A scale model is most generally a physical model
of an object
that maintains accurate relationships between its important aspects, although absolute value
s of the original properties need not be preserved. This enables it to demonstrate some behavior or property of the original object without examining the original object itself. The most familiar scale models represent the physical appearance of an object in miniature, but there are many other kinds.
Scale models are used in many fields including engineering
, military command
, salesmanship, and hobby model building
. While each field may use a scale model for a different purpose, all scale models are based on the same principles and must meet the same general requirements to be functional. The detail requirements vary depending on the needs of the modeler.
To be a true
scale model, all relevant aspects must be accurately modeled, such as material properties, so the model's interaction with the outside world is reliably related to the original object's interaction with the real world.
Scale models are used by many fields for many different purposes. Some of the specific uses of scale models by specific fields are explained below in the examples.
Although structural engineering
has been a field of study for thousands of years and many of the great problems have been solved using analytical and numerical techniques, many problems are still too complicated to understand in an analytical manner or the current numerical techniques lack real world confirmation. When this is the case, for example a complicated reinforced concrete beam-column-slab interaction problem, scale models can be constructed observing the requirements of similitude to study the problem. Many structural labs exist to test these structural scale models such as the Newmark Civil Engineering Laboratory at the University of Illinois, UC.
For structural engineering scale models, it is important for several specific quantities to be scaled according to the theory of similitude. These quantities can be broadly grouped into three categories: ''loading'', ''geometry'', and ''material properties''. A good reference for considering scales for a structural scale model under static loading conditions in the elastic regime is presented in Table 2.2 of the book ''Structural Modeling and Experimental Techniques''.
Structural engineering scale models can use different approaches to satisfy the similitude requirements of scale model fabrication and testing. A practical introduction to scale model design and testing is discussed in the paper "Pseudodynamic Testing of Scaled Models".
in Finnair Airlines
colors. Many airlines use model aircraft as advertisement items]]
Model aircraft are divided into two main groups: static and flying models.
Static model aircraft are commonly built using plastic, but wood, metal, card and paper can also be used. Models are sold painted and assembled, painted but not assembled (snap-fit
), or unpainted and not assembled. The most popular types of aircraft to model are commercial airliners and military aircraft. Aircraft can be modeled in many "scales". The scale notation is the size of the model compared to the real, full-size aircraft called the "prototype". 1:8 scale will be used as an example; it is read as: "1 inch (or whatever measurement) on the model is equal (: means equal) to 8 inches on the real (prototype) airplane". Sometimes the scale notation is not used; it is simply stated: "my model is one eighth (1/8) scale", meaning "my model is one eighth the size of the real airplane" or "my model is one eight as large as the real airplane". Popular scales are, in order of size, 1:144
, 1:87 (also known as HO for "half-O scale"
(the most numerous), 1:48 (also known as O scale)
. Some European models are available at more metric scales such as 1:50
. The highest quality models are made from injection-molded
plastic or cast resin
. Models made from Vacuum formed
plastic are generally for the more skilled builder. More inexpensive models are made from heavy paper
or card stock. Ready-made die-cast metal models are also very popular. As well as the traditional scales, die-cast models are available in 1:200
and 1:600 scale
These scales are usually reserved for civil airliners. Static aircraft scale modeling falls broadly into three categories: kit assembly, scratch-building, and collection of ready-made models. Scratch-builders tend to be the top echelon in terms of skill and craftsmanship. They tend to be the most discerning when it comes to accuracy and detail and they spend far more time on far fewer models than a kit assembler.
Kit assemblers fall roughly into two categories: OOB
(Out of box) and modified (also known as "kit-bashing
"). Out of Box refers to the act of assembling a kit only from what is contained in the box supplied, whereas a modifier or "kit-basher" employs after-market products such as alternative decals, photo-etched metal detail parts, and cast resin detail, conversion, or scratch-built parts to enhance or change the model in some way. Collectors are concerned purely with the issue of theme, and are not really interested in personal construction as such.
