The Internet Craftsmanship Museum Presents:

Ken Foran

Added to museum: 5/2/08

Scale World War I aircraft with all the right details

Ken Foran displays his latest project, the Bell helicopter he made by special request for Fine Art Models to use as a master pattern for a limited edition run. Ken's usual subject matter is aircraft from World War I. (Click on photo to view larger image.)

Ken Foran was born in Marathon, Ontario, Canada and immigrated to the United States in 1965 and enlisted in the Marine Corps for the GI Bill to attend college. Upon completing his three-year enlistment 1965-1968 with a 13-month tour in Vietnam he attended the Cleveland Institute of Art, and graduated with a B.F.A –Industrial Design. Ken has spent his entire working career in Product Development with he and his development teams being awarded numerous patents and design awards both domestically and internationally. As part of the development process product models would be developed for review by various other disciplines. Ken had under his responsibility the product development model shop that utilized state-of-the-art prototype technology from 3D CAD, CNC machining to sterolithography; as well as hand fabrication.

Ken’s first exposure to model building was watching his grandfather hand carve ship models while he was a child. His grandfather immigrated to Canada at the age of 16 from Denmark and was a Canadian Merchant Marine for many years that was “volunteered” into the Canadian Navy at the outbreak of WWII. He served on a Canadian Corvette, as a Chief Mate in the North Atlantic convoys to Murmansk, Russia. Ken as young boy would watch with fascination while his grandfather would carve tiny ship models that he would then erect inside bottles. Ken still has one his grandfather gave him. He also scratch built large clipper ships, some ended up in local museums upon his death.

The first model Ken built was a plastic Viking ship given to him as a Christmas present by his grandfather when he was 10. His grandfather told him to always remember his “Viking“ heritage. Perhaps this wanderlust and genes lead to Ken’s joining the Marine Corps.

Throughout his youth he built various plastic and wood models from airplanes, cars, ships to knights in armor. Early on Ken would always go beyond the normal kit doing what has now been coined as “kitbashing”. Ken had to take a hiatus from model building while in the Marine Corps; and once in college his building skills really developed building prototype models of products he designed. In college, not only did we have to design the product, we had to do the preliminary engineering drawings and then build the prototype models using whatever techniques worked the best. While in college Ken was also selected to be one of the four-man team of the 1970 Clean Air Car Team from the Cleveland Institute of Art. Ken was the only underclassman on the team and was selected because of his model building skills that were then used to fabricate a fully functional prototype car in six months that was then tested at the GM proving grounds in Milford, Michigan. The car was awarded the Best Design Award. Ken’s background and education in the Marines are what really came into play in building the car; for Ken was trained as a Helicopter Structural Mechanic and just transferred his skills from helicopters to a car build.

While his working career was very demanding of time and he also traveled extensively around the world; he managed to work with both of his children Eric and Heather on various school projects that required building. His son Eric figured out very early on that he preferred flying RC planes than building them. Ken was a better builder than a flyer so they made a great team.

Ken was always interested in how things were built rather than how they looked finished. To this end Ken started scratch building models after years of assembling kits and being somewhat disappointed in their quality and depth of details. His first early attempts were WW I aircraft, he wished to build certain aircraft that were not available in kits. Having built a few of the Guillow’s kits commercially available he realized that the 1/16th scale was a good size for both detailing and display. With modelers, and being married storage and display is always an issue. For some reason wives do not see the real decorative value of models around the house.

Over the years Ken has accumulated an extensive collection of hand tools, tabletop lathe, drill press and milling machine; mostly found at liquidation sales of one form or another. Ken admits to not being a machinist and is self-taught on the equipment. Having the right tool for the job is the key to great model making. A lesson taught him by his father was” Sometimes the biggest mistake you can make is to buy cheap tools.”  He has also taught himself how to use computers over the years; while he admits that he as a corporate executive; paid for the training of designers and engineers on 3D CAD programs, he himself was never in the position to learn the programs himself.

