I am and have been since I was seven years of age a model builder. I started with Airfix Spitfires like every other brat in the early 1970’s. Discovering a Tamiya catalogue in the local hobby shop I was instantly enthralled by cartoons of German tankers operating an 88mm gun in the turret of their Tiger 1 tank and the colour photos of completed dioramas. I moved on to armour and figurines and that is where I remained. A workshop is not an absolute for a modeller. Many modellers create gold medal winning works of art on the dinning room table and I have seen one workshop that was a converted bathroom. And when I say converted, I do mean it duel purpose!
In 1982 at the age of 17 I gave it up, rediscovering military modelleing some twenty years later in the 1990’s as a way to spend less time riding about Los Angeles on an old BMW boxer motorbike whilst visiting far too many dance clubs. In a way, modelling was my salvation. I managed a few years without a dedicated workshop, but to partake in my love of dioramas I would need a proper work space. By ’95 I had a house to myself with a two car garage. As a single boy with one car the garage could serve two masters.
This was my first workshop. In the garage of my house in Studio City, California 1995-2000. Studio City is “the Valley” and from June-October during mid-day it could be 94f (34c). Unbarable. I tried. Sweat would pour down my nose and drip onto my model. The garage was a bit dumpy and detached from the house. In the rainy season I had to sprint to the garage and the only external light came from the door to the pool area open. I could never leave the garage door open as my nosy neighbors came sniffing around, distracting me.
I find it amusing as I go through workshop incarnations—some now thousands of miles away from Southern California I have the same unbuilt kits which have travelled with me.
A funny antidote from this my Studio City workshop. I had a girlfriend who went in to the garage looking for CA Glue to repair a broken fingernail. I had at the time a very complicated assembly drying on the workbench—photo etch handwheels and mount for the Tiger 1 88mm main gun. All resin components from Tank Workshop interior set, which at the time were state-of-the-art. Of course when I returned to the workshop later this assembly had gone missing and no amount of searching turned it up. I asked her if she touched anything in the the workshop when she went to use the CA Glue. “Oh no,” she replied. And how dare I suggest she had. She became and ex-girlfriend. Four years later when I tore apart the workshop to move it into the house I found the Tank Workshop resin assembly. It was in the back of a drawer under a pile of sandpaper. A little passive-aggresive behaviour, perhaps?
After New Year 2000, when all the fear of computers and bank ATM’s failing due to the millinium died off I decided to convert a spare room in the house into my workshop. I had by this time aquired five Gerstner wood tool chests and had no space for them in the garage workshop. In the house there was more space, better light and central air in the summer and heat in the winter. The first model I finished here was Tamiya’s new Famo. The comfort of the room was apparently good for my modelling skills. The Famo appeared in Issue #3 of AFV Modeller.
I only used this workshop for two years. In 2002 I moved a few short miles to a new house off of Beverly Glen. Here I had the possability to custom build a workshop. It would be one that until this day remains my favorite workshop.
The first thing I noticed when I went to have a look at the Sherman Oaks house was a room off of the living room with a lot of natural light and French Doors to a terrace providing fresh air aplenty. It had a laundry and bathroom ensuite so I reckened it wouldn’t serve as a guest bedroom. Although the house was in the hills it was still San Fernando Valley and still it got hot as hades. Thankfully the house and workshop had central-air. I removed the ceiling exposing the beamed ceiling, adding tracked lighting, and a ceiling fan with additional lighting. I replaced the carpeted floor which devoured dropped parts never to be seen again and put in Spanish tile. Custom built counter tops and cabinetry was then installed. I layed out the counter tops in a rough “W” shape giving me twin workstations. One for modelling. Another for airbrushing. For the first time I had black countertops to absorb some of the bright lights bouncing up into my eyes from the halogen lamps. I lost all the advantage the black tops gave me when I had glass sheets cut to lay over the tops. But the glass protected the countertops when glue or paint spilled. It could easily be wiped off or be removeed with a razor blade. In the above photo you can see the future past. On the workbench is a resin Land Wasser Schlepper and on one of the tool chests behind an unfinished wood fishing boat. Both later became part of the diorama “Herr Hauptmann’s Champagne.”
My personal taste is for loads of sunlight. It’s certainly not great for modelling, but I am a big vitamin D freak and to be honest I get blue when I can’t look at sunshine and blue skies everyday. California—like Spain—is almost guarenteed sunshine all the year. As I later learnt, the good weather spoilt me.
