A visit to Model Expo in Hollywood, Florida

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taking advantage of a family trip to Miami for the Spring Break, I decided to tour the Model Expo facility where Model Shipways (and others) kits are manufactured. I called ahead of time and was cordially invited to take a quick tour of the facility. In fact, I ended up seeing pretty much everything and meeting very nice people.
Model Expo is located in a commercial/industrial area of Hollywood Florida. They occupy Suite 106, which is a very long and deep warehouse, surprisingly big for the space occupied by the front wall. The facility welcomes you with a small room equipped with window cases containing the most exquisite models ever made: All their kits (most at least) are present and displayed in their full glory and beauty. We will come back to these at the end of our presentation.


Model Expo employs about 15 people at their Hollywood facility and I got the privilege of meeting John, our gracious host; Frank, the parts Manager; Joseph, the casting specialist and three nice ladies who are at the center of the action, as their main responsibility is to put together all the parts required to make your kit a success. And there are thousands of parts as you will on the pictures. I also saw the gentleman who presents the latest Model Expo kits on YouTube. There were a couple more people working on Graphic Design stations that I did not meet. Judging by the frequency of the phone calls from people ordering kits, parts and tools, this facility was buzzing with activity although it was the Easter Monday.


Behind the offices is the main warehouse that hosts the production facilities (laser cutting, casting), the parts storage, the kits storage sections and the place where the kits are put together. Basswood which is used most exclusively for the kits is procured from North carolina and shipped on pallets to the Hollywood facility:




From there, the wood is resized, cut and smoothed with a couple of special machines:





After that stage, the wood planks are laser cut by three different tables. Since it was a slow week, we did not get a chance to see the laser cutting tables in action. Nevertheless, the smell of wood is everywhere and is very pleasant. They have a very large cuting table and two smaller ones:






Laser cut planks are everywhere, and this is a testimony of the large production of Model Shipways kits. The laser cutting tables normally operates 11 hours per day and produce all the parts that modellers enjoy so much putting together:






That silly editor prevents me to post more pictures within the same post, even though all my pictures are hosted on another server - I appologize for that inconvenience, but this presentation will have to be made in multiple parts....



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Who would think to look in the industrial area of Hollywood Florida to find a museum of fine nautical art!

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Where is Model Shipways manufacturing located?

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MODEL EXPO is company name for Model Shipways Kits
3850 N 29th Terrace,
Suite 106
Hollywood, FL 33020
Mon - Fri,
9am – 6pm ET
I am ashamed to say I haven't visited there yet, I work in Pompano Beach, which is only a short drive to get there, about 20 minutes.
Will do soon though

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After taking care of the wood aspect of the kits, there are still a hundreds of parts to be manufactured and included with each kit. Casting is a very important part of the kits and helps immensely modellers by providing them with small parts that would be very tedious and sometimes impossible to build. The casting room is managed by a smiling Joseph and I was impressed to see him handle so many tiny parts with a rare elegance. Equally impressive are the large disks of metal that are being melt and injected under liquid form into the molds:






Now that we have all these parts, they need to be stored on multiple bins and carefully organized and repertoried. The following pictures are giving you a sense of the large warehouse of Model Expo, with their thousands of parts waiting to be shipped or included into a kit:












On the right is John, our very nice host who dedicated more than half of an hour, showing us the entire facility (and I only said that I had the Emma and Syren kits at home....).


Now, here is a teaser for you folks, lovers of Model Shipways models:




This is the section where all the plan, sheets and instructions are stored. Model Expo does not have a facility to copy and replicate printed material, so it is all contracted outside. Among these stacks of plans and sheets, there was a very interesting one which is their next upcoming kit:




Of course, I inquired about the Essex and again, they apologized for rushing the news out, far too early. Although they explained to me the reasons of the delay, I will simply say that the model is ready, will be received soon at the Hollywood location and that the user documentation is being worked on. It has to be as good or better than Chuck Passaro's practicum, which is very hard to beat. So, if Essex is late, let's just blame it on Chuck for now....  Of course, it is not the real reason.



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Most interesting to see. Thanks for sharing for those of use who can't visit anytime soon.

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Nice, Thanks for the photo show.

Hope that you will post a few of their model display area.


Later 42rocker

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Okay, thousands of parts have been laser cut, cast, procured and stored in hundreds of bins. The plans, instructions, booklets and practicums have been printed by outside suppliers. Now we just have to put all these parts together, in these beautiful blue boxes which are now the Trademark of Model Shipways.


Three very patient and thorough ladies are "building" your kits. Using reference materials, lists and their knowledge, they are selecting all the pieces of woods, strips, planks and the zillion parts that will go into each kit. Once they are done, they will leave a little sticker in your box with their name to proudly display the enormous and sometime tedious work that they performed for your satisfaction and a successful kit building experience. Honestly, I am in awe by their dedication, thoroughness and extreme patience and believe that they deserve our respect and consideration:




These kits, once put together, will be stored in another section of the large warehouse.




