Monday, November 28, 2016

Where does the time go?

As I left work last Wednesday I was filled with enthusiasm. A four-day weekend was directly in front of me with the promise of copious free time to spend in the workshop. True, there was Thanksgiving, but unlike prior years, this year I was cooking only for my fiancée. I anticipated making great progress on my Thunderbirds F-16, applying a final coat of white paint, painting the exhaust and the black areas around the cockpit, and laying down a coat of Future for the decals. I also planned to start a new piece of armor so that I could continue trying all these newfangled weathering media and refine the techniques used to apply them. How exciting!

Alas, it was not meant to be.

Here I am, the day after this promising weekend, and I think I spent not more than five or six hours at the workbench. I didn’t touch the F-16, so it’s at least three or four days behind schedule. I did pull an old Tamiya Stug III from the stash and begin assembling it, and truth be told, made decent progress due in large part to my not detailing the model. But all those road wheels sucked at least 60-90 minutes of my time to clean up.

This feeling of frustration, this inability to make the time to build, is not unique to holiday weekends. It happens all too often. I could argue that it shouldn't be a big deal, that I should spend time at the bench only when I’m truly motivated, but when I look at my stash of unbuilt models the reality hits me that I’m unlikely to build them all, and that leaves me feeling dejected.

As I get older I’m exploring ways to re-frame my enjoyment of the hobby. Last year I offered five ideas to increase your modeling output and suggested that you paint cockpits black. But even with changes like that, I suspect we’re all left with the harsh reality that there’s simply not enough time to do everything we want. I think my challenge — and maybe yours, too — is to find satisfaction in whatever it is we are able to build and finish. There’s happiness in building five models as much as there is in building 10, or 50, or 100.

I just have to convince myself of that.

P.S. I have to admit that the weekend wasn’t a complete waste. I spent quality time with my fiancée, cooked four great meals (such as the butternut squash and kale risotto pictured below), enjoyed a number of good wines, watched a good horror movie and a few episodes of Shameless, and spent time with family. And those are good things.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Movie review: Toward the Unknown

I’d never had much interest in USAF aircraft of the 1950s. I grew up during the Cold War, so I’ve always had an affinity for the aircraft that flew during the 1970s and 80s. Then I visited the National Museum of the United States Air Force in 2015 and really studied these old aircraft up close, and I was hooked. There’s something intriguing about the raw functionality of those aircraft, their almost primitive nature (that is, primitive compared to an F-22, not a Wright Flyer).

You’re probably familiar with the aviation-themed movies from the 1950s. Strategic Air Command is probably the most famous and has received a good deal of buzz over the last couple of months with its release on DVD, but another notable movie is Toward the Unknown, starring William Holden and Lloyd Nolan. The movie was based on a novel by Beirne Lay, who went on to write the screenplay for another aviation movie, Above and Beyond, as well as Strategic Air Command.

Movies like this don’t have much of a plot. This one sees a broken fighter pilot make his return to the air at Edward AFB’s Flight Test Center thanks to the support of an old flame. Pretty boring stuff. Movies like this are worth your time just for the flying footage. If the B-36 and B-47 were the stars of Strategic Air Command, the weird and unusual XB-51 (dubbed the XF-120 for the film) is the star of this one. It’s a huge, ungainly aircraft — one that we almost never see or talk about — so watching it climb and dive is a real treat for enthusiasts like us. You’ll also see the F-100 and F-102 in flying sequences, and too many 50s era aircraft on the Edwards flightline to count.

It’s interesting to note that only two XB-51s were manufactured, and one crashed on its way to Eglin AFB for filming of the movie.

Check out the Turner Classic Movies web site for future airings of the movie. DVR the movie and fast-forward through the non-flying segments.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Dustbin walkaround

Last month Replikant Technologies announced a new product, a 1/35 scale dustbin. This is another welcome addition to a growing trend in the hobby where we're seeing more and more diorama accessories. Miniart in particular has been producing some great products (you may recall my having fun at their expense last month), so it's good to see the cottage industry jumping on the bandwagon, too, enabled in large part by the growing availability of 3D printing technology.

