Monday, December 31, 2012

Kit of the year!

After much thought and consideration, I'm thrilled to announce that Scale Model Soup's 2012 kit of the year is the Eduard 1/72 Messerschmitt Bf-110E. (Read a review on Hyperscale.)

This was a very difficult decision, one that I've been anticipating and contemplating since I started SMS back in July. I admit what you already know, that this exercise is inherently unscientific; I have my own personal interests and biases, and frankly, I didn't see literally every new model released in 2012. That said, I've tried to be as objective as I possibly can. I read several online forums and make mental notes of what I see, but at the end of the day ( the end of the year) I can only consider what I've seen in some form or another, whether online, at contests, or what I've actually purchased.

When thinking about the model I would select, I considered many factors. How unusual is the subject matter? (For example, do we need yet another Bf-109 or Sherman?) How detailed is the model? How profitable is the model likely to be? (I want manufacturers to be successful.) How versatile is the subject matter? Does a relatively good model already exist of the subject?

I tentatively selected Eduard's 110 when it was first released over the summer, but then Great Wall threw me for a loop when they released their 1/48 MiG-29 last month, and I was forced to reconsider my choice. After reading the glowing reviews from modelers on ARC and Hyperscale, I decided that I had to buy one myself to see if the kit lived up to the hype. And I'll be damned, it did! Friends, the MiG-29 is now, arguably, the  best 1/48th scale model ever produced, an honor which I think most modelers would've ascribed to the Tamiya 1/48 F-16C Viper.

I looked very closely at both the Eduard Bf-110 and the Great Wall MiG-29. Both feature state-of-the-art, fifth generation detail and molding. Both are positioned to be profitable for their producers. Both effectively "replace" good, but imperfect kits (Fujimi and Academy, respectively).

Two features of the Great Wall MiG-29 almost swayed me to select it. First the rivets; there are two types of rivets, each molded to a different depth! Second, the armament. The AA-10s and AA-11s are works of beauty and rival any resin missile produced in plastic or resin. This kit sets a new standard that all other manufacturers will seek to meet in 2013 and beyond. I would pre-order every new release from Great Wall, even without knowing what it would be!

What the Great Wall MiG-29 is to 1/48th scale, the Eduard Bf-110E (and the other 110 variants Eduard has since released) is to 1/72nd scale. I selected the Eduard kit as my kit of the year because, frankly, I think it's more difficult to achieve this degree of detail and finesse in 1/72nd scale than it is in 1/48th. The 110 is gorgeous. It features detail that we typically see in resin and panel lines and rivets that are truly appropriate for the scale. (I hope we see that level of finesse on 1/144 scale kits next year.) That Eduard has released at least two other 110 variants and a bunch of aftermarket (photoetch and resin) tells me that this kit is positioned to be a profitable investment for our Czech friends. After their Bf-110, I'm even more excited about the promise of what is likely to be Eduard's best release in 2013, their MiG-15.

I should mention a few other models that are among the best of 2012. Tamiya's 1/72 A6M Zero is a gem, beautifully detailed and molded. (There's a review on Hyperscale.) On the armor front, Meng's A39 Tortoise and IDF Merkavas are wonderful, setting a new standard for 1/35 manufacturers, and Bronco is producing some very nice armor; hell, I've lost count of their Chaffee releases!

(Sadly, I cannot comment on ship or car releases. I hope to find someone in 2013 who can contribute commentary on those corners of the hobby).

As I look back to 2012 I feel compelled to remind everyone that scale modelers are living in the best of times. Despite a recession in the United States and economic uncertainty around the world, 2012 was a great year to be a modeler, in terms of releases and quality. Yes, the kits from the best manufactures easily exceed $50 and many approach $100, but ours is still a value-rich hobby. 2012 saw jaw-dropping examples of models produced with the latest technologies, such as computer aided design, rapid prototyping, and slide molding. Many kits don't need the aftermarket we've become accustomed to buying. Even the cottage industry is contributing to our nirvana, with innovative releases from small businesses such as Caracal Models, Barracuda Studios, Freightdog Models, and ET Model.

I've enjoyed each of the thirty-some years I've been in the hobby, and the only thing that bums me out as we enter 2013 is that I can't build models fast enough to keep up with all of the new releases we see every year. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Aftermarket of 2012

My aftermarket company of the year is Caracal Models. Proprietor Kursad has been producing limited run decals for a number of years, but he moved his company into afterburner in 2012 and released 20 decals, mostly in 1/48th scale.

If you're not familiar with the company, Caracal produces decals for military aircraft from the post-World War Two era to the present. Kursad has been particularly adept at timing his releases to the releases of new kits, hence his decals for Kinetic's S-2 Tracker, C-2 Greyhound, F-5A Freedom Fighter, and F-94 Starfire. He has no less than three releases to support the new Kinetic T-45 Goshawk. Kursad is doing something right; almost half of his 1/48 decals are sold out!

If there's something you want to see, speak up on the Caracal Models forum on the Aircraft Resource Center. Kursad seems genuinely open to  hearing ideas and responding as best he can.

2013 can only be bigger and better for Caracal Models, particularly with the unfortunately closure of Afterburner Decals, which should expand his customer base. Kursad has already talked on ARC about upcoming releases of T-38 Talons, ANG F-4 Phantoms, and Sikorsky H-34s. I'm excited to see what he'll do next, particularly when he invests more in the scale I work in, 1/72.

Runner up: Flexible antenna bases for the 1/35 Sherman from Adlers Nest. Yes, flexible antennas! Available from Tasca.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

WTF of 2012

Every once in a while something happens in the hobby that knocks you off your feet and makes you say, "What the f**k?" I find myself asking that question more frequently than I used to; the hobby has moved further along over the years, and we're seeing some pretty obscure stuff being produced. It's not just the models, mind you. For example, a few years ago one of the aftermarket companies released a set of dry transfer decals for paint chips. Really? Are there modelers so lazy that they can't dip a paintbrush into some silver paint and dab it on the model? Really?

But it's the models that get our attention, right? I guess we're going to have to get used to seeing weird stuff like Meng's 1/35 Tortoise and Special Hobby's upcoming 1/72 Gloster Meteor F.Mk.8 Prone now that the manufacturers have released kits of nearly every variant and subvariant of the Pzkpfw IV and P-51. That's not a not bad thing, but I predict that surprise is going to become the de rigueur standard in our hobby for 2013 and every year thereafter.

There will always be a group of modelers who appreciate every new model no matter how obscure, and the rest of us will remain, at best, intrigued; we might purchase one of these oddball subjects for shits and grins. What will truly surprise us will always be the completely bizarre choices, and this year that award must go to Academy for their decision to mold their beautiful new 1/48 F-4B Phantom II in two colors. Really?

Yes, it's true. It would seem that the design and management team from 1975 Matchbox have come out of retirement and are now gainfully employed at Academy. The Phantom is molded in white and light grey, presumably to make it easier for the beginner modeler to create a reasonable representation of the aircraft without paint. Wasn't that the intent behind the two-color Matchbox kits? In fairness, that's a good idea, but how many beginners are buying a $69 kit at their local hobby shop for their first foray into plastic modeling?

Congratulations, Academy!

Now I'm going to log onto my favorite online retailer to order three.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Biggest surprise of 2012

Throughout the year I frequently go to Cybermodeler to check their list of upcoming releases, which is updated regularly and generally quite accurate. That said, sometimes a new release sneaks in under the radar and surprises us. That was the case with Roden's 1/144 C-124A Globemaster this year. Of course at my age (mid-forties) my memory ain't what it used to be, so I could be wrong; maybe it was announced two years ago. No matter, it was new to me and a total surprise.

