Francis Tavares
- Artist, Customizer, Renaissance Man -

As you may know, Francis Tavares has been involved as chief designer of many of the interesting outfits which are sold through Action City. He has his own website, "Battlefields", which displays his spectacular work in some of the best "diorama"-style photos I've seen on the Internet. Not only is he proficient at creating authentic WWII uniforms, but he also creates incredible vehicles. I'm always amazed at the fact that he's so inventive, versatile and prolific.

I've known Francis for a while now-- our correspondence began after he visited my web site, and since then we've swapped tips, techniques, news & "stuff". I consider him more than a peer, simply because he brings far more to the table than I do. I've learned a great deal from him, and hold him in high esteem as one whose abilities, knowledge and talents I aspire to. And I'm honored that he's a friend.

He's a modest, honorable type, and I really like his work. That's why I've taken it upon myself to post web site update announcements on his behalf at the Sandbox. That's why I made this page too. If you're interested in WWII era Joes, his web site is a must-see.

Francis is a master tailor-- he carefully selects his materials so that the texture is authentic, rather than finding a material which is the right color and easier to work with. He often custom dyes his wools. In addition, the level of detailed stitching is impressive-- his patterns are sophisticated and he adds "interfacing" (I think that's what it's called) like real 1:1 scale clothing, despite the fact that this adds a good deal of complexity to the task. The cap shown above is tailored, and I know from experience what a miserably difficult task it is to try and sew a bulky part that barely fits under the sewing machine's presser foot. (He also sent a very nifty wind jacket, not shown here because I didn't want to cover up the detail.)

As you can see, the mountain trooper has a ton of detailed accessories. The pitons are made of cast metal-- less likely to be noticed are details like the rope winding with the piton attachment rings. You can also see his innovative MP40 mag pouches-- a combination of fabric, leather, steel and resin. The piton hammer and pick axe are cool and flawlessly cast & colored.

I'm thoroughly impressed with the quality of his castings, since I know how difficult it is to get good and clean results with two-part molds, particularly when there are complex shapes and a lot of detail involved. The MP40 casting not only is blemish-free, but the folding stock's parts are snug and actually move smoothly.

Francis is very discriminating and insists on constructing things the way that the 1:1 scale stuff is constructed. The harness ring assembly is sewn together of a variety of materials, not simply glued as a lazy man (such as myself) might be tempted to do.

The Edelweiss and other insignia are printed in sharp detail on what appears to be a fabric. This permits resolution and fineness of detail that wouldn't be possible with embroidery.

As I've mentioned, he's a man of many talents-- in addition to his production skills, he also sculpts-- his helmet is my favorite rendition in terms of fit, accuracy and detail. I had tried to produce my own version before (Paul Walmsley's was a tad too small, and only fit certain heads), but I lost some motivation, once I saw Francis'.

As you can see, he also sculpts and casts his own boots... 'nuff said!

To unify all these skills, Francis is a knowledgeable student of World War II history, and not simply someone who can copy a uniform from photos. His web site demonstrates this deep and genuine interest, as he prefaces his project pages with interesting historical detail relevant to the project.

Francis sculpts and produces heads too. The one on the left is one which I'm using with Action City's Feldgendermerie outfit which Francis designed. Looks sort of like 'Ahnold'-- absolutely perfect for the role! The one on the right is his Saving Private Ryan head (on a temporary SOTW uniform). From the photos I've seen of the cancelled Hasbro version of this figure, this one is a better likeness of the actor, Tom Hanks.

Francis can make hollow rubber heads which fit on the standard Cotswald or vintage-style neckpost without any modifications required. It's something which I thought was only possible in factory production. He's an inventive problem-solver, and it was fun to correspond with him and watch the evolution of his different design solutions.

So... be sure to check out his website. You'll be pleasantly surprised!

I would like to mention that Francis is not directly involved with the business aspect of Action City. He designs for them, and they produce from his masters. Therefore, he's not responsible for, and has no idea of the status of any particular order which may have been placed with them.

I mention this because a few folks have become concerned about the status of their orders placed with Action City, and their slowness to respond to e-mail. I've even received some e-mail queries about them based on the fact that I reviewed some of their offerings-- I'm not affiliated with them in any way, and I can do no more than forward the messages. I imagine that the situation is similar for Francis. While I'm familiar with the anxiety of being "in the dark", I believe that there may be legitimate reasons for this, including simple technical problems with computers and ISP's. In addition, I would imagine that a small business could be easily swamped by demand. Oftentimes, the influx of e-mail can be overwhelming and guarantees that you won't get a bit of work done (I've felt this at times, and I'm not even selling anything!). However, from my own experience with Hal at Action City, I believe that he is a reputable and honest person. It seems that customizers in general face this problem of demand outstripping their production abilities. The only thing you can do is be patient, and have faith.

11/06/98-- Jimbob

Last modified: Monday, December 31, 2001 2:07 PM