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Cover Story December 11th, 2008

  Untitled Document

It's a small, small world!

by Craig Libuse
edited by lyle e davis

Near where the borders of Carlsbad, Oceanside and Vista meet is a new museum filled with tiny masterpieces. These miniature projects represent thousands of hours of work by some of the finest craftsmen in the world, and they have been put on display by the Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship, both to honor the people who produce work that approaches perfection and to inspire others to attempt to take their own skills to a higher level.

Museum Features A Variety of Models

Visitors to the museum will see items like 1/16 scale cutaway metal Corsair and P-51 Mustang aircraft models made entirely from metal built by a retired dentist from Honolulu. There are also over 100 working internal combustion engine models from the Paul Knapp collection and over 60 steam and Stirling engines made by noted craftsman Rudy Kouhoupt and others. The collection also includes miniature guns, model airplane engines, miniature machine tools, clocks and other small projects. There is a display by NASCAR trophy builder Michael Dunlap and a functional jet engine by Paul White to name just a few more projects on display.

Joe Martin, Founder
Paul Knapp


There’s small and there’s REALLY small!

Since “small” is the theme, there are some pieces that can only be categorized as “REALLY small.” For example, on display (see photo at right) is a tiny nut and bolt that is only ten thousandths of an inch (0.010") in diameter with threads that are half of one thousandth of an inch (0.0005") deep. It is a functional fastener—essentially a 1/30 scale ¼-20 nut and bolt—from a 1/30 steam engine by Jerry Kieffer. It is displayed in a watch bezel along with a tiny wrench no bigger than a sliver. Jerry has also built a tiny steam engine that is smaller than the one listed as the “World’s Smallest Steam Engine” in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The diameter of this 18-cylinder, 2-row radial engine built by Harold Becket is only 12 inches.
James Weber machined this supercharged 1/3 scale Chrysler Hemi racing engine from solid billet aluminum. It turns over 12,000 RPM.


Rewarding craftsmanship

Joe Martin is the owner of a precision machine tool company in Vista called Sherline Products that has produced high quality tools here in the community since 1974. Joe has been a construction worker, tool maker, mold maker, race car driver, windsurfer, R/C airplane racer and business owner since he moved to California from Rhode Island in the 1950's. He has long felt that the sports and movie stars of the world receive attention and monetary reward out of all proportion to their actual contribution to society compared to the people who actually make this country run-the skilled craftsmen. He has put his money where his mouth is by funding this museum to honor the work of men and women who make things from metal. Because his tool company makes the small, precision lathes and mills used by watch and clock makers, jewelers and model makers, he has focused this interest on projects at the small end of the size scale.

In addition to the 6500 square foot Vista museum that displays hundreds of working items that sparkle with detail and fine finishes, Joe's foundation awards a $2000 a year award to the "Metalworking Craftsman of the Year." Ron Colonna of Mckeesport, PA., is the 2008 winner and the 12th to win the annual award. Among other things, Ron designed and built a one-quarter scale model of the famous Offenhauser 270 4-cylinder racing engine and wrote a book that includes plans on how to make one yourself. The foundation also has given out a number of $500 "Lifetime Achievement Awards" to deserving craftsmen and also manages a $5000 per year "Young Artisan Craftsmanship Award" to help send young people who show promise in working with their hands to trade schools or apprenticeship programs to further their skills. Through Sherline, Joe puts up $2500 prize money each year for a miniature machining contest called the "Machinist's Challenge" and the Foundation kicks in an additional $500 in prize money for entrants under the age of 20. To say the least, he has made a commitment to help bring the work of these skilled but underappreciated people to the attention of the public and to show that what they do is as valuable as any other form of "art."

This supercharged 1/4 scale Conley V8 is patterned after a small block Chevy engine and was built by Paul Knapp.
Observe the nut and bolt assembly above, within the tiny watch bezel, along with a properly sized wrench.
All adjacent to a penny to get an idea of comparable size. That is small!