If you haven't seen the kit, here's a review on Britmodeller, and here's a good discussion on Aircraft Resource Center.

I view the C-124 and C-131 as the first of the super cargo aircraft that eventually gave us the C-141, C-5, and C-17. The C-124 is an important aircraft that's been overlooked for a long time, not surprising given that cargo aircraft are generally less sexy than, say, an F-94 or MiG-21. Have you ever heard of a pilot graduating at the top of his UPT class and requesting cargo aircraft? Probably not. Therefore it was great to see Roden find the courage to release the C-124 this summer. On a side note, it has some meaning even to my mother, who flew to France on a Globemaster in the mid-1950s when, as a young Army PFC, she was assigned to a base in Lyon.

In fairness, Roden's kit doesn't have the finesse we see in the latest fifth-generation releases from Eduard, Cyber Hobby, and Tamiya, but as it's unlikely we'll see those heavy hitters produce a Globemaster anytime soon, we're lucky to have manufacturers like Roden to give us decent models of more obscure aircraft. While not perfect, a talented modeler can create a real gem with them. The model shown below is Carl Knable's C-124, which is the perfect kit to show off his talent with natural metal finishes.

A couple of weeks ago Roden announced a C-124C, the variant with the distinctive, bulbous nose (the one seen on Carl's coversion). We can only hope that 2013 will see them release a C-133!

Runner up goes to the Great Wall 1/48 MiG-29. This came out of nowhere and has made many of us very happy! The only reason it doesn't take the Surprise award is that it's not as risky a release as the Roden Globemaster.

Tomorrow I'll give you the WTF award of 2012!

Thanks to Carl for sharing photos of his model.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Most unusual release of 2012

I know most of you aren't figure modelers, but having spent a good many years in that corner of our hobby, I keep an eye on the latest releases from manufacturers such as Andrea, Pegaso, Alpine, and so on, mostly via planetFigure. One of this year's releases that made me scratch my head was Metal Modele's release of a 54mm Columbo. Yes, the Columbo portrayed by Peter Falk in the popular 1970s American television series by the same name.

 Okay, I get the interest in obscure aircraft types such as the Meteor F Mk.8 Prone (which I'd never seen until Special Hobby announced their release of the plane last month) and little-used armor such as the beastly VsKfz 617 mineroller. I even get the interest in the flurry of science fiction figures we've seen over the last few years, including the bizzaro fantasy subject matter that's followed (check out the Terrible Kids Stuff figure titled Joe Petrosino). But is there really a group of modelers who've been asking for a figure of Columbo?

Maybe there is. Maybe after watching the show's theme song you can't help but feel the compulsion to paint a figure of Mr. Falk.

 I haven't thought about this show in nearly 25 years, not since the days when I was forced to watch police and detective shows while visiting my grandparents in the late 70s and early 80s. My grandfather was particularly fond of Columbo, The Rockford Files, Hawaii Five-0, and Barnaby Jones. Listening to these classic theme songs takes me back to those days. Those were good times. In fact, my first memories of building models was with my grandfather, when we cleaned our paint brushes with the gasoline he used to fuel his lawnmower. How times have changed!

But I digress. Don't get me wrong. I wish Bruno Leibovitz all the success in the world. His Napoleonic figures are among the best researched, sculpted, and cast figures in the hobby, but I can't help but be amused at unusual choices like this one.  Maybe I'll buy a Columbo and paint him in memory of my grandfather.

Tomorrow I'll give you the biggest surprise release of the year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

When I'm right, I'm right

I told you this could suck...and I was right.

Back in August I wrote about my desire to learn how to rig bi-planes, and I set out with great enthusiasm to build Eduard's little 1/72 Nieuport Ni-17. I did my research, finding several good articles about how to rig and assemble bi-planes, and I embarrassed myself by going into a beading store in New York City to find appropriate nonfilament wire. I bought a set of Eduard photoetch seats at the IPMS Nats in August.

The project started well. The major assemblies of the airplane went together neatly, and my painting of the airplane was outstanding. (If I have a strength as a modeler, it's painting and weathering.) But then I had to assemble the bad boy, and that's when everything went south.

First of all, I found that the attachment points for the various struts and other fiddly bits are rather small and shallow, and none of the holes ensure that the parts will be properly aligned. In addition, a friend tells me that these Eduard 1/72 kits are like this, so the Nieuport was probably not the best choice for my first attempt with a bi-wing. It simply wasn't clear to me when each part should be attached, so I winged it (pun intended), figuring there'd be some wiggle room when the time came to bring everything together.

Not so. Super glue isn't very forgiving when you try to move it around, so when I joined the fuselage/lower wing assembly to the upper wing, nothing aligned nor fit. The vertical stabilizer promptly popped off, and other bits and pieces decided they'd had enough and left the party. After much cursing I finally got everything together, figuring I was done except for the rigging, but then POP! The struts detached from the upper wing and everything lost whatever tenuous rigidity it might have had.

So the model sits in pieces as you see it. I'm not the kind of guy who will belabor a failing project, so I'm done with this.

Here's the deal. If one of you can salvage the Nieuport, drop me an email and I'll send it to you at no charge. I have only two conditions. First, I ask that you have at least some experience with bi-planes and rigging in order to do the kit justice, and I ask that you be willing to send me decent photos of the model when you finish it. I'll even send some high-res photos I took of Kermit Weeks' airplane back in August to help you with the rigging and such.

I'm going back to my Trumpeter 1/72 Su-15 now. I know how to build a jet!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dioramas that don't stink

Some of you know that my other interest in life is cooking, so when I'm not browsing the LHS or searching the Models category on eBay you're likely to find me wandering the aisles of area food stores looking for unusual or hard-to-find ingredients. I've compiled a good selection of spices over the last few years, including coriander and, thanks to a recent post on Hyperscale, I have now found a new use for it in the workshop!

There are three things that are incredibly difficult to represent in scale: flight, smoke, and vegetation. I haven't seen anyone come close to the first two, but as modelers stretch their imaginations, we're finding ways to create increasingly realistic plants. In case you missed it, Panagiotis has created a labor-intensive technique for creating palm trees that result in a very realistic representation. Check out this thread on Hyperscale.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Modern Guide to the Harrier on the way?

It was subtle and easy to overlook. Check out this thread on the Aircraft Resource Center forum. Jake Melampy pretty much confirms that one of the four Modern Guides he's working on at the moment is on the Harrier.

But that still leaves us wondering, which non-US aircraft is among the remaining three? Anyone care to speculate?

Check out Jakes entire line of books at Reid Air Publications.

Monday, December 10, 2012

More on the Dragon T-28

Back in September I lamented my need for an apprentice in order to build Dragon's big T-28 Super Heavy Tank. Marcos Serra recently completed a very nice build of the kit on his blog Panzerserra-Bunker, and we can now see just how much work is required to assemble the suspension. I don't think it's as bad as I had thought, but I'm still accepting applications for an apprentice.

In the meantime, this looks like an impressive model. Be sure to look for the picture of the T-28 next to a Jagdtiger and Tortoise!
A big thank you to Marcos for use of his photo.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Speculating about Kitty Hawk's next release

You can glean the most interesting nuggets of information if you follow every discussion on every forum and read every post. In case you missed it, ARC forum participant "song" (who works for Kitty Hawk Models) essentially said on this thread that the next Kitty Hawk release will be Russian.

