Six Finger Firemen Woodworking
Maker of Fine Model Wooden Fire Apparatus

By:  Larry Lorance, Founder
Published:  July 20, 2011


Phil Beehl
er, is the owner of a three year old model wooden fire apparatus company, 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 monPhoto of Phil Beehler - Owner of Six Finger Firemen Woodworkingitors 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. 

Phil has 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 sawdust. 

Phil's 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 core samples.

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.


Like most 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 you need."

Phil and 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.  He 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. 

Now this 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.

Phil 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. 

Photo of Six Finger Firemen Wood Shop

Six Finger Firemen Woodworking Wood Shop
Click on Photo to Enlarge

Phil always 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.

Phil 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. 

Options 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.

Phil uses 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 use African 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. 

The top 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.

Because of 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 acknowledged "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. 


Six Finger Firemen Woodworking Pump Panel
Pump Panel and Hose Lay

Phil is 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. 


The models 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.  AdditionallySix Finger Firemen Woodworking Ladders on Workbench, 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. 

All the 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."

At 1:20 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.

Phil even 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.




Even though Phil would like to build any fire apparatus presented to him, he is concentrating on:

  • Three types of rescues - medium single axle, rear axle, heavy rescue with a tandem axle, and has done some East coast tractor drawn heavy rescues;

  • Aerial Ladder - 100 foot rear mount, 100 foot rear mount platform, 95 foot midmount, 100 foot midmount platform, and a tractor drawn aerial;

  • Modern day pumpers;

  • 1980's style pumpers, which requires less compartment space;

  • Pumper tanker, of which he has only done one;

  • Ambulance - there are no plans at this time to produce ambulances.

Like all 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 fingers.    

Six Finger Firemen Woodworking Rear Mount Ladder Showing Rollup Compartment Doors
Rear Mount Ladder with Rollup Doors
Run cursor over photo for a close up view


Six Finger Firemen Wookworking Medium Rescue

The 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.

Like any of Phil's creations, the rescue can be customized to any configuration.  All he needs are complete walk-around photographs and blueprints, if possible. 

You can 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.




As mentioned 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. 

Once Phil 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. 


Modern Pumper
Click of photo to enlarge


American LaFrance 900 Series Pumper

Without 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.

Phil has 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. 


Brighton Fire Department's Rear Mount Ladder

Brighton Fire Department's Tower Ladder

The ladders 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

Pictured 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.

American 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!!


Pricing on 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 insurance.   


All Modern Ladder Trucks - Customized to customer's request $300.00
All Modern Pumpers - Customized to customer's request $190.00
Medium Rescue - Customized to customer's request $190.00
Heavy Rescue Tandem Axle - Customized to customer's request $250.00
Vintage American LaFrance Pumper $250.00
Vintage American LaFrance Tiller $350.00
Kid's Pumper $100.00


First, it was a real pleasure to meet Phil and tour his woodshop and thank him for inviting me into his home.

The models 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. 

For those of you who are looking for a gift for a firefighter or a fire buff, you can't go wrong purchasing one of these models. 

Phil 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.

Phil's big dream....

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 limit." 

Finally, the photos in the article do not do justice to these fine handcrafted models.  You really have to see them to believe them!


Six Finger Firemen Woodworking
Phillip Beehler - Owner
Dacono, Colorado 80514
Cell: 303-547-8809 Email: