Model Behavior: Scale Models by Members of the Sonoran Desert Model Builders

September 23, 2020 – December 13, 2020

This Community Corner exhibit features over 40 scale models built by members of the Sonoran Desert Model Builders (SDMB) showing the breadth of subject matter and the artistry of customization. The reward of putting together a sophisticated kit, the desire to improve one’s skill at enhancing the realism of the model, or the challenge of creating a model from scratch, keeps these hobbyists' interest sparked.


The history of scale model kits is rooted in WWII, when the Royal British Army and the US Navy began using scale models in training to aid in aircraft recognition. After the war, scale models of military aircraft, tanks, battleships, and the like became available to the public. Due to their long history, these subjects remain a favorite with modelers. Automobiles, robots, and science-fiction spacecraft are also very popular subjects. Still other modelers gravitate towards pop culture – drawing inspiration from games, movies, and books. A modeler’s enthusiasm for the subject inspires fastidious research to ensure the details are accurate and realistic.

Kent Weeks SDMB


Model building is not just about precision and following directions. Subject research, interpretation, and creative techniques bring artistry to the hobby. Oftentimes a modeler’s vision is beyond what is available in a kit. In these cases, a modeler will do what’s known as a conversion – adapting a kit through embellishments either completely from scratch or combining parts from several kits. Other times, a modeler might not even find a suitable base kit that matches their imagination. When this is the case, they may take on the task of designing and scratch-building their model from raw materials such as basswood, styrene plastic, or metal. Models can be further customized by an endless variety of creative weathering and other finishing techniques. The modeler’s creation is limited only by their imagination, patience, and eagerness to acquire new skills.

More about the Sonoran Desert Model Builders' Club

Founded in January 2010, SDMB is a chartered International Plastic Modelers' Society (IPMS) model club here in Tucson that builds both plastic and non-plastic kits. This group of talented, passionate, and welcoming modelers encourage everyone to learn and participate in the art of scale model building. They hope you will enjoy viewing their small-scale worlds of remembrance and imagination and aspire to inspire you to join them by creating scale models of your own. For more information, visit their website:

About the Exhibiting Members


During the installation of this exhibition, we were able to interview several members of the Sonoran Desert Model Builders about how they got their start in modeling and what inspires them.

Click to Expand for Bios on the Exhibiting Members of SDMB

Dave Brown

When asked what inspired him to begin making models, Dave Brown said; “At the age of 9, when I watched my father magically conjure (in white plastic and glue) a GMC “Jimmy” 4x4 truck in miniature right before my eyes, I became fascinated by scale models.” His interest deepened when he discovered that he had a semblance of control over these tiny worlds and that he could escape into them with boundless and expansive imagination. As his skills developed, simulacrum became his goal and replicating the effects of time and weather in miniature, his challenge. The appeal of this process, of creating narrative and entropy in a scale model, by manipulating plastic and through the application of paint, procedure, and technique, continues to engross Dave.

Derek Campbell

Derek Campbell has been building models since he received his first kit in his Easter Basket at age 6. His interest in the hobby has never waned. Even when in the military in Southeast Asia, he tried to find time to either read about models or build old Airfix kits that his brother sent to him. He enjoys the camaraderie of fellow modelers at swap meets and contests. Derek is the past president of the International Plastic Modelers Society Tucson and Sonoran Desert Model Builders hobby clubs. He hopes to pass on the fun and interest of the hobby to his grandkids.

Simon Herbert 

Simon started scale modeling around age 7, always with a strong desire to create something as realistic as possible. He knows that learning is part of the process, and through trial and error, learning from fellow modelers, and not giving up, eventually yields better and better results. He likes to scratch-build and enjoys the creative challenge of building dioramas. 

Simon enjoys competing in local, regional, and national scale modeling competitions, and has written numerous articles for international scale modeling publications in the subjects of armor, aviation, and railroads.

