Thursday, November 3, 2011


Christiana Fesmire
12/17/88 - 7/1/11

The beautiful young lady above is the youngest of our four children. On July first of this year Christiana Fesmire disappeared with no explanation. We spent the next few months in deep despair and in constant prayer. We received a call from the Lewiston, Maine police detective Roland Godbout in October, wanting to meet with us. It was then that we were informed that a man had been arrested and charged with her brutal murder. We know not why exactly, only that he was her neighbor and that they had not gotten along very well. Her remains have yet to be found.

It is obvious from her photo, that she was of rare and stunning beauty. What cannot be seen is the vibrant personality and happy outlook on life that she possessed. Her constant smile and love for snowboarding, bicycling and her family have been taken from her now and these are sorely missed by everyone who knew her. I wish to thank everyone for the outpouring of sympathy that the family has received.

Please forgive me for placing this tragedy before you in this otherwise positive look into an activity I have loved and enjoyed presenting to you. But I need to put my hobby in the back seat of my life for a while. I'm sure I will return to it someday so until then be patient. In the meantime, please say a prayer for our little one that her soul is at peace. We miss her immensely.

Update:  This is to inform all those who have so considerately offered their condolences at our loss, that on Friday, November 16, 2012, Buddy Robinson was found guilty in the murder of our youngest child, Christiana. It does not do anything to comfort us in our loss but does provide us one more element of closure to this tragedy. Many thanks for the diligence of local and state law enforcement agencies and the Maine Attorney General's Office in the successful prosecution. Our only hope for Mr. Robinson is that he will share in our sorrow at his actions of July 1, 2011 and that it will permeate his daily thoughts as it does ours. He has not yet been sentenced and Christiana's remains are still not found.

Update: Body found. It seems that upon his conviction, Mr. Robinson wished to do something to get a reduced sentence. His legal council advised him to give up the whereabouts of Christiana's remains. After agreeing to a sentence of 40 years with the State's Attorney General's  Office, he gave police the exact location. She was found only a few hundred feet from the intersection of Wagg and Ferry Rds. in Lisbon, Maine in a heavily wooded area. State Police forensics will be making an official identification and trying to determine a cause of death. We are grateful at this discovery and hope to have Christiana in her final resting place in a family plot at Maple Grove Cemetery near Round Pond, Maine. May she now rest in peace.


   Update: It's been over two years now since learning of the tragic fate of our little girl. The judicial system here in Maine is quite slow but finally today, sentencing was pronounced for our daughter's murderer, Buddy Robinson. Even today, Mr. Robinson offered no apologies for his actions and supplied the court with a ten minute rant on what a great guy he was. The judge, Justice Kennedy was not impressed with his speech and was actually annoyed at his inability to offer a reason or apology for what he did. It was for this reason that she decided to up the sentence that the District Attorney and defense attorney agreed upon of 40 years to 55 years. We are grateful for her ability to see clearly that just because Buddy Robinson seems to be a well mannered, polite young man, doesn't mean that there aren't well mannered, polite murderers walking the face of the earth. Our experience now with the courts, law enforcement and the media is now over and we look forward to revisiting Christiana in a positive, loving manner.   May she live on in our memories and be happy wherever she may be.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Filling in the blanks

As I mentioned a few posts back, I've been on the disabled list for a while with my knee problems. And managed to do quite a few models sitting here with nothing better to do. I'm not a big TV watcher so in keeping my fingers and mind busy have these additions to my former posting on what I've been doing.

A project that sat half finished for some time is the Mack LJSW from Sheepscot Scale. Had no idea where to go with this until I decided to buy the stinger trailer for logging from Dennis Aust. Well they have been sold out for some time and I wasn't too familiar with back dating the trailer to the era of the truck so I decided to make this an eastern rig anyway. We see mostly straight trucks here in New England for logging and this model seems to fit the bill.

The truck was placed on an Athearn B model Mack chassis in order to get the correct Mack suspension. The frame was lengthened slightly and the bunks were scratch built from styrene. The cab steps are photo etched diamond plate on wire supports. The headlights were made from shaped styrene rod and have bent styrene strip mounting brackets. The exhaust is aluminum tubing used by R/C airplane modelers for fuel lines.

The next truck worth mentioning is the 1941,46,47 Chevy that I've made into a rural fire department pumper unit. The bed is entirely scratch built from styrene sheet. The process I use for scratch building most of my bodies starts with finding out the size of the prototype. I then calculate the size in scale and do a drawing on my computer using a vector based drafting program. I print two copies of this on Manila card stock. One I cut out and glue up as a mock up to see how the bed will fit my chassis. The second I cut out and use for templates for the styrene, brass, wood or whatever material I am building with. I then can replicate the body as many times as I want.

