Thursday, September 15, 2016

Two models that almost broke my spirit

Scale modeling brings me great joy…and moments of intense frustration. I’m sure you’ve had these mixed emotions, too. The hobby should be about relaxation, but some models seem to fight you through the entire process of building and painting them, and that was exactly my experience with my last two – yes, two – models.

Airfix 1/72 P-40

I planned my build of Airfix’s 1/72 P-40B with great optimism. My experience with their 1/72 P-51D confirmed the reports I’d read about the manufacturer’s attention to engineering, so I anticipated the same experience with their Hawk. I hadn’t super detailed a model for a long time, so I bought CMK’s Allison resin engine, replacement spinner and prop, and exhaust stacks, as well as Dana Bell’s excellent book to show me all the great detail that I needed to add.

The final product and what remains of my first, scrapped effort.
My project went to crap as soon as I removed the engine panels as recommended in CMK’s instructions, and it continued to go south as I tried to determine how the resin parts of the engine should be assembled. Once those panels were removed the front half of the fuselage lost all structural integrity, and it was clear to me as I taped the major pieces together and joined the fuselage to the wings that none of it was going to fit. And as I tried to visualize how to install the engine into the fuselage it was clear to me I was in over my head.

I should be honest and forthright and admit that I’m more of an artist than an engineer, but I like to think that with a little time and concentration I can surmount most of the engineering challenges that a model can throw at me. But not this time.

I eventually scrapped the model, after having done a good bit of detailing in the cockpit and cutting open the cargo hatch on the port side of the fuselage, and purchased a new kit via Amazon. I began the replacement with lowered expectations, but even it didn’t work out so well. I opened that same cargo hatch and detailed the interior of the fuselage only to discover that the opening was too large. I tried to fix it but the results were shabby. I finally filled the opening, sanded it smooth, and rescribed the panel lines.

I ultimately finished the model, although even in its final moments I encountered further issues. When I attached the landing gear the airplane seemed to sit a bit too nose-high, so I pull them out, cut them down a bit, and re-attached them. The slight change of angle from that minor “improvement” resulted in the pre-flattened tires provided in the Airfix kit from not sitting completely flat. And you’ll notice that I didn’t have the spirit to replace the wing machine guns as I had planned. But hey, it’s done, and it looks halfway decent with Starfighter Decal’s markings and a bit of weathering. Like most of my models, it looks really good…from a distance of 10 feet.

Hobby Boss 1/72 Rafale M

The other hot mess that’s consumed the better part of my time at the workbench this year is Hobby Boss’s Rafale M. Unlike the Airfix Hawk I didn’t set out for it to be a super-detailed model, opting to use only an Eduard Zoom set, so I wasn’t expecting to struggle with it as much as I did. I blame my own lack of foresight as well as Hobby Boss’s poor instructions.

The remains of another failed project.
The engineering of the fuselage is a bit complex with multiple pieces coming together resulting in many seams that need to be addressed, much like most of the F-4 Phantoms on the market. I failed to fill the seam that runs the length of the forward fuselage before I attached the intakes, so cleaning it up would’ve been extremely difficult. And it was only after I’d attached the intakes that I realize the lack of intake trucks meant there was a HUGE void when you look into the intakes. Now I’m not one of those guys who obsesses over intakes, but this was too much.

I also realized too late that you have to install the main landing gear BEFORE you join the upper and lower fuselage halves.  The instructions don’t make that clear, so between this, the labor required to properly address the seams, and the black hole behind the intakes, I decided to scrap the model. Like the Airfix Hawk, I bought a replacement kit and started over. The result was much better the second time around, even if my spirit was slightly broken. The rest of the project went well, and the model looks good if I do say so myself. I like the look of the GBU-24 under the aircraft, but I didn’t have the energy to scratchbuild the targeting pod that’s mounted behind the starboard intake.

So, what can you learn about my experience with these two kits?

Read reviews and WIPs of the model you’re planning to build. A modeler on Brit Modeller who built the Rafale pointed out the issue with the landing gear, but I hadn’t seen it; if I had, the project might have gone a little smoother.

Carefully study the assembly of the model before you start it. Determine where the seams are going to be and how other parts will affect your ability to fill them. Look at the assembly sequence and don’t assume that the model will go together exactly as the last 20 models you build.

Consider removing the major parts of the model from the sprue and temporarily assembling the model to see how it looks.

