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Merriman's Biography

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  • Merriman's Biography

    I found this on a dusty old, little used site, and thought it was a chuckle!

    12-21-2005, 12:45 PM
    David Douglass Merriman lll
    (updated 10-25-2004)

    Born January twentieth, 1949, David Douglass Merriman lll was raised in Ann Arbor Michigan (the liberal whacko capital of the mid-west). From age seven he presented as an aggressive and talented scratch-builder of models, both static display and functional. His very low academic achievements at school were somewhat counterbalanced by his innate and learned mechanical skills, unappreciated by the Ann Arbor Public Schools System. Reports of his ‘creative’ use of school machine tools and materials, resulted in several expulsions from shop-class, repeated warnings, and intensive counseling.

    Nearing graduation, Merriman (and many of his peers) found himself designated, ‘gun-fodder’, and was counseled to beat the draft and join the military; an institution renowned for matching young men to specific professional activity.

    In 1967 Merriman left Pioneer High School and promptly joined the Navy. At the Detroit Induction Center -- after a grueling three minutes of intensive psychological, physical, and sociological screening -- Merriman found himself assigned a career path: Torpedoman’s Mate (stupid people lifting very heavy things).

    Polite society would be secure for the next two decades.

    Merriman initially served aboard submarines then went on to work as a salvage and ships husbandry hard-hat Diver (trainable people lifting very heavy things). Merriman was maturing.

    During the last decade of Merriman’s navy career he engaged in professional model work in his off time. Soon he found himself in demand as a source of models and miniatures for the TV/motion picture industry, museums, industrial display users, and private collectors.

    Merriman retired, with his wife, Eleanor, to Virginia Beach Virginia in 1988. A few years previous to that they had established D&E Miniatures, a business dedicated to the design, fabrication, and sale of specialized model displays and r/c submarine systems for the hobby trade.

    Merriman’s work can be seen in big and small screen productions, such as: The Hunt For Red October, Crimson Tide, Star Trek-5, Star Trek The Next Generation, Attack From Mars, and other lesser efforts.

    Never one to leave the stage gracefully (motion picture and TV effects work now hard to secure due to the advent of CGI rendered visuals) Merriman has recently stooped to work on low-rent, bottom of the barrel, quick-get-the-shot-in-because-here-comes-the-station-manager TV productions. His appearances on the local ‘Doctor Madblood Show’ serve as examples of Merriman’s sad, unquenchable need for public attention.

    Currently Merriman is basking in the afterglow of his recent involvement as effects miniature maker and operator for the David Clark Inc. production, The Hunt For The Alligator. That one-hour episode currently in rotation at the Discovery Science Channel.

    Today, within the model building community, Merriman is regarded as a Craftsman of extraordinary ability. He has contributed his expertise to various magazines, industry brochures, books, Internet sites, and instructional videos. Merriman also speaks to the occasional group interested in the craft of Model Building.


    David D Merriman lll
    D&E Miniatures
    Stop messing about - just get a Sub-driver!

  • #2
    With regards to his work the The Hunt for the USS Alligator. I was wondering if the wizard can explain how the deployable bouyancy tanks on the Alligator worked.
    Make it simple, make strong, make it work!


    • #3
      The ALLIGATOR job was done the same year I started to make the transition from chemical to digital photography. All of those shots are prints and negatives and to scan them, for presentation here, would entail some work. An effort I'm welling to invest my very precious time doing, but only if there is an audience for it.

      What say you, prospective audience? Do I make the effort or not?

      Resident Luddite


      • #4
        David please correct me if I'm wrong but looking at the drawings of the Alligator I assume that she submerged without using dive planes or ballast tanks. It looks more like she was suspended beneath those bouyancy chambers. Depth changes were initiated by winching her up and down those chains hanging from the two floats.
        Make it simple, make strong, make it work!


        • #5
          Originally posted by redboat219 View Post
          David please correct me if I'm wrong but looking at the drawings of the Alligator I assume that she submerged without using dive planes or ballast tanks. It looks more like she was suspended beneath those bouyancy chambers. Depth changes were initiated by winching her up and down those chains hanging from the two floats.
          First off, I want to thank Tim Smalley for providing most of the below photographers. Tim also worked a miniature for the show, the ALLIGATOR junior.

          Yes, to answer your question, the submarine was stabilized by hanging off the two deployed buoys. Fine depth control was supposed to be effected by winching in or out of the chains between the boat and buoys.