Look at all those windows. Built in 1929, this was considered an old house in Sherman Oaks. So many things date this photo at right. First generation 15″ MacBook Pro, T-Factory teacup and beer stein. A polaroid of my cat Squeak who died at 18 years of age in 2006. A framed photo of Ron Volstad with Raymond Guilliani of Steel Masters and modeller Barry Gazso at Dragan Expo 2004. The ‘old school’ tube televsion. Above it a TiVo box for recording television programmes digitally when the Century Cable box was still analog. Even a bottle of Fiji water which I drank for years before discovering VOSS from Norway. A real snapshot of life in February of 2006.
The Sherman Oaks workshop felt like a modelling “Golden Age.” I discovered a great hobby shop in L.A. run by Jon Tamkin called Mission Models. Most of the rare resin figurnes and kits came from his shop. These were also the years in which I began travelling to Europe for concorsos. My first Euro-Militaire was in 2003 and AMT Torrent in Spain. My first being in 2005. I had a video camera mounted on the wall which permitted modellers worldwide to watch the T-Factory club meetings. As I result of this I met Per Olaf Lund.
Reluctantly I sold the Sherman Oaks house to move to a house at the beach in September 2006. The model room in the Marina Del Rey house was subterranean, off the garage. I didn’t love the location. It had quite small windows looking at the wall of the neighboring house and to be honest I felt like a prisoner. However, I was again able to design my workshop and the results were quit nice. This workshop represented a big step forward in some ways. What I lost in natural light I gained in climate control. At the beach I never suffered again with San Fernando Valley heat but never forgot I was in a dungeon. Fortunatly I had bought my very first plasma to watch movies on and a high level of privacy even through my neighbors were just two metres away. I had loads of storage space as well as a seperate storage room and attached bathroom with more storage space. I finished my Land Wasser Schlepper model here and a year after this photograph was taken took the diorama to Euro-Militaire 2007. Although the workshop itself was offered every level of comfort, I was never happy here.
Life changed in 2008. The economic crisis struck in August, hitting the fashion trade hard. A happy divorce followed in November. I moved from the beach house and did not model for a year. In 2010 I moved to London and felt settled enough to create a workshop in a small room on the top level of a four level house in Richmond, England. It ended up also being my home office. Although a far cry from my previous workshops it served well enough for figurine painting and some small models. I had beautiful views from up in what I called the Crow’s Nest of back gardens looking like the countryside and from the front window views of The Thames River.
Although I did and continue to dearly love England, the weather was just not happiness for someone who lived 20 years in Los Angeles.
In May 2012 I packed up my workshop and my Alfa Romeo and hopped a ferry to sunny Spain. Having visited the Costa Brava many times and loving the modelling scene in Spain it was a natural and easy choice. The house in the Costa Brava is a little bit Sherman Oaks hills and a bit Marina Del Rey as it is a modern house and near the sea. But once again I was in a dungeon. The space is enormous and I have room to grow but it is still a dark dungeon. Comfortable most of the year it is, but oddly enough in summer my paint dries far too fast to be able to paint and blend figurines effectivly. So I am forced to only do paint work in cooler months. I’ve spent many happy evenings over the five years I’ve used this workshop.
Lots of modelling, movies, and pizza with friends from all over Europe—Spanish friends, Norwegs, Swedes. Its been a great workshop. I’ve built two dioramas and well on the way to completing a third in the time I’ve used it. But it is not like my Sherman Oaks workshop. I need to not be in a dungeon.
I will admit, the Costa Brava space is so large I was able to add a movie screening room to enjoy movies with my fiance and modelling friends. Delightful.
Latest news. We’ve recently bought a new house. One we are doing renovations to. I now have the opportunity to design and build a workshop to my exact desires. The ground floor of the house is unfinished. We will punch out a couple of walls and add sliding glass doors leading to a stone terrace. Big windows will flood the rooms with light. Inside I can construct the ideal workshop. Similiar to the Sherman Oaks workshop in California. It will have loads of light and an ability to utilize fresh air for venting the room during airbrush sessions. It is still be on the ground floor, but in no way will it have a dungeon feel. Stay tuned. We hope to have the house—and the workshop–completed by July 2018!