I thought it might be fun to speculate about what aircraft it might be because, well, I have too much time on my hands. It's an interesting exercise, especially if you're able to step away from what you would like to see and carefully consider what would be profitable in the marketplace. I'm going to assume this next release is a 1/48 scale jet but could be wrong right from the start, in which case all of this is moot.

Let's think about what the kit will NOT be. It won't be a MiG-21 because Eduard and now Trumpeter have released their respectively nice kits. A MiG-23? Not likely considering Trumpeter kicked of its series of MiG-23s earlier this year. It could be a MiG-27, but if I worked for Kitty Hawk I wouldn't take that risk given that it wouldn't be difficult for Trumpeter to modify their -23 molds to produce a -27.

A Mig-29? No way, not with Great Wall's promising new kit. Many of you would be thrilled with a MiG-31 (as would I), but having seen limited service it wouldn't be quite as attractive a subject as other aircraft. That said, a new MiG-15 or -17 might be interesting, but I'm not sure modelers would find those to be truly must-have kits. Ditto for a MiG-19, though a Farmer would be fairly high in my product backlog.

I think that leaves three strong possibilities.

I think Kitty Hawk's next release could be an Mi-8 Hip. The helicopter was produced in many variants and was used by more than 50 nations, so there's no shortage of camouflage and markings options for the modeler.

It could be a MiG-25. Personally, I find this to be the most exciting possibility, and the Foxbat is always popular on internet wish lists. We're long overdue a fifth or even fourth generation representation of that impressive aircraft, and there are at least three distinctively different variants that Kitty Hawk could produce -- I'm thinking a fighter (either the P or PD), reconnaissance type, and trainer), and with a variety of markings for several nations. But there's a more compelling possibility.

My prediction is that Kitty Hawk's next release will be an Su-22 Fitter. I think a Fitter would make for a more interesting model than a MiG-25. It was used by at least a couple dozen air forces around the world in a variety of schemes, and the loadouts would provide a great deal of creativity for the modeler. It wouldn't be that difficult for Kitty Hawk to produce an Su-22A, an M4K, and a two-seat UM3K. The only thing that might weigh the choice in favor of a MiG-25 would be Eduard's recent release of their Su-22 package, but given that it's built around a merely average kit, I think the folks at Kitty Hawk might see the opportunity for improvement.

What do you think? No wish lists please, just viable, profitable models.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Modeling a gingerbread house

As a scale modeler I like to think I’m a fairly creative guy but, as I learned over the weekend, I may not be. Or at least not as creative as my girlfriend. I'll let my readers be the judge.

Christine and her two children, ages 6 and 8, spent the weekend at my house and, on a whim, Christine and my mother bought two DIY gingerbread houses at the grocery store Saturday night. She decided we would have a house building and decorating contest. Once I accepted the fact that my kitchen would be a mess for a few hours, it seemed like a good idea. It was my mother and me against Christine and her daughter. Her son (the six-year-old playing video games on the computer) would be the judge.

I began the contest with great confidence, after all, I’m a modeler! I had the house assembled with the sticky, sugar-glue very quickly, must faster than Christine and her young apprentice. A lesser man might have smiled a little when the two of them broke one-half of their roof assembly, but not me. Mom and I pressed on with time now on our side.

 Note the neat construction and minimalist design of my house.

But then a clarification from the opposing team. “It’s okay to use anything we can find, right?” Sure, I told them, why not? After all, their house was looking like it had been in Hurricane Sandy’s path just a few weeks ago. Mom and I found interesting ways to use the gumdrops, M&Ms, and tiny beads. I used Hershey Kisses to represent brown perennials, green drum drops to represent evergreens, and half a candy cane as the chimney (resisting the urge to use a #60 drill bit to drill it out). I even engage in some psyops as I not-so-quietly tell my mother misleading things like, “This will be the radon mitigation system,” and, “Put the ADT Security sticker above the doorknob.” Remember the deception strategy the Allies implemented on the Germans prior to D-Day? That was me Saturday night! I was just waiting for high tide to begin my invasion!

Then my reconnaissance satellite downloaded some troubling images from the other side of the table. They’ve procured a large cookie sheet from the pantry and built out an entire scene! I thought this was a contest to see who could decorate the best house not create the biggest freakin’ diorama! They’ve also found tiny plastic lights for the roof of the house, a small mirror to represent a frozen lake, and penguins to skate on it. Oh, and ceramic soldiers standing amid hundreds of cotton balls as snow!

Note the creative use of a Hershey Kiss, the paper representing smoke,
and the SlimJim logs. And yes, those chocolate chips are penguin poop.

Whatever. I still think I have the best house, so at judging time I show our judge how neat and perfectly assembled my house is and I tactfully explain that, except for the candles, everything on my house is edible. Meanwhile my competition is trying to dazzle the judge with the expansiveness and fanciness of their creation.

At the end of the day reality mirrored what we typically see at with the Most Popular vote at any IPMS contest. The size of Christine and Emma’s diorama dazzled the judge. He ruled in their favor. I congratulate them on their victory, though I feel a little mislead given the ever-changing parameters of the competition.

Having a clearer understanding of the ROE I've already begun planning next year’s gingerbread house. This morning I set out some copper tubing to age in the weather to acquire that lovely green patina we often see accenting houses. I have a rough draft of a three-story, Victorian house, complete with garage and backyard gazebo. I envision Pop Rocks recreating the sound of a fireplace inside, and tiny Bose speakers piping out Christmas carols.

Rest assured, next year I will win!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Buying a model one part at a time

In season 1 of M*A*S*H there was an episode titled "Dear Dad" in which Radar attempts to mail an entire Army jeep back home to Ottumwa, part at a time. I think that brief scene was based on actual attempts by soldiers in World War Two to do the same thing, but either way it was amusing.

You can imagine my surprise when I found this auction on eBay. Yes, it's for just the upper half of the right wing of a Heller 1/72 DC-6. Bidding starts at 99 cents with a Buy It Now price of $15.

If you want to buy that Heller kit one part at a time, you'll be thrilled to know that you can find the lower wing assembly, horizontal stabs, engines, and landing gear from the same seller. No sign of the fuselage. Maybe he'll hold it over your head for a cool $100 after you've bought the aforementioned items.

If you're not intrigued by this weird model buying program, you can always buy a lifesize M&M Lady Brown from the same seller. She's kinda hot (who doesn't like chocolate?) but has that same look your wife or girlfriend gives you when you show her all the detail you added to that P-51 cockpit.

Do we have any takers?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thoughts on the Meng F-102

One of the most exciting releases this year on a personal basis was the Meng 1/72 F-102 Delta Dagger. I had a couple of the second generation Hasegawa kits in my stash for some time, but their absence of a positionable canopy always bummed me out. (I generally build all of my aircraft with the canopy open.) I was very happy when Meng released this new kit.

Yes, I bought two kits, and I'll probably need at least one more. I figure I'll paint one in the typical ADC grey scheme, another in the SEA scheme, and another as a PQM-102. If the kit goes together well, a NMF might be particularly striking as well.

I said in my first post here on Scale Model Soup that I had no intention of reviewing new kits. And I still don't. Brett Green has a good review of the kit on Hyperscale if you haven't seen the kit yet, and I'm sure there are a few others if you Google for more than 10 seconds. I do, however, intend to discuss new kits when I feel a manufacturer's product choices are particularly interesting, and so it is with Meng's F-102.

