Sunday, September 9, 2018

Dora, I see what you're doing

Dora, I see what you're doing, and I like it!

If you follow the Rumourmonger forum on Britmodeller.com (and you should, because it’s one of the most lively conversations about upcoming releases), you may have noticed an interesting series of releases from newcomer Dora Wings.

Beginning in January 2017, and continuing through this year, Dora Wings has announced a series of new tool kits of the P-63 Kingcobra. That wouldn’t be particularly remarkable except that the kits span three scales — 1/48, 1/72, and 1/144.


To be fair, other manufacturers have done that. Hasegawa has F-16s in 1/32, 1/48, and 1/72. Monogram released kits back in the day of the F-105 in two scales. Trumpeter has released several tanks in 1/35 and 1/72. But what makes Dora Wings’ releases interesting to me is the close succession in which they’re coming to market.

I was intrigued by this strategy, so I messaged the company and subsequently had a nice conversation with the proprietor, Eugen Evtushenko. As I suspected, Eugen is taking advantage of 3D technology to release these kits across many scales. From his original 1/48 P-63, it's relatively easy to scale down the design to 1/72 and 1/144. “It’s a marketing move,” he said. “Let’s see if it’s right.” Based on the responses to other manufacturers’ new releases, where modelers often chime in with “wrong scale” remarks, I think Eugen is onto something.

Eugen said he produces kits that are interesting to him. Recently it’s been the Kingcobra, hence all the kits we’re seeing. As a modeler himself, he prefers 1/48 scale but realizes there’s a demand for 1/72 in particular.

His next three-scale release will likely be the Fairey Delta 2, and he has plans for at least two other models in two scales.

Looking further ahead Eugen tells me he’s most inspired by the Golden Era of aviation. “There are a lot of undeservedly forgotten prototypes, which are unprofitable for large producers to produce. Short-run manufacturers can help,” he said. "The cost of production for us is much less, and we can afford to produce a model with a circulation of 500-1000 copies."

Eugen casts a wide net when designing a new kit. He’ll search out books, magazines, and drawings, and is not averse to reaching out to the modeling community for assistance. One Britmodeller member, he told me, was key in providing references for the Dora P-63 racer.

Scrolling through Dora’s Facebook page you'll see many new and exciting releases. There’s a Percival Proctor and Vega, Bellanca CH300 and CH400, a Bf-109A/B, Dewotine D.501, and Gee Bee R1. I’m excited to see what Dora Wings will produce in the coming years.

Until then, here are a links to a few reviews of Dora Wings models.

1/72 P-63E on Hyperscale.
1/48 P-63E on KFS Miniatures.
1/48 TP-63E on Scalenews.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

If something seems too good to be true...

Earlier this week Matt McDougall over at Doogs’ Models posted his findings of an informal survey he conducted on modelers’ buying habits. One of the questions he asked is where we buy our kits, paints, and tools. Much to my surprise, Amazon came in third, behind our local hobby shop (another surprise) and eBay.

Like many of you I’ve been going to Amazon quite a bit over the last few years in search of bargains. If you're an Amazon Prime customer in particular, the program's free shipping gets you around the bugbear of online purchases, postage. Even with that nugget, true bargains remain rare.

I’ve found a few over the years. Three years ago I found a Trumpeter 2S7M for $42 and a Minicraft 1/144 KC-135 for $8, both eligible for Amazon Prime! The only trick to finding these bargains is luck. (On the other hand, there’s no luck necessary if you want to buy models for pennies.)

I thought I got lucky last week when I spontaneously searched for one of the models on my short wish list, the Roden 1/144 C-5 Galaxy. You can imagine my surprise when I found this listing for the kit for $26.97.


I reviewed the description to make sure it was legit, not for just the box, or the decals, or just the fuselage. Everything looked good, so I ordered the model. I figured if it turned out to be a scam Amazon would back up a complaint. Amazon confirmed the purchase, so I set up camp in front yard to anxiously await the delivery.

Alas, there was no happy ending. Two days later I got an email from the seller informing me that his software had listed the model with the incorrect price. It should've been $126.99. He kindly offered me a 10 percent discount if I wanted to proceed with the purchase, but I declined and chose a refund instead. Total bummer.

There was a lot conversation about the Roden kit when it was released last year, and I tend to agree with the masses who find it's price tag a bit steep. I'll be patient and wait. Like most of the models that have been on my wish list, I’ll find one eventually at a good price, even if it's not $25.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Eight awesome war movies from the awesome 80s

I’m a child of the 1980s, and it was a good time to be alive. Madonna ruled the airwaves, I promised myself to have two female roommates after watching Three’s Company, Bill Cosby was the father that I wished I had, and a Hasegawa 1/48 F-4 was just $15 (and a Tamiya 1/35 Sherman for $8).

How times have changed. Madonna is no longer relevant; I’ve since learned that one female “roommate” (i.e., wife) is enough; Bill Cosby was, never mind; and models are nearing (and surpassing) the $100 price point. But I have good memories from that decade, including a flurry of remarkable war movies that are as enjoyable now as they were 30 years ago. That is, if you can suspend your disbelief long enough to endure bad acting and implausible plots.

