Laser-cut, laser-etched flat-pack metal model kits

On our recent summer family holiday, I stopped in at The California Academy of Sciences, a beautiful science museum and research facility in San Francisco. In the gift shop, I grabbed a MetalWorks laser-cut trolley-car kit. MetalWorks are 11cm square sheets of tin, laser-cut and laser-etched to come apart into pieces ready to assemble into models of famous buildings, iconic vehicles, and other landmarks. I cleverly threw away the packaging (including the instructions) when we packed for home, but as I just discovered when I sat down to assemble the model, the company is smart enough to post PDFs of their instruction sheets. The model was just the right amount of challenging for me -- the kind of thing I could do in 20 minutes with a pair of tweezers while carrying on a pleasant conversation, and the finished product is a pretty cool-looking model indeed.

There are more than 30 different models on the company's website, of which a mere three can be had on Amazon. Correction: Here are 25 more -- thanks to Jeff in the comments!

Metal Works by Fascinations Unique Toys & Gifts


  1. There’s a company called Aerobase at (which I think is just one ex-Tamiya employee) that makes similar metal models, but photo-etched and with more of a modeler’s sensibility to them. Their Bendix Gee-Bee pylon model is my favourite. 

    I found the kits at the store in the Japan Pavilion in EPCOT, and treat myself to one every time I’m dragged to Disneyworld, but you can get them online.

  2. I have a very nice wooden cable car purchased in Tamal, CA.. Tamal is the post office right outside of San Quentin prison. It spares the families who have kin inside the state hotel from having the prison’s name on their letters. Across the road is a gift shop of items made by prisoners and many of them are of very high quality.

  3.  About a decade and a half ago, somebody used to make photoetch doll houses, in 1/144 scale.Basically the same idea as these, only larger and simpler.

  4. I got the Big Ben one as a present and it’s basically garbage. The metal is pointy and hurts your fingers as you try to make all the tiny folds it needs. The connections are so small that you need to be a watchmaker to put them together. I fumbled with it for 30 minutes and then after getting a million tiny cuts, threw the whole thing away in frustration. DO NOT BUY.

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