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MSW Artist Profile~Raul Guzman Jr.

  • awardhouston1
"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 Raul, please do tell us a bit about yourself... Your age? Where do you live? Married? Kids? Your job? Your other hobbies and interests?

A. "I am 55 years old and a retired Texas History teacher. I taught school, mostly to 7th graders for 28 years. At the ripe old age of 52 I qualified for retirement and took it. One of the reasons I retired then was that I wanted to spend more time building wooden ship models or ship related dioramas.

In addition to my passion for model making, I am a cyclist. I have been riding rather seriously for 28 years and was one of three people that started Team McAllen, in my hometown of McAllen, Texas. McAllen is deep in south Texas and the weather here allows for riding all year long.

Last year I rode 7018.3 miles or about 11,295 kilometers. I am married to Rita Mae Guzman, who is also a retired school teacher. I have two step children, Jason and Ruby Mae. Both Jason and Ruby Mae are now in post graduate studies away from home, so our only ďchildĒ is our loving and devoted pet Chihuahua, Pee Wee. The years since my retirement have been the most enjoyable time of my whole life."

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

A. "As a young teenager I began building various plastic models. There was in town a store that had model car contests. I decided to enter and on my first attempt won Best of Show. As time went on I would win 5 Best of Shows in those local contests. I was displaying creativity back then by making model cars that were extra long with two engines or once I cut down a car to make a very short one. I enjoyed making parts out of metal and scratch building back when I was young. After some time I put away model making and it would be over 20 years before I took it up again."

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

A. "When I was teaching, I came upon the idea for building a model that I could use in my classroom. I decided during our Christmas vacation to make a scale log cabin and it was an explosion of fun. I told myself, I canít wait till Spring break to make another model, and then realized, why wait till Spring break, I can start another project now. I decided to see if I could make a ships model since it could tie in to my history lessons about the explorers.

I started with plastic and then found a source for wooden ship model kits. I built about two dozens kits and then started scratch building my models. I kind of fell in love with historic ships, the kind that were made of wood and used sails for movement. Ships from that historic era is about all I make now days."

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

A. "There are two world-renowned model shipwrights that I would like to emulate, Harold Hahn and Bernard Frolich. Hahn makes models of American and British ships, whereas Frolich stays true to his native land and makes models of French vessels. The quality of their work is what I am trying to aspire to. In emulating them, I now use exclusively hard woods. The types of woods I generally use on my models are boxwood, ebony, maple, bloodwood, pear, apple, Indian laurel and walnut."

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

A. "I love the building process, and it is a good feeling to see the daily progress when I am building. The constant problem solving aspect also appeals to me. I also enjoy immensely looking at a finished sailing vessel model. They seem to have a grace to them. I strive to build models that look like a real ship, just a miniaturized version. My HMS Victory model, in which I photographed it with the sky as a background, achieved that goal. Many have written to me saying that when they first saw photos of it, they thought it was the real thing.

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

A. "I canít really say that it is a bad thing, but in making wooden ship models, you will find it is a very slow process. You must be willing to take months, maybe years to complete one done really well. With this in mind, it would not suit every type of model maker. The long building time in some ways is a plus. My models take up a lot of space and since they take so long to complete, the room in my house isnít quickly filled."

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

A. "I prefer and just about limit myself to ship models when the ships were made of wood and used sails/wind for power (15th century Ė 18th century vessels). There is so much to learn, that I have restricted my attention and efforts to this time."

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

A. "There is not one event that stands out more than others, but if I had to pick one, I would have to say the Austin Scale Model show, since I won Best of Show there in 1998, 2006 and 2007!

Q. Now, touching on the same subject. which has been the most prized award that you have won?

A. "I have won several awards that made me feel proud and accomplished. Some of my awards include, Best of Show in Austin in 1998, 2006 and 2007; Best of Show Houston 2007, San Antonio Peopleís Choice Award (Most Popular Model) 2002, and Best Ship at the IPMS National Convention 2000 held in Dallas. My models have won 75 awards to date, but those mentioned above stand out the most in my mind and hang on the wall in my gallery room."

Q. OK, mate, time to get a little deeper...Tell us about your all time favourite modeling things...tools, reference materials, or particular ship or ship model kits...

A. "Well something that I bought is a monograph of a ship model I intend to build one day. It is a monograph of the French bomb ketch, La Salamandre. It is made by Ancre and has countless details of the ship in 1/48 scale. I have heard modelers say, once you build a model using an Ancre monograph, you wonít want to build any model without one. My problem is that I keep coming up with ideas and projects to do before I get to this bomb ketch.

I have also come to appreciate the necessity for having the right kind of tools to scratch build wood ship models. My table saws (Byrnes and Preac) are must haves. The day one kicks the bucket; Iím ordering a new one. I just couldnít do the type of models I do now without the miniature table saws I now have. I didnít realize how necessary they were until I got them.

My Preac table saw uses blades 2.5 inches in diameter. I use if for fine cuts. The more powerful saw, the Byrnes, uses 4-inch diameter blades. This saw will cut larger pieces so I can then use my Preac to get the final size I need. I have just bought an additional table saw, the one by Proxxon. This one has a blade that can tilt for angled cuts. There have been times that I needed such an angled cut, so now I have one."