Here are my eight favorites.

Top Gun

I can’t think of another movie that captured the imagination or interest of aviation enthusiasts more than Top Gun. It has a look, a feel, a spirit that I haven’t seen in any other movie about fighter pilots. Yes, the plot is simple and mostly predictable (even though — spoiler alert — Maverick doesn’t win the Top Gun trophy in his class), but the flying sequences are amazing thanks to the Navy’s cooperation. As for Top Gun 2...we shall see.



Iron Eagle

Absolutely terrible plot in every way imaginable, but like Top Gun, the flying sequences are breathtaking. The Cessna 150 scene at the beginning is worth the price of admission and ensures Iron Eagle will always be among my favorite aviation themed films.



Red Dawn

For those of us who grew up in the 60s, 70s, 80s, war with the Soviet Union was a very real possibility and always in the back of our minds. Red Dawn was a poor representation of what a Soviet invasion might look like, capturing that underlying fear we lived with.



Taps

Taps aired just around the time that I joined the Civil Air Patrol and AFJROTC, and it reinforced my interest in the military. The uniforms, the marching, the camaraderie…it all had great appeal to a young man looking forward to a future in the military. The cast was pretty great, too: Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn, a very young Tom Cruise, George C. Scott, and Ronnie Cox.



Platoon

Platoon was one of a long line of movies through the late 70s and early 80s that portrayed the brutality of the Vietnam war. There's an obvious anti-war tone to the movie, but the directing and acting was exceptional, from the stars to even the extras.




Henry V

You probably didn’t expect to see this on a list of war movies, did you? You may not think that a 15th century battle is as compelling as one in the 20th century, but if you can indulge the Shakespearean language, the battle scenes in Henry V show the brutality of early face-to-face combat and much more intimate than in recent wars.



Full Metal Jacket

I have a thing for movies about basic training. I could watch FMJ for those scenes alone. I know you’ve all seen the movie, so you know Private Pyle; when I was in basic training there was a guy in my flight who reminded me of Private Pyle, though I’m happy to say he fared much better than Pyle.



The Final Countdown

The dialog is painfully bad, but time travel is always offers an intriguing plot. The dogfight between the F-14s and Zeros is a fun ride.



Missing the cut by just one year, and on my mind because I just re-watched it, Hunt for the Red October. I don't think I've seen Sean Connery in a more commanding role than as Captain Ramius.

Friday, July 27, 2018

The 2nd Annual Virtual Convention

The IPMS National Convention is next week. Not going? Read on!

When I couldn’t attend the IPMS Nats two years ago, I had the hair-brained idea of creating an online convention, and thus was born the First Annual Virtual Convention. It was intended solely as a way to distract me from the mild despair of not attending the show to a more productive mindset.


A couple of years earlier I'd provided a few tips to modelers who couldn’t attend the Nats — the most important being to simply spend time at the workbench — so in 2016 I decided to take my own advice and make an effort to be constructive over the weekend, more so than usual even.

Participation in the convention was modest, with just five readers sending me photos of their models, but I enjoyed the experience nonetheless and made a few friends. A dialog with five modelers is better than none! The Virtual Convention slipped my mind last year, and it probably would’ve been off my radar again this year if a friend hadn’t mentioned it.

Despite the fact that group builds don’t seem to be very popular these days, let’s try the Virtual Convention again. Even if my friend and I are the only participants, the time at the bench will be well spent.

Here’s a summary of our expectations for those who didn’t participate in 2014.

Prepare for the day by staking claim to the weekend. Take Friday off if you can, either using a vacation day or calling in sick. Let your spouse, significant other, children, non-modeler friends, etc. know that you’re going to spend the day by yourself. You probably won’t be able to take all three or four days off, but do what you can.

Next decide how you’re going to spend your time. I suggest four ways to make the weekend productive.

Spend the day at the workbench. The hobby is about building models, so there’s no better way to spend an hour or two or eight than at the workbench.

Spend time with other modelers who aren’t attending the Nats. Gather and have lunch or dinner. If you can’t meet up in person, pick up the phone and call them.

Visit your LHS and treat yourself to a model or two. You’d probably spend at least $500 attending the Nats, so dropping $50 on something interesting will be a small treat.

Watch a favorite movie. Or a series of YouTube videos.

It’s that simple. Make some time for the hobby, for yourself. Let me know via email or Facebook if you plan to participate. We’ll keep in touch, and I'll ask for photos of how you spent your weekend. I’ll post an after-action report the week following.

See you there!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Paying it forward

Here are a couple of heartwarming stories about friends giving me free stuff.

I was 14 years old and had been building models for a few years, not really knowing what I was doing. Somehow I learned about IPMS Ocala (Florida), which met in a neighboring town. I didn’t have a driver’s license, so my mother generously drove me to the meetings and would shop while I made new friends and learned about the finer aspects of scale modeling. A few of the club members were particularly helpful and took me under their wings, and I was eventually invited to their homes to see their workshops, stashes, and book collections.

