Alex Coplo didn’t plan to be on a reality TV show, but when given a chance to work with one of his idols, he couldn’t pass up the new adventure.
The Bluffton architectural model and renderings specialist was contacted by producers from the new History Channel show, “Assembly Required,” to be part of the cast.
“They saw my postings on Instagram and reached out to me in June 2020,” Coplo said. “At first, I’m thinking this is just a joke, but the more they reached out, the more I saw it was real.”
Not only was it real, but Coplo would be doing the show with hosts Tim Allen and Richard Karn, who previously paired together on the long-running ABC sitcom, “Home Improvement.”
The show was one of Coplo’s favorites when he first immigrated to the U.S. from Argentina in 1992.
“I learned English watching cartoons, soap operas and shows like their show. I loved it. Tim was my hero, our family always loves all his movies,” he said. “So when they told me it was Tim the Toolman and Al doing this show, my jaw just dropped.”
History Channel producers came to Bluffton in November to film Coplo’s segment. He was supposed to be part of the show’s seventh episode, but show executives were so impressed with Coplo and his competitors, his episode was moved to be the Feb. 23 premiere of the show.
“Producers called me about a week before. They said that of all the episodes they filmed and the hundreds of applicants to be on the show, they liked us best,” he said. “So that was quite a thrill.”
The show pits amateur makers against each other, giving them a project to complete with parts sent to each contestant’s home.
Coplo competed against Jesse Jennings from Billings, Mont., and Sean French from Arizona. The first challenge was to build in 90 minutes a fire extinguisher out of air tanks, water nozzles, hoses, an air pump, a back rest and a backing board.
“I was just sweating like crazy. Immediately, I’m thinking, ‘Why did I get myself into this situation?’,” Coplo said. “I’ve got producers in my ear and I can hear Tim and Richard cracking jokes as they watched me. It was hilarious. Tim cracked a joke about me being able to kill a man with a tape measure and I lost it. I was just trying to stay calm.”
Coplo moved on to face French in the final showdown, where the two had to build an all-season leaf blower that could also blow snow and melt ice. The parts for the second project came about a week after the first, with each contestant given five days to complete the task.
“It was just nuts. They messed with the leaf blower motor, so I had to figure out that the spark plug needed tweaking,” Coplo said. “And from there, we had more crew there and we’re working with fire, so they were super careful and prepared.”
Coplo patterned his design after a World War II P-51 Mustang airplane. He won the design judging but lost on ingenuity and functionality to French, who took home the $5,000 prize.
“Richard, he wasn’t working the fire starter right, but I wasn’t too let down. It was just such a thrill to be part of,” Coplo said. “I went above and beyond on both projects and felt that I represented my talents and my family well.”
Coplo has been a Bluffton resident since 2012. He is a self-taught modeler and at first worked for an architectural firm in Maryland. That firm moved his family to North Carolina before it went out of business during the 2010 recession. After a brief stint alone in San Francisco, Coplo decided to move with his wife, Rosalynn, and three kids to Bluffton.
“We lost our home in North Carolina, I had $6,000 coming to Bluffton but we were determined to make it, and this town has been amazing to me,” he said. He later bought a home here. His Mom, Sonia, and brother, Julio, also live in Bluffton.
Coplo at first worked did part-time trophy engraving work before connecting with Low Tide Designs owner Sam Liberti. His work earned raves from clients, enough to lead Coplo to start his own business, 3D Topics.
“I do scale models, animation and renderings out of my home studio,” he said. “I’ve been so fortunate to be so busy. My work consumes me, so much so that I haven’t gotten out and explored the area as much as we want to.”
His daughter, Ashley, is soon graduating from The Citadel and is set to become a U.S. Marine officer. His two younger sons, Michael and Gabriel, have both attended Bluffton schools.
Coplo said he is a “soon to be 49-year-old kid” who still collects Star Wars action figures.
“My sons love the collection. Watching those movies growing up in Argentina, I felt like anything I could imagine was possible,” said Coplo, who became a U.S. citizen in 2014. “My family and I, we owe Bluffton so much. I hope I made the town proud.”
Coplo was not paid for the appearance, but did receive a tool bag from the show that he adores.
“It’s filled with micro tools that I use every day,” he said. “I love what I do. I love to share the talents God blessed me and am just so blessed. My kids, they work extra hard in school and make me so proud. I came to America thinking I was here on a vacation, met my wife and never left. And now, I get to say I’m friends with Tim Allen. That’s pretty cool.”
See more of Coplos work, including some stunning Storm Troopers models, on Instagram @3dtopics.
Tim Wood of Bluffton is a veteran reporter and editor.