The Chevy cab and chassis are from Sylvan Scale. To it I have added a rotating beacon made from two different size styrene rod and a fender mounted siren from Ralph Ratcliffe models. Also from Ralph is the nifty Indian pack on the driver side running board. The wheels are from Jordan that can be purchased separately from them. The running boards on the pumper body are photo etched diamond plate and the hose reel is scratch built as well.

Staying with 1946 a moment brings us to the year the Colecto-Pak refuse body by Heil was first introduced. This was the first actual compaction refuse body ever produced. After seeing an advertisement from Heil of that year featuring the 46 Chevy cab over, I knew where I was going with this one. The cab and chassis are again from Sylvan with the Jordan wheels. The packer unit was taken from measured drawings I found and completely scratch built from sheet styrene using the method I describe above. Below is the drawn profile of the packer unit.

Another model I want to show this post is also a 1946 Chevy cab over, it also from Sylvan and having the Jordan wheels. This time in a wrecker. The bed was scratch built as was the tow unit winch and boom.

One last quickie here since I showed it in the Jordan posting earlier but it's the first one I did after surgery and one of my personal favorites. In July of 1917 the U.S. government contracted Ford to produce a field ambulance for the war. By September, there were 2400 already built with a wooden body on the Ford touring car chassis. So this 1/87 scale model utilizes the Jordan Model T touring car chassis and front clip. The rest of the ambulance is scratch built from styrene sheet. The cab canopy and rear flap are tissue paper.

It is time again to sign off and see what's on Oprah. Yeah right.

How'd you do dat?

There are always questions about a build when others view it. "How did you do that?" echos throughout the forums and lists when someone shows a successful piece of modeling and often the creator is generous enough to share his/her process. Without this sharing of knowledge, I certainly would not be at the point I am with my modeling for there are many in all scales that have contributed to my experience. I have mentioned names like Ken Hamilton, Joe Enriquez and Chuck Doan before here to give credit for a certain technique or material but there are dozens of great modelers out there that can offer good solid modeling basics if you just know where to go and who to listen to. Yes, unfortunately there is not so good, if not simply incorrect information too. So what to look for to find correct information with regard to scale and prototypical accuracy becomes the question.
First of all study photos. I understand that photography plays a big part in this modeling endeavor and many of us aren't as good photographers as we are modelers. But one can't really tell how good a model is by seeing small (500 pixels or less) photos of finished models. If you don't believe that look at what kind of detail is shown on these 4 and 5 hundred pixel photos. Then click on them to see what you're missing. The best modelers I know take detailed shots of individual assemblies in large format. You can really see the details close up and isn't that what modeling is all about? Being able to see in miniature what we see in real life. If you can see fine details well constructed to scale in a photo then you have a better idea of what kind of modeler is doing the build and is he/she worth listening to.

I let my photos speak for themselves and you be the judge of how good I am (or not). I try to convey in a photo the best description of the model seen as if you were holding it. Yes, I try to make an esthetically appealing photo but making sure the model and it's details are the photo's foremost feature. I won't try to tell you how to take photos because I do not profess to be all that good at it. And because that's not the point of this writing (read: rant). I just want to say that being able to actually see all of a model and every small detail in it is the best way to judge whether a modeler has anything valuable to contribute. The proof is in the puddin'!

The truck crane featured is not a particularly spectacular model in my opinion. I took a rather complicated subject to build that I really liked and sacrificed some precision on the build in order to complete it. But it conveys the feel of the original prototype and has been done in a plausible manner. Key word here being plausible. Is the model something that actually existed and if so are the proportions to scale and accurately placed? Are the details era specific and appropriate to the size, use and type of vehicle you are building? These are questions you have to answer yourself as the builder and good research will help in a successful project. Just saying that it looks right to you isn't going to get a superior model unless you're very lucky. Measure, do the math and know that you're right. The prototype of this truck shows no winch or motor to power it in the bed of the truck. I make the "plausible" assumption then that the winch is under the bed with PTO from the driveshaft.

The bed was the easiest part of this particular project of course being a simple sheet of styrene cut to fit. I used the styrene deck from the Roco model for this and glued .125" U channel around the perimeter with wheel well cut outs in the appropriate spot. The Boom frame is .10" U channel that has had the center cut out. .015" styrene strips were used for the X bracing inside the cut out and a slightly wider strip was used for the diagonal bracing front and back. Blocks were glued inside the top of the frame to accept the pulley in back and support rods from the bumper. These rods are very stiff steel used by R/C/ model airplane builders for control rods to flaps etc. The bumper is the same .125" U channel, drilled out on the top to accept styrene eye bolts from Tichy. The same eye bolts are used on the top of the boom frame.