I remember visiting the home of Alan Royer, who was an extremely talented truck modeler. I spent a couple of hours with him as he showed me the models he was working on, explained how he converted them, and introduced me to the tools and material he used to build them. I’d never seen sheet plastic or tubing. Alan used liquid glue, not the Testors goo I had at home. The experience was, as they say, like drinking from a fire hose. There was so much I didn’t know about this hobby.

What I most remember about my visit with Alan was his generosity. He shared with me everything he knew, and when I left, he gave me a selection of sheet plastic and tubing that I could use for my own modeling. That was incredibly kind of him, and it set an example for how I should encourage other modelers that I would meet in the future.

Fast-forward thirty’ish years. Last month a friend emailed me and told me that he was downsizing his collection and included a few photos of the models he wanted to get rid of. The subject line said it all, “Free to a good home.” And here’s the thing. He wasn’t offering me a bunch of moldy old Revell and Lindberg kits from the 1960s. These were primo, new-tool kits that would easily sell for $30 or more on eBay.


I’ve had enough conversations with this friend over the last couple of years to know his downsizing is an exercise to de-clutter his life; simply getting the models out of his home is his priority. Still, it was incredibly generous of him to outright give me the models rather than sell them. And when I went to his office to pick up the three models I asked for (I didn’t want to be selfish and ask for everything), he’d added a few more that he knew I’d be interested in.

I reflect on these two moments because they’re meaningful. There’s no better way to “pay it forward” than to be generous with your time and the things that you value. It could be a small item such as a bottle of paint or a photoetch set, or it could be a model — or two or five or twenty-five.

I’ve written about the signs that your stash is out of control and about what might happen to your stash when you die. If you find yourself downsizing your collection, consider giving away some of your models to friends or the younger modelers you know. Take a few to the next contest and give them to one of the youngsters in attendance. Paying it forward, giving away something of value, may make an impression on someone who will be building models 30 years from now.

And to my friend Adrian, thank you!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Lessons learned from the Olympics

The Olympics are well behind us now, and after watching a number of the events over those two weeks I’ve been reflecting on what the experience must be like for the athletes who didn't win, or who didn't place as high as expected.


I’ve been an advocate here on Scale Model Soup for entering contests. In light of the Olympic experience, there are a few lessons we scale modelers might consider relative to our participation in contests so that we’re not completely dejected when we don’t win.

Sometimes you have a bad day

American skater Nathan Chen was expected to medal, but numerous stumbles in the short program ultimately put him in 17th place and kept him off the podium.

Lesson: Although the act of building a scale model doesn’t happen within the span of one to three minutes, I think we all know the experience of building a model that doesn’t reflect what we believe to be our true potential. Don’t let one or two shabby models diminish your confidence. Press on and build another model.

Even when you fall short you can still do great things

Speaking of Nathan Chen, even though he didn't medal, he was the first competitor to land five quadruple jumps in one program.

Lesson: Many of you have seen thousands of models over the years, either at contests or online, and a number of them are memorable to you. Did they win first place in their categories? Maybe; maybe not. If your model isn’t perfect — if a significant flaw kept it from winning — remember that it may be memorable to the contest attendees. Build something great and it will be remembered whether you win or not.

You can redeem yourself

Shaun White, who was widely regarded as the snowboarding king, had a disappointing experience at the 2014 Olympics, placing fourth in the halfpipe event. He redeemed himself in PyeongChang by winning gold.

Lesson: So you didn’t win first place in your favorite category? You made mistakes and the judges found them? Pick yourself up, learn how to improve, and try again. The good news is you don't have to wait four years!

The line between first and second place can be razor-thin

In the Alpine Skiing-Women's Super-G, the difference between Ester Ledecka’s gold medal and Anna Veith’s silver was just 1/100 of a second.

Lesson: I’ve judged in enough contests to know first-hand that the line between first place and second place (or second or third, or third and zilch) can come down to the most seemingly inconsequential item. If you fall short of where you hoped to be, remember that what the judges found might have been an incredibly small distinction between you and the guy who won. (Unfortunately in mosts contests you’ll almost never know just how close you came to winning.)

Comparing professional athletes to hobbyists isn’t really fair. Athletes invest much more time and money in their pursuit of gold, but I think we can learn something from the Olympics. If anything we can look to the Olympic Creed, which says in part:

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part.”

And so it is with scale model contests as well.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The most unusual place I've purchased a model

This week Jon at The Combat Workshop asked this question to The Sprue Cutters Union: What is the most unusual place you’ve ever purchased a kit.

The year was 1985. I was in high school and working part-time at a local grocery store. We had a small toy section in the non-foods area of the store, and among the items intended for five year-olds was a small selection of MPC model kits.

The 1/72 F-86D caught my attention, but I didn’t buy it immediately. I’d pass it every time I had to run for a price check in that part of the store and every evening I’d “close” and be tasked with corning sweeping and dust mopping. I would imagine how I might build it and paint it, but I never pulled the trigger. This went on for months and months.


One day I finally bought the model. It was only five or six dollars as I recall, so it didn’t impact my meager budget all that much. I suppose that was the most unusual place I’ve ever purchased a kit, a grocery store. That’s a pretty lame story, I must admit. I hope other members of the Union have more compelling stories to share.

Ironically, I never build the model.