My Dad worked in a factory for over forty years. One of five brothers, he loved basketball and being outdoors. During WWII he served stateside as an Army X-ray technician, one of the guys who set up and operated the X-ray machine.

After the war he went to work in a local factory that made automotive gears. He worked various jobs and machines until being promoted to second shift supervisor and finally running the tool cage (where the precision instruments for setting up the machines were located) before retiring.

He loved a good joke and could kid with the best of them but he was also a quiet man who would work slowly and methodically. He enjoyed woodworking and what I remember most is how patient he was with sanding. Dad would spend hours that stretched into days sanding a project to a fine finish. It relaxed him.

We all have mentors who influence our work in ways we don’t always appreciate. I have some of Dad’s tools at my bench and think of his quiet, methodical work style when, for God only knows why; I’m rushing through a project.

I think back to the magazine articles by Jack Work or Paul Larson that I read over and over as a kid. Modeling like theirs was beyond me then but I was inspired none-the-less and dreamed of the day when my work might be as good. The funny thing about those articles is that I don’t recall the specifics of how they did something, but how they made me feel like I could do the work too.

Modeling today is different because I’m a different person; more self-aware and comfortable with the skills I’ve gained from many experiences in life. I still draw on the examples of other modelers whose works I admire and respect, who don’t realize they’ve had an impact on my own work. Maybe I should write a few emails and tell them about it. Maybe we all could do that while we still can.



  1. steve hurt

    Great stuff Mike, you will really make me ramble with this one!!
    As I have told you before, my dad is who got me into models. At 82 he still builds models and is active in his club 1-3 days a week to the point we never ask him to do any family activity on train day. As a kid he helped me learn to build and improve models. As I got older he has always been the guy I could show a project I am working on to and he will let me know whats wrong and what doesn’t look right. Which is a huge help to make a good finished product. In the P.C. era just getting several “wow looks great” comments doesn’t really help. He took me to contests or years before I could ever drive and still tags along today. When I was young he would build models after I went to bed, but if he finished something he would leave it on the table so I would see it at breakfast. In a family of model railroaders that is basically like Christmas morning.
    He also bought me my first copy of Sherperd Paine’s “How to Build Dioramas” book. That changed me forever. I read it every day and experimented trying to emulate the models shown there. I still use techniques I got from that book 40 years ago. SP was a huge influence for me.
    Another was a truck modeler named Clint Freeman. Clint was a scratchbuilder that build amazing models and ordinary subjects. Just my style.
    Over the years other guys have made an impact. A couple fellow Frisco modelers that tackled projects I still have not attempted.
    Several years ago, I went to an IPMS national meet. Going there I thought I built decent models. Boy was I wrong, my stuff was embarrassing for me once I saw some of the models there. That single event really made me rethink what was “good enough”. But I did meet a few guys that really helped me learn how to step up my models. Mark Muller and Patrick Moore were military modelers but with a detailed eye that was important to learn from. Mark an IPMS national best of show winner with a Russian railgun he scratchbilt. I learned alot from both about sanding seams and making parts fit square, seems basic until you see what you aren’t doing. They both built incredibly clean (technique and fit) models.
    A few years ago I met up with sevral modelers from the RustBucket forum. Guys there like Gary Christiansen raised the bar for weathering like I had never seen the likes of. They are not scratchbuilders and intense project builders but artist with an eye for nothing but proto replication in their paint and photography.
    Combining all those over 40 plus years of building models has lead me to some odd projects for sure. But I still try to make every model better than my last model. I also never go back to old models to touch them up. I only go back to them to see what can be better.
    It is kind of funny, some of my influences were negative at the time but an impact none the less. As a young model railroader there were plenty of guys I met that treated me bad. They wanted me to know that model railroading was not for kids and I was not welcome. As my models improved my dad always wanted me to enter the adult classes at contests. He knew it would make me better. When I would be upset at the older guys that would not give me the time of day he would always tell me to shrug it off and build models better than theirs. We still talk about them today. When one of my models was on the same page of a magazine beside George Selios I always hoped they saw it, even if they wouldn’t know who I was now. Even though they treated me bad it pushed me more than anything to make the best models I could.
    The last one to mention was the one guy that took me in as a kid modeling. His name was Lee Warren, he would let me come to his house, run trains, build models for his layout etc…. He passed away many many years ago. But I wont forget him for sure.

    Enough rambling, thanks Mike!!!

  2. mike

    Hi Steve,

    I also had many folks help me over the years. Jim Canter and Warner Clark gave me a solid start in P48. My junior high school guidance counselor was a model railroader and showed me the basics of handlaying track at an early age. Folks like Gene Deimling, Jim Zwernemann and Robert Leners continue to inspire me with their work and make me want to improve my own. I’m certain there will be others in the future.