Model Builders Inc Blog

Apollo 8 Command Module replica model in "The 1968 Exhibit"

Posted by Hal Chaffee on Tue, Aug 26, 2014 @ 12:32 AM

1968 was an incredible year with a spectacular ending - mankind's first trip to the moon. Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders flew the Apollo Command Module ten times around the moon starting on December 24th.

Model Builders, Inc. created a replica of the Apollo 8 Command Module for "The 1968 Exhibit" which is a month by month journey through a pivotal year for the baby boomer generation. See this video tour for a 4 minute overview and these photographs of the Command Module replica and some artifacts at . This traveling exhibit is at the Chicago History Museum from Saturday, October 4, 2014 to Sunday, January 4, 2015.

Apollo 8 Command Module replica

Apollo 8 Command Module replica in "The 1968 Exhibit"

The real Apollo 8 Command Module is on loan from NASA to Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry and we examined it to ensure detailed accuracy. We had to deal with significant challenges however. For example, having gone through the extreme heat of re-entry the original Apollo 8 Command Module no longer has the silver reflective Mylar heat tape nor very much of the exterior labels that were originally on it.

Thanks to some careful analysis, the replica in "The 1968 Exhibit" has the silver Mylar tape and the pre-flight exterior labels. Like the original Apollo 8 the replica tape pattern is exactly same and the tape width is exactly 4" as on the original. Not all of the Apollo Command Modules had the same reflective tape pattern. However by closely examining the burned residue lines left on about half of the original Apollo 8 Command Module Model Builders, Inc. was able to confirm that the tape pattern we previously had found for the Apollo 13 Module was exactly the same as on the Apollo 8. Model Builders, Inc. was also able to find all of the exterior label details at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

Apollo 8 CM tape pattern

Apollo 8 Command Module - Mylar tape pattern

real Apollo 8 CMReal Apollo 8 Command Module - Note parallel white Mylar residue lines 4" apart

The Apollo 8 was the very first in the series of Apollo Command Modules to have a probe for connecting to the Lunar Module and this detail is shown on the replica. It is based on original NASA drawings and also close up photographs taken of a real NASA Apollo probe at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kansas. The probe mechanism is quite interesting in that on the later Apollo flights it had to latch onto a matching drogue parachute on the Lunar Module. After both were pulled together the twelve smaller latches around the circumference of the docking tunnel locked them together.  That explains the two red circles (representing the silicon o-rings) outside the tunnel. Once connected the hatch in the Command Module was removed, then they removed the probe assembly, then the drogue and finally the hatch on the Lunar Module to be able to get into it. 

Apollo 8 probe

Apollo 8 Probe replica

Model Builders, Inc. had already done a lot of the research necessary for accurately building this Apollo 8 Command Module replica. A few years earlier we built a 1/10 scale model of the Apollo 11 Command, Service and Lunar Modules and a 1/6 scale model of the Apollo 13 CSM -Command and Service Module (with the door blown off and the oxygen tank exploded) for the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center,  The 1/6th scale Apollo 13 CSM model sits next to the real Apollo 13 Command and Service Module in Hutchinson, Kansas. If you are interested in the details of the Apollo Command and Services Modules an excellent book with lots of illustrations in color and cutaway views is "Virtual Apollo" by Scott Sullivan. It is a pictorial essay of the engineering and construction.

We think you might really enjoy "The 1968 Exhibit". After Chicago the exhibit travels in 2015 to the Colorado History Center in Denver and after that the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California.

Model Builders, Inc. is known for helping industrial designers, manufacturers, institutions and individuals go from idea to reality. Take the next step by contacting us at Model Builders, Inc., 773-586-6500 or .