Finally, don’t hesitate to scrap a model that’s not going well. You could argue that the time you’ve invested in the kit is wasted, but I believe that any time at the workbench is time spent improving your skills. As long as you’re learning from the experience, you’re on a good path.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Scale Model Soup’s aircraft wish list

I really dislike the recurring threads we see on the forums where everyone submits a list of the aircraft, armor, ships, cars they’d like to see in kit form. After two or three pages of these lists the manufacturers — assuming they’re even reading the forums — are left with a list of pretty much...everything! Whenever I see a new thread I think to myself, here we go again.

Well, here we go again!

Being as big a hypocrite as the next guy, I’ve compiled my own list, too. But my list differs from those I've seen online; these are kits I believe would actually sell. As much as I’d like to see a 1/32 Convair B-36 Peacemaker, I doubt that more than 100 modelers would buy one. My list includes models that I would invest my own money to see produced, which implies that I’d see not just a return on my investment but a profit as well.

Two notes on these choices. First, I’m assuming these kits would be new-tool, injection molded kits from a major manufacturer, not short-run or resin kits. I realize that some of these aircraft are already available in kit form, such as the Otaki C-5 Galaxy; where that’s the case, these are models I’d like to see replaced with a better product with more options. And second, I did not list models that (to my knowledge) have been announced for future release, such as a 1/32 F-111A and F-111E, which Tan Model lists on their web site.

So onto the list!

Douglas C-133 Cargomaster
Martin JRM-1 Mars
Boeing B-29/B-50 Superfortress
Martin P5M Marlin
Lockheed C-5 Galaxy
Boeing B-52 Stratofortress series

Lockheed B-2 Spirit
Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot
Grumman F7F Tigercat
Cessna T-37 Tweet
Sikorsky H-53 series (HH-53, MH-53)

Bell AH-1 family
Bell UH-1 family
Bell CV/MV-22 Osprey
Northrop B-2 Spirit
Lockheed U-2 series

Waco CG-4A glider
Martin B-26 Marauder
Lockheed Martin F-22
Lockheed Martin F-35
Lockheed U-2 series

So there you go. I don't doubt that we'll get some or all of these eventually, an increasingly move toward a day when the manufacturers have run out of subjects. In the meantime, where would you invest your money?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Bachelor build

Our hobby tends to be a solitary one, each of us building models alone in our workshops. We come together only for club meetings or contests. When I lived in Ohio my friends and I would occasionally get together to build models, sharing ideas and techniques, or to simply make modeling a social experience. I don’t have any modeler-friends near my today, so it’s great to see other modelers coming together from time to time.

This article by Craig Gregory originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of The Navigator, the monthly newsletter of IPMS/USA Alamo Squadron. My thanks to its editor, Len Pilhofer, for allowing me to share it with you.

On Saturday, July 9th and Sunday, July 10th I hosted a bachelor build weekend at my house; as my wife was visiting the East Coast with her relatives from China. There were three of us on Saturday; one started a new tank project, another a new aircraft build, while I continued working on an aircraft and a starship projects. I also BBQ hamburgers, while others brought the associated sides.

I joined Alamo Squadron for two reasons: to learn and improve my plastic modeling skills, the other to meet people. I had built a few models after college, but I had no mentors. I did not know about seam repair or how to mask canopies; my work did not meet my expectations. I still continued to grow my stash waiting for that day I would build models again. In 2013, we moved to San Antonio, I decided that this might be the time to start anew with plastic modeling. I was also new to San Antonio and wanted to meet other like-minded people (well like plastic modeling at least.)

I am of the opinion that meeting once a month for a club meeting is not enough. I am always looking for other ways to learn more about our hobby and meet others. Hosting the bachelor build weekend accomplished both goals. There is no better way to learn than to see it happen; and then to do it yourself. And no better activity that to share with others.

What did I learn? I learned that a tank has a hell of a lot more parts that a typical aircraft kit.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Scale modeling and the Olympics

Two years ago I gave you three compelling reasons why you should enter contests, and watching the Olympics has reinforced my belief. And keep in mind, I am NOT a competitive person by nature, so it’s a struggle for me to practice what I preach.

This video has been making the rounds on social media even though the Southeast Asian Games were held a year ago. These divers are terrible, but notice how they congratulate each other after their dives and are all smiles nonetheless.