Ken Foran (Right) explains some of the details of his Fokker Eindecker E-IV to a spectator at the 2008 North American Model Engineering Society show in Toledo. In the foreground is his 1/16 scale Fokker D-VII. Since he was just a couple hours drive away, Ken was kind enough to bring over two of his models to display at the Joe Martin Foundation's booth at the show where the models were greatly appreciated by the many craftsmen who attend. (Click on photo to view larger image.)

Ken has had a life long interest in airplanes and especially the WWI era planes and attends all the Dawn Patrol fly-ins at the Wright–Patterson AFB held bi-annually. As mentioned earlier he was disappointed with the level of detail on commercially available kits. So rather than complain about that he decided to take matters into his own hands and started scratch building his own. His first attempt was the Fokker Tri-plane. Ken does all his own research and scours the world on the Internet looking for resources, reference material and images of the planes to build. He states that he is real careful about using the drawings of others because he has found errors or outright mistakes in some drawings. He notes, "Whenever possible I try to obtain original drawings or pictures from the period; and yes there are sources out there to obtain them."

Ken had built the tri-plane, which he says was his first attempt and learning experience. Then his second project was the Fokker D VII; this he selected because of the engine and wished to push and develop his brass working skills. Ken again taught himself how to solder and work with and fabricate brass. He feels that brass is by far the fastest and easiest medium to work and construct in. “Many times I can build component parts while they are still hot from soldering; not having to wait for glue to set.”  Besides just about any shape, size, profile configuration or sheet thickness is available and all can be soldered to each other. The Fokker engine did in fact challenge his building skills; he hand fabricated, shaped the upper and lower crankcases with files. He says he had to work very slowly and carefully for there was no chance of using filler if a mistake was made.

As with all of Ken’s planes they are built as close as humanly possible to the real thing. All controls surfaces work as they should form the joystick and rudder bar. In the case of some they even have working suspensions. Gretchen, his wife actually helps him by hammering the cowls using .020" dead soft aluminum. Gretchen is also a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art in Silversmithing and taught there for ten years. Ken says it is amazing to watch her take a small circle of flat aluminum and with nothing more than hammers and stakes; hammer cowls not only round but also to a press fit tolerance.

Ken posted images of his two Fokkers on a popular WWI website; and almost immediately was receiving accolades from around the world, which totally amazed him. He would receive requests on how to do this and that; he says he even has emailed a renowned modeler step by step through the silver soldering process. Ken says that the modeling community is a great group of people and that he enjoys sharing knowledge and building tips with others. Ken had started his next project a Fokker Eiendecker E-IV, to round out the Fokker series and an obscure model with a double bank rotary engine when he learned that someone had sent a link of his work to Gary Kohs, of Fine Art Models. Ken and Gary emailed back and forth, with Gary wondering if the Fokker Triplane was in fact not one of Gary’s models.  Ken was not aware of Fine Art Models at the time and after a few emails Gary invited Ken to visit with him in Detroit so that Gary could see the planes and Ken’s work in person. Ken had also brought the E-IV, which only had the engine, fuselage and tailplane complete.

Ken's 1/15th scale Sopwith Camel includes a second engine on a stand. (Click on photo to view a larger image.)

Within 5 minutes of looking at the models Gary invited Ken to attend the Nuremberg Toy Fair and to build a Sopwith Camel for Fine Art Models. Upon the completion of the Sopwith Camel in 1/15th scale and exceeding Gary’s expectation with the build Gary then offered a challenge.

Ken's all brass M.A.S.H. Bell helicopter built for Fine Art Models. (Click on photo to view larger image.)

He told Ken that he always wanted to build a certain model, but in the previous 13 years he had not been able to find a builder to do it. Much to Ken’s surprise it was a Bell H-13D Sioux M.A.S.H. helicopter. Of course with Ken’s background as a helicopter mechanic in the Marines this was right up his alley. Ken accepted the challenge; located a H-13D being restored in Canada, visited with them for two days shooting 10 rolls of film and numerous sketches with dimensions. He later located an engine rebuilder in Detroit that was rebuilding a Franklin engine; again a visit with rolls of film being taken. Ken also located and purchased original parts catalogs and erection manuals with more details and dimensions. Ken says that “God is in the details” and that he tries to be as accurate as possible when he builds and that the better the information the more accurate the model.