First, my only disappointment. For a kit released in 2012, the panel lines are not quite as crisp as I would have expected. They're not terrible, but they're almost reminiscent of an Italeri mold rather than Hasegawa or Tamiya. I hope they improve with future kits.

Now the good, and there's a lot of it! The ejection seat is not molded with seat belts, which I appreciate. To my eye molded seat belts never look as good as those we can cut ourselves from masking tape or photoetch.

And then there's the missile bay. Praise the gods, there is no detail molded in the bay! Heresy, you may cry, but I think that's a good thing. I prefer to add the plumbing and widgets myself, which will be much easier to paint than those soft, half-round shapes that practically manufacturer molds into bomb bays, wheel bays, and cockpits. Actual wire and rod provide a more convincing 3-D effect, and it makes us true craftsmen! For those of you who don't chose the DIY route, I'm sure one of the aftermarket folks will provide us a drop-in, resin replacement.

I also like the option for displaying the AIM-4 Falcons extended from the missile bay on their racks. That's going to make for a stunning display for those who choose to display their F-102 on a mirror.

For those of you who don't want to fiddle with all that junk in the missile bay, our friends at Meng have given us a single piece to close up the bay. You won't have to align and glue all four doors yourself.

I see that Meng has released a second boxing of the kit, one featuring an aircraft from George W. Bush's unit, the 111th FIS. I think we're all waiting for a third release with the Case XX wing. I'd ask for a TF-102, but that's one fugly airplane to look at much less build!

In the meantime, the decal guys are already fast at work to produce alternative markings for us. Check out the decals from fündekals and Caracal.

So there you have it. My message to the manufacturers, particularly those (like Meng) who cater to the serious modeler, is to give us the bare minimum to build a reasonable representation of an airplane and let us (or the aftermarket community) do the rest. The results are more satisfying!

You can find Meng on the web and on Facebook.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

An old survey, 30 years perspective, and models

If you've been in the hobby for 20 or even 30 years as I have, it's fun to look through old magazines and realize just how far we've come. With all the rivet counting of new kits (which I support, by the way), it's easy to forget that 30 years ago we were dreaming about many of the kits we have today. Sort of.

While unpacking old magazines after my move a year ago, I came across the January/February 1984 issue of IPMS's Update. It published the results of a survey in which the organization asked its members what new kits they wanted to see. Over 1,000 responses were counted, and the results are interesting. Consider the top ten kits requested for aircraft in the two most popular scales.

Aircraft 1/72

B-58 Hustler
F-89 Scorpion
A-3 Skywarrior
C-10/AC-110 Flying Boxcar
F3H Demon
F-94 Starfire
C-135/KC-135 Stratotanker
PBM-5 Mariner
F7U Cutlass
B-57/RB-57/WB-57 Night Intruder

Aircraft 1/48

A-20 Havoc
A-26 Invader
F-101 Voodoo
F-89 Scorpion
F-102 Delta Dagger
PBY-5 Catalina
Heinkel He-111
F-94 Starfire
Macchi MC.202 Folgore
SBC Vindicator

Most of these aircraft are now available in kit form, but many are what I would consider "third generation" quality, lacking the level of detail that we come to expect today. For example, Italeri's 1/72 B-58 is roughly 30 years old and totally shows its age, and only Monogram has tackled the A-26, F-101, F-89, and F-102 in 1/48 scale...about 20 years ago!

(By the way, the top five aircraft requested in 1/32 scale were the F-100D, P-6E, F-105D, A-10, and A-7.)

Now look at what the armor modelers were requesting in 1/35 scale in 1984.

M24 Chaffee
M2 Bradley
ZSU-23-4 Shilka
M18 Hellcat

You could probably make the argument that armor modelers have it made. Nearly all of these kits are available with fourth generation quality. (Dragon's Shilka is oldish, but still a very nice model.) And as I browser further in the IPMS wish list, I see many other AFVs that are now on the shelves of your LHS (BTR-60, M26, Wespe, BRDM-2, M88, T-34/85, JS-3, etc.).

I may spend more time looking at the list and comparing it to what's available today. A quick glance shows some odd choices from the manufacturers. For example, while over 100 people requested the B-58 only eight requested the F4D Skyray yet Tamiya offers a very nice Skyray while the B-58 in my stash has nasty raised panel lines all over it, not to mention proportions which I've read are way off. Fifty-five people requested a 1/48 F7F Tigercat and 12 requested a PV-1 Ventura, but which one did Revell choose to produce?

Oh well.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I am a cheater

There was a very interesting post by Spencer Pollard on Hyperscale a week ago bemoaning the lack of true modeling in the hobby today. Photos of the new Revell He-219 and discussions about the kit’s inaccurate propellers prompted Spencer to write, and I think his thoughts are particularly noteworthy given many of the new products that have come to the market over the last few years, and it’s something I’ve been intending to blog about myself.

Last week a friend told me he had just finished a Tamiya 1/72 A6M Zero, which is a jewel and will be a leading contender for my Kit of the Year. He used the Eduard canopy mask for the complex framing on the airplane and told me how much easier it made the painting process. But then he asked if using an aftermarket canopy mask was cheating.

Truth be told, I think it is cheating and I told him so. Yes, the masks are available to anyone who wishes to use them and, especially if you’re competitive, you’d be foolish not to. That said, I think our use of them as a community of craftsmen and artists (or whatever we think we are) is to the detriment of our skills and the hobby. Even though we all want to produce replicas in miniature, wouldn’t it be more fulfilling to master the skills ourselves rather than rely on others to do the “heavy lifting” for us?

To be fair, I have at least a dozen of Eduard’s canopy masks in my accessories stash, and I’m sure they’ll make my models better. They will not, I am sure, make me a better craftsman.

I feel the same way about pre-colored photoetch. That’s cheating, too. When they first came on the market I promised myself I’d never use them, but after trying them on a 1/72 F-105D I saw their value…despite the fact that my detail painting skills are no longer challenged and nurtured. I think that makes me a lesser modeler, but the reward (even if it’s a bit hollow) is a good looking model.

I could make the same argument about the turned metal barrels that I use on my armor and those beautiful, fine pitot tubes I can now buy from Asian suppliers.

I think what many of these conversations come down to is why any of us is in the hobby. Do you build models because you enjoy the craftsmanship of building models or because you want a replica of an airplane, tank, ship, or car on your mantel? For me it’s the former. I work in software, so I don’t actually create anything tangible, at least nothing I can hold in my hands to study and admire. Scale modeling gives me the opportunity to use -– and ideally: improve -– my mediocre craftsmanship skills.

By the way, what you just read was spell-checked by Microsoft Word.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

More TR-1 videos

A couple of months ago I posted a video of a TR-1 flying the pattern around Beale AFB, so here are two more that I think you'll enjoy.

I don't know what it is about the U-2 and TR-1 that I find so intriguing, but these videos are absolutely stunning, especially if you can watch it on a large monitor in high-definition.

This first video was produced by Airman First Class Andrew Buchanan. I don't know him, but I have to believe he's somewhere between 18 and 22. He did an incredible job bringing together all of the elements of this short film for such a young man. Well done!

The second video gives the perspective of the pilots in the Pontiac G8 chase car that follows the TR-1 upon landing. The amazingly short takeoff of the TR-1 confirm what one of the pilots implied in the first video, that the airplane likes to fly. In fact, when I meet someone who's afraid to fly I always tell them that airplanes "want to fly." That's what they're designed to do, and as any pilot will tell you, landing is the hardest part, whether you're in a TR-1 or a Cessna 152.