I have to assume they knew they wouldn’t be competitive before they left for the Games...yet they competed anyway. They understand the value of competition even when they knew they’re unlikely to win due to their country’s diving program being underfunded. Here’s what these divers know that many of us scale modelers need to learn: Win or lose, we get to do what we love, whether it’s diving or building a scale model.

Okay, I know it’s a precarious analogy, but a passion is a passion.

JD Pahoyo, one of the divers in the video, wrote this on Facebook after the event: “It was a nice experience. Great crowd, great people.” And later he wrote, “We overcame what we once knew was our limit, and that makes us a champion."

That spirit should guide you as you consider whether to enter local or regional contests, or the Nats.

Maybe you’ve followed Ryan Lochte's quest for gold and his friendly competition with teammate Michael Phelps. After he placed 5th in the 200-meter individual medley he spoke about how he’s always tried to keep swimming fun, which for him is a driving factor in his participation in the sport. Despite his poor finish, he said, "I can’t say that it’s over.” Even that swimming machine Michael Phelps, after coming in second place, was content to say, “That’s what I could do today," which I could say about many of the models that I build.

Finally, maybe you saw Kariman Abuljadayel, the first Saudi American woman to compete in the 100m sprint. She came in 7th in the preliminary heat but was all smiles afterward. The moment wasn’t about whether she would win; it was about her participation in the race.

As you watch the remaining week of the Olympics, watch how the competitors handle defeat. They do it with grace despite the disappointment, as deep and profound as it may be. For us scale modelers, the most compelling reason to enter contests is simply to share your models with others. As my friend Gil Hodges wrote in a discussion on the IPMS forums:

"I also take time to point out that everyone who competed is a winner! They came, they competed, and they successfully showed off their work. I ask them: 'What models here inspired you today?' I then point out that those inspiring models might not even take home an award that day; and that a model of theirs that didn't place might have inspired someone else that day!"

Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Report on the 2016 virtual convention

The 2016 Virtual Convention is history. It wasn’t as well attended as I’d hoped, but I’m happy to have offered an alternative to those who couldn’t attend the IPMS Convention in Columbia.

I started my dat at 9 a.m. and spent the better part of the morning putting the finishing touches on two models that came close to breaking me down, an Airfix 1/72 P-40B and Hobby Boss 1/72 Rafale. (More on those models in an upcoming article.) I had intended to finish them earlier in the week so I could spend the entire day on something new, but as I’m slowly (too slowly) learning in my middle-age years, everything seems to take longer than I anticipate.

On of my recommendations to those of you who couldn’t attend the Nats was to pick up the phone and talk to a friend, so before I left for lunch I spoke with my friend David. He’s one of my oldest friends, and a conversation with him always reminds me of the enthusiasm we had for the hobby as teenagers. Then I was off for lunch, a quick roast beef sandwich at Roy Rogers.

Back at home I finally started my next project, an Academy 1/72 F-16. I did some research on the kit over the last week and have been studying high-resolution photos of the team’s aircraft, so I’m ready to begin. I didn’t get very far, but I’m a slow modeler by nature, and I find that I need to take my time to avoid making mistakes.

I spoke on the phone briefly with my friend Graham, who was also participating in the virtual convention. We share many of the same interests and approaches to the hobby, so it’s always a pleasure to get his take on what’s happening in the hobby.

By 6 pm I was done for the day. My fiancee and I went to dinner and then to the movies to see Star Trek Beyond.

Here’s a glimpse into what other Scale Model Soup readers did….

My friend Graham spent time doing what all armor modelers hate, assembling track. At the very least it’s a task that can be done while watching television. He also primed a Whippet.

Pedro Negron sent me photos of a couple of models he recently completed. The first is an impressive Takom 1/16 FT-17 Renault. He tells me the kit is mostly out-of-the-box, replacing only the gun barrels and springs. He painted it with Ammo colors and and pigments, as well as Tamiya and Windsor & Newton oils. You can see Pedro’s full build here.

Pedro also sent me photos of his Tamiya 1/35 M4A3 105mm Sherman.

After chopping the top and applying Red Bull promotional paint scheme to a ’53 Chevy, Peter Johnson spent time over the weekend applying additional coats of clear to the model and then sanding and polishing.

Peter’s other project for the weekend was this Ford Focus. Peter tells us that he’s painted it five times (been there, done that!) after a series of mistakes and flawed application of either paint or decals. Peter, if you hire a priest for that exorcism, let me know; I may have an exorcism to perform in my workshop as well.