The boom is again the .125" U channel spaced apart with lattice work on the bottom of the boom from the same strip styrene as used for the frame diagonals. the end has a sheave made from styrene rod and pinned in place with rivets from Tichy. I used the rivets for ornamentation as well down the length of the boom in a plausible pattern. At the base of the boom, a 3/32" styrene tube was cut to length and a block glued to it to attach the boom foot, fastened with a styrene rod with rounded ends. To round the ends of a styrene rod, hold it close to (not in) a flame until you see it round over. It makes a perfect convex. To the bottom of this, I fixed a block of styrene with gears from Vector Cut. These are highly detailed laser cut reinforced card stock. All sits on a raised platform of grooved styrene to simulate a wood deck.

Finally, the not so great pulley is a brass strip bent in the shape of a U, drilled out and a piece of styrene rod was pinned inside with Tichy rivets. The cabling is cotton (not recommended) that has been run through moustache wax to relieve it of it's fuzzies.

For the finishes I use, please take some time to go through the archives here. I have posted on several topics the methods I use to acquire the desired finished look on individual models. Suffice it to say that this model didn't get a lot of weathering treatments since I really didn't want a beater look to it but rather just a working truck. I hope this has been informative as well as entertaining. I enjoy bringing it and my models to the world. The world you say? I have just shipped models to Switzerland, Santiago, Chile and Paris, France just this week. It gives me great pleasure to know that over the years in every continent but Antarctica, someone may be viewing a bit of my work. And what better way to promote the hobby than presenting the real article not just a photo on the computer. So thank you for visiting and please check back often. Oh, don't forget, clicking on these images that accompany the text brings up larger photos.

Friday, May 27, 2011

On a roll

I had to have knee surgery in February so things slowed down considerably as I have been recuperating. In fact I have not been back to work and here it is the end of May. But the knee is feeling great and whenever my company says so, I'm back to work. This has been a blessing to some degree in that I've been cranking out lots of models. There have been so many in fact that I'm only going to show a small portion of all that I built.

I've had the opportunity to write a few articles for the Spanish model railroad magazine Maquatren that feature my truck builds. These folks are mostly interested in European prototypes so my options are limited as to subject matter. The first piece is modeled from a photo of a real rail work car sent me by the very talented Spanish modeler Alberto Herrera. It is of a Zis-5 believe it or not and apparently some of these were pressed into rail service and saw action throughout Europe. The model is of course the Roco piece that has had a few modifications aside from the wheel replacement. The most obvious of them is the flat bed which is actually the floor of the body that comes with the Roco model that has had it's wooden sides cut off. The only other change from the kit is a scratch built fuel tank. This was an easy build but yielded a really unique model. Finished it off by weathering it for a working but not abused rig.

The next magazine article was again inspired by a photo given to me by Alberto of a Model AA wrecker that was seen in Spain. These trucks were available world wide so they manage to capture the interest of those from just about everywhere. The base model is the Jordan Products Ford Model AA 1 1/2 ton truck that I scratch built the bed and tow unit for. I copied the bed on the truck in the photo and must say it's lines are perfectly suited to the AA. Went again with trying to convey a working but not dilapidated truck with the weathering. This has turned into one of my favorite builds.

This next project was a compulsion to do some diorama work. I resorted to the old peanut butter jar lid and built this stand alone desktop variety diorama of an old junker in the back corner of a boneyard. The truck is a cast metal kit of the 1920 (?) Kleiber from On Track. The fence is wood and the junk all around is from the parts boxes.

Well that didn't satisfy my diorama urges enough I suppose because I went right into this one that is featured at the top of this posting. I had some architectural taskboard that I glued on a piece of 1/4 " plywood. Cut a hole for a door and plastered what was surrounding the hole. I then scribed the stones with a dental pick and washed them with a light brown. Then I dry brushed the whole thing with a dirty white followed by some touch up with some colored pencils. The wood above and the doors are red birch veneer. The hinges I made from paper wrapped around a small steel pin on the end. We're lucky here to have a lichen that grows on the trunks of trees called "old man's beard" that I used for the ivy. It was sprayed dark brown and while still wet, dipped in tea leaves. This was then sprayed green. the paint made the lichen limp so I spread it out on a piece of glass the way I wanted it to crawl up the wall. When dry it hardened and was easy to glue on the wall.
The vehicle is the 1929 Model A woody wagon. Not too much to say about it except that if it ever comes out of the barn the owner will see it built finished and weathered the same all around. All of this fits into a 4 inch square viewing area and the box is 3 1/2 inches deep.