Knowing how obsessive many of you can be in adding maximum detail to your models, I thought you might find it helpful if you had a thorough walkaround of an actual dustbin. I thought about offering these photos to Prime Portal, my favorite site for walkarounds, but since they don’t have a section for household items, I’ll just share them here.

Here's the first side of the bin. Note the dirt stains at the bottom where I "kick" the bin to tilt it over and pull it around. Also notice the wear on the plastic wheels.

Here's the left side of the bin. The Replikant item doesn't have the Toter Incorporated logo, so we can only hope that Eduard produced a photoetch set that includes it.

The front of the bin, which receives the most abuse when the sanitation engineers lift it and empty it into the garbage truck. The manufacturer's logo appears here as well.

The right side of the bin, again featuring the manufacturer's logo.

The bin lid, which features usage information and warnings, the latter I assume mandated by the government. These would be too small to read in 1/35 scale.

The underside of the lid. Notice how little wear and tear it receives, save for the edges.

The inside of the bin. My bin is used only for household trash, always bagged, so it's in relatively good shape, even after 15 years use. Be sure to put a few leaves in yours to add a degree of authenticity!

A detailed view of the lid's hinge mechanism. Note the use of rivets and not screws to join the two assemblies.

The underside of the bin, which as you might image receives the most abuse. A few strokes of a course grit sandpaper on Replikant's model should represent this wear quite accurately.

So there you have it. Scale Model Soup's first walkaround! I hope you find it useful.

Next month I’ll feature a walkaround of this milk jar to help you with Miniart’s 1/35 “Wooden Barrels & Village Utensils” set.

Be sure to check out Replikant's web site. They have some really cool products, most which don't require a bogus walkaround.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Book review: B-25 Mitchell in Civil Service

I’ve had an affinity for the B-25 going way back to my teenage years. One of the first models I built was Monogram’s B-25, and a few years later I found that an airworthy B-25 was occasionally tied down at a nearby airport. Then in 1985 I got a flight in a B-25 at (if I recall correctly) Sun ’n Fun, the big Central Florida airshow. Today I have two Hasegawa B-25s in the stash, as well as a Minicraft 1/144 kit, and I’ve been patiently looking for the HK Models 1/32 kit for the right price.

A few weeks ago while browsing the Warbird Information Exchange forums I found a promotional link to Aero Vintage books, where Scott Thompson’s book B-25 Mitchell in Civil Service is offered at a discounted price of just $10. It’s rare these days to find a true bargain, so with a couple of clicks and a short one-week wait and the book was in my hands.

And it’s a very nice book. As you know, in the downsizing that followed World War Two thousands of aircraft were scrapped or sold, and this book traces the path of many of the B-25s that wound up in civilian ownership. Chapters focus on executive and research use of the B-25 (a role in which the B-25 served in the USAF for many years after the war), air tankers and agricultural sprayers, and conversions for use by Hollywood for air-to-air filming and photography. The history of the B-25’s post-war usage is accompanied by dozens of fascinating photographs showing the B-25 in a myriad of civilian markings and, sadly, disrepair.

Interjected throughout the book are fascinating stories about several pilots who flew the B-25, such as one who flew avionics test flights for Bendix, an air tanker pilot, two who flew B-25s for movies, and another who restored the B-25 that I flew in as a teenager, 44-31508/N6578D. (On a side note, that aircraft is now in Australia, having been purchased by Reevers Warbird Roundup. It’s in restoration and will be unveiled in April 2017. Warbird News wrote about its acquisition.)

The books wraps up with a substantial history of individual B-25s.

If you’re a fan of the B-25 you’ll appreciate the history of industrious engineers and pilots who extended the life of the aircraft well into the 1960s, and beyond if you consider the 25-30 B-25s that are airworthy today. (Someone let me know if that count is inaccurate.)

Friday, October 14, 2016

More eBay insanity

A few months ago I wrote about some of the silly postings I’d seen on eBay, and needless to say the insanity continues. I don’t expect it to stop, which gives us another opportunity to enjoy and laugh at some of the crap people try to sell on eBay and via other venues. Enjoy!

This Testors F4U Corsair was described as “parts only…as is,” and “nice.” I think a more accurate description would’ve been “Testors F4U Corsair, nothing but sprues.” At least the Buy It Now was only $2.00, which buys you a good bit of sprue to stretch.

