What Do Model Makers, Wood Do?
Wood modelers blend a special combination of art and science into their efforts to create replicates, mockups, volume studies and scale reproductions of everything from skyscrapers to spacecraft. Though for the most part anonymous, wood modelers play a key role in new product design and development, and nearly every manufactured item has a model somewhere in its DNA. Many companies use prototypes to determine design flaws, subject products to focus groups for review, and make improvements before searching for investment capital. This occupation group also includes wood jig builders and loft workers.
Model Makers, Wood Skills and Abilities
When working as a wood model maker, you need to be able to provide your full attention during meetings and participate in the give-and-take discussion common to professional conversation. You must frankly evaluate your own performance on a daily basis and feel comfortable working with minimal supervision. The ability to read and understand spec sheets is a plus, as is the aptitude to think critically while evaluating proposals, solutions and product requirements related to a design. You must also have solid arm-hand steadiness, sharp near vision, and the ability to grasp and manipulate small objects. On a more instinctive level, you should have a gut feeling for looming problems that allows you to act before a situation worsens. Understanding production and processing and the essentials of manufacturing and distribution should be teamed with a solid grounding in practical engineering and basic technology. You must be able to apply this knowledge to the design and production of goods and services.
Model Makers, Wood Duties
As a model builder, you will use tools, design techniques and industry regulations to produce technical documents, drawings and product mockups. Specific duties performed by a wood modeler may include:
- Assuring the accuracy of model dimensions
- Setting up and operating woodworking machines
- Assembling wooden parts to make patterns and models
- Finishing out models by manually shaping, shaving and sanding
- Marking patterns with information required for assembly
- Building jigs that will act as guides when assembling non-standard box shooks
- Protecting or decorating models using finishes such as wax, shellac or lacquer
Model Makers, Wood Tools and Technology
Many of your day-to-day activities will involve computer-controlled lathes and power tools—milling machines, routers, sanders and saws. You will also regularly work with standard office suite applications and computer-assisted design software, such as Siemens NX and Dassault Systemes CATIA.
Education and Training for Model Makers, Wood
Roughly 60 percent of wood model builders do not earn more than a high school diploma, though 19 percent of those individuals have attended some college classes. Rarely do model makers or associated industry professionals attain more than a bachelor’s degree. In this occupation, prior work experience is typically not required; however, in order to set yourself above the competition, consider getting workshop experience by taking cabinetmaking and millwork classes. Once hired, you can expect to receive moderate on-the-job training.
Model Makers, Wood Salary
Model makers who are new to the profession typically earn just under $20,000 a year; top earners can expect to take home an annual salary of $56,000 or more, depending on where they live.
Model Makers, Wood Jobs by Geography
A six percent annual increase is expected for this occupation nationwide, which should lead to approximately 30 job openings yearly. Not surprisingly, wood modelers find most jobs in wood product and home and household furniture manufacturing industries, and the heaviest concentrations for these lie in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, California and Tennessee. Consider these statistics if you are interested in relocating to find work as a wood model builder.