Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Gepetto the Toymaker

He refers to himself as Gepetto the Toymaker. And sometimes making toys can come in handy.

I'm talking about my own dear spouse, who I call Bear.

Last year the folks at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) here in Oklahoma City got wind of the fact that my Bear is pretty handy at making things, especially anything and everything that flies. They approached him with a little idea for making a few training models for their new air traffic control students.

Gepetto got immediately to work. First he had to make a protype of each aircraft type they wanted. Next, came developing molds for 'mass production', purchasing supplies, and beginning the endless process of mixing, pouring, and and waiting for each unit to dry. Once the resin is 'set', the unit is ready for removal; one by one, each individual airplane is slowly and carefully taken out of the mold, meticulously cleaned and painted, a laborious and painstaking process. Just one man, a messy garage and plenty of dedication.

Needless to say, when his airplanes were featured recently on Good Morning America, Bear/Gepetto was quite proud. No, he doesn't get named. They don't even talk about his hard work, but they do show it here and now you know the rest of the story. Sometimes it's kind of fun to be taken behind the scenes . . .

Want to hear what the Toymaker has to say about it?

Here are some of the models I have built for the FAA. All are made to 1/200 scale (1" = 200"), the scale for most of the FAA trainer jets. In the three-airplane picture are prototypes which I carved from Bassword, sanded to shape, then painted with primer to smooth them for molding. The largest T-tail jet is a RJ (Regional Jet), and the smaller jet is meant to represent a Falcon. The smallest is an approximation of a 310-size twin. The RJ is approximately six inches long, and the 310 is approximately two inches long. The other picture is of finished models; a Citation-type business jet, and a standard 172-sized airplane. The FAA requires them in plain white paint for the most part, with windows and no paint schemes. The reason? They keep walking off with students!

Also included is a shot of a citation in the rough as it comes out of the mold, with the two pink mold halves opened up. The models are cast in Urethane resin, a non-toxic resin with good strength characteristics to hold up to handling. It is relatively expensive, and cures in six to 20 minutes depending on heat and humidity. I cannot mold in the summer time; the resin cures in less than 2 minutes, which means I can't get the resin mixed and poured in time to ensure a good cast.

Problems? bubbles in the mold and the resin; that means I have to hand fill every pore in the skin of the cast model with putty, wait for it to dry, and then sand it down. Sometimes I have to do it more than once before painting. And worst of all: I sometimes have models that just don't fully cast for a lot of reasons. The picture of the "bucket of shame" says it all... how many don't make the cut. You never find out until you split the mold after it cures... and start over again. Each successful model requires approximately 3 hours from start to finish. Multiply that by 60 and do the math... It's laborious, and that's all I'll say!

No comments:

Post a Comment