Six Finger Firemen Woodworking
Maker of Fine Model Wooden Fire Apparatus
Larry Lorance, Founder
Published: July 20, 2011
is the owner of a three year old model wooden fire
Six Finger Firemen Woodworking
of Dacono, Colorado, USA. Phil says his company
is a 1.3 man company located at the foothills of the eastern
slops of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. I asked
Phil where the .3 came from. Phil said his
dad and uncle are involved with his company too.
His uncle makes all of the bells for the models.
His father makes the tires, windshields for the older
apparatus, like the American LaFrance 800 / 900 open
cabs, and the monitors
for the platforms. Phil admits his dad and uncle
are the true woodworkers in the family. His dad is
the Engineering Department which means when
Phil can't figure it out he goes to his dad for advice.
over 30 years of working with wood. He stared out
in his father's wood shop in the back on the family
home. His father, Chuck, has over 45 year experience.
Combined with his uncle, David, who owns
Woodworking by David , the company has over 100 years of wood working
experience. Phil admits he loves the smell of
father is now retired and owns
Beehler's Woodworking, LLC, where he spends most of his free time
doing "odd projects the average person won't do
woodworking wise." He started doing quilt stands
for Phil's mother and now makes cases to display geology
Phil is a
26 year veteran of the fire service. He started
out his carrier at
Mountain View Fire Rescue in Longmont,
Colorado. He is now a Battalion Chief with the
The Greater Brighton
Fire Protection District in Colorado. Phil
says the Fire District protects the City of Brighton,
Wattenburg, and Henderson, and unincorporated areas of
Adams and Weld County Colorado. The department's service area consists of 165
square miles protected from five fire stations.
firefighters, Phil's favorite part of this journey is tradition. Phil's
son is eight, and when Phil was eight his neighbor built him a wooden semi-truck, a box and a couple of
wheels nothing more. Phil says he drove "at least
two million miles on my knees that year with that
truck." When he turned ten, Phil's dad decided he need another one and built him a Kenworth type truck.
The problem was one trailer had the hole for the
pin but the other trailer it had a pin so the
trailers could not be swapped. Eventually, Phil
gave the trucks to his son who was playing with them one
day and sad the trailers will not switch back and forth.
Instead of cutting the pin off, he decided to build his
son a new semi-truck, a refrigerator trailer, 40 foot
box trailer, flatbed, dump trailer, lowboy and told his
son "there you go, you have all the trucks and trailers
his family live in a very close neighborhood and
the recession was starting and Phil wondered what would
happen if some kid did not get a good Christmas present.
So he decided that he would make a semi and two trailers
for every firefighter who had a son that worked for him.
brought the wood trucks to the station and one firefighter said "I
don't have a son, I have a daughter, so what are your
going to do about that?" Phil ended up making an andronik
chair and doll cradle for the firefighter's little girls. As a result, Phil built 13 tractors, 25 trailers, 10
doll cradles, and 12 chairs.
is where his business started. Phil placed all of
the toys in his garage and invited all of the children
over. He opened the garage had had the kids go to
it. One of his firefighters, an engineer, said
"You ought to try fire trucks" and it was that one
comment that set off what we see today.
displays the entire evolution of the development of his
craft on one of the walls of his garage wood shop: the
American LaFrance Tractor Drawn Aerials, Rear Mount
Ladders, Rescues, and various engines.
Finger Firemen Woodworking Wood Shop
Click on Photo to Enlarge
thought we was going to do something with fire trucks,
it was his primary passion. At one time, he thought we
would be working for a company that builds or sells fire
apparatus but lucky for us he crafts these works of art.
realizes every fire apparatus is different and he can
customize each truck so he is producing the exact same
cab configuration over and over again. Phil says
if someone say, the fire truck I am on or uncle or
father was on had really big bumper, I cam make the
bumper bigger he can do that. If someone wants a
four or two door engine, he can do that too. Phil
try's to do the same thing the manufacture of the real
apparatus do and give the customer to option to
customize the truck the way you want. Phil admits
he thought he was done at 20 options but he offers over
75 on todays models.
include an extended bumper, raised roof, air
conditioner, two / four door, three versions of the
extrication equipment being in the bumper, two different
versions of side mount pump panels. trash lines, and
reel lines are just a few. Phil has not been asked
for a top mount pump panel but is excited for the
opportunity to do one.
pine as his wood of choice. Some guys have suggested
using different woods but these woods are harder and
more difficult to work with. Some have suggested he
bloodwood for the light bar but this is very
expensive and he is trying to keep the price down.