Now which model will I build first? I have three kits of the U-2 in the stash as well as the Special Hobby TR-1 and the U-2S/ER-2. And I've slowly (very slowly) been collecting those rare Cutting Edge aftermarket parts for the Testors 1/48 TR-1. This U-2S build by Dave Aungst on Hyperscale is my inspiration!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The air war over Libya, in print and in decals

Sandy is gone, power has been restored, and I'm blogging again!

As John "Hannibal" Smith used to say on The A Team (the original series, not the crappy 2010 re-pop), "I love it when a plan comes together."

And so it is for us modern jet models these last few months. The military action over Libya have given rise to an outstanding new book that you may have missed and an outstanding decal sheet from a new decal manufacturer.

If you were at the IPMS Nats this summer you probably spend at least an hour looking over the books from Casemate Publishing. They had a wide selection of military titles for both the aviation and armor modeler with topics ranging from early medieval history to contemporary  topics. When I got home I was browsing their web site and found a new book on the Libyan air war, Guerre Aerienne En Libye by Jean-Marc Tanguy, available here on the web site.

If you're into modern French aircraft you really need to buy this book. Although it's in French, the photographs alone are worth the price. You'll find pictures of the Rafale B with the GBU-12; the Rafale C configured for reconnaissance operations with the Thales and Damocles pods; more Rafale Cs configured for air-to-ground operations with the GBU-12 and for air-to-air operations with six MICA missiles.

It's interesting to see the Mirage F1 still on frontline duty, also used for reconnaissance (with the Astac pod) and for air-to-ground ops with the GBU-12 and the larger GBU-22. The book also illustrates use of the Mirage 2000, configured in various ways with the Damocles pod, GBU-12, GBU-24, and Magic missile.

Also knew to the market is a new, multi-subject sheet from Combat Decals. It features two A5 decal sheets and markings for eight aircraft that saw action over Libya.

  • An RAF Tornado GR.4 in grey.
  • A Qatari Mirage 2000 5DDA in a two-tone grey scheme.
  • A French Mirage 2000D in the typical wraparound green/grey scheme.
  • A French Rafale B in the standard grey scheme.
  • An RAF Typhoon FGR.4 with some cool mission markings.
  • A CAF CF-188A with mission markings.
  • A Libyan Air Force Mirage F1ED
  • A USAF F-15E from the 48th FW in the typical gunship grey scheme.

I have to admit, I'm a huge fan of decals that offer multiple subjects. (Hell, I'm a fan of all decal sheets!) What sets these decals apart from others is the comprehensive coverage they provide. Stencils are provided for each aircraft and they're extensive! Look for stencils for the pods and pylons for the Tornado, decals for the GBU-12 carried on the Mirage 2000D, two tiny decals for the interior of the Typhoon intake, and decals for the Hornet's false canopy that are pre-cut to fit on and around the nose landing gear. And as you might guess, the instructions are as good as any you'll find from the better 48th scale aftermarket folks such as Afterburner Decals. Truly great stuff.

By the way, Combat Decals is the child of David Little. He started the range earlier this year when he was looking for Kuwaiti markings for a Tucano. He's since worked with John Freeman, who I think did much of the decals for Model Alliance, to produce the artwork for David's first three sheets. If you're a 48th scale modeler, keep an eye on David's site as he hopes to release these decals in your scale next year.

Finally, if you're interested in learning more about the air war over Libya, be sure to check out David Cenciotti's blog, The Aviationist. He provided some great photographic coverage of the aircraft employed in Odyssey Dawn.

Now I have to get building!

Special thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy of Guerre Aerienne En Libye.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A favorite hobby shop 30 years later

“Maybe you had to leave in order to miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was.” 

That is Jodi Picoult from her novel Handle With Care. I came across it recently after spending a long weekend in Orlando for the IPMS National Convention. Because I was in the area I thought it would be fun to make a quick trip to one of the more memorable hobby shops I’ve been to, Colonial Photo & Hobby.

If you’ve been in the hobby for more than a few years you’ve had the opportunity to visit many different hobby shops. I’m not the only guy who seeks them out when traveling for business or spending a vacation with the family. A quick glance at the forums will find quite a few inquiries from modelers looking for advice on local hobby shops to check out. Visiting hobby shops can be a hobby within the hobby!

I sometimes think about listing or counting up all the shops I’ve been to, but I’m afraid I’d forget a few only to remember them a day or a week later and then feel compelled to recount. With Election Day just around the corner here in the United States, the only recount I want to know about is one in Florida.

I don’t have to make a list of hobby shops to know that a handful would immediately come to mind; those would be the shops that are most special to me. One of them is Colonial Hobby.

I grew up in Florida, about 90 minutes northwest of Orlando. I first visited the shop sometime around 1983. I don’t remember the exact date of course, but I do remember going there with my friend David and his father Larry, one of my early mentors in the hobby. (That’s David looking cool under the colonnade of the distinctive, Art Deco building.) It wasn’t a great shop -- and still isn’t -- but I remember they had a decent variety of kits and modeling supplies that I couldn’t find in the area of Florida where I lived. At the time that was more than enough to light my fire for the hobby.

I also remember what I bought. The Hasegawa 1/48 F-4 Phantoms were relatively new to the market, and Colonial had them in stock! The price? A whopping $21. At the time that was a lot of money for a 15 year-old kid. Nonetheless, I dug deep into my pocket and bought the F-4B/N, which I still have in my stash…and fully intend to build. Some day.

It was surreal being back in Colonial Hobby nearly 30 years later, knowing that some of the employees weren't even born when I was there. If my poor memory serves me correctly, the layout is basically the same, though the model kits are now located at the front of the shop rather than at the back. That’s where I found one of the latest additions to the stash, a Testors 1/48 O-2 Skymaster, which David will tell you I’ve always been fond of. I wonder if it will still be in my stash 30 years from now.

Friday, October 12, 2012

U-2 pattern work

All this guy is doing is flying a simple pattern around the airport. Big deal, right? I mean, I did the same thing in a Cessna 152 back in 1986. But the fact that he's doing it in a U-2 makes it ridiculously cool!

Watch it full-screen, 1080 HD if you can.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Revell, the world, and 2013

Earlier today Revell announced their 2013 releases. That list, combined with a close listen to their visit to the Plastic Scale Modeling Hour webcast, provides some insight into Revell's product decisions.

Before we talk about these new releases, I want to highlight some of the more interesting things I learned when I listened to  Gerald "Hawkeye" Voigt's webcast, which featured Revell USA product manager Ed Sexton and engineer Roger Harney.

First, I was thrilled to find that Hawkeye had selected a question I submitted prior to the show, asking how the Asian manufacturers such as Trumpeter and Hobby Boss, have affected Revell's product decisions. In a nutshell, they don't. Revell is focused on the American market and producing kits at a certain price point that appeals to their customers. By comparison, the Asian companies are producing kits for a worldwide market and at a higher price point, so Revell isn't really responding to what they do.

Revell-Germany, however, targets a wider, international market and works independently of Revell USA. This is why we see many Euro-centric subjects from them, such as the SA330J Puma, Mercedes SLS, and Formula 1 cars. What I found most interesting, however, is that Revell-Germany doesn't work through distributors, instead taking products directly to retailers and customers. (You can buy their models online directly from Revell Germany!) Ed said those closer relationships with customers affects their product decisions, implying (my opinion here) that Revell Germany is able to make better choices. 

