Monday, March 16, 2020

COVID-19 traced to moldy plastic model

Yesterday the World Health Organization (WHO) revised its conclusions to the origins of COVID-19. The source wasn’t a wet market in Wuhan, China as previously reported. Rather, it was this moldy plastic model sold at a model contest in New Jersey last year.

“This totally took us by surprise,” said Jacob Schumacher, senior epidemiologist at the WHO. “We were alerted to the possibility of an alternate origin of the virus when a scale modeler told us that he and nearly all of the members of his model club came down with Coronavirus symptoms.”

“That club member was very helpful after he realized the mistake he'd made in purchasing the model,” Schumacher said. “He's an international hero, even if he admits to pre-shading and using Future, which I'm told are crimes in his weird community of enthusiasts.”

That modeler, who asked to be identified only as Carl N., told investigators that he thought the model might be problematic when the mold on it got worse over time. “The model was pretty funky when I bought it, but after six months the green mold had turned black and spread to other kits in my stash.”

When asked why he would be stupid enough to buy a model in such condition, Carl said, “I really wanted the model. The vendor hadn't put a price tag on it, so I had to ask -- which I really hate. He offered it to me for $35, which he said was 5 percent off the regular price. How could I say no?”

WHO researchers spoke with the vendor who sold the model to Carl and asked why he would sell anyone such crap. “Look, a lot of these old models come from damp basements and garages,” the vendor said, who asked not to be identified. “There’s bound to be a little bit of weird shit on some of them. Modelers are real men. Carl and his buddies will be fine.”

The vendor told Scale Model Soup, “Please let everyone know that I just picked up a new collection of kits that have been stored in a pig barn in Pennsylvania that I’ll be selling at contests later this year.”

WHO researchers confiscated Carl's model for analysis at a Berlin laboratory.

“I hope to get the model back eventually,” Carl said. “Yes, I have 475 other models in my stash, but I might want to build it one day? Or I'll save it as a collector's item.”

Friday, February 21, 2020

Even more eBay insanity

Gosh, it’s been well over a year since I shared an eBay insanity post, but the laughs have not stopped. Here’s another round of auction items that made me wonder aloud, “WTF?”

With all due respect to Admiral David Nichols and his service to the United States (he retired as Deputy Commander of US Central Command in 2007), I find it hilarious that the seller of this photo was asking $899 about a year ago. You can find autographed photos of Presidents Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and Obama at the same price point. (Autographs of the Kardashians will set you back much less.) I see that the price is now down to $180.

Okay, it’s pretty cool that someone saw that this Frito-Lay Sun Chip looks like a jet and is willing to sell it to the right aviation enthusiast. But $999? I don’t think so.

If you enjoy sloppy seconds, $19.99 will get you this model. I hope the seller included what was left of his tube of Squadron Green Putty. Oh, and if you’re in the US you’ll need to tack on an additional $17 for postage from the Italian seller.

For just $14.99 you can buy this model of the Space Shuttle…less the Space Shuttle itself. Really? On the upside, the seller claims it was owned by a former NASA engineer.

I’ll never understand why people believe that old, yellowed decals are worth anything more than one dollar. Hell, anything at all! Here’s another example of a demented eBay seller offering decals that would look like shit on your model, assuming you could get them off the paper. The price? $15.

I’ve shared a few eBay auctions of slides that have sold for over $200, but this one takes the cake. The seller was asking $405 for this slide of a C-124, which would be insulting enough if it hadn’t been marked down from the original price of $899.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

My 24-hour build experience

The 24-hour group build on Facebook is over, and I’m sorry to report that I didn’t finish my Monogram 1/72 A-1E Skyraider.Time got away from me, despite working on it until 2 am Saturday night. I spent about 14 hours in total, which was almost sufficient to build the model in its entirety. If I had allocated another two hours, I think the model would be complete.

Here’s my after-action report.

What worked in my favor

Despite not finishing the Skyraider, I still think it was a good choice. As I wrote earlier this week, it has very few colors, making painting relatively quick and easy. And luckily I didn’t have to do any touchups.

Pre-planning was very helpful, and I should do this more often. For example, I made sure that when I painted black, I painted the interior, wheels, and prop.

