Scale Model FAQ

How much does a custom model cost?

This is the #1 question asked by all clients. Unfortunately there is no “set price” for custom model making. The way we work is this; we meet with the client until we are satisfied that we have a good idea of what it is that they want. Then we sit down with our staff and talk about the project to determine the best way to create what the client wants, we discuss materials, processes, tools required, and finally how much time the job will take. With this information we prepare a detailed quote for the client based on estimated time and materials cost. This is a fixed price quote assuming no changes to the scope after the job is started. Additional work due to changes in design are quoted separately.

On the subject of how much it costs…

One thing we suggest to clients is that once you have an idea of what you want built figure out how much you want to spend on the model. We will often ask clients what their budget for the project is. This question might seem strange and a little like the poker equivalent of “showing your hand” in the middle of the game but there is a good reason for it. When we quote a job it is based on time and materials estimated as accurately as possible, there is no magic to it, it’s all just numbers.

The reason why we ask about your project budget is this; Imagine you tell us you want a half scale model of a XYZ-123 with full interior detail and a working articulated motivator oscillator arm and you tell us you have a budget of $2000.00. Now anyone familiar with the XYZ-123 knows that a half scale model of this fine fictional example of a machine simply cannot be built on that budget, but armed with the knowledge of how much you want to spend we might be able to suggest alternatives. How about a ¼ scale cutaway model showing the most important interior areas and not the less important areas? And maybe you can live without the articulated motivator oscillator arm? It is to our advantage to work within your budget rather than just say “sorry, it can’t be done for that price”

What does that price include?

Everything listed on the detailed quote we provide. Shipping/crating charges are normally invoiced separately at the time of shipping. If you have specific crating or shipping requirements please let us know up front and we can include that in the fixed price quote if you prefer.

How long will the job take?

Estimated delivery date is always part of the quote, you will know up front how long the job will take before you agree to have us do it. Many factors play into delivery times on model jobs including the complexity of the model, size of the model and of course how many other jobs are working at the same time. If you need a model for a specific event or show please do not wait till the last minute, plan ahead and contact us to see if we can accommodate your schedule. We have a good reputation for finishing jobs on time or ahead of schedule. Keep us informed of any schedule changes and we will do everything we can to accommodate the changes.

How much information do you need from me to make a model?

We have people come in with CD ROMs full of CAD drawings of every conceivable detail of a model and we have people come in waving their arms and moving their hands saying “I need something like this with a thing like this coming out of here…”. Obviously we prefer detailed drawings of the product to be built but we can work with little information and assist you in creating the design you want. A few basic things you can think about before calling us are:

  • What will this model/mock-up be used for?
  • How will it be displayed/used? (on a stand, a base, hung from wires, free standing)
  • What size or scale do you have in mind?
  • How much or how little detail is desired/required?
  • Will the model be shipped to various shows/locations or on display at one place?
  • Will any portion be powered or animated in any way? (motors, lights, sound)
  • How soon do you need the model?

What’s the best scale for a model?

This is something we will discuss with you based on your requirements and some of the answers to the questions above. The scale of the model is determined by many factors, but primary determining factors are Where?, What? and How?. Where will it be displayed?, What is it’s purpose? How will it be Displayed? A 1/24th scale model of a small airplane is a nice desktop size (with a wingspan of about 15″) but would look a little silly hanging 20’ off the ground over a booth at a trade show, in that case you might want something on the order of 1/4 scale.

With what materials will the model be made?

This is where our experience comes in. One of the many skills a model maker possesses is the ability to look at a project and visualize how he/she is going to build it and with what materials. Our quote to you will specify what materials we intend to use. If you have specific material requirements just let us know and we will accommodate those needs. We work with virtually any material ranging from wood, plastic and foam to advanced composites and metals of all types.

What are your capabilities? Or what model shop equipment do you have in your shop?

Our model shop equipment includes two 3D printers, three laser cutters/engravers, a CNC milling machine, CNC lathe, custom built CNC router, two conventional milling machines, 2 lathes, 3 table saws, two band saws, power planer, power sanders, drill press, scroll saw, router/shaper tables, brake, shear, TIG welder, paint spraying equipment, a large surface plate, and hundreds of other power and hand tools. We have many capabilities in-house that other shops would outsource including: Rubber mold making, plastic (resin) casting, hot-wire foam cutting, silk screening, composite mold making, vinyl graphics cutting, pattern making, vacuum bagging of composites and many more. KiwiMill has several computer workstations running the latest CAD and 3D modeling software and CAM software.