I find this surprising given the new media that are now available to large manufacturers. There's simply no reason for any manufacturer in any industry not to hear the voice of the customer. Consider Revell has nearly 8,500 "Likes" on their Facebook page. I have to believe they can get a great deal of feedback from their customers to inform product decisions, and it wouldn't be difficult to set up a web-based network for retailers to solicit their input as well. The distributor system is looking incredibly clunky to me.

Looking ahead to 2013, there are exciting releases among a number of re-pops. Even though I've talked mostly about aircraft here on Scale Model Soup, I'm a big fan of American muscle cars, so Revell's new-tool '92 Mustang and '70 Hemi Cuda will be compelling new releases, and I'll be interested to see how their molding and detail compares to comparable kits from other manufacturers. I'm also intrigued by their partnership with Chip Foose; in fact, I'm surprised it's taken this long for Foose to partner with a model manufacturer. Although I'm not a big fan of Foose's designs, I appreciate his creativity and hope the Charger and Impala in Revell's Chip Foose collection inspire more than a few young people to get into scale modeling and explore automotive design as a career choice.

In the meantime, let's build a model!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The chicken or the egg?

Normal people buy a model and then they get the reference books and aftermarket accessories they need for it. But I'm not normal, and I'm guessing you're not either.

When I was at the IPMS Nats last month I took interest in the new book on the de Havilland Sea Vixen from Barraduda Studios proprietor Roy Sutherland. I was aware of the new Cyber Hobby Sea Vixen, but I have to be honest and say that it didn't really do much for me, despite being one of the most unique aircraft of the Sixties and Seventies, and possibly the three decades since.

I recently realized (and like an alcoholic: admitted) that I most enjoy buiding models with additional detail, so after looking through Roy's book and being impressed at the photographic coverage he provides of the airplane, my interest in the Sea Vixen was piqued. Unfortunately I didn't buy the book at that time (sorry Roy).

One month later I stumbled upon the book on eBay and wound up winning it for a bargain price, so here I am with a great book but no model. Now this isn't the only time I've put the chicken before the egg...or is it the egg before the chicken? I occasionally buy a book, decals, or photoetch before I have a kit for them. I don't think that's too crazy. I mean, there are certain aircraft or tanks that I know I'm going to build, so why not do things backwards from time to time, right? Please tell me that I'm not the only person who does this.

Fast-forward to yesterday and a quick trip to the LHS to buy the Airfix 1/72 Canberra B(8) that's been there for the last several years. Of course as fate would have it, someone's bought the kit since my last visit. Damn! But...there on the shelf is a Cyber Hobby Sea Vixen. Needless to say, it followed me home like a lost puppy and tonight I'll be taking advantage of Squadron's 20 percent off sale and ordering the Eduard photoetch set.

Did I mention I already have the Eduard photoetch for that Canberra I was looking for?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Reality and interpretation

I recently came across Rolf B. Basle’s build of a Ju-88C-6 on 72nd Scale Aircraft and found that his approach to modeling is similar to mine, and I thought it would be interesting to discuss it here on Scale Model Soup.

Many moons ago someone (I don’t remember who) told me this maxim, “Representation, not duplication.” What he was trying to say in that concise statement is that as modelers we generally don’t try to duplicate each and every detail in our models. We try to merely represent the actual aircraft or vehicle in miniature. This is important for several reasons.

First, there are technological limitations in the kits we build. For example, we’ll probably never see a canopy produced in actual scale thickness in anything below 1/32 scale.

Second, as I’ve come to learn each of us participates in the hobby with the talent and skills we are blessed with (or not blessed with, as the case may be). You may not have the skills to superdetail a cockpit in 1/72 like a Derek Brown or Ken Belisle, so you do the best you can with imperfect results.

Finally, as Rolf found in his Ju-88 project, there are likely limitations to the information available to us. Rarely do we have access to enough documentation to make definitive statements in the way a particular airplane was painted or configured at any specific point in time. Those of us who build modern subject matter have more information than others in the hobby, but those of you who spend your time in older genres know the inherent challenges of building a model that is 100 percent accurate.

Having entered and judged many contests over the years I’ve often been annoyed at the prospect of asking modelers to document their models in order to justify the paint scheme or explain the loadout he chose. Maybe you’ve heard me screaming, “It’s just a stupid model contest, not a doctoral thesis defense!”
That said, I think we can learn something from academics, who often have to make a more or less definitive statement and defend it with evidence or prove it with a series of logical arguments. That’s exactly what Rolf did. He reviewed the reference material he had, found some of it speculative, and drew his own conclusions based on (what seems to me) to be sound logic. The result is a model that is a solid representation of a Ju-88 of V/KG 40.

At the end of the day I hate to think that any of us is withholding a project because we don’t believe we have definitive information to proceed. I encourage you to use your head for something other than a hat rack (as my drill instructor told me in 1986). Don’t be afraid to study the documentation you have and draw your own conclusions.

And by the way, Rolf’s execution of the paint scheme on the Ju-88 is outstanding as well! What a great looking model!

(Thanks to Rolf for the use of his photograph.)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Something for the true Phantom phanatic

You're an aviation enthusiast, right? You claim to be a "Phantom phanatic?" Okay then, put your money where you mouth is and buy this F-4 engine cover I noticed on eBay this morning.

You have a day and half to bid as I write this. I'd love to buy it, but I don't have any good ideas on what to do with it. Maybe build a circular frame for it and display it on a wall? What do you think?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Old timey aeroplane films

I enjoy watching old aviation films, like this one about the first flight of the B-58 in 1956. They can be a bit campy, but it's fun to see these old aircraft as they were back in the day, not displayed as museum pieces or (god forbid) gate guards.

A few things struck me on watching this particular movie that I thought I'd share for shites and grins.

  • How far aviation had come in just the 11 years following the end of World War Two.
  • How frustrating it must have been for the pilot to not take off during the first run on the runway, knowing the airplane wants to fly and wanting to fly himself!
  • How odd to use a prototype aircraft (the YF-102) as a chase plane for the B-58. I wonder why they didn't use two F-94s.
  • I never realized until now how much the fuselage of the B-1 resembles that of the B-58.

Now where's my Italeri kit?


Monday, September 17, 2012

A quick trip to the Air Force Museum

I was in Ohio over the weekend for a wedding, and I had the opportunity to make a very quick trip to the Museum of the United States Air Force. I was stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB during my enlistment, so I've been there many times, but walking among the aircraft always re-ignites my passion for aviation and my enthusiasm for the hobby. As I told a couple of my friends, I found myself walking the hangers and thinking, "Wow, I really need to build a model of that. And of that. And that one, too." Retirement can't come too soon!

It's one of the best museums of ANY kind that I've visited. The staff has done a wonderful job of combining static displays of aircraft with hundreds of smaller displays that put the aircraft within their historical context and bring the human element into the picture. It truly is a remarkable museum by any standard. Most of you have probably been to the museum as well, so I won't bore you with any kind of review of the museum, but I will share a few random thoughts that I noted while there.

The B-18 Bolo is displayed on six-feet tall pedestals, so you get a clear view up into the bomb bay. I was struck at how small the bomb bay is. That's a lot of airplane for a relatively small bomb load! Maybe I'll get that Special Hobby kit after all!

Coolest 50s era jet...the B-58 Hustler. That plane to me epitomizes the design aesthetic of the day, and my Italeri kit is now begging to be built.

