Saturday, October 9, 2021

Armorcon and feedback on my models

After the IPMS National Convention a couple of months ago there was the typical cluster of conversations about judging, with modelers picking sides on the never-ending IPMS vs GSM debate. I see the value of both, albeit with tweaks to improve them, but that’s not my intent with this post.

What I’d like to do is share the value of the feedback that the GSM method (sometimes) provides. Last weekend I attended Armorcon in Connecticut, a show that I regularly attend. I took a few photos, but my photography skills are down there with my rigging skills, so I won’t embarrass myself by sharing them. Instead I’ll point you a great collection of photos that my neighbors at IPMS New Jersey shared on their Facebook page.

I entered three models in the contest, and I want to share the judges' feedback. (My thanks to IPMS NJ for allowing me to use their photos of my models.)

This is my Dragon 1/35 T-34/85 in Croatian markings. As points of reference, I used Voyager photoetch, an Eduard barrel, Kraya cables, a Hauler M2 machine gun, and Friulmodel tracks.


The judges' feedback:

  • Right front track sticks out past the fender, and bigger gap on the right than the other side of tracks.
  • Great paint finish.
  • Track alignment way off.
  • Decent build. Keep up the good work.
  • Three wheels float on left.
  • Rear left track crowded.
  • Nice screens.

Next is my Trumpeter 1/35 BTR-80 in Ukraine markings. I used Miniarm wheels, DAN Models sandbags, and a Master KPVT machine gun.


The judges’ feedback:

  • Left rear tires off the base.
  • Back left tire is towed out and not touching the ground.
  • Nice build.
  • Right front and left rear wheels don’t touch.
  • Small glue spots on hatch hinges.
  • Lens not in housing completely.

Finally my Italeri 1/35 L6/40 Carro, which has only a Greif lens and Friulmodel tracks.


The judges’ feedback:

  • Left idler wheel not attached to track.
  • Some missing paint.
  • Love those Italian tiny tankettes!
  • Nice paint overall.
  • Beware. Unpainted surfaces.
  • Friuli tracks not sitting.
  • Tracks not tight on idler.
  • Seam upper hull back.
  • Missing paint in spots.
  • Good decals.
  • Nice consistency on weathering and chipping. 
  • Friul not easy to deal with.
  • Paint looks a bit spotty and slight seam visible on upper hull.
  • Ejector pin marks on inside of bogey frames.

When I got home I looked at the feedback vis a vis the models, and each comment was fair and on point. With the exception of the compliments, each item is objective; there were no opinions that I could debate. Most importantly, it confirmed what I already know about my modeling, that I struggle with alignment. That information motivates me to be more diligent as I assemble my models, particularly the hull and running gear. 

What I find mildly amusing are the things that I don’t like about these models that the judges didn’t pick up on. For example, my self-made sandbags on the T-34/85 are, in hindsight, terribly executed; the judges said nothing about them. On my BTR-80, I’m disappointed in my painting of the aftermarket resin sandbags, but the judges either didn’t notice or thought they look good.

Ultimately contests are not about the competition. I know that’s strange to say, but I believe it’s true. I enjoyed looking at a couple hundred models and finding inspiration in others’ work. That I got some feedback on my models is pretty cool, too, so it was a day well spent.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Automotive modeling inspiration

I don’t write about automotive subjects often enough, if only because I build aircraft, armor, and figures. That said, I really enjoy ogling over a well detailed model of a car or truck, especially those intended for the racetrack. I have a couple of car models in my stash, so I’m always looking for inspiration to finally crack one open and see if my skills can do them justice.

There was no shortage of great looking automotive models at the IPMS National Convention last month, but one caught my eye. Daniel Valencia’s Italeri 1/35 Opel truck, which won first place in its category, Automotive Conversions and Scratchbuild.

The good folks with the Silicon Valley Scale Modelers kindly uploaded the convention awards presentation slide show with the scale modeling community, but the one photo of Daniel’s model wasn’t enough to indulge my curiosity, so I contacted him and he kindly sent me a few photos that I share here.

Daniel has a background in racing and has fabricated race cars himself, so he has an understanding of these vehicles that aided him immensely in this build. He said the model consists of roughly 3,000 parts. Many of them are scratchbuilt of course, and those that come from other models invariably required modification.