Aircraft modelers often fall into more than one category, as fancy takes them. The overwhelming majority of aircraft modelers concern themselves with depiction of real-life aircraft, but there is a smaller cadre of modelers who derive additional fun by 'bending' history a little by making models of aircraft that either never actually flew or existed, or by painting them in a color scheme that did not actually exist. This is commonly referred to as 'What-if' or 'Alternative' modeling, and the most common theme is 'Luftwaffe 1946' or 'Luftwaffe '46'. This theme stems from the idea of modeling German secret projects that never saw the light of day due to the close of World War II. This concept has been extended to include British, Russian, and US experimental projects that never made it into production.
Flying model aircraft are of two types: those constructed for aerodynamic research
and those for recreation or aeromodeling
Aerodynamic models may be constructed for use in a wind tunnel
or in free flight. Small-scale piloted aircraft are even constructed to test some aspect of a proposed full-size design, but these are not considered as models even though they may be accurate to scale.
Recreational models are often made to resemble some real type. However the aerodynamic requirements of a small model are different from those of a full-size craft, so flying models are seldom fully accurate to scale. Most flying model aircraft can be placed in one of three groups: free flight
, control line
and radio controlled
. Flying models can be built from scratch
or from kits. Some kits take many hours to put together and some kits are almost ready to fly
or ready to fly
With elements similar to miniature wargaming
, building model
s and architectural model
s, a plan-relief is a means of geographical representation in relief as a scale model for military use, to visualise building projects on fortifications or campaigns involving fortifications.
Most hobbyists who build models of buildings do so as part of a diorama
to enhance their other models, such as a model railroad
or model war machines. As a stand-alone hobby, building models are probably most popular among enthusiasts of construction toys such as Erector
. Famous landmarks such as the Empire State Building, Big Ben and the White House are common subjects. Standard scales have not emerged in this hobby. Model railroaders use railroad scales for their buildings: HO scale
(1:87), OO scale (1:76), N scale
(1:160), and O scale
(1:43). Lego builders use miniland
scale (1:20) and minifig
scale (1:48) and micro scale (1:192)
[In the Lego community, micro scale can refer to anything smaller than minifig scale (1:48), but 1:192 is occasionally set as a standard micro scale. This ratio is arrived at by scaling a person (6 feet) to the height of a Lego brick (3/8 inches). See ]
Generally, the larger the building, the smaller the scale. Model buildings are commonly made from plastic, foam, balsa wood or paper. Card model
s are published in the form of a book, and some models are manufactured like 3-D puzzles. Professionally, building models are used by architects and salesmen.
Architecture firms usually employ model makers or contract model making firms to make models of projects to sell their designs to builders and investors. These models are traditionally hand-made, but advances in technology have turned the industry into a very high tech process than can involve Class IV laser cutters
, five-axis CNC machines
as well as rapid prototyping or 3D printing
. Typical scales are 1:12, 1:24, 1:48, 1:50, 1:100, 1:200, 1:500, etc.
Typically found in 1:50 scale
and also called model house
, model home or display house, this type of model is usually found in stately homes or specially designed houses. Sometimes this kind of model is commissioned to mark a special date like an anniversary or the completion of the architecture, or these models might be used by salesmen selling homes in a new neighborhood.
Buses and trucks
Typically found in 1:50 scale
, most manufacturers of commercial vehicles and heavy equipment
commission scale models made of die-cast metal as promotional items to give to prospective customers. These are also popular children's toys and collectibles. The major manufacturers of these items are Conrad
in Germany. Corgi
also makes some 1:50 models, as well as Dutch maker Tekno
Trucks are also found as diecast models in 1:43 scale
and injection moulded kits (and children's toys) in 1:24 scale
. Recently some manufacturers have appeared in 1:64 scale
like Code 3
. die-cast trucks|alt=|center|frame]]
, 1:43 Ford
F-100, 1:25 Revell Monogram 1999 Ford Mustang Cobra, 1:18 Bburago
1987 Ferrari F40
Although the British scale for 0 gauge
was first used for model car
s made of rectilinear and circular parts, it was the origin of the European scale for cast or injection moulded model cars. MOROP's specification of 1:45 scale for European 0 does not alter the series of cars in 1:43 scale
, as it has the widest distribution in the world.
