Standing outside of a studio in Suwon, 30 kilometers (19 miles) south from Seoul, the strong metallic smell confirmed our speculation: that we had indeed arrived at the workroom of the Iron Man builder, Min-Soo Kim. As the door opens, an astounding life-size Iron Man that generated lots of buzz online welcomes visitors. Next to the Iron Man, sits its inventor Min-Soo Kim, hard at work cutting down steel plates.
Most people wouldn’t dare attempt making a life-size iron man suit for real – only in movies perhaps. Anyone can daydream about it, but building an Iron Man from scratch is a mission impossible for most. POSCO Newsroom sat down with the man who took on the unthinkable.
Meet Min-Soo Kim. He has his own YouTube channel called NAKK where he illustrates his work process in detail. He recently quit his job to go all in: dedicating his time and energy to building a collection after collection with iron and steel. What brought him to this project and why?
┃“Drawing Connections Between Iron and Life”
From a very early age, Kim had a knack for making things. He was dexterous and didn’t mind getting his hands dirty while creating things with his bare hands. During his university years, he studied Automotive Engineering, enthusiastically involving himself with such extracurricular activities like building cars and fixing broken stuff. After graduation, he worked in a field closely related to his university major, maintaining ship machinery.
“The more I work with iron, the more I find myself drawn to the material. With iron, it’s hard to predict the outcome as it’s always different. The whole process feels incredibly similar to our life. In life, everyone looks as though they’re living a life almost identical to each other, but deep down, each of them is living a life of their own. I’m not that talented – I just happen to be slightly more dexterous than others, and I enjoy building things out of nothing, especially with iron.”
To build these life-size Iron Man models, he is exclusively working with 1.2T steel plate. T denotes the thickness of a steel plate in which 1T equals 1mm. He uses 1.2T-steel because, when considering all the procedures to finish the model, the plate requires a certain level of thickness. 1.2T steel plates also have just the right amount of weight, so it is the best material to work with, he says.
“Any thinner than 1.2T will leave too many holes during the welding process. I am not yet adept at handling various sizes of plates. That’s why I’m sticking to 1.2T steel plates for now. Aluminum is the most difficult to work with – it’s expensive, and I would also need a different welding machine.”
┃The Mark VII, Seven Months of Hard Work
Kim’s workroom is filled with the collections he’s worked on so far. Among them, Iron Man Mark VII and MARK I stand out the most.
It took Kim nearly seven months to complete the Mark VII. He recalls, “I still had my day job then. I remember having the hardest time trying to get the right balance between left and right, especially on the calves of the Mark VII. When the proportion is off, the mistake is really visible, and it looks ugly. So I tried very hard to make the whole piece as symmetrical as possible.”
“As for the Mark I which appears in the first Iron Man series, I wanted to revive the original ruggedness of the iron, so I didn’t paint it and made the welding lines more prominent. Making a life-size Iron Man is challenging of course, but that’s where I get tremendous joy out of – building it the way it was meant to be” he continued.
Besides the Iron Man, Kim also built several other collections: bust art sculptures of both male and female, and other pop icons like Gundam from the Japanese animation series. It was while assembling these series that he decided to go all in. Kim eventually left his day job to horn his craft further and dedicate to his passion projects 100%.
“There is a tremendous joy in working with steel plates, through which my imagination becomes tangible. I know there are many others out there who really know their crafts, and I would like to put my skills to good use creating things that are one-of-a-kind. There is a part of me who wants to live a unique life and be extraordinary. Just recently, a TV crew from SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System) came over to film my studio”, he chuckles.
┃The Journey to Build Superheroes: To Be Continued
When Kim first started building Iron Man, he wasn’t sure what to expect. Even as he printed out free design templates off the Internet and started the actual work on the steel plate, he wasn’t sure whether he could pull it off. The uncertainty led to vexation, but he didn’t stop.
“I can feel my skill improving each day at every step. If the opportunity arises, I would like to take on bigger projects. Personally, I like working with big chunks of material where the scale is so vast the end product literally wows me. The bigger the piece, the more energy I feel.”
The title of Kim’s YouTube channel, NAAK, is his nickname, which means joy or delight in Korean. Why? Because he wants to create his own NAAK.
“The idea of ‘fitting-in’ isn’t all that appealing to me. I want to be extraordinary. I don’t pay too much attention to what others think because I create my own NAAK.”
Kim, a young man of 29 years old who grew so attached to iron and didn’t think twice before jumping into the opportunity to go all in to create his own destiny. What’s next? Only time will tell. As he mentioned, his skill is growing at every step of his creative process, and he’s not stopping. His journey continues.