Museum Features a Variety of Models

Visitors to the museum will see items like 1/16 scale cutaway metal Corsair and P-51 Mustang aircraft models made entirely from aluminum (see photo on page five), over 100 internal combustion engine models from the Paul Knapp collection, the lifetime steam and Stirling engine collection of noted craftsman Rudy Kouhoupt, a gold medal winning clock made by William R. Smith, a 1/2 scale .22 caliber Gattling Gun made by Pam Weiss, a 1/14 scale Bridgeport mill made by Barry Jordan of England, a 1/32 scale model Manitowoc Lift Crane made by local craftsman and Monday museum volunteer Larry Simon, a 1/3 scale Smith & Wesson "Volcanic" pistol by noted gunsmith David Kucer of Montreal, Canada, a collection of vintage model airplane engines and much more. There are tiny steam powered model boats and larger steam powered tractors and locomotives as well as a display of small vintage lathes made by other manufacturers going back into the 1800's.

The main display room features model aircraft, steam locomotives and model internal combustion engines.

Working Machine Shop Allows Visitors to See How Metal Parts are Made

Retired toolmaker Tom Boyer of Escondido is the museum’s master craftsman. He is on hand Tuesday through Friday and each first Saturday. When not hosting guided tours he is using the museum’s shop machine tools to build an on-going project. The first project completed last June was a 14 cc 4-cylinder in-line engine called a “Seal.” Tom likes nothing better than to fire up this engine for any and all visitors to the museum. He is now working on a 30 cc Howell V-4 engine, and visitors can inspect all the parts made so far or follow the progress of the project on the museum’s web site at On Mondays, volunteer Larry Simon hosts the guest tours.

Huge Web Site is Open 24 Hours a Day

In addition to the physical museum in Vista, the Foundation has been building a large on-line site to display the works of not only these craftsmen, but that of the best craftsmen from around the world. For that purpose all that is needed are photos and a biography so you can learn about the life, training, experience and work of the builder and see examples of his or her work. Represented are a builder of model cannons from Puerto Rico, a model motorcycle builder from Spain, a man who built a working steam locomotive entirely from wood in Australia, a woman from the Netherlands who built a working model of the Enigma code machine from World War II or an award winning model aircraft builder from Poland. The web site address is Included along with model makers, clock makers, engine builders and tool makers are engravers, an arrowhead chipper and craftsmen who build many types of interesting projects. The common theme-they are all small.

New Saturday Hours Announced

The museum is normally open Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 4 PM and is closed holidays. As of Saturday, December 6th, the museum will be open the first Saturday of each month from 10 AM to 3 PM. Admission is always free.

The museum is located in the Sherline building at 3235 Executive Ridge, Vista, CA 92081. A map to the location can be found on the Foundation’s web site or you can call (760) 727-9492 on weekdays for hours and directions. You can also e-mail the museum’s director, Craig Libuse at ­ with questions about the Foundation’s programs or how to donate an object for display. Donations are tax deductible.

More Examples of the Master Craftsmen in Miniatures

The 1/16 scale all aluminum Corsair shown above is a very ambitious model. The builder, Young C. Park of Hawaii is a recently retired dentist who put his skills in working with his hands and in forming metal to a new use. This section includes automobile, ship, locomotive, aircraft and other models of mechanical devices other than engines.

The St. Ninian was built in Dundee, Scotland, for service as a passenger and general cargo ferry between Aberdeen and the Shetland Islands. It is 282' long, and is powered by twin screws. All cargo handling and docking is on the starboard side only. The model is 3/16" = 1' scale and 4'-5" long. Like the others above it is made with plank-on-frame construction. It is powered by two electric motors with belt drive to the shafts. The cowl vents are commercially made, but the other deck fittings are custom machined from brass and aluminum.
Craftsman: Andrew Green
Scale Radio Controlled Ship Models
1920 Stutz Blackhawk, 1/20 scale
Gerald A. Wingrove, MBE. Joe Martin Foundation "Metalworking Craftsman of the Year" award winner for 2005.
Gerald Wingrove devoted seventeen years of his life to the business of light engineering as a center (centre) lathe turner. He decided to turn his hobby as a model engineer into his full-time job and went to work as a freelance designer and patternmaker for film, TV, jewelry and toy companies. In 1967 he received a commission from Lord Montagu of Bealieu to build a series of fine detailed scale models for the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in the south of England. Other similar work followed as collectors became aware of the quality of his work, and he soon found himself being invited to visit some of the best private car collections in Europe and the USA to document and reproduce in miniature some of these elegant works of "rolling sculpture".









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