Member Profile: Ron Klutts


Ron Klutts has been a model maker since the ‘90s. He’s lived in Mountain View since 1996 and the Bay Area since 1973. He worked for Satellite Models, IDEO, Apple and Google, among others. He’s also a pilot and a part time flight instructor, teaching out of Palo Alto airport. Ron now works at ASKA, a startup company developing an (eVTOL) electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. We asked him questions about his past, current, and ideal work.


Q: What got you interested in model making? Did you study with somebody or are you self-taught?

I got into model making by accident, it seems. I started in a typical machine shop making prototype parts and learning to write G-code from actual blueprints, then moved to a company making aluminum vacuum form molds to be used to make large plastic covers for various electronic equipment and laser eye devices.

After that job ended, I worked at Satellite Models in the mid '90s and really started to learn the model making craft. It was still mainly CNC machining of the models and then gluing the pieces together to make the larger models like printers for Apple. We did many interesting projects there including making models for both Handspring and Palm PDA at the same time and had to keep each clients’ models hidden in case the other came by. While at Satellite, I learned to do finish work on the models to prepare for priming and painting.

       MiniBin Controller                                                                                  MiniBin Inside Mechanism

At IDEO I worked on a scale model of a package container called the "MiniBin" that delivery people could open and securely store packages for safekeeping from thieves. That was an idea ahead of its time as we need that now. Ron modestly refrained from mentioning that Scotty came back from the future to visit IDEO’s model shop (also visited by the APMM in 2014) and that’s possibly where he invented transparent aluminum.
James Doohan inspects a Fadal controller                                        James and his nephew Phil Braunberger

Q: How is model making contributing to ASKA Fly's work, or any previous position you've held?

Here at ASKA I am machining large blocks of MDF to form the carbon fiber molds to make the layups for all the components of the aircraft. There are many alum parts to machine as well as to support the internal structures.

The skills I learned making models that required good finishing skills and painting helped me later on as I made more prototypes at Apple and Google. Attention to detail and thinking of the work it took to sand and make smooth surfaces aided me in making better looking parts.


Q: If you were given as much funding and support and time as you wanted to make something, what would you make?

I'd like to get back to doing woodworking and make some furniture and things.


Q: Do you have any APMM-related memories, such as conferences, you'd like to share?

I went to three conferences, Seattle, Southern California and Boston. At the Seattle conference, we took a tour of the Nike shop in Portland and saw how they were machining molds for the bottom of the shoe tread to test out patterns and make short run injection molded parts from the alum molds. Another shop was making scaled airplane wings out of steel for wind tunnel testing. We saw some unique ways to firmly hold the wing tips down. At the SoCal conference, a unique tour of a real model making shop was the facility that made the scale model of the Titanic for the movie. Such fine detail including the rivets and rope was beautifully done. At the Boston conference, this is silly, but my most memorable experience was trying clam chowder for the first time and loving it. It was at the bar of the conference hotel and they said they had the best chowda. Who knows, but I like it now.