Many models were also made for Museums. The London Science Museum which commissioned a model of a Napier Deltic engine. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum commissioned, in 1967, a 1:6 scale model of Vostok 1, which carried Yuri Gagarin into orbit around the Earth. Shawcraft Models based their model on photographs of an earlier Russian model that had been on display in Paris, in 1966. The Shawcraft version is still owned by the Smithsonian but is not always on display.
Other Shawcraft models currently held at museums include a scale Britannia locomotive replica and a 1/24th scale British Railways Mark 1 railway carriage, built around 1960. The master patterns for small gauge rolling stock such as this were built by Shawcraft employee and master model maker Lez Ward. The Britannia locomotive is currently part of a collection of railway related models on display at the National Railway Museum, York, UK.
In 1963 Shawcraft were commissioned to make the wooden master moulds for nine weapons including a Lee Enfield rifle, an Arab cavalry sword and a Webley and Beretta pistol. These patterns were used by P B Cow (Li-Lo) Products of Slough, to make production moulds, from which were produced 4,500 GRP weapons for the epic film Lawrence of Arabia.
They also made the wooden master for the first glass-fibre two-seat body of the Lotus Elan sports car. A similar master was made for the single seat GRP body for the Lotus 40 race car, made for Ian Walker Racing in West London. During this period, 1964-73 Shawcraft also sectioned stationary diesel engines and made collapsible exhibition plinths for use overseas.
Shawcraft model of Vostok 1 at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.
It was at around this time that the company began making props for the BBC and most notably for Doctor Who, though it must be noted that they also worked on other shows such as Dad’s Army, (a show with subject matter which leant itself perfectly to Shawcraft’s skills).
The team worked with early vacuum-forming processes and the shaping of polystyrene blocks to form ship and aircraft parts. These means of model construction are now commonplace, but at the time, Shawcraft were pioneers in the field.
In 1963 the BBC did not have the facilities required to produce the volume of props required for a weekly sci-fi show. The in house visual effects department was small and staffed by only two people – Bernard Wilkie and Jack Kine. When they were approached to create the props for Doctor Who, they requested extra workshop space (4000sq ft) and four extra staff. This request was rejected and alternative arrangements were sought.
The construction crew working on the show had previous experience of Shawcraft and recommended them as ideal candidates for taking on the work. The most important aspect of this arrangement was the ability to create good props, scenery and effects on-budget. Bill Roberts was always full of ideas on how effects could be achieved and props built cheaply, without compromising the look. The tight schedules enforced by the show’s weekly slot often required the Shawcraft team to work long into the night.
One of their first commissions for the show was the TARDIS console, complete with motor and working switches/lights on the control panels.
It was their later involvement with constructing the Dalek props which has given Shawcraft their place in history. The Dalek design was created by Raymond P Cusick – the designer working on the show at the time. He took his concept along to a meeting with Bill Roberts, explaining exactly what was required of the props. Roberts then made some suggestions of his own and, with Cusick’s approval, used his discretion for much of the Dalek detailing. He worked out how to build a set of four good-looking Dalek props within the allotted budget.