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MSW Artist Profile~Tom Hathaway

  • Three Generations
"Three Generations" (Tom, center)

"MSW crew-mate Tom Hathaway (thathaway3) sits down in a one-on-one conversation, sharing his thoughts, and builds, in this MSW Artist Profile!"

"The Model Shipwrights (http://modelshipwrights.kitmaker.net/) Artist Q&A is a monthly feature. Itís an interview with various artists of the ship modelling world. These artists may include sculptors and painters; commercial and private modellers; well-known and lesser-known artists. Whoever they may be, the artists featured in Model Shipwrights Artist Q&A are highly respected members of our global community; people who have greatly influenced our world in their own way. As we honor these artists with this Q&A and photo feature, they in turn, honor us by sharing a piece of their own world."

Q. Hi Tom, please do tell us a bit about yourself... Your age? Where do you live? Married? Kids? Your job? Your other hobbies and interests?

A. "Iím almost 58 and for the last 31 years, Iíve lived in Canton, Michigan, just outside Detroit. Iím married with 3 kids, one son (almost 33, married with one son), and two daughters (oldest 30, married also with one son, and the youngest 19 at school training to become a professional photographer)."

"Iím an engineer by profession, and spent 30 years working at Ford in Product Development Engineering before retiring in 2007. And Iím starting a new job working for Raytheon doing the same sort of Product Development Engineering working over at Tank Automotive Command in Warren, MI. I also spent a total of 30 years in the Army (5 active 25 Reserve) retiring in 2002 as a Colonel. During my career, I spent most of it in the Field Artillery, however I am also qualified as an MP, and commanded the 785th MP Battalion, and when I retired, I had qualified in the Army Corps of Engineers."

"In addition to military modelling I also am interested in Model Railroading, and have two separate layouts going, one in N scale and the other HO. Both represent German lines as I spent over 11 years in Germany both as a dependent as well as being in the service myself. Besides modelling, Iím an active musician, playing the bass guitar both at church and in a local rock band ďWheelhouseĒ. I also play softball during the summer and handball in the winter."

Q. Very interesting, mate...now please, tell us about both your earliest modeling moment, and your earliest ship modeling moment....

A "My dad was very interested in Military History and modelling, everything from scratchbuilt 1/1250 waterline balsa ship models to Napoleonic and Civil War Figures. I was probably about 8 or so when I built my first model, but I have NO idea what it was, probably an airplane. The first ship model I built was probably the Polaris Missile Submarine with the cut-away hull.

Q. Ok, Tom, what about ship modeling in general...When did it start to appeal to you over other modeling genres?

A "Having spent a lot of my early life in the Tidewater Virginia area, Iíve always had an interest in ships. My grandfather worked at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, in Portsmouth, VA and it was always great to go to the yard with him to see what was happening. Later on when I got married, my father in law worked at Newport News Shipbuilding so that added to the interest."

Q. Tom, who or what inspires your ship modeling in general?

A. "Being a student of history myself, I like ships which have a history. And as with my armor models which I try to connect to various units in which Iíve served, I also like to have some sort of personal connection as well, as with the two LA Class Fast Attack boats I built which are the two on which my son served."

Q. Ok, Tom, now what, in your opinion, is the best thing about ship modeling?

A. "I think the best thing about building a ship is that each one is a unique creation, with itís own name and even when build a ship thatís part of a class, each ship not only will have differences from her sisters, but depending on the time period which youíre representing, the ship may differ significantly in appearance from one time to the next."

Q. NOW, tell us about what, in your opinion, is the worst thing about ship modelling? (if there is one!)

A "Thatís the flip side of the coin!! Since I tend to be a stickler for details, being able to have exact plans/photos for how the ship looked in all areas during the period I am representing, can be hard to come by and often youíre stuck with what the manufacturer delivers."

Q. OK, mate, please tell us about your all time favorite modeling era/period, and why?

A. "For ships, thatís WW II. There was an incredible explosion of technological advancements not only in shipbuilding and technology, but in tactics as well. The US Navy transformed into the greatest seagoing force in history during this period and is still on the cutting edge today, over 60 years later."

Q. Tom, through the years of your modeling career, which has been your favorite competition that you have entered, and why?

A. "I really donít build other than for my own enjoyment, and the satisfaction of having a model which I know is done as well as I can build it, and is unique is reward enough."

Q. Good answer, Tom...Tell us about your all time favourite modeling things...tools, reference materials, or particular ship or ship model kits...

A. "I have a reasonable arsenal of tools, but two that stand out are my trust exacto with a #11 blade, and my pin vise with its assortment of drill bits. I wind up doing a lot of scratch building and with those two items I can do a lot of damage!! As far as reference materials, I have the luxury of being able to get pretty much what I want."