In America, a series of cars was developed from at first cast metal and later styrene models ("promos") offered at new-car dealerships to drum up interest. The firm Monogram
, and later Tamiya
, first produced them in a scale derived from the Architect's scale: 1:24 scale
, while the firms AMT
, and Revell
chose the scale of 1:25. Monogram later switched to this scale after the firm was purchased by Revell. Some cars are also made in 1:32 scale
, and rolling toys are often made on the scale 1:64 scale
. Chinese die-cast manufacturers have introduced 1/72 scale into their range. The smaller scales are usually die-cast cars and not the in the class as model cars. Except in rare occasions, Johnny Lightning and Ertl-made die-cast cars were sold as kits for buyers to assemble. Model car
s are also used in car design
A model construction vehicle
(or engineering vehicle
) is a scale model or die-cast toy
that represents a construction vehicle such as a bulldozer
, concrete pump
Construction vehicle models are almost always made in 1:50 scale
, particularly because the cranes at this scale are often three to four feet tall when extended and larger scales would be unsuited for display on a desk or table. These models are popular as children's toys in Germany
. In the US they are commonly sold as promotional models for new construction equipment, commissioned by the manufacturer of the prototype real-world equipment. The major manufacturers in Germany are Conrad and NZG, with some competition from Chinese firms that have been entering the market.
locomotive showing size comparison with pencil.]]
train running on the Finnish Railway Museum
's miniature track.]]
s come in a variety of scales, from 1:8 on the large end and 1:450 (T scale
) on the small. Each scale has its own strengths and weaknesses, and fills a different niche in the hobby. The largest models are as much as long, the smallest a few centimeters. The most popular size is HO scale
(1:87) and second is N scale
Model railways originally used the term ''gauge
'', which refers to the distance between the rail
s, just as full-size railways
do. Although model railways were also built to different gauges, "standard gauge" in 1:1 scale railroads is 4' 8.5". Therefore, a model railway reduces that standard to scale. An HO scale model railway would have track that is 1/87 of 4' 8.5", or about 0.65" from rail to rail. Now it is more typical to refer to the scale of the model, and the term scale
has replaced "gauge" in most usages. This is despite considerable confusion between countries as to the definition of 0 scale
and N scale.
Considerable confusion often arises when referring to "scale" and "gauge", especially as the words are sometimes used interchangeably. The word "scale" refers to the proportional size of the model; the word "gauge" applies to the measurement between the inside faces of the rails. To highlight this difference, consider the various gauges used in HO scale; A gauge of 16.5 mm is used to represent the "standard gauge
" of (HO scale), a gauge of 12 mm is used to represent gauge (HOm) and the gauge (HOn3-1/2) and a gauge of 9 mm is used to represent a prototype gauge of . It is completely incorrect to refer to the mainstream scales as "HO gauge", "N gauge" or "Z gauge"
The most popular scale to go with a given gauge was often derived at by the following roundabout process. German
artisans would take strips of metal of standard metric size to make things to blueprints whose dimensions were in inches: hence "4 mm to the foot" yields the 1:76.2 size of the "OO scale". This British scale is anomalously used on the standard HO/OO scale (16.5 mm gauge from 3.5 mm/foot scale) tracks, however, because early electric motors weren't available commercially in smaller sizes.
