The Model Man

Have you ever been frustrated after searching high and low for a particular item, then come to the realization that it just isn't available? Maybe you have looked at department stores, garage sales even on eBay and you ended up with nothing. Rusty White had a similar situation but instead of giving up, he decided to do something about it.

"This is not my career, it is more of a hobby. I just couldn't find anybody who made these models, so I started making them myself," said White.

The models he refers to are known as multi-media models. A multi-media model is comprised of resin cast, photo etched and cast metal. When White could not find a company that made models of highly detailed, modern Navel warships, he began his own company and named it Flagship Models. His company was the first ship photo etching company in the world to design detail sets using CAD computer technology. Everything from detail set design to their comprehensive instructions is produced using 3D CAD technology. The use of 3D CAD allows White to literally test fit all the parts in the computer, insuring a perfect fit.

"This is not for your average ten-year-old. This can be a very expensive process in both time and money, but there is no comparison when it comes to fine detail in modeling," White said. "With photo etching, it allows for very precise detail. It is the only way I know to reproduce the precision that professional modelers are looking for."

After designing the parts, he brings them to life. The first step is to create a mold so as to be able to reproduce a particular model up to forty times. Since creating plastic molds are extremely expensive, White uses a more cost effective method.

The compound that he uses to create his model molds is known as RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanizing) rubber. Only recently has specific types of RTV rubber been designed for scale model makers. These new compounds are designed to migrate into almost microscopic areas, giving the model maker the ability to cast highly detailed parts that are actually more precise than their plastic counterparts. The detail RTV rubber can reproduce is so fine that the grain of very fine wood can be captured and looks just like the real thing. In short, no detail is too fine or small for RTV rubber to capture.

"Major model manufactures would never touch this kind of modeling," White said. "It is too expensive and is only for the most serious modeler."

After almost 20 years of photo etch design, White found he was able to grow his business little by little. Today, he sells his model kits on the Internet all over the world. His original interest in modern Navel warships has grown into a necessity to provide Civil War model kits.

"All of the American Civil War models are to scale, which were drawn up from plans in cooperation with museums such as the Confederate naval museum in Columbus, Georgia," White said. "The American Union ships are much easier to create, due to records and photos being kept much better than that of the Confederates."

White prides himself on being a historian, and takes it personal to be as close to the original as possible when recreating any of his models.

"I am always as dead-on accurate as I can be. A lot of research has to be done when recreating a ship from the Civil War time because most of the records are done from artist sketches, and not all of the sketches are the same," White said.

For many years, White has been a custom home designer. However, he is subject to more difficult times when the housing market slows down after long stretches of a strong housing industry. This was another reason for beginning Flagship Models.

"I figured rather than just sitting around moping about the ups and downs of the housing market, I would do something about it and begin Flagship [Models], and be able to do something I really love," White said.

His plans are to eventually retire and continue to build on the success of Flagship Models. For more information on the types of model kits and other products available, please go to

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