David Fawcett has carved a career in model making, crafting some of the world’s finest yachts in miniature. He is arguably the best in the business, and explains why it’s the little things that count.

‘When I joined the industry, the models to have made were always David Fawcett’s models,’ says Chris Cecil-Wright, ‘He’s one of the quintessential figures of the industry – the Feadship of model yacht building – and the fine detail of his work is extraordinary.’ Chris owns three of David’s pieces, each one commemorating a yacht deal brokered: namely HAMPSHIRE II, MADAME GU and TANGO. ‘I have them in my office and at home because they
are such beautiful things in themselves.’

When David Fawcett turned his childhood hobby
into a profession, he knew he had his work cut out for him: ‘I wanted to know if my quality was good enough, so in 1982 I made a model of a boat called Moonboots – a Contessa 35 that I had fitted out and raced around the Irish Sea – and I took it to all the designers at the time,’ he says. The model attracted the attention of Edward Dubois, founder of Dubois Naval Architects, who commissioned him to create a model of Victory ‘83 for Peter de Savary’s America’s Cup bid. After all, David was a boating man himself, and his knowledge of the technical side of the design helped to set him apart from the competition. ‘It’s a niche market and it was tough to start with,’ he admits, ‘but once I got my first substantial order I knew I was in it for the long haul.’

David Fawcett’s eponymous company makes numerous boats per year, with a wide variety of scales and levels of detail from concept models to exhibition standard. He works with all the major yacht designers to produce a tangible object for the client during the build process – a confidential prototype that inevitably becomes a keepsake. Each model includes as much information as the client requires, such as the deck and bollards, furniture, logo, flag and radar equipment – even full interior lighting is possible. Though a model can take between 50 and 1000 hours to complete, David insists it mustn’t become a labour of love: ‘The key to model making is the textures and finish,’ he says, ‘I want them to look as real as can be, but as a business we are always working to a tight deadline.’

The company, based in North Wales, now employs five people all of who have been working with David for over twenty years. ‘The greatest change we’ve seen in the industry is the technology,’ he explains, ‘All my staff can make models by hand from line drawings, but we now use a CNC machine, a 3D printer and use the same 3D file they make the real ships from.’ Traditionally, David used a supple wood called jelutong and handmade all the fittings in metal and wood, but now the materials are synthetic. Despite the advances in technology the work is still meticulous, and as labour intensive as it was twenty years ago. After a part has been made by hand or machine, the model is cleaned, sanded, spray-painted and hand-polished. Fittings are sprayed in lacquer for lustre, then applied using tweezers and adhesive.

David struggles to choose a favourite over the years: ‘Each model will have a Rolls-Royce finish with absolutely no imperfections,’ he emphasizes, ‘and that’s why I’m proud of every model we make.’

Editor’s note: Sadly, David Fawcett died shortly before the publication of this newsletter. The work at his eponymous company will continue in the hands of his dedicated staff. 'We've lost one of the great craftsmen of this industry,' says Chris Cecil-Wright, 'but David's incredible work and talent will never be forgotten.'

“ David Fawcett produces exactly what a model should be –
a replica of the finished article."
Chris Cecil-Wright

Contact the team