There are three different standards for the "O" scale, each of which uses tracks of 32 mm for the standard gauge. The American version continues a dollhouse scale of 1:48. It is sometimes called "quarter-gauge", as in "one-quarter-inch to the foot". The British version continued the pattern of sub-contracting to Germans; so, at 7 mm to the foot, it works out to a scale of 1:43.5. Later, MOROP, the European authority of model railroad firms, declared that the "O" gauge (still 32 mm) must use the scale of 1:45. That is, in Europe the below-chassis dimensions must be slightly towards 4 feet 6 inches, to allow wheel/tyre/splasher clearance for smaller than realistic curved sections.
" railways, that people actually ride on, are built in many scales, such as 1-1/2", 1", and 3/4 inches to the foot. Common gauges are 7-1/2" (Western US) and 7-1/4" (Eastern US & rest of the world), 5", 4-3/4". Smaller live steam gauges do exist, but as the scale gets smaller, pulling power decreases. One of the smallest gauges on which a live steam engine can pull a passenger is the now almost defunct 2-1/2-inch gauge.
Japanese firms have marketed toys and models of what are often called mecha
, nimble humanoid fighting robots. The robots, which appear in animated shows (anime
), are often depicted at a size between 15-20m in height, and so scales of 1:100 and 1:144
are common for these subjects, though other scales such as 1:72
are commonly used for robots
and related subjects of different size.
The most prolific manufacturer of mecha
models is Bandai
, whose Gundam kit lines
were a strong influence in the genre in the 1980s. Even today, Gundam kits are the most numerous in the mecha modeling genre, usually with dozens of new releases every year. The features of modern Gundam
kits, such as color molding and snap-fit construction
, have become the standard expectations for other mecha model kits.
Due to the fantasy nature of most anime robots, and the necessary simplicity of cel-animated designs, mecha models lend themselves well to stylized work, improvisations, and simple scratchbuilds
. One of Gundam
's contributions to the genre was the use of a gritty wartime backstory as a part of the fantasy, and so it is almost equally fashionable to build the robots in a weathered, beaten style, as would often be expected for AFV
kits as to build them in a more stylish, pristine manner.
Rockets and spacecraft
kits began as a development of model aircraft kits, yet the scale of 1:72 .close to 4 mm.::1foot
never caught on. Scales 1:48 and 1:96 are used. There are some rockets of scales 1:128, 1:144
, and 1:200
, but Russian firms put their large rockets in 1:288. Heller SA
offers some models in the scale of 1:125.
space ships are heavily popular in the modeling community. Models based on ships from such franchises as ''Star Trek
'', ''Star Wars
'', and ''Battlestar Galactica
'' are regularly sold and created in scales ranging from 1:24 for fighters and smaller ships to 1:1000, 1:1400, and 1:2500 for most main franchise ships, and up to 1:10000 for the larger ''Star Wars'' ships (for especially objects like the Death Star
s and Super Star Destroyer
s, even smaller scales are used). Finemolds in Japan have recently released a series of high quality injection molded Star Wars kits
, and this range is supplemented by resin kits
from Fantastic Plastic
Scale models of people and animals are found in a wide variety of venue
s, and may be either single-piece objects or kits that must be assembled, usually depending on the purpose of the model. For instance, models of people as well as both domestic and wild animals are often produced for display in model cities or railroads to provide a measure of detail or realism, and scaled relative to the trains, buildings, and other accessories of a certain line of models. If a line of trains or buildings does not feature models of living creatures, those who build the models often buy these items separately from another line so they can feature people or animals. In other cases, scale model lines feature living creatures exclusively, often focusing on educational interests.
Models of living creatures requiring assembly are not as common as single-piece units, but certainly not unheard of. One of the most prolific kinds of kits requiring assembly that feature living creatures are models of human and animal skeletons. Like their single-piece counterparts, such kits are often touted as being educational activities. Skeleton kits often have unique features such as glow-in-the-dark pieces or attachable internal organs. Again, dinosaurs are a popular subject for such models. There are also garage kit
s, which are often figures of anime
characters in multiple parts that require assembly.