"Probably my most useful references are ďThe Ships and Aircraft of The US FleetĒ, which started out in 1939 as a pamphlet size book and today is in its 18th edition and is a massive book. Iím lucky enough to have a copy of every edition, some of which are original editions I got from my dad who was a huge collector of military reference and history books."

Q. Tom, what has been, or is, your all-time favorite modeling purchase, or ship model?

A. "Iíd have to say that so far my favourite model is the USS Missouri. Besides being the last battleship placed in commission in the world and the site of the signing of the peace agreements to end WW II, she is just a beautiful ship."

"I procured a huge array of aftermarket items to upgrade the appearance and did a considerable amount of research to modify the Tamiya kit to represent Missouri as she looked at the end of WW II. Itís always rewarding to me to find a good photo of an area of the ship and if the kit maker didnít do a good job of depicting it, then making it right myself."

Q. Recently Tom, what is the best modeling or ship kit purchase you have made?

A. "My most recent kit was the 1/350 Tamiya Fletcher, which I completely transformed from an as commissioned round bridge to a late war Emergency AA refit square bridge. Had the Trumpeter Kit been available I may have started with that one, but as it turned out, Iím very happy with the results."

"I like the challenge of modifying the kit to represent what I can see in the reference photos, and I much prefer the way that the after market details look compared to a lot of the OOB items and so I wind up spending WAY more time (and $$) on kits than I should!!"

Q. Tom,in your honest opinion, what do you think about the present situation of the ship kit industry, and its future down the road?

A. "Iím please to see so many good quality kits being released by the manufacturers today. Compared to the way kits were when I started, todayí s kits have great quality. My only gripe is that since I way over detail kits, Iíd like to see more manufacturers offer a consolidated ďupgradeĒ kit which includes all the stuff I typically wind up buying or making, so I donít have to go to 5-6 different places to collect all the stuff thatís out there."

Q. If you could build a ship subject that you haven't tackled yet, what would it would be?

A. "Actually there are two that Iíd really like to do some day, and luckily both are available. Iíve always been fascinated with the Lexington/Saratoga as they appeared in the late 30ís with the colourful air wing and would love to eventually add a 1/350 to my shelf. But Iím getting to the point where Iím REALLY trying to actually BUILD the stash I have in my basement (which is really NOT outrageous compared to some Iíve seen!), and knowing how Iíd approach this project, it would take at least 2 years!!!"

Q. Tom ,in your opinion, what do you consider to be the all time "modeling dont's"?.... In other words what no respectable ship modeller should ever do.

A. "Well, at the risk of being a ďrivet counterĒ I think the worst sin is not doing a good job of research. Since I like the concept of the model as a depiction of an actual vessel or vehicle, I like to see them as close as possible to the real thing."

"Sometimes the manufacturers donít do quite as much research as they should. But afterall this is a hobby and it is supposed to be fun for those who participate. OOB builds are a legitimate creative expression in and of themselves, and at the end of the day, whether what youíve built does or doesnít closely match the real thing, if youíve had fun doing it and done it to the best of your abilities, and improved your skill, thatís the right outcome!!"

"I know from looking back over the stuff Iíve built that Iíve made a lot of strides both in accuracy and quality and thatís the goal."

Q. OK, mate, final question...tell us about one (or two) of your modeling secrets!

A. "Not sure that I really have any secrets! Iíve learned an awful lot by reading the tips posted on the website, and those have helped out a lot! Itís certainly not a secret, but one of my techniques which helps a lot with the scratch building I wind up taking on, is to spend plenty of time looking over the drawings/photos and do a thorough job of measuring out what you plan on fabricating."

Edit note-Thanks Tom, great answers!
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About the Author

About Mark R. Smith (Gunny)

I have been building models of all sorts all of my life, concentrating mainly on the coolest one's when I was younger, but now I focus directly on all military subjects, from armor to warships. After years of counting rivets, I put away the calipers, dial indicators, and micrometers and now just ha...


great interview and a precious picture, thanks for sharing!
NOV 06, 2008 - 04:48 AM
Hi Tom Thanks for sharing this with us! It's really a great read and also excellent model photos to enjoy! Again, Thank you Thanks for sharing it, Mark! Rui PS: I really appreciate the group photo
NOV 06, 2008 - 07:27 AM
Wow, haven't been able to get online and look what I miss! Very nice work, the detail and weathering make for very realistic mini subjects, very well done. I like your fav tools (hard to beat the trusty #11). It was good to see the group photo, and I wouldn't have pegged that handsome devil in the ctr as 58! Thanks for the interview.
NOV 21, 2008 - 10:54 AM
And you'd have been correct. Since I've been retired now for 6 years I was only 52 in the photo !!
NOV 23, 2008 - 07:59 AM
Great stuff Tom! Enjoyed all of it.
NOV 25, 2008 - 08:09 AM