Tags: aviation models, model planes, model, exhibit, model builders, model maker, model makers, airplane models, museum model, aerospace models, props

GM Futurliner restoration gets a replica exhibit with aircraft models

Posted by Hal Chaffee on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 @ 05:06 PM

We were surprised and delighted last year to receive a request from Ryan DeCol of Kindig-It Design to build a replica of an exhibit that had been in a GM Futurliner they are restoring for a client. Ryan found our website and thought our models of planes, trains, spacecraft, interactive exhibits and cutaways were high quality so he called us. Model Builders, Inc. since 1950 has a long history of working on projects for GM. Eugene Kettering (son of GM's "Boss" Kettering) was a close friend of William Chaffee, the founder Model Builders, Inc., and also an early investor in the company.

Originally there were 12 GM Futurliner buses and each one had a separate set of exhibits in it. This particular GM Futurliner had a "PROGRESS FOR THE AIR AGE" theme which included a full size cutaway of an Allison J-35 Jet Engine. If you would like to know the history of the GM Futurliners please see this youtube video . If you are interested in the GM Futurliner restoration go to and then click on the Facebook link in the upper right hand corner. Below are three photographs of the original exhibit.


POWER FOR THE AIR AGE - General Motors 2014 photo 

GM Futurliner talk

Discussing how a Allison J-35 jet engine works. It is cutaway so the viewer can see the parts. General Motors 2014 photo

GM Futurliner presentation

Presentation on the theory of how a Allison J-35 jet engine works. General Motors 2014 photo

Futurliner Cloud exhibit

Replica of the cloud on the backwall of the PROGRESS FOR THE AIR AGE exhibit

The cloud is 8 feet long and 3 feet high. The hemisphere diameter is 24". The continents and ocean we silk screened on the inside. The atmosphere is a 32" diameter clear acrylic disc that is 1"thick.

The aircraft are 1/27 scale models. From the top to the bottom they are the P-80 Shooting Star, F-9F Panther, Convair CV-240-2, A2D-1 Skyshark and the F-84 Thunderjet.

GM Futurliner Convair

Replica of the Convair 240 at the right end of the cloud exhibit. 

We did an extensive search but couldn't locate any of the original drawings. The pictures we found on youtube were too fuzzy or dark to be able to identify the aircraft. So we called retired GM manager Don Mayton who led the restoration at his farm in Zeeland, Michigan of Futurliner #10 starting in 1999 (however it had a different exhibit inside). A DVD on his restoration is available at .  Don suggested we contact the GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, MI which has over 650 GM vehicles and extensive archives.  The GM Heritage Center was very helpful and found in their archives thirteen high resolution pictures of the PROGRESS FOR THE AIR AGE Futureliner which enabled us to scale the cloud exhibit and identify the aircraft.  Futhermore they sent us a copy of the script that the instructors used for this exhibit.

Some of our other projects for GM include the entire underseas section of the GM ride at the 1964 World's Fair on Long Island, a half size Aerotrain locomotive mounted on a truck chassis and also a half size steam locomotive mounted on a truck chassis, a 13 foot long Diesel locomotive with one half cutaway down the length so you could see the interior, a transfer press model, numerous diesel locomotive models and a cutaway of a full size turbocharger for a diesel locomotive.

A blog in November, 2014 featured several nice pictures of the restored GM Futurliner No. 3 after it had been in the SEMA show in Las Vegas. There is a particularly good picture of the cloud exhibit we made in the last picture.  If you click on the picture it gets larger and provides a dramatic highly detailed view of the cloud exhibit. See: . If you would like to see the before the restoration pictures of GM Futurliner No. 3 see  .

 Model Builders, Inc. is known for helping manufacturers, industrial designers, institutions and individuals go from idea to reality. Take the next step by contacting us at Model Builders, Inc., 773-586-6500 or .


Tags: aviation models, model planes, model, exhibit, interactive exhibit, model builders, training aid, model builder, industrial scale model, airplane models, museum model, aerospace models

5 reasons when buying a custom model or prototype to pay for quality

Posted by Hal Chaffee on Sun, Jun 15, 2014 @ 10:24 PM

You should be worried about buying a custom model or prototype based on a lowest-cost bid as we pointed out in our last blog.  Here are five reasons to pay a little more for quality and get a lot more in return.