          During the two-day shoot, most of it at the MASK facility at the David Taylor Model Ship Basin, I found that even with the miniature (correct term for a filming model) well submerged, sometimes only a few feet above the 20-foot bottom of the pool, that the deployed buoys did a secondary job: They worked to raise the vehicles metacentric height to the point where even at a pretty good clip the boats extremal high degree of static stability overcame the hydrodynamic and external forces (the magnitude of those forces a function of speed and proximity of surface and bottom), working to upset the boat about its intended angle. Without horizontal stabilizers and control surfaces, the boat was stable about the pitch axis when in motion!

          A servo operated latch released the stored buoys (each residing in a vertical, free flooding well that ran vertically through the hull), the chains connecting the buoys to the submarine ran out to a pre-determined height. Normally the boat was trimmed to be slightly negative with the buoyant force of the deployed buoys keeping the boat hanging off of them, underneath the water. In the shot below you see me in the 'tunnel of love', the access waterway that led from the handling bay to the big MASK (Maneuvering and Sea Keeping) test tank. It was here that I performed the pre-mission checks and got the boat ready for a days shoot. The bow of the punt used as a platform as I operated the miniature for the cameras is to the right. Kevin Rimrodt was my eyes and link with the Director as they stood high up in the rafters and catwalks as I twiddled the controls. Most of the time his aspect of view was better than mine and through him the Director who would ah ... er .... direct.
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          With Kevin Rimrodt working with the shows Director on the catwalks, shouting orders to me as I sat Indian style in the punt, we soon discovered that the ALLIGATOR was very responsive to depth and course control with the deployed buoys completely underwater, no matter the depth. The variable that permitted depth control was speed. The boat was trimmed to be a bit negative with the ballast tank flooded. Going slow and the boat slowly sank, put on a few turns and the two buoys, connected to the boat by their relatively long chains, dragged aft on the upper portion of the hull, inducing a slight up-angle. As a consequence of the up-angle, the boat dynamically ascended.
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          I quickly discovered that by jiggling the blow/vent I could fine-tune the boats overall weight, which proved to be another viable method of depth control. Even the camera crew (they did a lot of the Shark Week stuff for the Discovery Channel -- a tough bunch of camera slingers) commented on how well behaved the miniature was during the two days of shooting.

          It's one thing to get the pat-on-the-back from the Director, but it meant more to hear it from the crew -- that's when you KNOW the shoot went well.

          In the shot below I'm addressing the Camera guys and Director. The brief was to inform them of the capabilities and liabilities of the miniature. The Diver's were used to punching aggressive sharks in the puss in open water... not carefully handling effects miniatures. But, they were all quick studies and to a man (and gal) gave the ALLIGATOR nothing but TLC. A more professional and nice bunch of guys and gals I've never worked with! The Producer-Director of, The Hunt for the Alligator, David Clark, is to the extreme right.

          Launching the miniatures for a days shoot. I know where the should hold the SubRegatta: right here, in the MASK tank!

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          A segment of the show dealt with me talking it up with some of the David Taylor staff about what we learned from the computer and practical model studies of how the ALLIGATOR worked on and below the surface. I'm a natural curtain eater, but the poor guy from the facility got the o'le bug-eye each time the red light came on -- took us three or four takes.

          Center is an illustration of how the ALLIGATOR was to use a deployed Diver to clear obstructions or attack enemy warships with mines. And to the right is the miniature with a Diver arranged to show how he accessed the submarine through a forward air-lock.
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          Day-two of the shoot saw us at both a local canal for 'morning fog' shots of the miniature under tow and later at the explosives basin for some deep-water footage. That's Kevin on the bridge, pulling our boat along as the towed miniature is filmed off the stern by our non-diver head camera guy. It was at this site that Tim's ALLIGATOR Junior was filmed going through its paces as well.

          To the left is the 'explosives' basin -- used for shock testing. But, with the bright noon-day sun it was the ideal local for some underwater beauty shots of the ALLIGATOR. With time on our hands after the shoot, the Director and crew got in some play-time with the ALLIGATOR.

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          A post production symposium was hosted by the local Nauticus museum in Norfolk VA, at which I spoke -- with the able assistance of a very young Rose (what a ham!)
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          So, to answer: Yes, the boat was designed to be stabilized in angle and depth by hanging off the two buoys. and it does that as we demonstrated for the film. Also, we found, the boat could be managed well with the buoys totally immersed -- that was something new to everyone, and discovered by accident. Funny how things work out.

          The film can be bought at this site:

          More good stuff relating to this project:

          Some shots of Tim Smalley's, ALLIGATOR junior. I did the weathering on it, so blame me.
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          Attached Files
          Resident Luddite


          • #6
            Wow! Thanks for the enlightening infos. My impression about those bouys were that they broached the water surface with the sub hanging down from them.
            Make it simple, make strong, make it work!


            • #7
              That indeed was the original intent of the inventor. Hang off the buoys.

              Here are some more shots from the production:

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              Resident Luddite