Worth more than a thousand words . . .

January 18, 1993|By Edward L. Heard Jr. | Edward L. Heard Jr.,Staff Writer

Wayne A. Nicolette works on a 3-by-6-foot model of an electrical substation as jazz reverberates from a small radio in the corner of his basement. "Just like real life," he says as he straightens one of the replica's wires.

Mr. Nicolette, 29, constructs litigation models and graphics that help lawyers illustrate how accidents occurred. The substation model will be used in a legal case involving a worker who was seriously injured by a power line in 1991.

"If a picture is worth a thousand words, a model is worth even more," he says. "I try to illustrate complicated facts to 12 nontechnically oriented jurors."

Mr. Nicolette looks over the substation model carefully. He is constructing it from plastic, foam core and wire. Small human figures and a truck from Mr. Nicolette's Matchbox collection are part of the display.

"You have to get as many details as possible," he says. "Details are critical."

Blueprints sprawl across the table and several photos are taped down onto his workstation.

Mr. Nicolette, is the owner of Recreations, a small business he operates from his four-bedroom Cape Cod home in the 5800 block of Clearspring Road in Govans. He began building models as a hobby about 15 years ago. In 1981, he graduated from Dundalk High School and afterward he spent a year studying drafting and design at the Arundel Institute of Technology.

From 1986 to 1992, he built scale models for Adler Display Inc. in North Baltimore. In his spare time, Mr. Nicolette created charts and graphs for his sister, Carol Antill, a medical malpractice lawyer. It wasn't long before other lawyers were requesting his services. Last August, Mr. Nicolette quit his job and started his own business.

"It's going to be a pretty complicated model," Mr. Nicolette says, smiling confidently as he looks over the substation. He has already put 20 hours into the project -- he estimates that it will take another 40 hours to finish it.

Mr. Nicolette proudly shows off some models he constructed last year. One model shows two men walking across steel beams at a construction site. When Mr. Nicolette touches one of the replica's steel wires, one of the men falls from the beam.

The model illustrates a construction accident that spurred a lawsuit last spring. The case was settled out of court, he says.

Mr. Nicolette is an avid racer who owns a car that he dreams of racing in the Indy 500. He belongs to the Sports Car Club of America and races his car at Watkins Glen, New York every summer. His wife, Debbie, is his crew chief.

Next to racing, building models is his true love. So far, he has designed eight models and numerous graphs for law firms since he opened his business in August.

It is not unusual to see Mr. Nicolette sitting in the back of the court room when one of his models is displayed.

"If the faces on the jury look like they're getting the point, it's rewarding," he says.

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