Clara Johnson

Clara Johnson became interested in models around the age of 6, while watching her brother build a collection of 1/72 scale Revell airplanes. Since he wouldn't let her touch his models, she had to content herself with gluing together the leftover pieces of sprue from his kits. Clara’s love of creating things in miniature has never diminished. She built kits through grade school and high school: cars, tanks and airplanes, seeking to improve her skills with painting and converting military figures. As a young adult, she became involved with wooden sailing ships, and applied herself to miniature carpentry and rigging. After several years of this, her patience began to wear thin (a ship model took 1-2 years to complete), and she returned to plastic modeling, where the gratification was a little more "instant".  

Clara considers herself a generic modeler, building whatever captures her fancy, be it an airplane, car, or diorama. She tries to incorporate weathering in the vehicles she makes, in order to dispel a toy-like appearance. Lately she has been drawn towards esoteric subjects and to model kits which might be considered "ugly ducklings".  

She says, “I am indebted to my colleagues in the Sonoran Desert Model Builders, from whom I continue to learn and be inspired.”

Pete Oftedahl

Pete was introduced to plastic modeling as a kid by his older brother in the 1960s. He built planes, tanks, and ships for many years, and enjoyed studying the history surrounding them, but eventually turned his focus on tanks and other military vehicles. He took a break from modeling to raise his family, and is now happily (but slowly) returning to the hobby, which has always been on the back burner of his mind!

Bill O’Malley

The first model kits Bill O”Malley remembers building in elementary school were cars that he would roll around on the floor. By the time he was in high school the car model kits he created became much more detailed and creatively painted. College and family life interrupted Bill’s hobby, but now that he is retired, he enjoys many hours building complex kits, and often scratch-builds different versions. What intrigues Bill most about scale modeling is finishing and weathering kits artistically to represent real world subjects.

His models have won local, state, and international awards. Bill also provides critical reviews of kits for the International Plastic Modelers Society, and is inspired by fellow members of the Sonoran Desert Model Builders.

Andrew Radloff

Andrew Radloff is an Iowa native and a member of the US Air Force. He has been building models since 2004, mostly in his areas of interest, military vehicles and aircraft from World War I to present. He is especially interested in topics related to World War II and is an avid reader and militaria collector. Aside from military subjects, he enjoys building models for others about anything of significance to them. He is married, has two dogs, and has been stationed at Davis-Monthan AFB since August of 2016. He is currently the 355th Component Maintenance Squadron commander. 

Dick Smith

Dick Smith started building models when he was in elementary school using the old balsa wood stick and tissue kits. His childhood was spent on Air Force facilities including two stints at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base sparking an interest in aircraft modeling. High school, college studies, and jobs interrupted his hobby. After graduating from the University of Nebraska, with the encouragement of his wife, he pursued modeling once again. Dick is primarily interested in building models of aircraft from WWII to the modern-day. After retiring from a 40-year career as a television photojournalist, he wrote and built aircraft models for the nationally circulated Aviation History magazine.

Kent Weeks

Kent Weeks has been building scale models since he was 9 years old. His first model, an Apollo moon lander, was built with a lot of assistance from his father. When he was in middle school, he was inspired by a cousin who was also a scale modeler, to delve into World War tanks. This began a lifelong love of building scale models. Kent continued to build models while in high school including ships, cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Toward the end of high school he took a break from model making and didn’t pick up the hobby again until after he completed college and his last child moved out of the house.

Kent predominately builds World War I aircraft models, mostly in 1/32 scale. He also builds World War II armor and aircraft, usually in 1/48 and 1/35 scale, and occasionally science fiction models in any scale. He is the current treasurer for the Sonoran Desert Model Builders club.

Associated Programs

"We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile." 
The Borg Cube Project featured image

The Borg Cube Project: DIY Assimilation

Join the Sonoran Desert Model Builders and The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures in creating a collaborative piece of installation art using recycled plastic (sprue) from model kits. Make your own Borg Cube and return it to the museum to be assimilated into the “Borg Collective,” a miniature model of the classic Star Trek Borg Cube spaceships.

