TR Robertson –Another Hidden Gem in San Diego North County is filled with hundreds and hundreds of working miniature masterpieces that can be seen up close and personal. The Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum, Carlsbad, is dedicated to “encourage craftsmanship with emphasis on metalworking projects at the small end of the size scale” as well as displaying “models to represent very accurately what something looks like from automobiles to ships to locomotives to aircraft to mechanical devices and other engines.” Visitors can wander down isles lined with beautiful display cases with the hand designed miniatures lit up so those attending can see their amazing detail with ease.
Photos by TR Robertson
The Museum was inspired by founder Joe Martin’s love for craftsmen and their love for designing and building a variety of models of every kind. Martin developed an early interest in building and flying model airplanes and would eventually develop and build joysticks to help control the planes. His ideas would draw interested from NASA as something that could be used in their simulators. Martin would work for the Sherline Tool Line and he would later purchase the tool line name and complete the production of these tools in the U.S. He would be involved with Sherline for thirty years. His love of the hobby of miniatures would lead him to opening a museum to display the work of these craftsmen and women. The purpose of the museum is to establish and maintain a Craftsmanship Museum to display fine work that has been donated or loaned to the Foundation. The first museum is just a short distance away from their present location. Martin would move to this much larger building, 16,000 sq. ft., which he would purchase, at the present location of 3190 Lionshead Ave., Carlsbad. The Museum opened their doors on February 7, 2011. He also wrote a book on metalworking using small machine tools and tabletop machining.
Martin established the Joe Martin Foundation, in 1997, to recognize exceptional skill in miniature engineering, created a data base for miniature enthusiasts, created a library of books, magazines and video tapes to help anyone interested in the hobby and he also helped establish appropriate monetary values for those craftsmen interested in selling their work. The Foundation also helps bring public attention to the craftsmanship, encourages craftsmen to expand their skill from a hobby to an occupation for those interested and helps make sponsorship opportunities available for the builders. They also award each year a Metalworking Craftsman of the Year Award. The Foundation works with the Association of Professional Model Makers as well (https://www.modelmakers.org ).
The amazing examples of craftsmanship inside the museum falls into several sections. There is the Model Making Section, the Model Engineering Section (Internal Combustion Engines, Steam and Stirling, Other Engineering Projects and Masterpieces), Miniature Gunsmithing Section, Watch and Clockmaking Section, Machine and Metalworking as an Art Form Section, Engraving Section, and Special Museum Collections on Display from private collections. An example of the private collections is the incredible craftsmanship shown in the Paul and Paula Knapp collection on display.
The Museum is open to the public free of charge and is open from 9 am until 4 pm Thursday to Saturday. The are closed on holidays. A staff of four full time employees works on making sure any repairs that are needed are taken care of and any items donated are displayed with appropriate care to make sure the public can see the beautiful work of the craftsman who designed the piece. Six to seven docents work at various times, each able to tell those visiting the history of the Museum and the stories surrounding the various items on display. Most of the pieces in the museum are full working designs with the docents able to show the public how the items move and work. Terry Miller, General Manager and Curator, led my personal tour and said the Museum is always looking for qualified docents and volunteers who want to assist in learning more about the miniatures. The four full time employees, as well as other craftsmen, also have access to a large Museum Machine Shop in the back area, where the public can see work being done to either personal pieces or museum pieces that are in the process of preparation for display. Paul Healy was repairing one donation in the front office, a Carlson Fabrication Works display made by Richard Carlson. The larger miniature featured a number of belts that would move the small machines once they were repaired.
Those who visit the Museum will want to make sure they stop by the Joe Martin display, showing some of the early joy sticks he developed and a history of how the Museum became a reality. Other standout exhibits include the 1/6 scale running Duesenberg SJ, built by Louis Chenot requiring 20,000 hours to build and featuring over 6,000 parts. Another featured exhibit is Young C. Park’s metal WW II aluminum warplanes, a 1/6 Corsair and a P51-D Mustang. One of the most impressive exhibits is the 1/6 scale Holbrook Type Lathe, donated by Alfred Mellow. The intricacy of the miniature will stun you as you look at the detail. I especially liked the dioramas in the doll houses on display and the work that went into building the model of the U.S. Capitol Building, built by Richard Escarcega and donated by Charles Pedrotta.
Everywhere you turn in the Museum you will find something that will make you stop and stare at the hours that went into creating what you are looking at. There is so much on display you will want to make sure you have an hour or two to wander up and down the aisles. Do not forget there are docents that can answer your questions. People of all ages will find something that stands out in the Miniature Museum.
Admission is free, but donations are welcomed. Tax Deductible Charitable Donations are also accepted at the Miniature Museum, a publicly supported non-profit organization under Regulation 501 © (3), Fed. Tax ID No. 93-1221845. For more information about visiting the Museum, go to www.craftsmanshipmuseum.com or call 760-727-9492. The Museum is located at 3190 Lionshead Ave., Carlsbad. You can email any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another example of Hidden Gems located in the County. Look for another Hidden Gem you will want to visit in another issue of The Vista Press.