The challenge was that most of the components had to be fabricated out of brass. The model is not only a prototype but will also be used to make master patterns and molds for casting in brass. Thus the model will have to be able to be disassembled and reassembled. To add features Ken also enabled the main rotor to turn the tail rotor and turn the cooling fan for the engine. Note the 1/8” diameter working universal joint. Ken indicates that the greatest challenge was that there was little margin for error because everything is seen and the wide variety of component configurations and changes that evolved over the years with model changes and upgrades. 

Fine Art Models have exhibited the H-13D model at the London Model Engineering Show and the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg, Germany in 2006.  Presently, Ken is currently constructing a Stearman N2S for Fine Art Models and is in the early phases of building.

Ken has provided a number of links where photos of his projects can be seen in great detail while they were being built. After you look through the photos we have provided in the section below, visit any of these links to see more:

Sopwith Camel build:

Fokker D VII build:

Fokker DR I Triplane build:    

Fokker E IV build:  

Bell H 13D helicopter build:  

Stearman build (4 photos):

Stearman build (4 photos):

Stearman build (4 photos):

Here are several examples of Ken Foran's work:

(Click photos for larger images.)

Nailhead Buick Powered Exhibition Dragster

Tommy Ivo built and drove the four Nailhead Buick engine powered all wheel drive exhibition dragster smoking the front wheels the entire 1/4 mile track. This is a 1/8 scale scratch built model built by Ken of this legendary dragster.

Sopwith Camel

   Left and right side views of the Sopwith Camel. The left side is covered and painted while the right side is left as a cutaway so interior structure can be seen.
Another view of the cutaway side and a detail of the graphics on the tail.
Looking down into the finished cockpit, some of the outstanding details can be seen.
The making of a laminated propeller, from the laminated block in the first photo to the shaped form and finally the finished prop.
The wicker seat is woven, not with wicker, but rather with fine, annealed wire. The effect is absolutely authentic.
The components of the bomb rack and the finished installation.
The aluminum cowl was expertly shaped by Ken's wife Gretchen, an experienced silversmith.
The detailed Vickers machine guns are shown. The second photo shows them mounted on the partially complete fuselage.
These two views show a peak into the cockpit from the top to see the "wicker" seat in place with its seatbelts. In the upper right corner of the first photo you will note the propeller for the wind driven fuel pump. The second photo from beneath shows the gas tank.

Cables from the cockpit controls run through tiny pulleys. Yes, the controls actually move the wing surfaces.

The first photo shows the fine detail in the spokes of the wire wheels. It seems almost a shame to cover all that fine work with the wheel covers shown in the second photo, but the other side of the far wheel is left uncovered so this detail can be seen.

Details of the 130 HP 9-cylinder radial Clerget engine that powered the Sopwith. The last photo shows some of the engine's peripheral components.

Bell H-13D Souix M.A.S.H. Helicopter

The completed helicopter.
Cockpit details before the bubble canopy is installed.
The Franklin engine, trasmission and swash plate. The transmission is separated in the second photo.
The complete engine/transmission assembly
The wheel and tire assembly complete with lug nuts and valve stem.
The deep curves of the gas tank required the use of softer copper to form its shape. This is another example of Gretchen's handiwork in miniature metalsmithing.
Making the bubble canopy: First the shape is carved and painted gloss black so any imperfections show up and can be corrected. A vacuum mold is made and the material is heated and drawn over the form. Finally, the edges are trimmed and the finished canopy is test fitted to the model.
The engine installed and plumbed and a detail of the cooling fan.
It's the fine details that make a model like this so fun to look at. Note the instrument faces and the pilot's headphones hanging behind the seat.
With the motor installed, the rotor head is connected and the blades attached.
The batteries and their related wiring.
The tail is constructed of tiny tubing. Once connected to the main body, the drive shaft components to the tail rotor are next.
Details of the universal joint in the drive shaft to the tail rotor after installation.
Details of the worm gear that drives the tail rotor and the completed drive shaft unit as an assembly.

