Thursday, November 22, 2018

Time to be thankful again

It’s been three years since I shared the things I’m thankful for, so I thought it time to reflect again on all the good things I enjoy in our hobby.

Scribing tape

I’ve always intended to write about my experience scribing -- because I’ve found it to be quite zen -- but just haven’t gotten around to it. The desire is stronger now after having discovered HIQ Carving Guide Tape via Hobbyworld USA. If you’ve struggled scribing around curved surfaces — trying to apply multiple layers of masking tape to create a scribing guide or cutting long strips of label tape — you’ll find that HIQ’s tape is the bee’s knees.

Modeling reference books

Over the last few years we've seen an explosion of magazines and books describing how master modelers, build, convert, paint, and weather their models. We’ve come a long way from simple 4-5 page articles in magazines. Today you can find a 25-step photo instruction on how to paint and weather a P-51D fuel tank and entire books dedicated to building a single model. With so many books explaining every little technique, there’s seemingly no excuse not to build a decent model.

Video reviews

YouTube has become a prime medium for delivering thorough in-box reviews of new kits. Web sites such as The Modeling News and BritModeller have long offered comprehensive photo coverage of new kits, but a video offers a new dimension to assessing them. Look at the BlitzGreigModelWorks or Genessis Models YouTube channel for good examples.

Facebook groups

I know I’ve been critical of the deluge of groups on Facebook, but the result has been an abundance of information shared from all corners of the globe. I suspect many of the groups we’ve joined have been created by modelers for modelers, but they attract real-world pilots, soldiers, seamen, etc. who are eager to share their photos and experiences. We modelers have everything to gain. I’m still concerned that content is being diluted when there are so many groups intended for the same subject (for example, nearly 15 groups for the F-4 Phantom), but the value of Facebook cannot be denied.

Our hobby

The older I get, the more I realize that most people don’t have a hobby. While those folks are wasting away watching television or doing god-knows-what, scale modelers like us are actively engaged in history, research, and craftsmanship. We’re lucky to have a passion that drives our thoughts and activities on a day to day basis.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

We visit Maraudercon

You know it's a great contest when there are vendors in the bathroom!

But seriously folks, I had the pleasure of attending Maraudercon, north of Baltimore, this past weekend, and it was arguably the best of the three contests I attended in 2018. The contest had more than 500 entries, and the vendors were a mix of professional dealers and private sellers, all of them offering a variety of paints, supplies, books, aftermarket, and kits. And oh were there bargains!

Maraudercon is a bit unusual in two respects — it’s held every two years, and two chapters join forces host it (IPMS Baltimore and IPMS/Washington DC). I can only guess why they choose not to make it an annual event, but after having attended in 2016, the show will definitely be on my must-attend list in the years to come. The only thing that might keep me away is an early snowstorm, like the one we saw here in the Northeast just two days earlier.

In the contest room, the tables were full and the quality high. Here are a few of my favorite entries, with others posted on my Facebook page.

My two favorite models on the table came from the same modeler, Nelson Key. This guy is expert at two of the more complex aircraft finishes that all of us have discussed on the discussion boards, the metallic-like paint of the F-22A Raptor and the tedious masking of the F-35A Lightning. The paint on his  Hasegawa F-22 was absolutely perfect, and the masking on the Meng F-35A as tight and precise as anyone could ask. It was a pleasure to see both in the flesh.

My long-time readers may remember my struggles with rigging several years ago, but the modeler of this 1/72 Voisin 3 (a combination of Eduard and Flashback kits) seems to have no problems with it whatsoever. I don’t know the modeler, but his models always impress.

This was the first time I’ve seen the newish Kitty Hawk 1/32 OS2U-2 Kingfisher in person, and it’s an impressive model on its own, but with the Eduard Big Ed set and skills to impress, the modeler of this example set a high bar to inspire others.

If I were to award just one model for degree of effort and overall success it would be this Testors 1/48 SR-71. I’ve never built one, but everyone of us has heard stories about how difficult the kit is to build. That this modeler was able to create such in impressive model speaks highly of his skills and dedication.

This Kitty Hawk 1/35 T-28B stood out in the large scale category and its entry form was accompanied by a long list of enhancements that took it to another level. The finish was well done, too, the modeler telling me that all of the weathering was done with traditional pastels and washes. No trendy products used here!

I really liked this simple BTR-40. It was expertly constructed and painted and shows that you needn’t apply heavy weathering techniques to create a remarkable example of an armored vehicle.

Speaking of newfangled products and such, it’s nice to see a modeler go “old school” and convert a model as we used to 20 years ago. This 1/35 T-54 is not a Miniart or Takom kit. It’s a kitbash of Tamiya, ESCI, Tank Workshop, and Chesapeake Model Designs kits and aftermarket.

I don't know much about automotive subjects, but this Etzell's Speed Classics 1/25 Miller was an eye-catcher. Those spoked wheels!

Mark your calendars for Maraudercon in two years, Saturday, October 17, 2020.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

eBay decal insanity

It’s been a long time since I shared some of the outrageous, model-related listings I’ve seen on eBay. I never expected it to stop, of course, but the ongoing insanity gives us another opportunity to laugh at some of the junk people try to sell on eBay. This time, it’s all about decals.

For just $5.00 – the price of a venti coffee at Starbucks – you can be the proud owner of these old, yellowed decals from a Monogram 1/72 F8F Bearcat. Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll look great once applied to your latest masterpiece.

Experienced modelers know that we can fix a lot of things, but water or mildew stained decals is not one of them. Here's a sheet of 1/72 F/A-18 decals.

A sane person would toss these Mosquito decals out with today’s vegetable scraps, but not this eBay seller. At least he (or she) opened bidding at just over one dollar.

Here’s a crappy sheet of decals for your Hawk that will set you back just 1.15 GBP.

Are you looking for a set of completely useless decals for your Revell F-4? (And I know you are.) This set was available for $6.99 last year. Put them in a south-facing window for five to eight years and maybe, just maybe, that yellow decal film will fade away.

Enjoy earlier moments of eBay insanity here and here.

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 (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 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 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!