This “rare” Dragon 1/35 Shilka was offered on one of the buy/sell forums for $38 earlier this year. Nevermind that a.) there were five kits just like it on eBay at lower prices, b.) the last kit like this one to sell on eBay went for $22, and c.) there were two new-tool kits in the pipeline at the time.

If a decal sheet can be considered “rare,” the Two Bobs F-14A Splintered Tomcat sheet would qualify. An eBay seller listed this one at a Buy It Now price of $70. I could admire this capitalist for being optimistic, but see that he’d had it listed at that price for more than eight months makes me think otherwise. If your high-priced item hasn’t sold in, I don't know, six months, it just might be overpriced.

Described as having been acquired from a police locker, the seller of this “Vintage Model Kit panzer Kampfwagen ll Ausf F/G” priced at $109.99, should be arrested for price gauging.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

MiniArt’s new crockery and glass set

MiniArt just announced a new kit that will be of great interest to armor and diorama modelers, so in anticipation of its release I thought I’d look ahead and anticipate the questions and comments that will surely be made on the forums. Enjoy!

  • Can anyone tell me if Europeans in 1940s drank their coffee with or without milk? Did it vary by country? I need to know how light or dark to paint the coffee.
  • Wrong scale.
  • Which Alclad color should I use for the coffee pot?
  • Can I use the beer mug for a diorama set in Vietnam?
  • Can someone recommend the best paint to use for the green teapot?
  • Squadron is showing this as out of stock.
  • The deer emblem on the porcelain mug looks wrong. The rear of the deer looks a little too rounded compared to pictures I’ve studied.
  • How about a 1/35 T-34/100?
  • The whiskey decanter is completely misshapen. It’s a caricature of the real thing.
  • How can I represent the steam that’s rising from hot coffee?

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Inspiration: Francois Verlinden

I’ve met many excellent modelers in my 30 years in our hobby and seen the work of hundreds more in print and online. There are a handful that have inspired me, whose techniques, craftsmanship, or whose approach to the hobby shaped the modeler that I am today. This is the second in what I hope to be a series of articles to acknowledge their contributions.

You’ve probably heard about Francois Verlinden’s retirement by now. A few weeks ago photos were posted to Facebook showing the closure of his warehouse outside St. Louis. It’s a sad time for the hobby, but we have much to be thankful for given Verlinden’s presence in the hobby.

When I started building plastic models I focused solely on aircraft, but an early mentor introduced me to armor, sometime around 1983 I think. At the same time he introduced me to Francois Verlinden’s work just when his business was taking off. My mentor had incorporated some of Verlinden’s techniques into his own armor modeling, and I dutifully followed his lead by doing the same. All these years later I can credit my mentor and Verlinden for my interest in armor, even if the techniques we use today have significantly changed over the years.

I saw Verlinden do a presentation at the 1984 IPMS National Convention, which I recall was simply a slide show of his work, but what we saw was inspiring at the time. He painted and weathered armor with much more contrast than we’d ever seen before and the results were stunning. In the years that followed I bought some of his books — those about modeling techniques as well as the Lock-On series featuring what we might today refer to as “walkarounds” — and several issues of Verlinden Productions Modeling Magazine. They made me a better modeler.

Several years later I was driving through Missouri and had time to stop at VLS’s headquarters and see Verlinden’s models in person (as well as Bob Letterman’s dioramas). I have to admit that their work didn’t look quite as good in person as it did in photographs, but the ambition of their efforts was a point of inspiration. I don’t think it’s a surprise that many modelers today are drawn to big, expansive dioramas, in part due to Verlinden and Letterman’s early work.

Verlinden’s products, while not always the easiest to build, set a standard for the products that we now enjoy from the aftermarket industry. His company produced products for armor, aircraft, and figure modelers. Other modelers and entrepreneurs with good product ideas followed Verlinden’s lead. I’m sure many of you still have a Verlinden conversion or detail set in your stash.

It’s unfortunate that the Verlinden brand didn’t continue beyond its founder’s retirement, but his presence in the hobby laid a foundation that many others built upon.

Who else has inspired me? Here's the list, so far....

Bob Steinbrunn