Again, this is only a small portion of what I've finished the last few months. I'll try to post more as time allows but for now, enjoy! Don't forget that clicking on these photos takes you to a larger image. And thanks for taking the time to look.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On a Jordan jag

It was recommended to me years ago when I got into this hobby that if I was going to do any of the Jordan Products kits that I do more than one in a row. There's a mindset that one needs to get into when building these little guys. I've found that it does help, in fact, to stay with the flow. These are inexpensive injected molded plastic kits with a terrific amount of detail for their size. Steam era guys love these models and they've been around for a long time. But building them correctly takes a good deal of patience and a steady hand (lay off the coffee for the day). I don't build them like the directions say to and my methods of painting them is not what most do either. I recently acquired several so let's walk through the process sans in-progress shots unfortunately (sorry!).

The first step is to look at the directions and familiarize yourself with the parts. Once you have a good general idea of where and how everything fits, clean off any flash and parting lines. I use a #11 blade to cut and scrape the parts clean from the sprue. This may be the most important step you take with these and great care must be taken not to damage anything during this process. Now, a good styrene plastic solvent glue is probably your best bet on these since some of the contact points are so tiny. Solvent glue actually welds the parts together where an ACC (super glue) would not give the strongest bond. Once entirely cleaned of excess plastic and pieces are shaped to what they need to be, a simple washing of the parts helps for a good strong connection at glue joints. I simply drop pieces in a cup with alcohol and pull them out as I go. They dry quickly and the alcohol seems to cut any mold release and oils from my fingers. It also washes away the fuzzies created by the scraping with a gentle scrub with an old, out-of-use toothbrush (emphasizing "old, out-of-use" here please).

Kit bashing these Jordan pieces are quite easy. The tanker body from the Model AA fits handily on the Model TT and the Model TT stake bed fits just as easily on the Model AA and so on. The Model TT has a nicely done flat head engine that can be exposed merely by leaving the sides of the hood off and can quickly be adapted for the Model AA. I also found that to change the look on these models may be a simple as cutting the doors off. The cab interior is detailed enough to make them quite presentable in this manner.

I glue sub-assemblies up such as the chassis with suspensions, or intricate bodies. And never attach wheels to anything until the very end. This is where I differ from the directions. They would have you gluing the entire model together and hand painting the details. I find the raw plastic to be (for lack of a better word) translucent looking. So I paint the sub-assemblies before final assembly careful not to get paint where gluing would be necessary for the final attachments. Again for instance, where the wheels attach to the axles or where the body connects to the chassis. This is difficult if you use an airbrush like I do for a lot of painting. There are several ways to avoid getting paint where you don't want it. I use a product called "blue tack" which is a very sticky putty. I pull a small chunk of it off and will mold it around axle ends. For areas like the top of the chassis where bodies connect, I will put a dab of rubber cement that can easily be pulled off after painting to reveal the raw plastic. I will now paint bodies and such with the airbrush. Wheels are usually painted by hand. I should mention that almost every model I build anymore will be painted with a coat of a dark brown color first, everything! My favorite choice of color is the acrylic PolyScale RR tie brown and yes it is difficult to airbrush but keep in mind that total coverage is not usually necessary at this step in the game.

This paint dries very quickly (one of the reasons it is tough to airbrush, it has a tendency to dry in the orifice of the airbrush as you work). Thinning (only very slightly!) with Windex helps this. When dry, I will put finish coats on. For the undercarriage, it isn't necessary to do anything else to it except, since most of the chassis sub-assembly has fenders attached, I paint the fenders by hand. Here's where a little trick I learned from Ken Hamilton's book comes in. For black fenders on these models (or any body part painted black for that matter), I paint the model with some old dirty brush thinner with a little Floquil engine black mixed in. Then I disconnect the paint cup while the model is still wet and blow it with just the air from the airbrush. Some of the brown undercoat will show through in a random pattern creating the nifty patina that the original paint on these real vintage vehicles have. It doesn't matter that some of the blackish mixture has seeped onto the undercarriage here so don't fret. I treat the cab and body the same if black is the color I want. If not, I paint them (again, usually with the airbrush) the color of choice. Caution should be taken not to apply too much paint put only enough paint on for minimal coverage. Some of the brown undercoat should be visible in places like panel lines and deep crevices. I might even say that the model isn't really painted but merely misted. This is the reason I do not use spray cans (rattle cans, fizz bombs, you choose what you want to call them) . They lay out entirely too much paint to get the look I want on these tiny models.