1. Quality sells.

The impact and quality of a model or prototype built with superior materials or design may lead to far greater sales than the incremental cost of say 10 percent over the lowest quote. That's value.

 GM LIRR  front rt

1/24 scale brass locomotive model - exterior and interior

If a model or prototype is 25 percent or more effective in generating leads than say a quote that costs 10 percent less it is more cost effective. Our experience is that the extra expense is often the difference between a dull model and one that grabs the viewer’s attention. In the case of the 36" long locomotive model pictured above it was also the difference in a more accurate and durable model that we built primarily out of brass instead of plastic.

GM LIRR equip rack resized 600Internal equipment rack prior to painting. Primarily brass construction

The entire exterior of the locomotive body and most of the internal equipment is brass construction with strong silver soldered weld joints .  The model is then very durable and the thickness of the parts is in scale.

2. A model is your reputation - don't mess it up to save a few dollars.

It takes a long time to build up a corporate reputation and a short time to knock it down if you don't meet the expectations of your client or potential client. Put your best model forward.

3. A partnership with a good model maker can raise quality exponentially.

Commissioning a prototype can be a learning experience that simultaneously represents and improves your idea when working with a good model maker.

The best model makers will spend when needed up to a third or more of their time doing research for or with you. For example the U.S. Navy's policy is not to provide drawings on currently commissioned ships. All is well if accuracy is not your goal or if you can do the research required for accuracy. One of Model Builders, Inc's strengths is our exceptional research and commitment to accuracy when it counts. Some of our competitors have had their models rejected by their clients who liked their price but not the inaccurate results.

4. Quality pays, but quality is not free.

Even one step up from the lowest bid can make a big difference in quality. The marginal difference may go to the more talented and experienced staff, more precise tools, more durable and realistic materials, and safer shipping containers, for example. When you commission one model in anticipation of multiple versions later on, buying quality also prevents having to start over later with a different company if the first model is unsatisfactory.

5. The lowest bid often means there is little room for innovation or details that can make a big impact in the final look of the model or prototype.

Montpelier garden

The above picture is of a finely detailed 1:500 scale model garden that is only 5" X 7". The two white lions on the right in the garden are 1/2" long. The holes are only 1/16" diameter for lighted fiber optic cable ends to identify the area by pushing a button. This model type of finely detailed model making takes time and special artistic skill.

Model Builders, Inc. is known for helping industrial designers, manufacturers, institutions and individuals go from idea to reality. Take the next step by contacting us at Model Builders, Inc., 773-586-6500 or .

Tags: aviation models, construction equipment models, railroad equipment model, plant layout model, architectural model, model, architectural models, product cutaway, boat models, product model, prototype, model maker, prototypes, product models, airplane models, topographic model, aerospace models, prototype model

Model Builders Inc. founder is a 2013 inductee in AMA Hall of Fame

Posted by Hal Chaffee on Thu, Feb 20, 2014 @ 09:20 PM

Model maker William H. Chaffee (Bill), the founder of Model Builders, Inc, was inducted in 2013 into the Academy of Model Aeronautics Hall of Fame located in Muncie, IN. To see his Hall of Fame biography go to: .

Many of the model airplane builder noteables that Bill competed against in the late 1920's and early 1930's are in this Hall of Fame. By 1929 there were over 300,000 members in the Airplane Model League of America (A.M.L.A.) which ran the National contests. "Beginning to Fly" The Book of Model Airplanes by Merrill Hamburg the Secretary and technical advisor to the A.M.L.A. is probably the best book on this era of model plane building. An interesting side note is that MIT student Robert Clary in 1932 invented microfilm to replace the heavier Japanese imperial tissue paper on the wings. Microfilm cut the model plane weight by about 20 percent.

Model plane - William Chaffee

William Chaffee held the National Indoor record for rubber band powered flight at 173 seconds  in 1927 when he was 15 years old. Page 72 in "Beginning to Fly" is shown above.

