The Internet Craftsmanship Museum Presents:

Guillermo Rivera

Added to museum: 1/23/08

Cannon models made over a 50-year period make up a lifetime collection

Guillermo Rivera

Guillermo Rivera lives in San José, Costa Rica. His brother, Jose lives in California and contacted us regarding Guillermo's lifelong work building miniature cannons. We took a look at the photos and decided viewers of this site would enjoy seeing his work. Following is a little about Guillermo and his projects. The biography is brief, but the models speak for themselves. Though made with relatively simple tools, they make an impressive display to go along with his collection of full-size and miniature pistols.


Guillermo is a retired civil engineer. Now at age 69 (as of 2007) he finally has the time to fully pursue his hobby, but the collection was built over many years starting when he was only 14 years old. He was building these miniatures while still working full time on his career, which necessarily limited the amount of time he could devote to build them, not to mention the upbringing of his four children. The collection now includes about 15 cannons and other miniatures produced over a period of more than 50 years. His late father had an office equipment repair shop in Costa Rica and was a big influence on teaching the craftsmanship skills of both Guillermo and his brother Jose. Helping him in the shop taught them the basics of machine and hand tool use as well as attention to detail. Guillermo's home shop now includes a Sherline lathe, a bench drill press, bench grinder and other hand-held electric tools plus, of course, many standard hand tools for working both wood and metal. At this point, craftsmanship is a hobby and not a business, so he is able to build what he wants and on his own schedule.

A display of Guillermo Rivera's cannon collection. (Click on photo to view a larger image.)

The cannon collection is made up of scaled down copies of real full-size pieces exhibited in monuments and museums. During his visits to many countries in the Americas and Europe Guillermo has taken detailed photos from which he works to build his models. He works in a scale of 1:20, so the average size of a model is about 6 inches long, 3 inches high and 3 to 4 inches wide, depending on shape and type of carriage. One of the cannons is based on the four field pieces surrounding the Jackson Monument in Washington, DC. This model was made about 40 years ago. Two others are models of cannons displayed at “El Morro,” the old Spanish fortress in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Another is part of a battery displayed at the Alhambra Gardens in Granada, Spain. Others were modeled from photos from magazines and publications from around the world.

Three photos of Guillermo Rivera at work in his shop.. (Click on photo for larger image.)

The models are made in basically the same materials as the full-size items, with brass for the barrel and accessories and hard tropical woods for the carriages. All the models are functional, fired using black powder to propel lead pellets in different calibers.

Here are photos of some of Guillermo Rivera's projects:

(Click photos for larger images.)

A brass cannon on small wheels of the type used on board naval ships. Details show the ratcheting lever that maintains tension on the barrel and how the cap plate the secures the cannon barrel to the carriage. The hand and 35 mm film canister give scale to the small but detailed piece.
  A canon from the Jackson Memorial in Washington, DC was build from photos and measurements taken at the site.
Civil War cannon with Limber. A large box carried wadding and cannon balls. Note the design of the step on the limber where the driver of the team of horses used to tow the rig would mount.
   A Spanish cannon from the 16th Century. A tape measure shows size scale.
A cannon seen at the fortress of El Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A photo of the actual cannon after which the model was built is seen in the background of the 2nd photo.
A Burgundian Falconet
A Chinese Falconet with dragon head figure at the end of the barrel. This model was inspired by the 1963 motion picture with Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner and David Niven: 55 Days at Peking.
An Italian Falconet
A French cannon from the era of Louis XV.
A mortar from the El Morro fortress in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
A Spanish bombard.
A Roman catapult. A stone weight is lifted with a winch to get the kinetic energy to throw a large stone when the catch is released. The throwing arm slams into a large, rope-wrapped timber which helps stop its motion. Though pre-dating cannons, catapults could either be towed to the field of battle or built on-site from local materials.
A Naval Gun. On this model, the barrel is turned from stainless steel rather than brass.
Guillermo Rivera is seen at his desk with some of the other items in his extensive military collection in the background.

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