Q. What has been, or is, your all-time favourite modeling purchase, or ship model?

A. "I canít say I have a favorite kit purchase, I just look for bargains on ships that I would want to build.

Q. Good answer, Raul...recently, what is the best modeling or ship kit purchase you have made?

A."I just bought a timbering set for a colonial frigate, the Confederacy. Iím buying it from a model maker who upon realizing its complexity, decided he couldnít build it, so I am getting it at a fair bargain price. It could be years before I get to it, but it is a model I had thought of building sometime."

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

A. "I build wooden ship models and most of my future projects will be scratch build, so I have a somewhat different perspective of the ship kit industry. I have seen that more kits are available from various companies. In my way of thinking, for the price of many kits, one could buy a set of plans, some power tools and wood and make the model rather than using a kit."

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

A. "I have built the HMS Victory and can see myself building another, but in a bit larger scale, trying to add more detail than I did on the first one. I also want to build the French bomb ketch La Salamandre and would like to build the CSS Alabama one day."

Q. If you could build only one ship subject for the next year, which one it would be?

A. "The one ship I plan on working on next year is the USS Essex (1797). The reason is that I started it last year and then set it aside to make other projects. I need to go back and finish this model. I have changed my idea on how it will look. I have planked one side completely and used battens on the other side to show off the frames. I am thinking of cutting away some of the frame sections on the batten side so one could see the interior workings of a wooden ship of that time. Of course that would require me to make the inside details and naturally the project would take longer to complete, but I see that as a good thing."

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

A. "Even though I have not always done so in the past, I have learned that I should stick to making models as accurate and historically correct as possible, given my building abilities."

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

A. "It is not really a secret; you have to take time to build something worthwhile. What I have learned is patience. If in making a part and it doesnít come out right, make it again. You may have to make it a few times before you are pleased with it.

Do your best, based upon your present abilities. Setting deadlines to finishing something is likely going to lessen the quality and enjoyment of your work. I also limit myself to about 5 hours a day for model building. 5 hours is the upper limit. Most days I work 3-4 hours. If I do long hours, my quality seems to suffer due to mental fatigue.

If I am making a model and using a kit as a start, I often find myself making parts to replace the kit supplied parts. I find more satisfaction in such building and many times I can make a part better than what was supplied.

If you wish to see more of my work, go to my website,guzmanshipmodels, or if you wish to contact me, write me at [email protected]

Edit Note-Thanks Raul, great interview!
  • Monitor Turret, 1
    Monitor Turret, 1
  • Oliver Cromwell, 3
    Oliver Cromwell, 3
  • Oliver Cromwell, 2
    Oliver Cromwell, 2
  • Oliver Cromwell, 1
    Oliver Cromwell, 1
  • La Pinta, 2
    La Pinta, 2
  • La Pinta, 1
    La Pinta, 1
  • La Nina, 2
    La Nina, 2
  • La Nina, 1
    La Nina, 1
  • HMS Victory, 3
    HMS Victory, 3
  • HMS Victory, 2
    HMS Victory, 2
  • HMS Victory, 1
    HMS Victory, 1
  • HMS Diana Quarterdeck, 3
    HMS Diana Quarterdeck, 3
  • HMS Diana Quarterdeck, 2
    HMS Diana Quarterdeck, 2
  • Essex Fighting, 3
    Essex Fighting, 3
  • Essex Fighting, 2
    Essex Fighting, 2
  • Essex Fighting, 3
    Essex Fighting, 3
  • Essex Fighting, 1
    Essex Fighting, 1
  • Essex 12 Pounders, 3
    Essex 12 Pounders, 3
  • Essex 12 Pounders, 2
    Essex 12 Pounders, 2
  • Essex 12 Pounders, 1
    Essex 12 Pounders, 1
  • Admiralty of the Board, 3
    Admiralty of the Board, 3
  • Admiralty of the Board, 2
    Admiralty of the Board, 2
  • Admiralty of the Board, 1
    Admiralty of the Board, 1
  • Oliver Cromwell
    Oliver Cromwell
  • Monitor Turret, 3
    Monitor Turret, 3
  • Monitor Turret, 2
    Monitor Turret, 2

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...


I love those ships, no way I will ever be that good. Look forward to some more work, hopefully! Thanks for sharing....
JUL 17, 2008 - 05:52 AM
Sailing ships are just wonderful. To me those are real sailors. So much went into one of those ships I think people forget. Thank you for sharing your wonderful work with us!
JUL 17, 2008 - 06:23 AM
Beautiful work Raul. Kenny
JUL 17, 2008 - 07:43 AM
Raul, Your work is outstanding, astounding, and amazing. Youmay have modeling "heroes" but we have YOU! The detal and craftsmanship and imagination (and dedication) + (and skill) you continue to display are amazing. I am a little inspired by you and work, and LOT intimadated. beautiful, please keep enjoy modelling so we can enjoy your work!
JUL 19, 2008 - 01:31 AM
Hi Raul First, I would like to apologize for my late comment on your Artist Profile feature, but work comes first! Although not my "league", wooden model ships are those kind of models that always make persons turn their heads around, even if not modelers... Your models look like real sailing ships, which is the best comment I can make Thanks for sharing a little bit of your life, too Keep on working on those projects, better few and good Cheers, Rui
JUL 20, 2008 - 02:58 AM