I hope you find Daniel’s work as inspiring as I do.







If you’d like more information about this truck, Daniel explains all of the design considerations that go into building the actual vehicle on his YouTube channel.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Contests are back! Mosquitocon 2021

Mosquitocon kicks off the contest season here in the Northeast every April, so when COVID struck last year the contest was cancelled, a big disappointment to area modelers. After another delay earlier this year, IPMS New Jersey was finally able to schedule the show for late July 2021. Based on the attendance and entries, it did not disappoint. Here are a few of my favorite entries across the major categories.

I always enjoy seeing the Revell 1/48 B-1B built up, particularly knowing how challenging it is to build. This entry featured the Armycast wing set; Barracuda intakes, wheels, and ECM bits; Metallic Details exhaust nozzles; scratchbuild fuel tank; and highly modified landing gear. One of the most impressive builds I’ve seen of the kit!

The finish on this Kinetic 1/48 Super Etendard was expertly done.

Speaking of finishes, this Tamiya 1/48 P-51D was beautifully painted with Gunze Super Metallic paint.

I wrote about in-flight aircraft a few years ago, so it’s always a treat to see a model represented in its natural environment, so to speak. This Airfix 1/72 Buccaneer was very nicely done.

A few of you are old enough to remember when vacuform kits were somewhat more mainstream than they are today, so it’s great to see one executed as well as this Execuform 1/72 XB-51. It included part of a True Details F-94 resin cockpit, modified landing gear from a Hasegawa B-47, and (as you might imagine) lots of scratchbuilt parts.

Brengun has produced some interesting models over the last few years, and this YHO-1A shows how well they can be built. All of the brass parts were soldered. The modeler noted that the rotor was driven by compressed air jets, which eliminated the need for a tail rotor.

While we’re looking at tiny models, this Sword 1/72 Beechcraft D17S  Staggerwing was absolutely gorgeous. Among all of the modifications the modeler made to the kit, most impressive was the scratchbuild windscreen and windows. I mean…wow!

My favorite armor entry was this Trumpeter 1/35 MTVR gun truck. It features several parts from Live Resin, Def Models, and Master Models. The weathering was excellently done, reflecting what we see from the best European modelers.

Another excellent finish I noticed was on this Cooper State Models 1/35 Lanchester armored car.

This Flyhawk 1/700 HMS Lively was gorgeous. The painting of many of the components and accessories really highlighted important parts of the ship.

I’m always intrigued by what a good modeler can do with cars, so this Revell 1/25 Tony Nancy 22 JR dragster was impressive.

Weathered cars is no longer a trend. This Revell 1/25 57 Ford Gasser finished as a barn fine was perfectly done. Built out-of-the-box, the weathering made it pop. 

One of the best figures in the contest was this Nosferatu bust.

Gundham, science fiction, and fantasy entries continue to gain in popularity. I think this year’s contest had more entries than ever. This Wave 1/20 Gans caught my attention. The modeler added weld beads, antenna, fuel tanks, and N scale train parts.

I always enjoy the miscellaneous entries, such as this Airfix 1/32 1804 locomotive. What was great about this entry — besides the model itself — was the advice the modeler provided on the entry form. I'd love to see this catch on.


See you next year. With any luck, in April!

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

My go-to books

 It’s 10pm. You’re tired. Too tired to work on a model. You’re bored with the internet. But you want to feed your interest in the hobby, so you pull a few books off the shelf and browse them. What books do you typically select?

I had an interesting conversation with friends last week when someone asked what our go-to books are when we want to kill time or find inspiration. Because I often grab a book off the shelf when I want to read in bed, it was pretty easy for me to share my favorites.

Diego Quijano has inspired me for a long time, so his books are always within reach. His encyclopedia series offer a ton of rich content, so every time I browse them I’m reminded to try something new.


I can say the same thing about Adam Wilder’s books on armor. They are perfectly illustrated and offer a wealth of techniques and inspiration.


I’m a sentimental old fool, so Squadron’s line of books have long-offered more than a few ideas and always get my creative juices flowing and eager to start something new.


For armor subjects, Concord’s books are jam packed with excellent photos of armor in action. They are out of print now, but they’re an excellent value when you can find them online or at contests.


There you have it. What books do you find yourself looking at over and over?

