A "cut" above the rest...
NECA's Lead Fabricator Brad Haskins
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Playing with our action figures and making "Pew! Pew! Pew!" sound effects with their guns wouldn't be possible without people like Brad Haskins. That's because Brad is responsible for all the cool weapons and accessories an action figure comes with. As Lead Fabricator for NECA, Brad Haskins has armed his share of pop culture classics, from Isaac Clarke's iconic Plasma Cutter to Arnold's .45 Longslide with laser sighting. Read on to learn more about Brad's unique trade, his passion for power tools, and his desire to forge a REAL Katana blade...
Brad's Work Table
FIGURES.COM: You are the Lead Fabricator for NECA, a position that differs a bit from the rest of the sculptors on the team. Please explain to our readers the difference and what exactly it is that you do.
FIGS: What led you to become a fabricator? Why do you prefer fabricating over traditional sculpting?BRAD HASKINS: Lead Fabricator is a term used to distinguish my job from Sculpting. Although the methods I use differ, I am still sculpting and building pieces of the figures. The difference is my job is focused on accessories, weapons, and mechanical parts of action figures. As Lead Fabricator, it is my responsibility to train new fabricators and ensure the quality and timeliness of what we build.
BRAD: I have always been a fan of guns, swords, cars, and most other machines. When I had an opportunity to work with the machines (lathes, mills, table saws, etc.) at McFarlane Toys about eight years ago, I jumped at the chance.
Isaac Clarke's Plasma Cutter
FIGS: Tell us a little about how you learned to be a fabricator. Are you formally trained or self-taught?
FIGS: What are some of your past accomplishments? Were you always a fabricator?BRAD: I was trained by some of the best fabricators in the action figure business. McFarlane attracted many talented individuals who imparted their knowledge on me. I have some of my own tricks and ways of doing things too.
FIGS: How did you go about getting hired by NECA as Lead Fabricator and what's it like working for them?BRAD: I have always loved building the minigun for McFarlanes military line. Most of my favorite designs were never produced, however. I loved a sword I built for a second Zodiac line, however the line was canceled.
BRAD: Randy Falk called me in to do a freelance project two summers ago. A few months later, and a few more projects, I was asked to take the position. NECA is a fantastic place to work. I feel completely supported by Randy and the whole team. I am working with some of the most talented people in the industry.
Tools of the Trade: The Mill
FIGS: What are some of the unique tools of your trade and what do they do?
FIGS: What tool is your favorite and why?BRAD: I predominately use a Lathe - a machine that spins a part at high speeds and allows you to drive a blade or tool into the part, shaping the piece, a Mill - a machine that you anchor a piece to a bed that can move back to forth and right to left with precision while you lower a Mill bit onto the piece creating designs or cutting out parts, table saw, band saw, and various other common shop tools.
FIGS: Fabricating is a very precise and technical process. How do you acquire your reference material?BRAD: Well I usually don't have one, however I recently got an antique table saw. It's about 50 years old and runs like brand new. It's all cast iron and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
BRAD: Perseverance. Besides gaming and cat videos, I scour the internet for any size reference, pictures, diagrams, old owners manuals, and anything I can find on what I am building. One place I enjoy checking is the IMFDB (Internet Movie Firearms Data Base).
"And the knee bone connected to the thigh bone..."
FIGS: As Lead Fabricator, you create all the weapons and accessories for the figures. Do you prefer creating one over the other? Firearms over melee weapons?
FIGS: What are some of your favorites and why?BRAD: It goes job by job. Most figures have both. If I am a fan of what I am working on, I enjoy it just a little more. Although there is something about sharpening a blade I get a certain amount of satisfaction out of.
FIGS: About how long does it take you to fabricate an accessory? What are some of the challenges you face?BRAD: The Gears of War Butcher Blade. It's big. It's sharp. It's badass. Ash's Chain saw. Same reason as above. Isaac's Plasma Cutter in Dead Space 2. Just a beautiful design. Last but not least, Terminator's .45 Longslide with laser sighting. Arnold knows his guns!
BRAD: Another difference between fabrication and sculpting is time. Some jobs may only take a day or two and others may take weeks. Only with experience and a sense of work flow in your studio can you make any prediction on how long something will take. That in itself is a challenge. Also keeping well-stocked is a necessity.
Gears of War 3 1:1 Butcher Cleaver
FIGS: In addition to fabricating small scale weapons and accessories, you have also created 1:1 scale replicas, such as NECA's Gears of War Butcher Cleaver. Do you have a preference in scale? Is it easier or more challenging working life-size?
FIGS: Given the opportunity to fabricate anything you wanted, what would you do and why?BRAD: I don't have a preference, however I have predominately worked on smaller scale jobs. I enjoy the challenges each size poses, however the 1:1 scale stuff seems more difficult to me.
BRAD: A full scale Katana. Done in the tradition method of folding the steel.
Make a run for the Border...lands.
FIGS: What amazing projects are you currently working on and what do you have on tap for the near future?
FIGS: Thank you so much for your time! Any parting words for our readers?BRAD: We are working on some designs for Valve and Gear Box. The only thing I'll say is that a lot of hardcore fans will be getting the figures and replicas they have wanted for years. What's new coming down the pike looks incredible.
A special "THANK YOU" to Brad Haskins for taking the time out for this interview. Good luck on that Katana project... there can be only one!BRAD: I just want to acknowledge the fans, toy collectors, and everyone who buys our toys. You inspire me to make more accurate, well built, and impressive guns, swords, knives, and accessories for NECA because I know you will appreciate it.
Interview and Photos by Jeff Saylor
Photos Courtesy of NECA