Let these enamels dry well. Since not a lot of paint has been applied, there should be no fear of lifting the acrylic brown undercoat and drying times are cut down as well. When dry, you can start final assembly. Peel off the masks you used and begin to detail paint by hand. I paint the radiators and anything else that one would call bright work (chrome) the RR tie brown. A little trick I learned from the talented Rod Reilly is to then use a soft graphite to give these areas the metal look. After painting the tires a dark gray (never black) I use a pencil to color the rim where it meets the rubber. Hit the radiator, door handles, hinges on tailgates, gas caps etc., any part that is to be bright metal with the pencil. It is so much easier to control than trying to paint silver and the look is that of aged chrome. The only exception for this technique is the recess in the headlights which I do paint silver. Caution should be taken from this point on not to touch these areas since the graphite from the pencil will easily be rubbed off. In fact during the process of applying washes much of this look disappears but retouching again afterwards is easy. I do not use the clear headlight lenses provided with the kit but place a drop of white wood glue carefully in the recess provided on most of the lights in their kits. I should add at this point that
this technique of doing headlights applies to models of all types.

At this stage you may have a very respectable model. But I can't leave well enough alone and feel the need to age the models even further. These next steps can be used with just about any kind of model here. So I start with a series of washes. My first wash on any color other than black is a panel wash with inexpensive craft paints (Folk Art, Ceramcoat, Apple Barrel) in a black mixed with windshield washer fluid. These dry completely flat which is a plus for the next phase, that of chalking. Often I will seal with dullcoat (again only misting) between coats of washes so the subsequent wash doesn't lift or mix with previous ones. Next color wash would be burnt umber followed by the final wash of raw sienna. I have several of the small plastic trays that Preiser figures come in that I use when doing washes. I fill each compartment with clean washer fluid and keep a paper towel handy. In order to get the right amount of color in the washes, I will take a dollop of the craft paint and put it on the tray. With a dampened brush I pick up some of the color and mix it in the fluid and then apply it to the model. If too much color, I empty the contents of the brush on the paper towel, wick away the wash from the model, dip in some clean fluid and wash the model again. Trial and error is the process here and I may repeat this several times before I get the wash to look how I want it. I do not want drip marks to be seen and I can actually place undiluted paint on specific spots while the wash is still wet and concentrate the color in these areas without sharp delineations. Particular areas where this is effective are rust streaks and dark stains going down the sides of fuel tanks. While the area is still wet, place the color at the origin of a streak and drag it downwards vertically. The color will dissipate in the wet leaving no trace of a brush mark.

The next step in my finishing of these models uses artist chalks. I have not tried commercially available weathering powders and hope to soon but this is what I do in the mean time. Yellow ochre is my choice for dust and dirt in and around the bottom of the models especially the tire/wheel area. I use a light gray on the top of them sparingly to simulate faded paint. And rusted areas get a very light coating of real rust powder made with steel wool. Exhaust pipes get a light hit with Indian red.
Barely noticeable in most of the photos is a texture on the roof areas of the Model T's. This can be accomplished one of two ways. First and easiest is when you paint the roof (I prefer PolyScale Grimy Black) while the paint is still wet (move fast, remember this acrylic stuff dries fast) sprinkle some dark gray or black powdered chalk into the wet paint. The second method is what I do most of the time but takes some time and effort to get right. Cut a small piece of toilet paper and separate the plies. Lay one ply on the roof and place a drop of a 50/50 mix of water/wood glue mixture on the paper. Take a wetted brush and manipulate the paper over the casting creating small folds on the corners and making sure that it lays flat. When dry carefully cut the excess away following the lines of the model roof and paint. This method allows for a good textured look and also can be used to create damage to this area of the model if so desired.

Lastly, I will do turn signals (virtually non existent in the era most represented by the Jordan line but worth mentioning here) with yellow food coloring mixed with wood glue and red food coloring used for brake lights. I go back and check bright work with the pencil and touch up areas that have disappeared and wait for everything to dry and the models are ready to be photographed.

I scratch build much of what you see here like the WW1 ambulance above but that is for an entirely different post that I will attempt someday. My hope was to familiarize folks with the procedure I use to complete this form of 1/87 scale model outside of the manufacturers recommendations. Again I apologize for not showing any step by step photos but quite frankly, I get caught up in the build and simply forget to take pictures.