Scale modeling may be highly addictive

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Larry Speelman has an eye for detail.

His hands are as steady and delicate as they are large and strong.

He's a grown man - a husband, father and grandfather - but his enthusiasm for scale modeling is that of a child: intense and compelling.

"I've taken over a whole bedroom," Speelman said with a youthful chuckle.

"Now, we have a two-bedroom house with an air brush station."

His specialty is model airplanes, military aircraft to be specific. He builds replicas of the steel birds he worked with as a radar technician in the Air Force years ago. Each model is so realistic that even the serial numbers match. To the untrained eye, a photograph of a model easily could be mistaken for a picture of a historical aircraft.

As a member and show chairman of the North Olympic Peninsula Modelers Society, Speelman prides himself on precision.

"We aren't just building models," Speelman emphasized.

"We are duplicating something that exists in real life, using great detail."

Roger Torgeson, a past president of the club and retired Navy mechanic, recently finished a scale model of the USS Phoenix. Coincidently, he plans to enter the ship into the 2010 International Plastic Modelers Society National Convention in Phoenix, Ariz. from Aug. 4-7.

Torgeson assembled and painted the ship himself, making everything except the wood base from scratch. Even then, he routed out the solid base to build an aircraft hangar in the ship, complete with a model airplane.

"I went crazy on this one," Torgeson said.

"It was a challenge is what it was, but I have a tendency to push my skill regularly."

While he's in Arizona for the competition, Torgeson plans to visit family in Tucson, Ariz., where he'll meet his youngest grandson - 3 months old - for the first time.

Torgeson, who is known in the club for his high-quality models, has won numerous awards.

Not all models are built from scratch, though. Model kits are available online from all over the world and at most hobby shops. Airplanes, ships, trucks, tractors, trains, science fiction figurines - you name it and you probably can find it on the Internet, Speelman said.

Closer to home than the national convention is the annual model show and contest at Fort Worden State Park Saturday on June 12. More than 250 scale models are expected to be on display, sitting on the same stage where Louis Gossett Jr. gave his farewell speech at the end of the movie, "An Officer and a Gentleman."

In addition to its annual show, the North Olympic Peninsula Modelers Society hosts a "Make 'n' Take" at the Sequim Irrigation Festival each year where members help children create scale models of their own. Sponsored by First Federal, the kit this year was a 1934 Ford street rod.

Members also gather scale model kits to send overseas for troops.

Building scale models isn't something Steelman has done all his life.

"I made models as a kid but stopped," he said.

"Then, at 45, I got back into it when my dad asked me to make a B-24 Liberator model like the one he flew in the war."

According to Speelman, it's never too late to start or resume an interest in scale modeling. In fact, the hobby only grows in detail, selection and quality each year that passes.

It's not uncommon for members to be a little fanatical about the hobby, Speelman said, sharing a story about a member who was traveling to an out-of-area show when he dropped his model on the airplane and it shattered into tiny pieces.

"He picked up the pieces from under people's feet, put it back together at the hotel that night and still managed to win second place," Speelman said.

Though several members of the society have a military background, it's not a prerequisite. Members of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels are welcomed with open arms. The only requirement is an interest in scale modeling, often coupled with a passion for history.

Building miniature look-alikes
The North Olympic Peninsula Modelers Society, a chapter of the International Plastic Modelers Society, meets 7-9 p.m. the first and third Thursday of each month in the downstairs community room at the Odd Fellows & Rebekah Lodge, 11323 Rhody Drive, in Port Hadlock. The club was founded in 2004 by a group of scale modelers searching for an outlet to share ideas, tips and information about scale modeling. Members travel from as far as Bremerton and Port Angeles. Membership costs $10 per year, a fee that's often waived for youths. All ages and backgrounds are welcomed. For more information, e-mail or go online to

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