Ships and naval war-gaming
's model of Madderport]]
s of ships]]
In the first half of the 20th century, navies used hand-made models of warships for identification and instruction in a variety of scales. That of 1:500 was called "teacher scale." Besides models made in 1:1200 and 1:2400 scales, there were also ones made to 1:2000 and 1:5000. Some, made in UK|Britain
, were labelled "1 inch to 110 feet", which would be 1:1320 scale, but aren't necessarily accurate.
Michele Morciano says small scale ship models were produced in about 1905 linked to the wargaming rules and other publications of Fred T. Jane
. The company that standardised on 1:1200 was Bassett-Lowke
in 1908. The British Admiralty subsequently contracted with Bassett-Lowke and other companies and individual craftsmen to produce large numbers of recognition models, to this scale, in 1914–18.
Just before the Second World War, the American naval historian (and science fiction
author) Fletcher Pratt
published a book on naval wargaming as could be done by civilians using ship model
s cut off at the waterline
to be moved on the floors of basketball courts and similar locales. The scale he used was non-standard (reported as 1:666), and may have been influenced by toy ships then available, but as the hobby progressed, and other rule sets came into use, it was progressively supplemented by the series 1:600, 1:1200, and 1:2400. In Britain, 1:3000 became popular and these models also have come into use in the USA. These had the advantage of approximating the nautical mile
as 120 inches, 60 inches, and 30 inches, respectively. As the knot
is based on this mile and a 60-minute hour, this was quite handy.
After the war, firms emerged to produce models from the same white metal used to make toy soldiers. Lines Bros. Ltd
, a British firm, offered a tremendously wide range of waterline merchant and naval ship
s as well as dockyard equipment in the scale 1:1200 which were die-cast in Zamak
. In the US, at least one manufacturer, of the wartime 1:1200 recognition models, Comet, made them available for the civilian market postwar, which also drove the change to this scale. In addition, continental European manufacturers and European ship book publishers had adopted the 1:1250 drawing scale because of its similar convenience in size for both models and comparison drawings in books.
A prestige scale for boat
s, comparable to that of 1:32 for fighter planes, is 1:72, producing huge models, but there are very few kits marketed in this scale. There are now several clubs around the world for those who choose to scratch-build radio-controlled model ships and submarines in 1:72, which is often done because of the compatibility with naval aircraft kits. For the smaller ships, plank-on-frame or other wood construction kits are offered in the traditional shipyard scales of 1:96, 1:108, or 1:192 (half of 1:96). In injection-molded plastic kits, Airfix
makes full-hull models in the scale the Royal Navy
has used to compare the relative sizes of ships: 1:600. Revell
makes some kits to half the scale of the US Army standard: 1:570. Some American and foreign firms have made models in a proportion from the Engineer's scale: "one-sixtieth-of-an-inch-to-the-foot", or 1:720.
scale Japanese destroyer Harusame (1935)
plastic model kit released by Tamiya]]
Many research workers, hydraulics specialists and engineers have used scale models for over a century, in particular in towing tanks. Manned models are small scale Ship model|models
that can carry and be handled by at least one person on an open expanse of water. They must behave just like real ships, giving the shiphandler the same sensations. Physical conditions such as wind, currents, waves, water depths, channels, and berths must be reproduced realistically.
Manned models are used for research (e.g. ship behaviour), engineering (e.g. port layout) and for training in shiphandling
(e.g. maritime pilots
, masters and officers
). They are usually at 1:25 scale.
Tanks and wargaming
miniature battle at the HMGS
"Cold Wars" convention in Lancaster
Just before the 20th century, the British historian and science fiction author H. G. Wells
published a book, ''Little Wars
'', on how to play at battle
s in miniature. His books use 54 mm lead figures, particularly those manufactured by Britains
. His fighting system employed spring-loaded model guns
that shot matchsticks
This use of physical mechanisms was echoed in the later games of Fred Jane, whose rules required throwing darts at ship silhouettes; his collection of data on the world's fleets was later published and became renowned. Dice have largely replaced this toy mayhem for consumers.
