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Concept, design and construction of the Mauna Kea topographical model.


The idea to build the model came from the desire to view the Mountain from all angles, and to be able to use these views as reference for future projects. For this reason and because of the small scale, I chose to represent only the Mountain without any signs of human presence. There are no roads or pasture lands, no Military base or State Park, no Hale Pohaku Visitor Center, and no observatories.

The scale of the model is 1:24,000 horizontally, which represents 2.625 inches to the mile, or 1 inch to 2000 feet. Thus, at 48 inches square, the model encompasses an area of just over 18 by 18 miles. Vertically the scale is exaggerated by approximately 50%. This helps the viewer to see features such as cinder cones and erosional gullies more clearly. The model encompasses 10,396 feet vertically, from the lowest point at 3400 feet elevation on the North West corner, to the summit at 13,796 feet elevation.

The construction of the model utilized topographical maps to ensure it's accuracy. Using the maps as a template, layers of mahogany plywood were cut out, 46 in all, each one following the shape of a specific contour line. Using 1/4" plywood, each layer added represented a 240 foot gain from the previous one. Areas requiring more detail, such as the summit and all of the cinder cones, were cut from 1/8" or 120 foot layers. These layers were then stacked in order and laminated together using wood glue, screws and hundreds of brass pins. The resulting step-by-step form was covered with acrylic modeling paste to fill in the steps, and was then intricately carved using a high speed cutter to reveal the wealth of detail that you can now see. A ghost of the inner plywood layers can still be seen allowing the viewer to understand the elevation gains involved. The sides of the model were sanded and polyurethaned resulting in it's beautiful laminated wood appearance. Finally, the model was painted using acrylic paints resulting in a beautiful snow-covered Mauna Kea! Aerial, land-based and even space-based reference photos were used to paint the model to ensure that is was both true to life and beautiful to behold.


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