Monday, May 24, 2021

Takom’s new Yamato anchor and the questions it raises

Takom used the 2021 Shizuoka Hobby Show this month to announce 1/16th scale anchors from the IJN Battleship Yamato. I’ve been a fan of anything eligible for the Miscellaneous categories at model contests, so this release caught my attention.

The model does, however, raise some pretty big questions for the anchor enthusiasts in the hobby.

Is this the first in a long line of new kits of ship anchors?

Will each anchor consist of just five or six parts, or will they have 200-300 parts as most modern kits do these days?

How should I build, paint, and weather it? As if it were new? Rusty and neglected? Restored? Restored and neglected? As part of a zombie vignette?

Is there a rivet counter assessing the accuracy of the anchors? If it's one scale inch too short, it's unbuildable. (Remember, we love rivet counters, right?)

Will Osprey publish a book on anchors of the Japanese Navy?

Will Eduard include a photoetch set for the model among their August releases?

Will Micro Master Details or Black Cat Models produce 3D printed chain links for the anchors?

Which aftermarket company will be the first to produce 1/16 scale barnacles for the model?

How long do we have to wait for AK Interactive to produce a set of paints specifically for these anchors?

When will someone in Japan take 40-50 photos of the actual anchor at the Yamato Museum in Kure, Hiroshima and submit the walkaround to Prime Portal?

Should I create a Facebook group named "Takom Yamato Anchor Group Build?"

Will HK Models release a partial 1/16 kit of the Yamamoto — just the bow — so that we can display the anchor in situ?

When will Trumpeter, Hobby Boss, Bronco, and Rye Field Models release their versions kits of the Yamato anchors?

Is there a chance of Drachinifel doing a YouTube video about the evolution of Japanese anchors on his channel?

When I finish building this Takom kit, can I share it in the Airfix Facebook group? Yes.

If scale weight was a thing, just how much would a 1/16 scale anchor weigh?

(Thanks to four friends of mine for helping me brainstorm these questions. I've chosen to keep them anonymous on the strong likelihood that these jokes fall flat.)

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Weathering armor and analysis paralysis

In late 2016 I wrote about the disappointments with several of my builds that year, including my attempts to finish a Trumpeter Pz.Kpfw 38(t). I struggled through weathering it — trying my hand with pigments in particular — and ultimately trashed the model when the results were not up to my expectations.

Since then I’ve gone back to basics with painting and weathering armor, at least the basics in terms of the process I’ve mastered (such as post shading, pin washes, and the use of pastels for dust effects), and I’ve slowly introduced new products and techniques. Usually I try them on a paint mule and then incorporate them into my next build. So now I’m much more comfortable with:

  • Modulation
  • Filters
  • Washes
  • Oil paint rendering
  • Paint chips
  • Hairspray chipping
  • Mud splashes

Despite my newfound confidence with each of these, I now find myself suffering from analysis paralysis, wondering with every build which products and techniques I should incorporate into the model and in what order.

To be sure, I have plenty of books on the topic.

I have multiple products.

I have magazines.

I’ve watched plenty of videos on YouTube, such as Adam Wilder’s incredible 27-episode series on painting and weathering a KV-I.

And I've taken notes on the dozen (hundreds?) of articles and builds you can find on modelers’ personal blogs and Facebook pages.

Despite all of these resources it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the choices you’re confronted with. Every modeler has his preferred products, techniques, and process, and it’s a challenge to understand them and then to incorporate them into your own modeling.

That’s what happened with this build of the Trumpeter JS-4. I'd worked through the fundamental steps of painting and weathering it but then hit a wall of sorts wondering what to do next. I’m figuring it out, but the model languished for a few weeks untouched.

I started moving forward with the model this week, but it doesn’t feel…right. It feels like there was probably a better way, and I’m figuring that out as I go, even if in hindsight, and I know I’ll continue to refine my products and techniques with subsequent builds.

If you’ve had the same experience, my suggestion is what I’ll offer myself with my next build. I’m going to trust my instincts and outline the steps I’ll take to see the model through the painting and finishing stages. It’s probably not going to align with any one master modeler’s process, and it might not work out well for me, but at least having a plan is better than not having one at all.


Thursday, May 6, 2021

My favorite COVID scale modeling memes

As we come out of this international experience with COVID, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite memes from the last year.