Allan Chesser did not want to say “hasta la vista, baby” to Walker County when he and some of his Terminator-inspired creations moved to Ringgold.
Chesser was afraid people would not find his statues easily after the move to 327 E. Teems Road in the Woodstation community earlier this year; one of his Terminators is displayed at Rock Spring Tire on U.S. 27.
“I try to combine arts and mechanics,” Chesser explained, adding that his newer models contain metal, PVC, aluminum and plastic.
Chesser has built four statutes. Three resemble props from the popular “Terminator” science fiction movies; however, his black statue is different.
“I tried to make it (the black statue) as whacked out as possible,” he said. He constantly tinkers with his creations to improve them, including adding a tail.
He used some wood in his first model and has been replacing the wood with more durable materials as it deteriorates.
“I learn something new every time I make one,” he said. He strives to make each one better than its predecessor.
Chesser said he became interested in creating what he describes as “art pieces with a little robotics in them” when his nephew asked him if he could recreate Iron Man. While researching Iron Man’s design, he saw photos of the Terminator and was inspired by the challenge of building one of his own.
Chesser started his first statue in November 2014 and completed it within five months, he said.
With each paycheck from the grocery store where he worked at the time, he visited the hardware store to purchase more materials, many of which were from the plumbing section.
An employee at the hardware store was puzzled by the variety of unrelated items laid on the counter to purchase and told him that “you’ve got to be the worst plumber ever,” he chuckled. Once the employee understood that Chesser was shopping for materials that he could grind, cut and otherwise fashion into the parts he needed, the employee was intrigued and wanted to see his progress.
Chesser is proud that he did not create his creations in a machinist’s shop, but rather at home with basic tools like a Dremel, reciprocating saw, oscillating saw and grinder — some of which he purchased at Walmart.
“I built everything from the neck down to the feet,” he said.
The head proved the most challenging step for him.
He first ordered a plastic model of a human skull, like those used as medical teaching tools, and attempted to modify it, he said. Because of the way the model skull was constructed, he had trouble controlling his cuts inside the skull to shape it so that he could attach the head to the body with a camera yoke.
Not satisfied with the results with that skull, he ordered a Terminator skull for $200 from China to use on the model on display in Rock Spring, he said. He estimates that he has another $650 in parts in that model.
He would like to sell that Terminator so that he can purchase parts to complete another one.
He cannot estimate how many hours he has spent to create one of his sculptures. He loses track of time because he enjoys his hobby so much, he said.
People are amazed that he has crafted such realistic copies of the Terminator using plumbing parts and scrap metal. One sculpture contains parts of a walker.
“If I had a dime for every compliment I’ve had over the last five years, I would be wealthy,” he said.
Some people have donated materials to him and made cash donations to show their support.
His latest creation will use body parts from a red Power Wheels Porsche, a miniature model of the sports car for children, he said.
Weather limits his productivity.
He has few days he can work outside in the winter. He guards against mistakes he could make and injuries he could suffer because the cold numbs his hands and makes him more likely to drop tools and materials.
Hot summer weather is also a challenge because of the heat produced as he grinds the materials, he said.
Chesser feels immense satisfaction by molding his vision into reality and in his ability to visualize robotic creations when others only see a pile of scrap metal and plumbing parts.
“I really get a thrill out of making this stuff,” he said. “I fiddle with these like someone else does in a garden.”
Selling one of his creations saddens him, but he can always make another one, he said.
The Rossville native said he regrets dropping out of high school and feels that he is “still paying for it.”
As a loner, he felt singled out in high school, he said, and preferred to go to the library than engage in many of the school’s activities.