I followed some of my own advice for building models faster, which I’ve written about over the last few years. I painted the interior black, didn’t spend much time on the underside, and didn’t obsess over minor seams.

Finally, I didn’t add much detail. The cockpit is a massive black void of nothingness, but detailing it would’ve sent me down a wormhole of lost time. I thought about replacing the exhaust stubs with brass tubing, but that, too, would’ve cost precious time. I did, however, replace the pitot tube (?) on the vertical stabilizer with telescoping tubing.

What worked against me

The Monogram A-1E features raised panel lines, which I knew I wanted to rescribe. Even though there are minimal panel lines, the task was more time-consuming than I’d expected. And I skipped rescribing the lines on the underside!

Even though there weren’t many colors on the model, I’m fastidious when it comes to cleaning my airbrush. Each airbrushing session is followed by a cleaning, and that was a time suck. I probably spent the equivalent of an hour doing just that.

I underestimated the time required to mask the Skyraider’s canopy. Tedious to be sure! That said, I was very happy with the outcome, a reminder that canopy masking need not be as frightening as always anticipate.

I didn’t  finish the Skyraider, but I’m okay with that. As I told a friend on Saturday, despite the goal of finishing a model in 24 hours, I didn’t want to sacrifice quality. I’d rather stop where I did, take a breather, and wrap up the final tasks over the next week. As I said earlier today, the best part of the experience was simply spending an extended amount of time at the workbench doing what I enjoy most.

The same group of guys has already schedule next year’s 24-hour build, though it appears to be intended only for car modelers. If you’re interested, you can join their Facebook group.

Here are links to my earlier articles about building models more quickly.

5 ways to increase your output
Paint it black and close it up

Friday, January 10, 2020

A 24-hour build

I recently shared a Facebook post from a group of modelers who organize an annual 24-hour model build, this year planned for the weekend of January 25. Their objective is "to get together with friends or by oneself and completely build a model of your choice wholly within a 24 hour period. It is a challenging endeavor but highly satisfying to complete successfully.”

So — Gary, John, Chip, Jeff, Carver, and George — I’m in! I’ve joined the Facebook group to participate.

I’m nervous. I’m a notoriously slow modeler, usually completing only four or five models per year. I’ve often looked to the Christmas and New Years holiday as an opportunity to crank out a single model, but I’ve never been successful. Doing that in 24 hours seems incredibly daunting, but the enthusiasm of this group has inspired me.

Having joined the group, I had to select a model for the build. I really do want to finish the model in the required timeframe, so my choice is crucial to setting myself up for success. After thinking it through, I came up with a few criteria.

  • The model has to be relatively small; the fewer the parts, the better.
  • I like using pin washes, so to avoid having to spend too much time rescribing any raised panel lines, the model would ideally have engraved panel lines.
  • The paint scheme should be relatively simple. Masking, painting, and touching up three or more colors would be very time consuming.
  • The aircraft cannot feature much, if any, ordnance, which would be a big time suck.
  • Most importantly, the model had to excite me. The prospects of spending this time on something less won’t keep me engaged.

I’ve selected the very old Monogram 1/72 A-1E. Yes, it has raised panel lines, but rescribing them shouldn’t be terribly time-consuming, particularly given that the remainder of the kit is very basic. I’ll use Caracal decals for an all-blue AD5, so painting and masking time will be minimized. I built the model back in high school, so there's a strong nostalgia factor for me as well.

I’m excited about this challenge! Anyone care to join the group? Click here to join the Facebook group.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019 in review

What a year. Whatever we scale modelers might expect, there’s always something that takes us by surprise, and 2019 was no exception. HK released an unexpected 1/48 B-17G, Miniart released a series of 1/35 Grants, and we finally got our hands on AMK’s looooong awaited 1/48 F-14.

That said, some things seemingly never change, well, at least over the course of two years. Two trends that I wrote about in 2018 continued into 2019 — sexy female subjects and egg planes and all their offshoots. I’m anxious to see if that will change in 2020.


The influx of female subjects continued with many manufacturers introducing sexy figures in every scale imaginable. Right out of the 2019 gate, Nutsplanet introduced a new line of female busts with many more following through the year, most of them fantasy oriented.

