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.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A virtual convention if you can't attend the Nats

The IPMS-USA National Convention is two weeks away, and I'm not going. That makes me a sad panda. It’s the first time in five years that I haven’t been able to attend. The convention has always been a highlight of the year, and I come away from the show with a renewed passion for our hobby. In a perfect world I’d attend the convention and then take the following four weeks off to take advantage of that enthusiasm to completely immerse myself in models. I’ll have to wait until retirement, I suppose.

But just because I can’t attend that Nats doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the weekend. And that goes for you, too. A few years ago I offered several suggestions for those who couldn’t attend the Nats, so I’m going to drink my own Kool Aid this year and take my advice.

Here’s my proposal. If you can’t go, let’s celebrate the hobby by participating in a national, virtual convention!

To begin, let’s be clear of the spirit of the weekend. Since you won’t be at the convention itself, your goal is to spend as much time immersed in the hobby as you can. The convention runs Wednesday to Saturday, so ideally you'd take those four days off and spend a solid four days indulging yourself, but that’s probably not realistic for most of us. Maybe Friday and Saturday is an option. Or only Saturday. No matter, but since the convention schedule runs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., you should plan to spend the entire day at our virtual convention.

Now that we’re clear on the goal, here are the specifics.

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. (Anyone feel a cough coming on?) Let your spouse, significant other, children, non-modeler friends, etc. know that you’re going to spend the day by yourself. You won't be available to mow the lawn, take little Timothy to his soccer game, or fold laundry.

Next decide how you’re going to spend your time. I suggest four ways to make the weekend productive.
  • Spend time with other modelers who aren’t attending the Nats.
  • Visit your LHS and treat yourself to a model or two.
  • Spend the day at the workbench.
  • Watch a favorite movie.
With these ideas in mind, plan your day. For example, if you were going to Columbia you’d probably be browsing the halls of the convention center by 9 a.m., so wake up early, have breakfast, and be at your workbench or headed to the LHS by 10 a.m. Or maybe watch a few episodes of Band of Brothers before painting your Dragon Sherman.

If you’re fortunate to have friends in the area, meet up with them for lunch. If you don’t have anyone nearby, pick up the phone and call a friend. This is a solitary hobby, but when I connect with friends — whether at a convention or one-on-one — it increases my enthusiasm for the hobby.

If you have lunch with friends, hit the LHS with them afterward. Take that $100 you would’ve spent for gas driving to South Carolina and spend it on a new release or two. Yes, I know you can buy those kits cheaper online, but support your LHS since you can't be at the “largest hobby shop in the world."

At the end of the day, if you didn’t see them for lunch, have dinner with your modeling friends. Or take your family to dinner to thank them for the time they’ve given you to attend the virtual convention!

So there you have it. You can enjoy the weekend even if you can’t attend the Nats. I hope you give these ideas a try. Send me your stories and photos, and I’ll post as many as I can in a follow-up article. I'm excited to see how you enjoy the weekend!

This effort is by no means offered as an alternative to actually attending the Nats. There are many compelling reasons to attend in person, as well as to enter the contest. This virtual convention is intended only for those of you who cannot attend the convention itself.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Your first flight

Do you remember your first flight in a small aircraft?

My first time was through an orientation flight as a Civil Air Patrol cadet in the early 1980s. It was amazing, and I knew immediately that I wanted to learn about aircraft and flying. I eventually took flying lessons later in high school thanks to a modest CAP scholarship, and soloed after 13 hours of flying time, one of the top five moments of my life to be sure. Sadly, my lessons stopped soon after that when I found that my $3.60/hour job bagging groceries would be insufficient for the expense of the more time-consuming training and flying that was to follow. I never became an Air Force pilot either, for reasons too complicated to explain right now, but I always take advantage of every opportunity I can to fly, even if it's in the aisle seat of an Airbus A320.

You probably remember your first flight as well, which is why I enjoyed this video so much. The kid's smile is priceless as the plane leaves the ground at the 2:11 point. You can see the magic of the moment, and you know he’ll never forget his first flight either.

By the way, in case you aren't aware of his videos, Mr. Aviation 101 is Josh Flowers, a 20 year-old commercial pilot, flight instructor, and YouTube sensation. He’s an excellent pilot with a rare ability to clearly explain what he’s doing in the cockpit. He's uploaded dozens of videos, each providing an in-depth look into flying that we non-pilots don’t often see. I think you’ll enjoy them. Yet another fun way to waste time away from the workbench!