INTERVIEW WITH A COPYCAT
By Tony Rusio
This is actually an interview with half a copycat. Mr. Bruce Weggmann is considered one of the "Grandfathers" of prop replica making, going back to the very earliest days of the field. Along with a partner who we know as "Dave"(I was unable to obtain his permission to use his full name) handcrafted from scratch some of the finest communicators , phasers & tricorders from classic trek for that period. Although they never went into mass production, or mail order only a very small amount of these were sold to friends and the few lucky individuals who happened to be in close proximity of Mr. Weggmann & Dave at the shows they had attended. I hope you enjoy this interview.
T: Thank you for taking the time for this brief interview Bruce. Perhaps you can give the readers a brief overview of how you and Dave got involved in prop replica making.
BW: Well, first let me say that most of what we did would have definitely not been possible without Dave. He was the one who did all of the roughest work as far as designing the molds, figuring out the measurements, and generally things of that nature. He deserves most of the credit. As for an overview, we basically wandered around the early conventions(editors note: the year was 1974) and didn't see much in the way of replicas, but what we saw that was fan made was awful.
T: So that gave you both the idea to make some yourself?
BW: Yes. Dave & I met at a convention, and after seeing that people wanted precise good looking and in scale copies of the props Dave started the research in 1974. I believe it took an entire year to complete the molds for the tricorder. We viewed avast amount of film clips. That was our visual reference. Dave made shrewd guesses as to the size, and I must say he did a remarkable job at that.
T: So I take it that you had machine shop facilities at your disposal?
BW: I worked at a machine shop at night and between us both, it was a joint night effort. As I mentioned before, Dave worked out the dimensions, and formed the plastic over a metal mold, & I did as well. We wanted them to look right.
T: As far as the communicator grids went, they must have been tough to make.
BW: Well, the grids were obviously made of steel, and we then had them plated 18k gold finish and they looked fabulous. We tried to make everything mechanical, meaning that we did not want to use any adhesives unless there was no other way at all.
T: In recent years we collectors have been able to see some of the original props themselves up close at various exhibitions, and sometimes shows ,namely the Smithsonian exhibition in 1992. Did you and Dave see them and if you did, how close did you come to exact duplication??
BW: For the first part of your question :did we see them? Oh, yes! And I must say that we were extremely, if not almost exact. I would say that we were within 1/100 to being right on the money. An important point I would like to make is that you need to remember, is that when we started making these, the originals were nowhere to be seen, and therefore unavailable for us to take measurements from, as well as the fact that since I worked at a machine shop, and often had to design parts from scratch, I was very used to measuring things to within 1/600 to 1/1000 and so on&with that in mind I was able to put my experience to work, with Dave supplying me with the rest.(Again which was a lot.)
T: Did any of the actors from Star Trek ever get to see your work, and if they did, what did they have to say as far as how close you both were?
BW: Jimmy Doohan ("Scotty") saw them & handled them and he said on a scale of 1-100 we were in the mid 90's, which was a shot in the arm for us.
T: What do you do now?
BW: Presently I design & build custom electronics-basically laser supplies
T: How many of each item would you say you made?
BW: Probably 12 Tricorders and roughly 24 communicators.
T: This is probably a moot point, due to the current crackdown on all copycats, but if copycats today were still allowed to make replicas, what advice would you give to a prospective copycat who was just starting out?
BW: Be ready to spend alot of time and not make alot of money.
T: I'm sure since you have been out of production on these items for so long, you have never had to worry about what many refer to as "the Paramount Police"shutting down or suing just about all copycats. I'm sure the readers would like to know any comments you may have regarding this.
BW: Don't they have BETTER things to do? The amount of money that what you call the copy cats made combined in total probably won't ever amount to what one of thier executives make on a weekly basis. It seems to me that they are stooping down from Mount Olympus to destroy.
T: Is there anything you would have liked to have made, or wish someone else would have made?
BW: I wanted to make a phaser rifle (see "where no man has gone before") but we never got around to it.
T: Thank you again Bruce, and the best of luck to you in your endeavors.
It should also be pointed out That Mr. Weggmann & Dave were one of only 2 copycats who re-created a complete medical pouch from Classic Star Trek.(I found out about this well after the interview with him, however it was confirmed by the current owner who states he purchased it directly from BW. Only less than a dozen were made by them. It was further discovered that only 1 set was kept by BW(he thinks). The hypo was machine turned & highly polished aluminum and the entire unit was threaded and screwed together, not glued. In addition the medicine bottles were glass with colored water and were removable. His med scanner design was taken from the Starfleet Technical manual and was functional in the sense that the scanner was like an antennae and spun around when the button was pressed.