Phil Jensen
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by Jim Fernandez, Trustee

"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity" -- Albert Einstein

Editor's Note: The Museum welcomes noted builder, humorist and new Trustee, Jim "Hollywood" Fernandez to The Builder. We asked Jim to sort through a wonderful collection of photos and notes from Bruce Stollard, who constructs great models under the most adverse conditions. Jim has prepared this great article on Bruce, and we hope to get more feature articles from Jim in the future.

Recently, while shopping the vendor area at my local model car contest, I ran into one of my friends from our model car club that I had not seen for some time. He said he had not been building model cars lately due to a severe back problem. He could not sit up in a chair for more than 20 minutes at a time without severe pain. Then later on, that same day, a modeling buddy of mine was purchasing one of those new Monogram 1/8 scale '32 Ford deuce kits. I heard him say "I need to start building 1/8 scale cars because I'm losing my eye sight." Later on that same week I saw Gregg Hutchings, editor of Model Cars magazine, at the IPMS Nationals here in Phoenix. He was looking OK but, as he put it, his back injury was only getting better "kind of." All of this caused me to reflect on my model building future and I wondered -- how long can I build model cars before some physical ailment or obstacle prevents me from continuing? How long will I be able to do the things I love to do?

Then I heard about a modeler from the great Northwest. His name is Bruce Stollard. When I heard about Bruce and how he builds model cars, it really inspired me. Bruce is in his early 60's and has overcome a great obstacle to do the things he loves to do. About four years ago he developed degenerative neuropathy. This condition affects his vision such that he can see when things are there, but the center of his visual range is out of focus. He is legally blind.

Bruce built model cars when he was in high school. He was into photography and radio controlled model boats for many years. He finally got back into model cars a few years ago and, ironically, that's when his vision deteriorated. Despite his impairment, Bruce is creating automotive works of art by learning to overcome this condition and adapting to it. He has learned to use a magnifying screen that was developed to help the vision impaired read. This device is a closed circuit TV system. It has a large screen with a magnifying camera below it. There is a bright light that shines down on a movable table under the camera. One of the amazing things is that Bruce has learned to build model cars while watching only the screen. He does not look at his hands while he is building. He works much like a doctor does when they are doing internal surgery using cameras to guide their surgical tools.

You might think that Bruce's models would be lacking in detail. But you'd be wrong. He produces some of the most detailed and visually stunning models around. And he has the contest awards to prove it. He modifies and scratch builds many of the parts. There are challenges for him. For instance, due to how the TV projection system works, it is hard for him to see the details in black parts. And if he loses a small part on his work bench, or on the floor, it's very hard for him to find it. Bruce keeps his small parts in match boxes. This is a good tip for all of us. Spray painting the model is slow and tedious work. When Bruce spray paints the model, he holds the can about 5 to 6 inches from the body while making fast, steady, controlled passes . He uses the room lights to reflect off the body to see how much paint he has applied.

As I watched him work I could not help but think that what he has to go through to build a model really slows down the process. Especially the basic work that most of us knock out quickly . It made me ask myself, would I have the patience to do this kind of modeling? As Bruce says, "I am no expert, but I enjoy this hobby, even when it gets frustrating and I don't know what to do to solve a particular problem." But Bruce loves building model cars. One of Bruce's favorite sayings is: "There is nothing that I can't do to a model, until I have proven that I can't do it."

So now when I reflect on my model building future, I just think about Bruce and how he has overcome a great obstacle. And I consider how Bruce has not let his problems keep him from doing the things he loves to do.


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