Most impressive plane...the B-36 Peacemaker. I've loved that plane since I saw the classic movie Strategic Air Command! But where would I put the Monogram kit (if I had one)?

With the announcement of the Kinetic F-102, I took special interest in the F-102 Delta Dagger on display. The model should be most impressive if the racks for the Genies can be assembled extended.

Most sentimental aircraft for me...the UH-1P Huey. When I was in AFJROTC in Florida, the 56th TTW flew one of their two UH-1Ps to our little airport every year to give the cadets orientation flights. It's very likely that I flew in the very helicopter displayed in the museum.

You don't get to see a MiG-29 every day, so I was struck at how small the plane is. The Soviets may have modeled it after the F-15, but it's tiny in comparison.

Most impressive restoration...The Martin MB-2, completely scratchbuilt from Martin drawings.

Most beautiful plane in a 1930s kind of way...the Caproni CA.36. It's odd to see a foreign-made aircraft in an American museum, but the Italians sure know a thing or two about design, whether it's airplanes or cars.

I could write all day about the museum, but I thought I'd just share those few nuggets. If you find yourself in a modeling slump, invest $500 in an overnight trip to Dayton and visit the museum. In the meantime, if you're not a Friend of the museum, consider doing so. (Their magazine is really nice.)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I need an apprentice

You may have heard about Dragon's surprise announcement of their upcoming T-28 tank. If you're an armor modeler you have to be intrigued by the tank's unique nature, just as you were years ago with Dragon's Maus or more recently with Meng's VsKfz.617 Minesweeper. Some models just beg to be built no matter what your primary interest is.
But just as my excitement peaked on studying the T-28 box art, a pessimistic little voice inside my head said, "Ummmm, maybe not." What happened? I noticed all of those road wheels and track links! By my estimates there are approximately 650 road wheels and 4,300 track links.
Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit, but I think there are just over 100 road wheels and too many track links than I care to count. No matter how you factor it, that's a lot of tedious cutting and sanding and gluing. Our hobby is all about tedium, but is there a point where you say it's just too much work?
That's why I need an apprentice. I need a young, enthusiastic young man you wants to learn the art of modeling by working at my side for ten years, or until he preps all those road wheels and track links for me. Hell, even Michelangelo had an apprentice, (Daniele da Volterra) and was an apprentice himself (to Domenico Ghirlandaio).
Who will be the first to apply?

Friday, September 7, 2012

A few dozen MiGs

With Eduard's new 1/72 MiG-15 just a month or so away from its release, I received an exciting email this morning from Radek Vavřina of R.V. Aircraft, the same guy that brought us the very nice series of MiG-23s in 1/72nd scale. Among his list of September releases are two new sheets of decals for the MiG-15. Radek provides some very interesting options, including an unusual all-black airplane, for a total of almost 36 aircraft!

Here's the complete list of September releases:

RVD 48012  MiG-21MF decal set 1/48 complete
RVD 48013  MiG-23 Stencils  1/48
RVD 48015  MiG-21MF decal set 1/48 vol. I
RVD 48016  MiG-21MF decal set 1/48 vol.II
RVD 72014  MiG-21MF decal set 1/72 (42 aircraft)
RVD 72017  MiG-15bis decal set Soviet aces in Korea  1/72
RVD 72018  MiG-15 decal set MIX  1/72

Look for pictures of Eduard's MiG-15 on their Facebook page (and maybe on their web site by the time you read this).

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Does size matter?

I'm a man of contrasts, just ask my girlfriend. She's been trying to put a label on me for the last five months. Epic fail. That's why I'm particularly amused at the contrast between my current work-in-progress (WIP) and the newest acquisition to my stash.

You may recall my interest a few weeks ago in learning how to rig bi-planes, and thus my tiny little 1/72 Nieuport 17 has progressed nicely. I've painted it, applied the Future, and decaled it. So far so good, more or less.

You can see the little guy (next to a quarter) there on the white card on top of my new Trumpeter 1/32 F-105D. The model arrived yesterday thanks to a sweet deal on ARC. Only $85, shipping included! I've always a thing for the F-105, and I have ten or so in the stash from 1/144 to 1/72 to 1/48. In fact I think one of the earliest models I built was the early (very early) Monogram F-105 from the 1970s. I'll have more to share about a chance crossing of F-105 history and one of my models in the future, but for now I'm enjoying the size difference between these two models. And that's just the forward fuselage of the F-105, less the tail assembly!

While I'm mentioning the Nieuport 17, I should point out something I learned tonight about Eduard's decals. Despite my adoration of Solvaset, they had practically no effect on Eduard's decals. So if you've got any of their kits in your stash, be forewarned.

Oh, and yes that is a Debbie Gibson card at the back of my workbench. I had a crush on her as a teenager and saw her in concert a few years ago for New Years. So what?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

It's like I'm actually there

If you're anything like me, you're pathetic and a failure. You've failed to achieve your childhood dream...becoming a pilot.

Okay, that was a bit dark, but I'm willing to bet you a banana split there are a lot of modelers who not-so-secretly wish they were pilots. We all have our reasons for not having achieved that dream, and at the end of the day many of us turn to scale models as a way to engage in our passion for aviation.

The internet has given us a new to enjoy aviation through the videos on sites like YouTube and Vimeo, but unfortunately the majority of them (including television shows on the Discovery and even the Military Channels) are aimed at the casual viewer not hardcore aviation enthusiasts like us. I swear if I see another video showing fast jets to the sound of Van Halen's "Dream" I'm going to shove the thickest, most flash-laden sprue from an early, Eastern Bloc model and shove it up my, well, you get the idea.

That's why I was thrilled to find this video. Maybe you've seen it.

Pilot and aviation journalist Jeff Ethell introduces us to the P-51D as if we are about to take the controls ourselves. He talks about the amount of oil to look for during the pre-flight, tells us to ensure the supercharger is set to Low, and the speed to expect on the base leg of your landing. Absolutely great stuff.

Be sure to watch all three videos of the P-51, as well as the other aircraft in the Roaring Glory Warbirds series.

Now if only someone would do this for the F-16, F/A-18, C-17, etc.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

One step forward, one step back

I really like what I've seen from the folks at Cyber-Hobby over the last year. Until I picked up their F6F Hellcat at the IPMS Nats a few weeks ago, my experience with their kits had been virtual, having seen them only online. Their SB2C has been very well received by the modeling community despite the existence of the superb Academy kit, and their Meteor looks equally nice. I was eager to fondle another example of their work.

When Cyber-Hobby released their Sea Venom in 1/72 scale, I was intrigued. Cold War British aircraft are not of special interest to me, but there's something about that big, bulbous nose that intrigued me, that and I've always had an affinity for smallish aircraft and armor. When I saw photos of the Sea Venom on the various discussion boards and saw the finesse of the moldings, I knew I had to have one.

Last week I scored a Sea Venom on eBay for a good price and received it over the weekend. In terms of detail and molding, it's really, really nice, folks. The bad news is, it has its share of flaws. Danielle Lang was kind enough to do a thorough evaluation of the kits on and share her findings on this thread and this thread. She compiled quite a list of issues. Say what you will about "rivet counting," but I appreciate reviews like this because they make me a more informed consumer, and that's never a bad thing. I bought the kit, aware of those shortcomings, and having it now I can say I'm looking forward to building it.