Here, we have hundreds of kits waiting for retailers and individuals to purchase them. Some are in low supply, whereas others seem to be less popular. I have taken a few pictures of these beautiful boxes in the waiting and will display them below, as an appetizer to the Models display area. You will recognize some of the names. Keep in mind that Model Expo sells planes, guns, tramways, ships, paints and tools as well as all kinds of supplies.






Is your mouth still dry? Yes? Then allow me to post some more:




Am I getting your attention? Not yet ?




That was the last kit, and it was not even complete. Apparently, there has been a frenzy of Syren around Christmas time (I know I bought one) and Model Expo is out of it for the moment.




Ah.... that Sultana, a lovely model with a lovely name.




That Chuck Passaro is everywhere......

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By now, your mouth should be drooling. Let's get ready for the display area.....




Yes, tools and guns are also part of the various kits that Model Expo proposes.




And below a few more beautiful kits:






and last but not least......




Honestly, if I could, I would have purchased one of each. Seeing so many kits so nicely stacked is almost irresistible.


I asked John if Model Expo had a group of people in house, designing kits. His answer was what most of you already know: All kits are contracted with professional modellers. First, they run surveys to find out what American modellers are looking for (Model Shipways specializes and focuses almost exclusively on American ships) and then they use artist modelers and experts to design their kits. Chuck Passaro is a brilliant example and has documented his way of working in the first incarnation of MSW. Computers are at the center of every design: they are used for tracing the plans, generating the laser cutting files and writing practicums and user's guide. A model is then built by the contracted expert and when ready, it is sent to Model Expo for display and pictures. The kit is then put together, priced accordingly and promoted through various channels. USS Essex is in the final phase of the design (documentation being finished) and Philadelphia is ready to hit the production line.


To conclude the tour of the facility properly speaking, here are a few pictures of the Display Area. I know a lot of you are eagerly awaiting this moment:








Next, we get naughty and open the Display windows to take a closer look at each model.... Stay tuned!



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That is really very interesting. Visiting the land of Oz and getting to peek behind the curtain to see how the Wizard works. :)


Thanks for posting these pics and the descriptions. I have a greatly enhanced appreciation for their work.



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As promised, here are the Model Display pictures. We will start first with the airplanes and the cannons. They may not be the prime interest for this group, but they are nevertheless extremely well made with great details. The caronnade is particularly interesting:















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The USS Confederacy (1/64) by Chuck passaro:


The "Plat de Resistance" of the whole display, in my humble opinion, the biggest model produced by Model Shipways and a true masterpiece. I have to confess that I could not stop myself from touching with the tip of my fingers, the polished and smooth basswood amorously built by Chuck Passaro. Pictures are not making justice to the beauty and majesty of this model. I had to caress the whales and the perfect and smooth deck like a lover would hold and flatter the hips of a beloved woman. It was almost a sensual experience.... Chuck outdid himself on this one. It is truly a masterpiece and a future kit on my list.




..hmm... we know the shipping was rough for Confederacy...unfortunately.




It is simply perfect. I have to admit that I am a sucker for the way the wood is stained. I simply love these clear colors.






The other big brother of Model Shipways, the USS Constitution:








The Despatch tug boat:



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The Emma C. Berry lobster smack well boat. Since I am building this model, I will treat you with no less than eight pictures of a truly well built model. The model is exquisitely presented on a lovely diorama depicting the boat under full restoration at Mystic Seaport in Connecticutt.

















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Thank you very much for posting the pictures. To bad you wasn't able to see the Confederacy as she was being built, I had the pleasure and it was a nice feeling. 

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Moving on with our presentation, here is Flying Fish. A giant model:










Lovely Kate Cory whaling Brig:








and Harriet Lane Civil War Gunboat:



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I bet that was a fantastic trip. Thanks for the photos and an insight into what is undoubtedly a major operation!

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More pictures of various models, including kits not related to ship building:


Katy of Norfolk




A main mast:




The USN Pickett boat with its steam engine:




New Bedford Whaleboat:




The Sultana Speed Boat:




The Tugboat Taurus:




And two railcars from OCRE in Spain, at the scale of 1/24th:





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We continue our tour of the Model Expo display section with two famous ships: the Mayflower and the Charles Morgan whaler. While looking at the Mayflower, I could not help thinking that this ship had been built by Chuck Passaro. The way it was built and the soft hue of the wood reminded me of the Syren and Confederacy style. However, I may be completely wrong about the builder of that famous galleon and if somebody can chime in and tell us who did that beautiful model, I would really appreciate.










The Charles W Morgan:










I like the different plates of copper on the hull, showing the various stages of restoration (Mystic Seaport, CT).

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Our next guest is the USS Niagara at 1/64th scale. A beautiful and so elegant Brig. Another one of my favorites.....










Another beautiful Brig: The Rattlesnake, also at 1/64th scale:





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Guilty as charged......it was me who built teh Mayflower.  I have tons of pictures.   I really should post them later tonight in the gallery.  :P  :P

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