For over a century, toy soldiers were made of white metal
, a lead-based alloy, often in architect's scale-based ratios in the English-speaking countries, and called tin soldier
s. After the Second World War, such toys were on the market for children but now made of a safe plastic
softer than styrene
. American children called these "army men
". Many sets were made in the new scale of 1:40
. A few styrene model kits of land equipment were offered in this and in 1:48 and 1:32 scales. However, these were swept away by the number of kits in the scale of 1:35
Those who continued to develop miniature wargaming
preferred smaller scale models, the soldiers still made of soft plastic. Airfix particularly wanted people to buy 1:76
scale soldiers and tanks to go with "00" gauge train equipment. Roco
scale styrene military vehicles to go with "HO" gauge model houses. However, although there is no 1:72
scale model railroad, more toy soldiers are now offered in this scale because it is the same as the popular aircraft scale. The number of fighting vehicles in this scale is also increasing, although the number of auxiliary vehicles
available is far fewer than in 1:87 scale
A more recent development, especially in wargaming of land battles, is 15 mm white metal miniatures, often referred to as 1:100. The use of 15 mm scale metals has grown quickly since the early 1990s as they allow a more affordable option over 28 mm if large battles are to be refought, or a large number of vehicles represented. The rapid rise in the detail and quality of castings at 15 mm scale has also helped to fuel their uptake by the wargaming
Armies use smaller scales still. The US Army specifies models of the scale 1:285 for its sand table
wargaming. There are metal ground vehicles and helicopters in this scale, which is a near "one-quarter-inch-to-six-feet" scale. The continental powers of NATO
have developed the similar scale of 1:300, even though metric standardizers really don't like any divisors other than factors of 10, 5, and 2, so maps are not commonly offered in Europe in scales with a'' "3" ''in the denominator.
has since expanded into fantasy
realms, employing scales large enough to be painted in imaginative detail - so called "heroic" 28 mm figures, (roughly 1:64, or S scale
). Firms that produce these make small production lots of white metal
Alternatively to the commercial models, some modelers
also tend to use scraps to achieve home-made warfare models. While it doesn't always involve wargaming, some modelers insert realistic procedures, enabling a certain realism such as firing guns or shell deflection on small scale models.
for building an engine model are available, especially for kids. The most popular are the internal combustion
, and Stirling model engine
. Usually they move using an electric motor
or a hand crank
, and many of them have a transparent case to show the internal process in action.
Miniatures in contemporary art
, ''Asylum'', 2005, cardboard, sand, hydrocryl, plastic, 20 × 10 × 4 cm
and model kits are used in contemporary art whereby artists use both scratch built miniaturizations
or commercially manufactured model kits to construct a dialogue between object and viewer. The role of the artist in this type of miniature is not necessarily to re-create an historical event or achieve naturalist realism, but rather to use scale as a mode of articulation in generating conceptual or theoretical exploration. Political, conceptual, and architectural examples are provided by noted artists such as Bodys Isek Kingelez
, Jake and Dinos Chapman
(otherwise known as the Chapman Brothers), Ricky Swallow
, Shaun Wilson
, Sven Christoffersen, or the Psikhelekedana
artists from Mozambique
, James Casebere
, Oliver Boberg
, and Daniel Dorall
* Cutaway drawing
* Die-cast toy
* Historical Miniatures Gaming Society
* International Plastic Modellers' Society
* Miniature effect
* Miniature faking
* Miniature figure (disambiguation)
* Miniature park
* Miniature pioneering
* Plastic model
* Rail transport modelling scale standards
* Solar system model
* Standard gauge in model railways
* Similitude (model)
* Terrain model
* List of scale model sizes
* List of scale-model industry people
*List of scale model kit manufacturers
* Lune, Peter van. "FROG Penguin plastic scale model kits 1936 - 1950". Zwolle, The Netherlands, 2017, published by author