Mark Deliduka was our most prolific participant. From our thread on the IPMS forum it appears he worked on at least a half dozen models, so I can only assume he was awake for 72 hours. I’m impressed by the work that’s going into his B-377, and his Vomag 7 bus has a striking paint scheme.

An early mentor of mine sent me photos of his recent build, an Airfix 1/72 Dominie that he purchases for just one dollar. Why so cheap? It was missing the engines. Always the industrialist, Joe cut down a couple of spare wing tanks and used them as replacements. I'm not surprised. This is the same man who scratchbuild a Spitfire wing using a deck of playing cards.

All in all, it was great to allocate the entire day to the hobby, and that is the biggest lesson for me, which was echoed by Graham as well. We realized that we usually get only an hour or two here and there to work on models during our busy lives, so it’s rare to have a solid four, six, or eight hours at the workbench.

Looking forward, maybe the virtual convention isn’t something that happens once a year. Maybe it’s something we’ll organize two or three times a year. It could be less of a virtual convention and more a virtual buildathon. We’ll have to give more thought to the idea and look to expand it beyond IPMS circles. My primary goal with Scale Model Soup has always been to stoke enthusiasm for the hobby, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than to get dozens or hundreds of modelers to spend an entire day building models together, even if virtually.

My thanks to others who participated in this virtual convention.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Let the virtual convention begin!

My plans for our virtual convention are set. Unfortunately it won't be as grand as I had planned, but I'm excited about the weekend nonetheless. I was intending to take a vacation day tomorrow (Friday) so I could spend a solid two days at the workbench, but I’ve decided to save the time time for an upcoming family vacation instead. I suspect most of you are in the same boat, being able to commit only Saturday to the virtual convention, and that’s okay. The goal isn't necessarily to spend four days on the hobby, but to commit a little more time than usual as compensation for not attending the IPMS Nats in person.

Here’s what I have planned.

As luck would have it, just today I received a small order of photoetch and canopy masks from Hannants, so that feels good; the cool thing is these were items I don't think I would've found at the Nats! And two days ago I placed an order for the new Valom F-101A and a number of decal sheets from a favorite eBay vendor, which I expect to arrive tomorrow.

Last night I spoke with one of my best friends, chatting a good deal about models, and earlier today I talked to another good friend and early mentor who always increases my enthusiasm for the hobby. I expect to talk to a few more modelers over the next two days.

I plan to spend a couple of hours at the workbench tonight and tomorrow with the intention of wrapping up two models, which ironically could have been done in time for the Nats. Alas…. With those off the bench I’m going to start two new projects on Saturday, the PzKpfw 38(t) and F-16 you see above.

My fiancĂ©e knows that I’m committed to being at the workbench all day Saturday, so she’s made plans to spend the day at the mall. We’ll have dinner together after the virtual convention Saturday night (as we would have had we gone to Columbia), and then she's taking me to see the new Star Trek movie.

I may sneak in a war movie or documentary if I get a chance, even if it's running in the background while I perform some tedious task on the tank or jet. Amazon Prime subscribers have a large number of movies they can stream, and if you’re a Netflix subscriber use these links to see a list of the military-related movies on the service.

All military action and adventure movies
Military television shows
Military documentaries

So there you have it. That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it! Don’t forget to let me know what you're up to this weekend. I hope you're able to spend time deep in the hobby, too.

P.S. I’ll be checking IPMS’s gallery from the actual IPMS Nats from time to time, and yes, wishing I were there.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

So you’re heading to Columbia?

While some of us will be enjoying a virtual convention this weekend, many of you will be heading to Columbia, South Carolina to enjoy the IPMS-USA 2016 National Convention in person. I’ve written a lot about the Nats experience over the years, so in an effort to drive the excitement that already surrounds the show, here's a collection of links to those articles.

I hear the convention team is using new software this year, so give 'em a break if you find yourself in a slow-moving registration line.

If you're a first-time attendee, I offer some ideas for you.

You should enter the contest. Really, I mean it. I offer three reasons why and I bust the biggest myth there is about contests.

If you choose to enter the contest, here’s some advice.

Here’s more advice for your time in the vendors room.

If you’re a vendor, I have suggestions for you, too.

Don’t be that guy. Or that other guy. Please!

So there you go. Send me a photo of your favorite model in the contest, and I’ll compile an after-action report for the Soup. We're always eager to see the great models that capture your attention.

Enjoy the show! You lucky blokes.