! I have bought some vehicles with the sole purpose in mind to make mods for it, all of the modern stuff .
Q19 – What’s your favorite kit that you’ve made and why?
pickel: That is an easy one. My Sdkfz 222 (pictured below). I just love the subject matter. It is one cool buggy.
Q20 – Which piece/kit are you most disappointed with and why?
pickel: I have made nothing that I am disappointed in. However, there are things that have had disappointing sales. I made a Sagami mount for the Huey Helo years ago and it was just so hard to make and cast the pieces. I charged what it was worth and nobody wanted to pay. So, I would guess that is my biggest failure.
Q21 – For those that might be interested in purchasing from you or commissioning you, what can they expect as far as wait time goes, and what’s the best way to contact you for commission work?
pickel: This is a complex question. I have gotten orders out in a week and have taken 2 years to do an order.
Normally, it takes about 2-3 weeks to get an order out. I have put all my orders to the side as I work on my Horten project, which is going on 10 months. There were a couple of guys who were caught as I started that project. Three to be exact. I offered to reimburse their money but they were willing to wait. One even ordered the Horten!
So, I am finally at a time where I have the chance to fill those orders. I also put out the word that I am taking orders now and the flood gates burst open.
The 2 year customers started as a 1/6 scale project that I was going to make and copy, but I have decided to just do the one off. It took me 2 years to decide that.
If anyone is interested in contacting me to purchase a kit, just PM here on Fighting118th.com.
The discussion thread for the interview can be located in our forums, here: