Everyone should have a hobby. For YouTuber Frank 'FranklyBuilt' Pillar, that hobby is prop-making. Since the purchase of his first 3D-printer, a Creality CR-10S, in June 2019, Pillar began making custom props in his own home. Now, almost three years in, Pillar has cemented himself as one of the most impressive, and dedicated, members of the 3D-printing community.
The road to FranklyBuilt
At the time of writing, Frank Pillar has almost 1.5 million followers across TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. However, as with any growing online creator, it wasn’t always like that. The original FranklyBuilt YouTube channel started with car repair tips; Pillar's first YouTube video informs viewers how to remove and install a car radio.
In August 2019, Pillar's channel would see the first video that would cement his place as one of YouTube’s most impressive creators. That video was Becoming Iron Man MK85, the first part of a video series detailing his creation of a full Iron Man suit.
“If you go to YouTube and sort back to oldest, you'll see that my first videos were about working on cars,” Pillar told us. “So it's definitely changed, it kinda got outta hand a little bit. It started because I had a car that not a lot of people worked on so I started making videos about that. I like teaching, I like making tutorials... I started a YouTube channel just to try and help people out.”
After getting his first 3D printer, Pillar immediately got to work on fulfilling a decade-long dream: building a functional Iron Man suit. With the excitement of just seeing Avengers: Endgame behind him, it was role to make that dream a reality.
“I decided, after seeing Avengers: Endgame, I really wanna make an Iron Man suit. I had always been a fan, but I didn't have the money or resources. You know, how’s a 16-year-old kid supposed to make a suit? I was in a good place in my life about two years ago, bought a printer and then, as I started, I thought, “This might be cool to share.” And people really started to resonate... and now we're here.”
Since the debut of Pillar's original Mark 85 Iron Man suit on YouTube, the creator has continued to grow across multiple platforms. Not only that, but Pillar's projects have expanded out from the always-impressive Iron Man suits to other props.
Over the course of the pandemic, Pillar has built everything from Captain America's shield to an 80%-scale Dragonslayer replica from Berserk. The Iron Man suits, of which there are three, are still the biggest projects, taking up 1200, 1000 and 800 hours for each subsequent build.
Much like everyone else this past year, the free time caused by the ongoing pandemic helped to fast-track Pillar's builds, as well as his YouTube growth.
“The pandemic is what made this all kick off. You have to look for the silver linings: it happened, it sucked, we're coming out of it... hopefully. The pandemic really sparked everything because everyone was online, everyone was on the computer, everyone was home looking for something to do, looking for a hobby. The pandemic put a Quantum Jump in 3D-printing, so it definitely helped things out.
I think the [Mark 85] suit... it still would've been made. It might not have been as good, you know? It's a balance. Finding the time to work on my projects and film them, interact with social media. Now that I have a full-time job and the world's returning to how it is, I'm trying to find that balance.
At 30-years-old, or “29 for a second time", Frank Pillar is still pushing towards his dream. With a recent TikTok boom behind his content, a platform he joined as a joke, that dream is close to being realised. Pillar hopes that, one day, FranklyBuilt can become a legitimate full-time job, but he doesn't see it as a business.
“I don't like to use the word business because I don't want it seem like I'm in this for money, but, you know, who wouldn't want to make money off the hobby they enjoy? We're working on that right now, getting it streamlined, an upload schedule, a build schedule. We're seeing just how viable this should be as a profession and maybe make it full time. I would love that.”
The future is bright for FranklyBuilt. Having moved from the United Kingdom to the United States, taking an unfortunately-damaged Iron Man suit and a collection of printers with him, there's plans for the future. For starters, an Etsy shop to sell printed props, seven new printers to join a 20-printer print farm.
As the numbers continue so climb, Pillar is still tightly focused on his initial goal of teaching online. Whether that's through the YouTube channel's in-depth tutorials, livestreams or social media posts, teaching is first and foremost.
When asked what aspiring prop builders should know, the YouTuber explained:
“Do it. I know it sounds dumb. If you're thinking about it, if you think it's something you might enjoy or there's something you wanna make, entry level printers are so cheap now. Try it. There's so many Facebook, Instagram, Discord... you're not alone [if there's issues]. You're going to fail, you're going to make mistakes. That's going to happen, it happens to everybody. I got lucky.”