Other WW1 aircraft projects

Ken is seen at the 2008 NAMES show in Toledo displaying two of his models. On the left is the Fokker Eindecker E-IV, and on the right is the Fokker D-VII.
Fokker D-VII  
Fokker Eindecker E-IV 

Fokker D1 Triplane 

1/15 scale N2S Stearman Biplane

Ken's latest project is the N2S Stearman Biplane in 1/15 scale. In the first photo the basic fuselage boxed structure is taking shape. The additional photos show stringers applied to the sides and top to further form the shape. The second photo also shows the instrument panel with instrument faces.
The pilot and passenger seats are shown in the first photo and the suspension for the wheels in the second.
The Continental R-670 7-cylinder radial engine begins to take shape. Many different machined shapes are soldered together to form the crankcase. The last photo shows many of the other components that will make up the engine.
The partially assembled engine with one typical head and valve assembly attached. The second photo shows it attached to the firewall.
The forward part of the fuselage with the center section of the upper wing in place. The second photo shows the gas tank formed into the upper wing center section.
Details of the tail section show closeups of the hinges for the elevator. The second photo shows a closeup of the center of the horizontal stabilizer.
The basic fuselage and the various deck structures that give the it its rounded shape. The second photo shows the structures in place with some of the aluminum bodywork around the cockpit also added.
The tail wheel has quite a sophisticated little shock absorber system, all of which is duplicated in miniature and actually functions.
7/3/08—The gas tank in the center of the upper wing is shown from top and bottom views.
The upper wing sections are nearing completion. Each rib is laser cut and then reinforcement plates are applied. The leading edge of the wing will be aluminum covered like the center section. The spars have a brass rectangular tube for rigidity and are laminated with 1/64th plywood on the sides and top. Top and bottom caps of wood are cut to length between the ribs. Ken uses this technique on biplane wings to eliminate wing deflection and sag over time.

1/8 Scale Ford Model T Board Track Racer


Sequence: Making the oil pan from sheet brass. The notes Ken has applied to the photos provide some useful information for modellers.

The tires are actually made from wood, although once painted satin black they really do look like rubber. Here you see the tread being applied. If you think there is a quick way to achieve this, forget it. Each piece of the tread pattern is made and glued on individually before being painted black.
A set of four pistons and connecting rods is shown compared to the size of a U.S. penny.

The crankshaft is installed in the block. This photos shows the connecting rods in place on their journals.

The differential contains bevel gears that drive the rear axel just like the real thing.

This detail shows the bands on the transmission and the magnets for the magneto on the flywheel. The magneto contact is shown on the transmission housing at the bottom.

The coil box and connections.

The wheels are made using aluminum rims and wooden spokes. The Model T was modern in many ways, but it others it was still using updated buggy technology.
The brakes and springs for the emergency brakes actually work.
The engine block with turned camshaft in place. The cam lobes do actually actuate the valves.
Two views of the engine.
The finished, nickel plated engine and frame.
The radiator is in place and engine cover with piano hinge is mounted.
The fuel tank sits right behind the driver and ride-along mechanic seats.
The trunk is made from wood with a framework of brass. In the top tray are some spare parts, but underneath is hidden a battery powered sound module that plays the sound of a real Model T starting up and idling when a button on the bottom is pushed. The trunk (you can see where it got its name) is normally mounted behind the rear axel.
Two views of the finished car.
Ken looks over his Model T while it is on display at the NAMES show in Detroit, April 23, 2010. Ken was kind enough to display it at the Joe Martin Foundation booth for spectators at the show to enjoy.

1/12 scale 1869 Allerton Steam Pumper Fire Engine for Model Expo

This model was designed and completed to be offered as a kit and offered by Model Expo.This is the first model built from the actual kit parts as "proof of manufacture."
Here are a couple of shots of the boiler cap being turned on a Sherline lathe. Ken is using a compound slide to achieve the inner taper.

1890 Ladder Wagon for Model Expo

Another kit prototype Ken has been working on recently also involves vintage firefighting equipment. This ladder wagon is coming along nicely. (May, 2014)

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