Phuket scale models maker - motorboats, warship: a boy and his toys
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phuket Leisure: A boy and his toys

 A boy and his toys

Khun Tosapon Jintana was born in Phuket 50 years ago. Known as "Tos" to his many friends, he has managed to turn a lifetime interest in playing with models into a career. Over the last few years, his reputation and skill have grown to the point where he now works fulltime to keep up with orders. I asked him to explain how he acquired the skills for his unusual profession.

"My father gave me a rubber band powered airplane as a present when I was only five years old. When it brokeI fixed it; then I tried to make a plane from bamboo but it was too heavy to fly, so I used strips of bamboo covered with the paper we normally use to make kites. That one flew. Then I bought a few plastic kits to assemble into airplanes, when I was at boarding school in Bangkok. At the age of thirteen I was sent to England where I continued my education until I was twenty-one. In London I assembled several "Airfix" scale model planes. After returning to Thailand I continued my interest in models, I liked to play with model planes that had engines as well as radio controlled cars."

"About six years ago I built a model of the second world war battleship H.M.S. King George II. I made it from wood and it took me a month. After that I started making models of Thai warships and donating them to the exhibition at Saphan Hin which celebrated the father of the Thai Navy, King Rama 5's son, Prince Kromluang Chumporn Kate Udomsak on the occasion of his birthday each year on the 19th December. So far I've presented five ships to them."

"Three years ago I was given the plans for a sail boat by an English friend. I started to build a scale model and found it so interesting and enjoyable that I began to buy books on boat building in Thai and English; learning of my interest some friends gave me more books about boats."

"It was just a hobbie until an American friend asked me to build a model of his boat berthed at the Boat Lagoon. It was 1.2 metres long and my first sale. I decided to shut my shop where I'd been selling auto spares and concentrate my energies (and he really has a lot of energy) into doing something that I found to be good fun, interesting and full of feeling."

"That was on the 24th December 1999. Since then it's been difficult at times not knowing what's going to happen. Will I get an order and when? Most of the sales so far have been to boat owners."

"On New Years Eve 2001, I had a phone call from my friend Don to say he had returned to Phuket. He arrived at 9:00am on New Years day with his two friends Caroline and Dan. They liked my models and since then I have had several orders from Caroline who works for a boat brokerage in Texas. They order yacht models that are 24" long and it takes me about six weeks to produce five identical models. I have tried various brands of paint and have found that BMW car paint gives a nice glossy finish. My wife makes the sails from the cloth used on umbrellas. My daughter Cindy also helps in the workshop, she's very good with her hands; it seems to be in her blood. She can produce three sailing dinghy hulls a day and the workmanship is flawless. She helps me with other models I produce multiple copies of; such as motorboats. These are 20" long and take about 10 days to make.Some larger boats of a metre or more can take about a month, but the work is easier because everything is big enough to handle easily. Small models are very demanding due to the small components. The most difficult to construct are the yachts. A 30" models takes about six weeks, even with Cindy's assistance. The paint job needs sanding with many grades of progressively finer wet and dry paper. My wife includes batons or stays in the sails so it looks like the wind is filling them. It is more pleasing to look at and gives a lively natural effect. All the boats are built from wood. I don't like fibreglass, it is itchy and smells terrible."

He goes on, "I can make models just from a photograph, but if you give me the plans I can make a more accurate copy. My model of the H.T.M.S (His Thai Majesty's ship) Jaksapgre Narubeight, is modelled from a photograph. This 12,000-ton aircraft carrier was built in Spain and arrived in Thailand three years ago. It is equipped with sea harrier vertical take off planes and sea hawk helicopters, so I had to make copies of these as well as the ship. The warship I most enjoyed making was the H.T.M.S. Praluang. This ship was launched in 1917 in England where it was known as the'Radiant'. The Thai government bought it for three million baht and it arrived in Bangkok on the 7th October 1920, eighty-two years ago. This boat has now been cut up and sold for scrap, which I think, was a terrible mistake. I think it should have been hauled ashore and used as a maritime museum in Bangkok to remind our people of the days Thailand sailed the oceans. This was a powerful vessel of 1080 tons that could steam at 34 knots!"

He continues with a smile, "I'll try to build a model of any type of boat I'm asked to do. The latest request is for an 1812 French warship. Sometimes I just build others because I like them and my next project is to build some canal boats or'barges' as the English call them. I can remember seeing many of them when I lived in England 35 years ago. There's something about their simple lines that appeals to me."

I studied technical drawing at school in Hastings 35 years ago and dreamed of being a'Red arrow' pilot. Now that I have my friends and a close family that work together, I can earn a living doing something I enjoy and get satisfaction from, what more can a man want?"


- August Issue, 2002

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