Cost: This is a free program to registered participants. Registration is required. See details below.

  1. Register for you or your family to participant in making a Borg cube. 
  2. Pick up your kits at the museum between October 3 and October 31, 2020.
  3. Use the recycled plastic and glue to create your own cube. Decorate it as desired with paint or other materials. Please use recycled materials if possible.
  4. Photograph your cube and share it on social media with the hashtag #TMTMBorgCubeProject.
  5. Return your cube to the museum by November 7, 2020 to be assimilated into the “Borg Collective,” a collaborative installation art miniature, which will be displayed at the museum through December 13, 2020.

Suitable for all ages. Construction requires the use of glue and paints.

Each supply kit contains the materials to create one project. Created projects submitted to TMTM will not be returned.

The materials for this project have been generously donated by members of the Sonoran Desert Model Builders. Registrants will not have their choice of kits or materials.

Each kit will include instructions, but artists are encouraged to add their own creative touch to their cubes using recycled materials. Technically, there are no rules or limitations on how one completes a cube. It will be necessary, however, to make sure a cube fits in the container provided in order to guarantee a proper fit into the frame. It is also necessary to keep the cubes to a reasonable weight. Plastic pieces will be no problem. Just keep any metal or electronic pieces within reason.

Origins Of The Borg Cube Project

Kits that are not picked up or claimed by October 31, 2020 will be redistributed to other participants on the waiting list for this program.

By participating in this program you consent to photography, audio recording, video recording and its/their release, publication, exhibition, or reproduction to be used for news, webcasts, promotional purposes, telecasts, advertising, inclusion on websites, social media, or any other purpose, by The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures (TMTM), its affiliates and representatives. You release TMTM, its officers, and employees, and each and all persons involved from any liability connected with the taking, recording, digitizing, or publication and use of photographs, video and/or sound recordings. By participating, you waive all rights you may have to any claims for payment or royalties in connection with any use, exhibition, streaming, webcasting, televising, or other publication of these materials, regardless of the purpose or sponsoring of such use, exhibiting, broadcasting, webcasting, or other publication irrespective of whether a fee for admission or sponsorship is charged. You also waive any right to inspect or approve any photo, video, or audio recording taken by TMTM or the person or entity designated to do so by TMTM.

Registration is required to participate in this program. Registration is limited to 38 participants. Kits are limited to one per household/transaction.



for ages 6–10

SDMB Take-N-Make SnapTite Kits

SnapTite Kits featured image

This Take-N-Make with members of SDMB is an online / at home program suitable for kids ages 6–10.

Saturday, October 31, 2020 from 1pm–3pm

$7 / $5 members.

Registration is required.

for ages 6–10

SDMB Take-N-Make Butterflies

Metal Earth Butterflies featured image

This Take-N-Make with members of SDMB is an online / at home program suitable for kids ages 10 and up.

Saturday, November 21, 2020 from 1pm–3pm

$7 / $5 members.

Registration is required.

About the Community Corner

The Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures’ Community Corner is exhibit space dedicated to featuring the work of  Tucson-area artists working in miniature. Exhibits are selected to demonstrate the diversity of miniature artwork that is being created in our community.

Exhibition Support:​

Our 2020 Exhibition Season is supported in part by the Arizona Commission on the Arts, which receives support from the State of Arizona and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Our 2020 Exhibition Season is supported in part by Tucson Lifestyle Magazine. Tucson Lifestyle Magazine is Tucson's only glossy, monthly city magazine, targeting Southern Arizona’s affluent residents. With over 35 years of publishing experience, Tucson Lifestyle is committed to highlighting the people, places, cuisine, and attractions that make our city unique.

We thank the Sonoran Desert Model Builders for sponsoring the printing of the complimentary Exhibit Supplement, for providing kits for the Take-N-Make programs, and for providing kits for The Borg Project.