1928 April 2 William  Chaffee White House

AMLA's four contest winners were flown to Washington, DC and on April 2, 1928 and they flew their model planes on the south lawn of the White House for President Calvin Coolidge . William Chaffee is on the far left and President Coolidge is third from the left. The Detroit Free Press reported that "The boys left two of the model planes dangling from the tall poplar trees adjacent to the executive offices, and two landed on the roof of the offices."

William Chaffee White House 1929

William and other national model contest winners flew their planes for President Herbert Hoover on the south lawn of the White House on April 4, 1929. Merrill Hamburg Secretary of and technial advisor to the A.M.L.A. is on the far left. William Chaffee is pictured in the middle and Aram Abgarian on the right. 

William Chaffee Boeing P-12B model airplane1930

William Chaffee's Boeing P-12B won 1st prize in 1930 for scale model planes in The American Boy magazine contest.

Boeing P-12B model William Chaffee 1930

William Chaffee's BOEING TYPE P-12B U.S. Army Pursuit plane scale model

William spent over 500 hours constructing the model and even machined his own propeller out of aluminum. All of the flaps move accurately when the levers are pulled or pushed in the cockpit. All entrants in the contest used exactly the same set of to scale drawings with a model wingspan of the upper wing at exactly 24". First prize in this contest was a 6 week trip to England and France plus a silver cup and $200.00.

While in England he competed in the Wakefield International Cup fuselage model plane contest and won 6th place. The planes were all rubber band powered fuselage models.

Chaffee C-4 fuselage model airplane

Chaffee C-4 Indoor Fuselage rubber band powered model

In 1930 William designed the Chaffee C-4 Indoor Fuselage Model (see pp. 164-172 in "Beginning to Fly"). The AMLA was interested in moving American model airplane builders from "flying sticks" to fuselage models to advance their skills and add a new contest category. The AMLA sold the Chaffee C-4 as a kit from their supply division and it became a favorite of model builders. The rubber band powered C-4 flies for about 3 minutes. 

1933 SPEE-D-FLYR glider


In 1933 at the age of 21 William designed the balsa wood SPEE-D-FLYR Soaring Glider No. 333 and sold 24,000 of them to S.S. Kresge. Chaffee buillt the gliders in conjunction with pattern maker Emory Zimmerman.

Kettering Collection WPAFB resized 600

Kettering Collection of 600 scale model planes at theNational Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, OH

In the early 1930's Eugene W. Kettering started his collection of about 600 scale model aircraft at 4mm (5/32" to the foot) scale  representing military and civilian aircraft of many nations. This collection since the late 1960's has been on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Gene had his good friend William Chaffee make or supervise the construction of the planes in this collection.

From 1932 on William Chaffee stayed in the fields he loved best - model building, prototyping and inventing.  In 1950 he founded Model Builders, Inc. and in 1960 a subsidiary Technical Exhibits Corp.

Model Builders, Inc. did prototype work for Raymond Loewy Associates, Richard Latham, Dave Chapman and other well known industrial designers. Other work was for large corporations, institutions and individuals. One project was to build the underseas section of the GM exhibit at the 1964 World's Fair in New York. Several projects were for NASA and for aviation companies. There were 1,000's of projects. Bill also has eight patents and two design patents. Six of the patents are the basis of products that were produced and sold. William continued to work until the end of his life in 1994

Model Builders, Inc. and Technical Exhibits Corp. continue to work on the design and fabrication of a wide variety of models and prototypes.  A recent project was to build a full scale replica of the exterior of the Apollo 8 Command Module for a traveling museum exhibit.

Model Builders, Inc. is known for helping industrial designers, manufacturers, institutions and individuals go from idea to reality. Take the next step by contacting us at Model Builders, Inc., 773-586-6500 or .

Tags: aviation models, model planes, model builders, model maker, model makers, model builder, airplane models