J Man Featured Customizer
April 2011's Featured Customizer is none other than J_Man. Before the displays he was already customizing some pretty cool vehicles and the occasional t-shirt. Since D&J Toys has taken off he's known mostly for his kick ass back drops and diorama props. However, he likes to sneak in some real gems for customs too. Really, though you can't talk about his work without acknowledging what he has done to revolutionize action figure displays. He's a perfectionist and it shows in his work and attention to detail. There is no denying his craftsmanship is always top notch no matter how he brings GI Joe to the masses.
What do you enjoy customizing the most?
For me, customizing is more of a way to relax. All of the various things I do, I like to just make stuff that I only have myself to please. I get hung up in the details too much. I do have things I have never put any pictures out of. I'll probably never show these things because they're ideas I just wanted to do for myself. There is no one thing that I can say I like to do most of all.
It's a big surprise to make customizer of the month to me since I have so few things that I've actually photographed and put pictures out of. I guess the things I do with D&J Toys is all technically customs.
Everything is hand made, but I tend to not think of that stuff the same. I have guides, stencils, and tools that I use to create all of that... but then all of those guides, stencils, and tools are things I had to hand make to get this stuff to work. For instance, the seats on the console of the Cobra Base, I actually have a rig I built that holds all 3 seats in an exact position so I can drill the holes for inserting nails. It also allows me to place the seats in the exact spot for every console built.
What brand of paint do you prefer?
I don't really have a preference. I Mostly use the Folk Art paint, but I'll use anything. I use that method of mixing super glue and paint together to force a bond on the joints of figures or on vehicles where there may be chipping, and it works with any paint. I've got different ways I do it though beyond just mixing glue and paint too. It's more of a "whatever works for the project I'm doing".
Where do you find inspiration for your customs?
Everywhere. There are a lot of really great customizers out there and many times something I see will spark an idea to go a step further, or to actually make something I wasn't even thinking about doing. The sad thing is though, I have hundreds of ideas that I'll never be able to get to. Lack of time mostly.
That's a big issue for me, every day I'll have a new idea and if I could, I'd just sit right down and create it. I could be at a store in the cooking section and get an idea from something I see on the shelf. There's an endless supply of ideas, but a limited supply of time.
I can't really put over how great the customizing community has become. There are a lot of very tallented people out there. Many times I see some of the work done by others and though I don't have time to always post, it's great to see these things.
What do you consider to be your best tools of the trade?
These days I have to say my band saw is the best tool I have. It use to be simpler ideas like "my dremel" or something of that idea, but working on the things I do now, that band saw has had a lot of use. I have 3 routers that get quite a bit of use as well, and of course a couple of dremels. Drills, belt sanders, and a number of various other smaller tools round it all out.
I'm lucky that my dad does woodworking as a hobby and he had bought most of all of these tools over the years. Any big tool, if it has duel uses for myself and his stuff, we generally figure out a way to bring it in. There's always more tools though that could make things even easier and could easily become something I'd use more than anything I use now.
What is your strongest area when it comes to customizing?
That's something I really don't know how to answer. I don't really know. I would guess these days it's the ability to offer people stuff they aren't able to get elsewhere. That's what's made putting aside my regular custom work and creating things for D&J Toys worth it.
The Cobra Base is an item that was just impossible to get and once you did, it was cardboard. Now I can offer this updated plastic version. I might be slow as I don't know what getting all the orders filled, but I will get them done.
I don't really make much of anything off of this stuff. Sure at the prices I set, it might seem like I do, but most of the costs are material cost. What I do profit goes back into materials for making more stuff. There's a lot of things on the drawing board too that I'm using scrap materials to test out as well.
But it does bring me joy to hear others really like what I make. It's the biggest compliment when someone wants something you have made and actually puts it on display with their collection. When you get emails telling you something like that, it makes it all worth it. Even if I can't make all these other little projects I want to do, it's a bigger accomplishment and honor to have done so much for other people.
I do want to thank you for the honor of being the April customizer of the month. I hope to add more of my "just for fun" work out there eventually. A goal I have this year is to make myself a work desk in the house so when I can't actually make it out to my work shop, I'll still have a place to do things. Maybe finally I'll finish up that Mig-29/hover plane I started several years ago, or the Cobra Rattler merged with that Johnny Quest sub. I think I have around 40 vehicles that are at various stages of work done to them. If I could at least finish 10 of them soon, I'd be happy.