Reedoak showed off this 1/48 figure of Miss Santa, posed on the intake of an F-14.

ZPLA jumped on the bandwagon with its 1/20 scale Girls in Action series.

Miniart released another variation of their weird ball tanks, this one with training wheels.

On a more mainstream note, Airfix’s announcement of a 1/72, new-tool Buccaneer was very well received by modelers, particularly on Britmodeller. Before the end of the month, Xtradecal announced a new sheet of Buccaneer S.2 markings.


In 2018 modelers were giddy when the remains of the USS Lexington were found. Nearly a year later they got equally excited when researchers found the USS Hornet.


RMG Resin Models released a 1/35 "modern toilet," and there was substantial discussion about toilet variants on Armorama. I shit you not.


Meng set the hobby on fire when they announced a new tool 1/35 Sherman, because, well...we didn’t already have enough of them already.

AMK assured us that their F-14 Tomcat was still coming.

And a small corner of the interwebz went berserk when someone suggested using cinnamon rather than pastels to represent mud. Seriously, this actually happened.


Not content to let a trend from 2018 die, Hasegawa announced four 1/24 scale female figures (Companion Girls Figures and Fashion Model Girls Figures) at the 2019 Shizuoka Hobby Show.

And Northstar Models teased a new line of naked figures, though I don’t recall them having been released yet.


The appetite for cutsie, egg-like models continued with Scale75’s release of toon figures of Rocky Star Cooper, Otto Von Lokimerg, and others.



Asuka left me scratching my head when they released a model of a tiny hamburger. Fess up guys; who's had this on their wish list?

Then something huge happened. Tamiya announced a new-tool P-38 in 1/48!


The month kicked off with buzz from the IPMS National Convention in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Tamiya offered a number of their new 1/48 P-38s via a raffle/sale, and quite a few of them found their way onto eBay, selling for over $100…never mind that they would retail for $50-60 just a couple of months later; I wonder how many of those early, overpriced kits were actually built before the kits became widely available. Also at the show, Eduard sold out of all their new 1/48 P-51D kits they'd brought with them.

Not to allow Eduard and Tamiya to dominate the news, AMK announced that their long-awaited 1/48 F-14D would be in distributors' hands at the end of August. Keep in mind that AMK first announced the kit back in June of 2015, so you can imagine that modelers were…skeptical, one person commenting, "End of August? Which year?"


As if new tool kits of the P-51D and P-38 weren’t enough, HK Models announced a 1/48 version of their B-17. And the crowd went crazy.


October saw armor modelers get WW1-era buses in both 1/35 scale (from MiniArt) and 1/72 (from Roden), which got me wondering why buses aren’t more popular, even in 1/25 scale.

Later in the month modelers freaked out across Facebook and the online forums after a rumor circulated that Rust-Oleum was going to discontinue the Testors line of hobby paints. A quick call to the company confirmed that that was not true. It turns out we can’t believe everything you read on the internet. Who knew?


Airfix announced their release of a 1/72 Vulcan, and guess what? Some modelers were excited about it and some were not, so bickering ensued. One forum participant said what more modelers need to say, “I’m not interested in the Vulcan. But I’m pleased to see Airfix still in business and releasing new kits." Amen to that!


Remember that 1/48 B-17 that HK announced in August? Well it hit the shelves this month. Quite the contrast to AMK’s 4 1/2 year launch of their F-14, eh? Naturally there was some rivet counting over the kit, but I think modelers generally agree that it’s very nice.

Here’s Flory Models' review on YouTube.

That's 2019 in a nutshell. We modelers remain a passionate group, and our conversations both online and in person are always amusing.

A Happy New Year to all of you! Bring on 2020!

Monday, December 16, 2019

Let’s talk about Top Gun: Maverick

Paramount dropped the second trailer for Top Gun: Maverick this morning, and odds are very good that you’ve watched it. Maybe even two or three times like me.

Paramount’s Facebook post includes 11,000 comments, most of them summed up with, “I’ve been waiting 30 years for this!” But it’s the comments from friends who are aviation enthusiasts that have amused me the most.

"I expect high grade cheese, but it should still be a good time."
"I want to hate this but…."
"But I'll still go see it...Sadly."

