Model obsessions and fantasy jobs.

This week i spent an enjoyable morning at the London science museum before going to the JBP lecture.   Over the times that i have been there i have been enthused by different exhibits, and the museum has changed over the years so that now there seems to be less ‘stuff’ and much more that is interactive and orientated towards a generation that are more used to seeing things on screens and monitors.   One of my favourite exhibit areas though is still the model gallery which overlooks the Victorian era engineering, funnily enough even the Victorian engineering displays of big steam engines and beam engines makes more sense now that i live in a former mining area of the same era.  The back wall of my shed for example is what would have been the engine shed for the mine and that would at one time have had a steam engine in there.   Today i have a couple of bits of metal work from that sitting in the garden.  I wish i could find some black and white photographs of the mine during its working years but haven’t been able to source one so far…..something like this though :



The model gallery at the science museum has examples of most things from the model-makers craft, from some 18th century sailing warship models built exactly to demonstrate the lines and layout of those frigates and ships of the line.  I didn’t realise that was actually an admiralty requirement at the time but it would have needed teams of highly skilled model-makers doing that job full time.  Years ago i remember seeing quite an unusual display at i believe Peterborough museum which has models made primarily of bone and made by French sailors as prisoners of war during the Napoleonic wars….the prison then being on the outskirts of the city.  Aside from the bone warship models one of the bizarre aspects of that exhibition were the toy sized working guillotines on carts complete with beheaded characters !

Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

Model making was my first serious obsession and that was kicked off entirely from my daily walk to school past the hardware store and model shop in the town where i grew up.   When i wrote the post ‘SDKFZ 234/4’ it was with that in mind, i would like to think there is still a greasy mark on their front window from my nose being pressed up against it most days.  I once jokingly stated during my early teenage years that my version of a porn magazine was the Airfix catalogue .  I guess the other side of this whole obsession came from the many Jerry Anderson television series of the time from Stingray onwards. The series i remember the best was of course Thunderbirds (are go !) and that series was entirely based on models and stop-action film making.  I remember going to the Jerry Anderson exhibition some time during those years, i think i even had a model Thunderbird 2 at the time.


Today i have had to borrow all of these images from the internet, i suspect that the one above must be the much more recent Weta workshops current version which is what i wanted to highlight in this post.   I didn’t know up until this week that the same people that did all the props and models for Peter Jacksons films from LOTR , The Hobbit and King Kong were now working on a completely updated version of Thunderbirds but one that is completely faithful to the original but even better.    That outfit is of course Weta Workshops in Wellington (NZ) and were i a teenaged version of myself that  would have been the ultimate fantasy job for a young model maker.  Just below is a photograph of Weta Workshop’s model for the city of Minas Tirith from LOTR.  The link here is to part of a series that shows how some of the model making was done.



Here at some time when we have got the bathroom finished, the house cleaned and re-decorated around it and then the garden retaining wall faced….in fact after about another 10 crucial jobs…..i want to start on my ‘cabinet of curiosities’ which will be built around the computer desk.  I did the first stage and have a plan for the main piece which will be in the form of a Triptych display cabinet above the computer.  For part of that i am trying to learn to draw properly as the background to the whole intended display will be a pencil drawing of Yggdrasil behind the display.  One of the things i want to put in the eventual display will be a better version of the first model i ever built : the Airfix SDKFZ 234/4 although now i would like to do a much better model in a case.  Whether i still have enough patience and fine dexterity i don’t know….anyway something like this (so tempting but waay too expensive to have a professional model maker do it for me.


Models fascinated me as a child and teenager, and still do today.  While i can look at a drawing and visualize the object in 3 dimensions there is nothing quite like seeing a model of the thing : much better i would say than a computer generated 3d model even considering how good they can be today.  Apparently the skill of being able to read drawings isn’t that common and is a learnt skill although nearly everyone can ‘read’ a miniature as a facsimile of the real object. Lines drawings of boats are a very good example here.  The model though isn’t just the object but can tell a story in its own right and that was the direction i took with my own model making in the years before i stopped modeling and discovered motorcycles, mountains, beer and that strange opposite sex !     Today i don’t know if i have the eyesight, the dexterity or the skill and patience required but am prepared to give it a go again.

In my post ‘SDKFZ 234/4’ i was exploring one of Dr Jordan Petersen’s ideas of how past events shape our lives.  That idea is something i will come back to as i continue with the past authoring work.   In that post i said that a simple childhood hobby gave me a great understanding of form and detail that was later only enhanced by taking subjects like technical drawing at school.  I find that today i can ‘read’ the lines of say a boat from a lines drawing even though its a lot more fun to see a scale model of the same thing . There is by the way a nice model of an IACC 12 metre yacht in the science museum as used in the testing tank.   In my original post though my main point was that model making started as a simple boyhood hobby but then gradually morphed into reading first military history and then the more general and more terrible history of the second world war and the Nazi era.  That was one unintended consequence of a simple hobby and it is my understanding today that people who grow up with and practice crafts and hobbies think differently, even have different mental skills than those who don’t.  Few ‘kids today’ make models but live in the more abstract world of computer generated imagery, that’s not a moan just a fact and i have no further idea of whether that ‘means’ anything.  I do know that many of my generation seem to have better visualisation of technical stuff and far better tool and craft skills……there are of course some exceptions and some great young kids doing awesome models like the guys (and girls) at Weta….long may they sniff the glue !

Obviously totally not mine but kick back with some Thunderbirds…….Thunderbirds are GO !       F.A.B

Clearly….my total respects to the makers and Weta Workshops and yes of course all rights go to the original makers.  In this post i have entirely had to borrow other peoples images, none of which i can credit so if by some random chance you see the post and its your picture i will of course credit you.

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