Local plastic modelers club turns a solo activity into group fun

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published January 31, 2012

 Lynn Baughman of Center Line shows off a model aircraft he built at the Warren chapter of the International Plastic Modelers Society Jan. 18 meeting in Eastpointe.

Lynn Baughman of Center Line shows off a model aircraft he built at the Warren chapter of the International Plastic Modelers Society Jan. 18 meeting in Eastpointe.

Photo by Sara Kandel


EASTPOINTE — They meet once a month to show off their latest projects.

They trade tips, share techniques and offer feedback.

They’re a club — the Warren chapter of the International Plastic Modelers Society — and at monthly meetings, their work is appreciated, not just for the outcome, but the time and detail that went into it.

For many members, though, they’re more than just a club — over the years, they’ve become more like a brotherhood, a group of old pals, always there to welcome each other with a friendly smile.

“We go from 8 or 9 up through age 88,” said chapter president John Aiello. “Some of these guys have been building models since the early ’40s. We have a lot of talent here, and it’s a great place to come for advice, but make no mistake — this is a social gathering.”

Like any group of friends, each member of the club has his own unique style.

“Some of the guys build wood models. They carve all the parts out of blocks of wood. They turn out so well, you can’t even tell if they are wood or plastic,” Aiello said on a January night at the Michigan Military Technical and Historical Society Museum on Stephens Road in Eastpointe, their new meeting spot.

Others specialize in plastic or resin. Some build from kits, some build from research and others from inspiration. There’s always something new being brought to the table and with each new model is a new story.

A member for 22 years, Lynn Baughman’s stories are some of the best. He builds model planes, miniature replicas of air giants of the past.

He builds them because airplanes are what he knows and loves.

A military pilot for 26 years, Baughman went through the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program, also known as TOPGUN, so when he says he builds his planes just like their real-life counterparts but at 1/48 scale, he’s talking about every part of the plane from cockpit to engine.

And Baughman doesn’t just marvel at the mechanics; it’s the stories behind each that get him talking.

“This is Howard Hughes’ H2 racer,” Baughman says, holding up one of his favorite models. “This is a 1935, and at one time, this was the fastest aircraft on the planet for about four years. It was the first aircraft ever to have flush riveting. Mr. Hughes was a fanatic about reduction of drag, and this airplane is legendary in that it had one of the lowest coefficients of drag of any airplane ever manufactured.”

Across the room from him, chapter vice president Steve Brejnak is showing off his latest work — it’s not completed yet, but he’s almost done and brought it on this night to show the guys just what he’s been doing.

Brejnak’s been building a naval ship — a 110-foot sub chaser from World War II. It’s a piece he was commissioned to build for a museum in the thumb area. There are no kits for this boat, though, so his first step in building the model was to obtain, then modify, the plans of a similar ship.

“There were so many of these ships, but the one they want me to build, there is so little references on it that they have to talk to the guys that actually served on it,” Brejnak says. “I’ve been sending over photos, asking if they remember this or that being on it, where something was placed or what particular shade a certain part of the ship was.”

It’s been a time-consuming project, but with this hobby it often is.

“You can spend anywhere from 10 to 80-90 to 200 hours building a model,” Aiello says. “And it’s not always a cheap hobby either. You can spend as much money on this as you can on any other hobby, which includes, travel hockey, golf — you name it — you can spend a lot of time and money on this.”

Model building doesn’t have to be expensive or super time-consuming, though. Next to Brejnak’s ship is a different type of model, and while its display is just as eye-catching, it was built in less than a month.

Each month, the club chooses a theme. In January, it’s racing. St. Clair Shores resident and three-year club member Ron Harris built a three-car diorama depicting a crash on a race course, complete with skid marks and a burnt-out frame dangling from the fence surrounding the track to showcase the theme in his work.

Next to him, his grandson is displaying work of his own.

“I’m really a big Lego builder,” 8-year-old Vincent Munzr said.

When show-and-tell time starts, Munzr is given as much attention as everyone else. They call him a talented builder, and when they say it, they’re being sincere.

It doesn’t matter to club members that Munzr’s piece is built from Legos because here everyone is respected for their individual talents, no matter the medium.

It goes back to the brotherhood thing. They lift each other up, and by doing so, they become better themselves.

That’s what the Warren IPMS chapter is really about: skill-building, sharing and camaraderie.
Call Staff Writer Sara Kandel at (586) 498-1030.