He did try beetle
kill pine to make some of the seats and did not like
the look of the seats at all.
He had one
customer request a model made completely of oak and the
price of the lumber itself was $300.00; the customer
decided that was not such a great idea.
question Phil receives his how many hours are invested
in each model. Phil responds "everything has been
a progression and you try something new that you never
tried before and I thought I was going to get to a point
where he knew everything he need to do to produce a
model so he can start the clock to see how long it
takes." However, he has never done that the tower
ladder for example takes about 60 hours to complete.
the detail involved, pump panels really chooses up
Phil's time now. As a side note, notice the detail
of the hose lay in the photo below; again all done
with pine by hand. Phil told me he had been
looking at the pump panel for about a year and half and
"OK, that is the pump panel but I never liked how it
looked." So he changed it. The problem is
cutting the dowels small enough to get them to fit.
In fact, he admits he would cut 10 and lose 8 until he
read an article in a wood magazine.
and Hose Lay
always striving for a better product. I asked him
if there was such a thing as a complete model.
Phil say "My cabs or my cabs, they are not anyone else's
cab and the more I do with any particular cab the more
they start looking like a particular vendor."
As a result, Phil stays away from making a specific
vendor's model. He does say at some time he would
love to enter into an agreement with a vendor to produce
there apparatus but he says "if it happens it happens
and that's OK. "
Phil and his
dad were at a show the week prior to my visit and the
Lamar Fire Department had their
1907 Rapid Fire fire truck at
the show. As soon as he saw the truck, he thought to himself, "I know we are
going to build this truck." He told his dad, there
is no way I know how to make those spooked wheels.
Within 30 minutes his dad said "OK, I've got some
ideas." By the end of the day, Phil received five
orders for the Lamar truck.
are hand crafted out of pine and are not painted.
Phil explains the reason for not painting the model is
because federal government's rules of finished work.
Once they truck is pained, it becomes classified as a
toy and subject to government regulation.
the time involved and the vast range of apparatus color
schemes prohibits painting. Of the 72 models Phil
has made, outside of a quick clear coat, which allows
the model to maintain the original color, not one
customer has painted their model.
models are 1:20 scale. The reason Phil chose 1:20
scale is because anything below that it is to hard to
maintain detail and anything above that is "so large you
can't put it in your house."
scale, the Tiller is close to 44 inches long. If
he were to make a 1:12 scale tiller, it would be close
to five feet long and very few collector's have the
space for that.
makes a kids pumper that has steel bolts for the moving
wheels. It is for young kids to go screaming
around the house or as Phil's dad likes to say it is
used to "destroy mom's furniture and chance they can
get." Phil did on for a kid, had it for year
brought it back because he wore out the tires.
These have become very popular.
Phil would like to build any fire apparatus presented to
him, he is concentrating on:
types of rescues - medium single axle, rear axle,
heavy rescue with a tandem axle, and has done some
East coast tractor drawn heavy rescues;
Ladder - 100 foot rear mount, 100 foot rear mount
platform, 95 foot midmount, 100 foot midmount
platform, and a tractor drawn aerial;
style pumpers, which requires less compartment
tanker, of which he has only done one;
Ambulance - there are no plans at this time to
good craftsmen Phil is always trying to improve on an
idea. Phil has been experimenting with rollup
compartment doors. His first, this rear mount
ladder, shows he had done an outstanding job. Phil
will admit he is lucky to keep his fingers because the
tool used to create this comes very close to his
Rear Mount Ladder with Rollup Doors
Run cursor over photo for a close up view
single axle rescue is displayed here. This generic
rescue is used by a number of fire departments in
Colorado and is becoming very popular with collectors.
You can see on this model, the apparatus number and logo
of the department are displayed in oak.
The Medium Rescue comes with a normal bumper, air horns
in the bumper, a mechanical siren and the standard cab.
We do offer a option package. The option adds a longer
cab with a raised roof, an extended bumper, one belly
tray (a compartment under the box between the wheels)
and a roof mounted A/C unit. This truck measures 5 3/8"
wide, 20 1/4" long and is 5 1/2" tall.
of Phil's creations, the rescue can be customized to any
configuration. All he needs are complete
walk-around photographs and blueprints, if possible.
see the transition of the wheel from the model below.