I share these sentiments. I loved the original movie, but I was just a stupid teenager then. I like to think I have more refined tastes now, and in fairness I’ve become less inclined to watch action movies in my 50s, because, well…they all seem the same to me.

Nonetheless, why all the apprehension around Maverick? Here are a few theories.

Is it Tom Cruise? A lot of aviation enthusiasts aren’t fans. Even though he's quite the eccentric, he does some cool stuff. He looks great at 57 and has dated beautiful women. He flies his own P-51D Mustang, which he used to arrive to the set of Maverick, and appears in the movie. Are we jealous? I couldn't fault you for that.

Is it the flying? This latest trailer shows an extraordinarily risky stunt, an F/A-18 shooting up precariously close between two other Hornets. Enthusiasts know these types of moves are unrealistic, so it takes away from the reality of the movie. We’re also wondering why there’s an F-14 in the trailer. How they incorporate it into the plot might be the most intriguing part of the movie.

Is it the plot? I imagine the trailer has been edited to appeal to the movie’s original fans, but we see the same, smug Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, now a captain, as well as him racing his motorcycle against a jet taking off, singing in a bar, a volleyball game on the beach, a fight, and a funeral. As I remarked on one Facebook thread, “I’ve seen his movie before.” Did the producers and writers have to include these tropes in Part 2? Probably, if only to ensure that Maverick is familiar and will appeal to the masses.

Is it the characters? There’s an Iceman lookalike, all sweaty as if he’d just come out of that volleyball game, and a Goose lookalike, whose image appears with the chilling line, “…or death.” And a beautiful brunette who we ultimately see on the back of Maverick’s motorcycle. There's an inevitable nod to the aviation community today, with a female fighter pilot.

Here’s the thing. Maverick wasn’t made for the aviation enthusiast. We all know that, but we seem to want something more from the movie. We’ll find out in a few months, because we’re all going to see it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Five models I did not buy on Black Friday

This is something of a companion piece to an article I wrote four years ago, “Five kits I did not buy at the Nats.” I often see conversations about the kits that we buy, so I think it’s interesting to talk about what we did not buy and why.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, and quite a few online shops offered a variety of discounts and deals. Some were lackluster (7 percent off -- really?) and others were more enticing (offer me 20 percent and I start looking for my wallet). The traditional highlight of the season, Squadron’s 40 percent sale, no longer excites me now that the threshold for the maximum discount is $500, though in fairness it’s a no-brainer f you and a few friends can compile an order together.

Nonetheless, there were a few sales that prompted me to browse for bargains. I found a few, but I fell short and spent literally nothing over the weekend.

Zoukei-Mura 1/48 F-4C - Try as I might, I couldn’t find a vendor here in the US that has these in stock, so this one was a non-starter.

Zoukei-Mura 1/48 F-4S - Found this at Sprue Brothers. Could have scored one for $60, but it was out of stock.

Trumpeter 1/48 T-38A - I’ve always appreciate the sleek lines of the T-38 and would like to build on in an old school, 1970s white scheme. MegaHobby has it in stock, but I just couldn’t quite pull the trigger knowing that I have too many 1/48 scale models in the stash while my focus has been largely on 1/72 scale. I also learned that the Wolfpack model is slightly more accurate, so there's that, too.

Trumpeter 1/35 BREM-1 - I’ve always had an affinity for Soviet/Russian engineering vehicles. I was thrilled when Trumpeter released their BTM-3 last year, so I've been eager for them to leverage their molds of the BMP-1, T-72, and T-80 to produce respective examples. I was excited to find Trumpeter’s BREM-1 at Squadron, but lo! It was out of stock. So this shall have to wait for another sale or an order from a seller in China or Japan.

Italeri 1/12 Fiat Mefistofele 21706cc - If you’ve seen photos of this model on web sites or Facebook groups, you know it’s an outstanding model. I’m continually tempted to get one, despite it’s heft price tag (around $200), so Black Friday seemed to be a good opportunity to get one at discount. But after a good deal of thought, I decided to wait. I’m not a car modeler, so I’m not sure I can do the kit justice, and, frankly I have many other models in the stash that excite me more. Who knows; maybe I’ll come back to it some day.

I hope you had more luck than me. Happy hunting!