Master of a Miniature World: Staffer Combines Interests to Create Lifelike Models

Master of a Miniature World: Staffer Combines Interests to Create Lifelike Models

Readers may not have recognized them, but construction machines from the UC Merced campus site appeared in the April 2005 issue of Model Magazine to show how hard work in hard conditions can affect heavy machinery.

"People who build models of heavy equipment or other vehicles want to make them look real," said UC Merced management services officer Bob Oehler, who coordinated the photo shoot. "The mud, the scratched paint " it's important to have a visual reference for these things. Oehler spends every day on the campus construction site, so he's in an ideal position to provide that reference.

Oehler is somewhat of a celebrity in the world of modeling, where he has fused his interests in art and history into an avocation he can share with friends, family, and fellow builders all over the world. He first became seriously interested as a graduate student, when he created a replica of a B-17 for the head of his department, who had been a World War II tail-gunner. Since then, he's won numerous contests and become a sought-after builder, writer and editor in a worldwide community of modelers all in addition to the regular jobs he's held in university administration.

"Model building is my relaxation, my outlet," Oehler says. "It's also a great family pastime." His daughter Kendall, then seven years old, was the assistant photographer for Oehler's recently published book, Modelling the SdKfz 251 Halftrack, which takes readers through the process of building and detailing a World War II German armored personnel carrier of this type as well as a realistic scene in which to set it.

It's also helped Oehler become integrated into the community around Merced. Since he spent some time in the military himself and particularly enjoys building models of vintage ships, planes and tanks, he is able to serve on the board of the Castle Air Museum. He's also found some fellow model-builders on staff at UC Merced.

"I really enjoy the social aspect of meeting people who have similar interests and needs," Oehler explains. "One mail-order company I work with told me they have 120 people in Merced on their mailing list. I look forward to meeting them."

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