No more bolts.
This is a photo of a prototype of Phil's first Heavy
Rescue with Tandem Axle model. Just
like its little brother, the Medium Rescue, the Heavy
Rescue performs the same type of task, but with a larger
body or box. We offer our Heavy rescue with a tandem
axle. It also comes with a door on the back of the box,
a "walk-in" for the firefighters.
The Heavy Rescue comes standard as
a tandem axle truck, an extended bumper, air horns and a
mechanical siren in the front bumper. An extended cab
with a raised roof is also part of the basic package.
Like its sister rig, we do offer an upgrade as well. The
upgrade makes the front bumper longer and puts the
rescue tools in the bumper. It also has two belly trays
under the body and A/C units on the cab and the body.
The Heavy Rescue 5 3/8" wide x 5 1/4" high and 27" long.
before, Phil will make any engine with just about every
configuration desired. Below is a photo of one of
Phil's first modern pumpers. The model on the
right has a number of upgrades including a stokes
stretcher, detail emergency lighting, pump panel, and
monitor. With the addition of rollup compartment
doors to his growing list of options, these can now be
added. The engines run about 25 inches long but
depends what the customer wants to do. Like the
real manufacture, if the customer decides they want a
top mount pump panel, it will add length to the model.
gets past the pump panels, the final completion of the pumper
engines flies. The vintage engines take more time
because instead of a solid block of wood, he has to
build them much like a real engine would be built.
The biggest problem is trying to find photographs and
blueprints to work with.
Click of photo
LaFrance 900 Series Pumper
question, this American LaFrance 900 Series Open Cab
Pumper is one of the best model crafted by Six Finger
Firemen Woodworking. The windshield was crafted by
his dad. Phil says, This is the most challenging
cab style to build. These trucks were popular in 1960's. It comes with a detailed
interior and seating for four.
done a few vintage pumpers and really would like to do a
Crown Coach Open Cab Pumper if he could find the right
blueprints, photos, or drawings. As many of you
know these engines were very popular with both the Los
Angeles County and City Fire Departments.
We spent a
great deal of time talking about his company's model
ladder trucks. Below, are photos of the newly
completed models of Brighton's Truck 53. These
models run about 34 inches long.
Fire Department's Rear Mount Ladder
Fire Department's Tower Ladder
on Phil's model are not functional, The tower
ladder pictured above is a static display and is built
to be displayed with the ladder extended. Again,
these models can be ordered with options.
100 Foot Tiller
above is a 100 Tractor Drawn Aerial. The tiller is
removable from the cab but the ladder is not functional.
They run about 42 inches long.
LaFrance 900 Series TDA
A true "Hook & Ladder" is the American LaFrance open cab
tractor drawn aerial. This style of fire truck has a
driver in the front cab and a driver located behind the
ladder. At this time in history, ladder trucks carried
greater amount of ground ladders. They did not have as
many tools, so there was less compartments on this
style. This model sport a surfboard on the drivers
side. WOW, THIS IS MY FAVORITE!!
all models are subject to change and are effective on
the date of publication of this article. Please
contact Six Finger Firemen Woodworking prior to
ordering. Pricing does not include shipping or
All Modern Ladder Trucks - Customized to
All Modern Pumpers - Customized to
Medium Rescue - Customized to customer's
Heavy Rescue Tandem Axle - Customized to
Vintage American LaFrance Pumper
Vintage American LaFrance Tiller
was a real pleasure to meet Phil and tour his woodshop
and thank him for inviting me into his home.
he produces go way beyond what we call collectibles,
these are truly works of art that deserve a place in
every collection. There is a great deal of heart
and sole that go into everyone of Phil's masterpieces.
of you who are looking for a gift for a firefighter or a
fire buff, you can't go wrong purchasing one of these
tells me that he is more than happy to create any
current or retired apparatus from your department.
These make great
departing gifts for retiring members of any department.
If he ever
catches up, he would like to do
Montreal's 165 foot Bronto Skylift with tandem axles
on the back and front. Phil says "the sky is the
photos in the article do not do justice to these fine
handcrafted models. You really have to see them to believe