the FAQ page

Here are the answers to the most common questions.
If they don't answer your questions, just
e-mail us.

I need some stuff built for a short film, but I don't have any money; would you help?

I used to do a lot of this, but I spend most of my time on paid work now. If your idea is very original or I like it a lot, I might still find the time to help - get in touch!

Where do you build stuff?

In my workshop - a converted garage. It's well equipped and stocked and has adequate health and safety provision.

Do you work on site?

I can, if the circumstances suit everyone, but I prefer my own workshop. I can also prefabricate and flatpack.

What kind of make-up do you do?

Whatever pays! Mostly blood and guts, but Borg implants, Elf ears and witches noses are very popular these days - all blended perfectly with your skin, of course. I use Dinair and SuDo makeup.

How long do l.e.d.'s last?

I can't give a definate answer, as even the manufacturers don't know. But, I can say that they will last many years, and each year that they last, we'll all know more about how long they last! I've had some burn more or less continuously (about 18 hours a day) for about 8 years, and they're still going strong. I've just updated this to 11 years (July 2008).

How do I change the light bulbs?

I never use light bulbs - only l.e.d.'s. I last used a fluorescent tube in 1997, I think.

Why is your stuff so expensive?

There are two main reasons: we hand-build alm0st everything and meticulously research each model, and we use led's for light sources, and these range in price from 40p to £13 for a 5W Luxeon emitter. If you need a brightly lit spaceship with lots of functions, for instance, it could be £100's for the components before any work even starts. Our customers come to us because the results are stunning, in both visual impact and realism. There is simply no comparison between a commercial screen-printed Bandai (sorry guys) kit with a standard 15-l.e.d. lighting pack installed, and one of our airbrushed builds with 10 times that number of colour-matched high intensity l.e.d.'s. Our models are in a different league altogether. If you don't agree, you will be refunded immediately and the model will be collected. That guarantee has never been actioned.

Check out my two sample itemised price examples here.

Do you sell kits?

No. I refuse to make profit on parts, including kits. You pay only for our skill. I'd make no money selling kits.

What's the biggest thing you've made?

A 6 foot high prisoner-of-war camp guard tower.

What's the wierdest thing you've made?

It used to be a Ghost-Busters ectoblaster back pack, but now it's a real wheel chair converted to a time machine.

How much do you earn?

The model making just about pays it's way, but only after 5 years of slogging on low/no paying jobs and throwing about 8 thousand pounds at the workshop to get it off the ground. I'd have to upscale, relocate, and take on any and all art department jobs going if I was to survive doing this full time.

Do you do this full-time?

No, I still work as an engineering researcher at a university with very flexible hours, and we still sell art items and models to retail customers.

Do you ever ruin anything?

Oh, yes.

Have you ever made anything you can't let go of?

Not yet! The buzz from this is giving your creation to an audience - if you hang on to your stuff, you might as well not bother!

Do you use a computer?

Yup. It's the first thing I turn to. Everything is roughed out, assemblies sequenced, volumes of resin estimated, wiring schematics produced, parts lists, cutting lists, templates and scaling are all prepared in advance. This all helps, and sometimes it throws up an unseen hitch, but there isn't any substitute for the self-leveling, gyro stabilised, auto focussing, auto tracking, light adapting Mk1 engineering eyeball.

How did you get started?

I sent some pictures to a special effects magazine, who were advertising for articles, and they took me on. Eventually the articles were good enough to start hunting for unpaid work making models for lo/no short films. The magazine folded in 1999, but by then I had a start. The magazine is back on the go again, and I was happy to be able to do another couple of articles for them again. I'll do more in the future too, if they want them - great fun.

Why don't you update your website more frequently?

When I'm not building anything, there's nothing to add - and when I am building anything it's usually for a film, and there's no time! Most people wouldn't be interested in what goes on for a film anyway - scratchbuilding a car with a full electrics pack would only interest about 10 people in the UK - and I know most of them. Most questions I get are about lighting the Polar Lights Enterprise, so that's where I spend most of my website time.

Do you run workshops?

I would if it was viable. To be economical, I'd need several customers who could commit to many evenings or weekends, and that hasn't happened yet. Another factor is that every model has unique challenges and solutions, and to equip customers with a workable set of skills, I'd need months of weekends.

I could do this myself.... why pay you?

Yes, you probably could, but only if you have a workshop with several thousand pounds worth of equipment, materials and consumables and health and safety gear, which can be safely left overnight to allow you to lead a life. For instance, we keep 500 pounds worth of assorted resins in stock, have a selection of mixed airbrush heads, keep over 100 Dremel burr bits, and import l.e.d.'s and power supplies in hundreds from Germany to shave a few percent off the price. I spent a hundred pounds on resins and pigments a few years ago to make a doping chart that told me how much pigment to use, for any given ammount of resin, to achieve a desired effect.
I've tried it the other way: it cost a fortune in wasted materials, extortionate rates for tiny quantities, wasted weeks because of inefficiencies, and trashed a sitting room and kitchen. These are some of the resons that people pay me t build things for them. It really is cheaper and quicker than doing it yourself - and it's guaranteed.

Check out the itemised samples to see what I would consider minimum equipment in a workshop.

Will you show or tell me how to build something?

Yes, I'd be happy to. For nothing. Almost all articles on my website are a detailed record of how I built whatever the article is about, explaining all the steps and showing lots of detailed photos. If you have something I haven't tackled, I'll do my best to help. There are no secrets - if you hire me, you get guaranteed results cheaper, easier and faster than most people could do it themselves, that's all.

Do you ever take on trainees?

Not trainees, but I may well have to look at subcontracting out some model making work for films from time to time. Anyone who has ever worked in that industry though knows that this is highly sporadic work, characterised by a few weeks of panic separated by months of waiting! The days of retained special effects staff passed in the 1970's for all but the biggest operations that work nationally. If I was a mainstream art shop or set decorators I'd get more work, but I have the luxury of being able to stay in the SFX field.

Do people haggle over price?

I don't start anything without a firm agreement in place. That always involves an itemised quote, so that people can see exactly where all the costs are incurred. Sometimes people want to reduce the price just because they think we are too expensive, and I don't negotiate on those grounds. If you know what's involved, our prices are clearly not just good value: they are cheaper than the customer could do themselves for parts, and about the same as they'd pay for any good tradesman per hour. Sometimes people want to have a reduced price because an item is for a good cause, or gets me good publicity, or is for a low budget film, and I'm happy to look at each case like that on an individual basis.

meet the team

what we do


work bench





contact us