Why? The one glaring shortcoming of the kit is...drum roll please...the lack of an opening canopy! This is not 1971, right? This is not a Frog kit sitting before me, right? I find it surprising that anyone would produce a kit these days without an opening canopy. Maybe Cyber-Hobby wanted to hide the inaccurate instrument panel.

Let's hope this never happens again.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Airfix and cup holders

The great thing about buying a car is that you can literally have one custom built just for you, assuming you can afford it of course. You can specify the engine, color, seats, audio options, pin stripes, and so on. Of course you always get a cup holder, and even Ferrari touts the presence of a cup holder in its literature for the F12 Berlinetta. Big fucking deal. Even the shopping cart at my grocery store has a cup holder.

So how close are we to being able to log onto and customer order a Bf-109? I can see the orders coming in now: David from Jacksonville wants a Bf-109E, version E-4, without a resin interior, with resin flying surfaces, photoetch for the cockpit, markings for Helmut Wick, and so on. Pretty cool, eh?

We might just be a step closer to that reality with Airfix's recent announcement of a kit to convert their impressive Vickers Valiant to a Reconnaissance or Refueller airplane. Someone at Airfix was smart. With all due respect to my friends in the aftermarket industry, someone over there in Kent said, "Hey, why should we let some cottage industry chaps do this when we can do it just as well?"

Brilliant! It's a smart move by Airfix. They don't have to manufacture, box, and store two additional (complete) kits, and they are assured of selling additional Valiants as we choose to build either or both of the variants. And we modelers benefit knowing that the parts should fit flawlessly, which isn't always the case with aftermarket parts (think resin shrinkage).

We're living in good times!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Old dog, new tricks

We're dazzled by the state-of-the-art kits that sit on the shelves of the LHS and in our stashes nowadays. Look at the Cyber Hobby SB2C or the Eduard Bf-110E and you'll see the finest examples of how manufacturers are leveraging technology to give us exceptional models that make kits manufactured 30 years ago look like toys. I couldn't explain how a "slide mold" works, but I'm sure glad the folks at Dragon do!

That said, I'm always thrilled to see a 20- or 30-year old kit built and painted particularly well. Only the best modelers can take an old, 70s era ERTL or Hasegawa kit and turn it into a masterpiece. It gives me hope for all those "obsolete" kits I see on the vendors' tables at IPMS contests.

This 1/72 A-7A, from Floridian Ken Belisle, started life as a Hasegawa kit. Yes, the same one released in the 1970s with minimal cockpit detail and raised panel lines. It stopped me in my tracks when I saw it at the Virginia Beach IPMS Nats a few years ago. Ken is, in my opinion, the best 1/72 scale modeler in the hobby these days. He could've built the Fujimi kit, which is miles ahead of the Hasegawa, but he used what he had in his stash and showed us what real modeling looks like.

Here's a build of an "obsolete" kit I spotted on Aircraft Resource Center this week. It's the old ESCI 1/48 F-4 Phantom, and I think it would pass for a Hasegawa kit in any contest. The finish really sets it above most kits we see online.

I also noticed this build from André Teppers on Missing Lynx of the venerable Italeri 1/35 Steyr RSO (which has recently been superseded by Dragon's new offering). I can't wait to see this one painted!

Do you have old kits in your stash that you're too quick to dismiss?

Friday, August 17, 2012

This could really suck

There are many skills in our hobby that are inherently difficult. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the challenges of decaling, but other tasks come to mind as well, such as applying a natural metal finish or masking and painting canopies. One of the lessons I learned far too late in my modeling career is to charge head-on into anything that intimidates me. Worst case scenario: I fail miserably and toss a $15 model into the trash. Big deal. Try, try again as they say.

Thanks to Alclad, a gift from the gods to modelers around the world, I've achieved a degree of confidence with a NMF, and I have a Fujimi Judy in the stash awaiting my attention just for the exercise of masking its ridiculously complex canopy. What next?

The one area that still needs my attention is rigging. (Okay, there's vacuform models, too, but no one really builds those anymore, right?) I'm embarrassed to admit I haven't attempted rigging since I built Airfix's tiny Tigermoth many years ago. It was a half-hearted effort due to Justine Bateman detracting my modeling after I heard a rumor that she didn't wear underwear while filming Family Ties.

Mind you, I'm primarily a jet guy, but I do have a couple of kits in the stash that have intrigued me over the years that require some rigging. I recently acquired the classic Airfix Handley-Page HP 42 after seeing the plane in Imperial Airways livery, and I have a Williams Brothers 1/72 Douglas World Cruiser in my stash that I bought when I started getting serious in the hobby some time around 1985, a plane that I've always thought was particularly rugged.

Douglas World Cruiser

 With that enthusiasm I nervously clicked the Buy It Now button on eBay for an Eduard 1/72 Nieuport 17 with the intention of using it for my first, earnest foray into rigging. Was I foolish for choosing to do this in 1/72nd scale? Perhaps. Okay, yes, but it's my scale and I'm a glutton for punishment. I also picked up Eduard's WW1 photoetch seats at the IPMS Nats.

Ready for rigging

Next I had to find a few articles online about rigging. I found this thread on ARC's forums, this article from John Seaman on Austin Scale Modeler's Society site, and another one on

Finally, being a JEEP, (that is, "just enough education to pass" in military slang), I disguised myself as a 19 year-old girl and snuck into a beading supply shop and bought some monofilament thread.

Now I'm ready to begin this new chapter in my hobby. It could really suck. And it could really be great. Some of the best looking aircraft ever manufactured were the early bi-wing types, so if all goes well I may find myself spending less time on jets. Time will tell.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The weird and the bizarre at the Nats

Hidden among the ever-popular F-16s and Sherman tanks in the contest, in between the deeply discounted Hasegawa Bf-109s in the vendors room, exists the weird and bizarre world that is scale modeling. Here are a few of the more esoteric and stranger things I noticed, excluding of course the attendees ourselves.

Looking through the contest room I found what may be the first entry of its type ever to be entered in the Nats, this tiki pole. There was at least one entrant from French Polynesia, so I'm guessing that he was the modeler of this most interesting model.

I saw this entry of a stealth fighter. I'm usually not a party pooper in our hobby, but please, let this be the last of its kind. The idea has been done many times before, and it's not funny anymore. And more to the point, no one can do the concept any better than this modeler. Kudos!

You know you're living in the best of times when you can find a book that completely documents the jerrycan. Yes, that's right, those little water/fuel cans that most of us glue onto our tanks and softskin vehicles as an afterthought. Are you sure the jerrycans on your Matilda should be three-handled rather than two? The book has been described as "lavishly illustrated" and "superb" by reviewers and people are even tweeting about it. If it's not in your library you're a loser. Contact Casemate Publishing for your copy today, and be sure to suggest a book about Italian crowbars circa 1935-38.

Japan is often known for its eccentricities, and our hobby is not a sanctuary for those seeking the unconventional. I found this model of dumplings from Bandai on Hobbylink Japan's table. Not buying it may be my one regret coming away from the Nats.

Speaking of Japan, I spotted these anime models in the back of the vendors room. I'm always surprised to find that naked women can make almost any grown man giggle.

Sitting next to a model of the World Trade Center was this model of Epcot Center's Spaceship Earth. It's always nice to see a model reflect the location of the convention.

Finally, I captured these two signs in the vendors room in the final hour of the show. I never understood why eBay sellers discount items at 5 percent off, so I almost LOL'd at this one. Guess which vendor took home most of his stock.

I'm already looking forward to next year!