Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter and the scale modeler

This post could be considered borderline sacrilegious, but bear with me as I try to draw a tenuous link between Christianity and scale modeling. Jesus what a carpenter, so I’d like to think he has some affinity for the craftsmanship inherent to plastic models. With Christians around the world experiencing the holiest times of year this weekend, I thought it might be interesting to find ways to bring the Easter spirit into the hobby, and I think I’ve found three themes worthy of discussion.

First is sacrifice. Even people who are not Christians are familiar with the sacrifice made by Jesus of Nazareth, so I won’t repeat the story here. Suffice to say, He knew when to offer himself for the greater good of mankind. As modelers we should do the same with our models. I frequently read stories on the forums from guys who are struggling through builds where everything seems to be going wrong. You can hear the frustration in their words and their search for that magical bit of advice that will save their project. My five cent advice to you is to know when to sacrifice a model for the greater good of your hobby. Life is too short to struggle with an assemblage of plastic parts that is clearly on a path to disappointment. Be willing to sacrifice those projects. Toss them into the trash can and spend your time on something more enjoyable.

Easter is also about renewal. As a modeler one of the best ways to do that is to clean your workbench. Remove everything, even if you’re in the middle of several projects, and thoroughly clean the surface, removing paint, glue, whatever unknown substances you uncover amid the jars of paint, glue, parts, bits of sprue, and other detritus. Organize your tools and paints. Then put everything back in its place. You may be surprised at the newfound gusto you feel the next time you sit down to work.

Finally, even if you choose to struggle with those projects-gone-bad or to work on a cluttered and filthy workbench, the last theme you should recognize is rejoicing. Yes, rejoice! You are a scale modeler, and you enjoy what you do! Maybe you’re not winning trophies. Maybe no one outside your family sees your masterpieces, but you’re involved in a hobby that enriches your life and renews your spirit. And that is worth celebrating!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Model Factory Hiro and the armor and aviation market

If you have nothing more than a passing interest in automotive modeling you’re familiar with Model Factory Hiro. They produce incredibly high quality resin models of race cars, from vintage racers to modern Formula One cars. They sell on average for $250, which makes most of the injection molded kits we military modelers build look like bargains.

I recently ran across this interesting interview with the company’s owner, Misao Hiro, courtesy of HobbyLink Japan. It’s a fascinating look into the way one company produces exceptional kits.

Even if cars aren’t your thing, the last few minutes of part 2 of the video (accessible if you open the video in YouTube) are still worth watching. When asked about his plans for the company, Mr. Hiro says he’d like to produce models for military and aviation modelers…and in injected form! They've already announced a new Tiger I in 1/35 scale, which looks incredible, so we can only be excited about what else they might bring us in the coming years.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Find energy when there ain’t none

Like many of you I presume, I work a very long day. I won’t bore you with the details, but I typically get home around 7 or 7:30, and by the time I’m done preparing a relatively decent supper, doing a few household chores, and taking care of the Three S’s, it’s easily 9 p.m. Time to go into the workshop and do some modeling, right? Maybe not. I’m too tired. My eyes hurt. I’d rather watch manly shows on TV, like Inside Combat Rescue, Myth Busters, or All Girls Garage.

If you're going to fall asleep, what better place that here?
This is why, come December 31st, I’ll look back and see that I’ve built only four models as I seem to do every year. With more than a couple hundred models in the stash, this is very depressing.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve recently discovered something potentially groundbreaking, at least for me. I’ve found that if I simply sit down at the workbench and start to work on something, I find new energy! My goals might be modest, for example, removing the mold lines on  a set of landing gear and wheels, or sanding a couple of seams to get a head start on the weekend, but before I realize it I often find myself going further, spending more time than I had expected and getting a lot done. All of a sudden it’s 11:00 and I don’t feel quite as tired as I did, and damn son, my model is a day closer to completion!

This happened to me last week. I sat down, feeling tired, to apply only one coat of paint to my Hasegawa 1/72 J2M3 Jack. I didn’t expect the color to be quite right (I custom mix my own colors for nearly every model), but I figured it would be a good start. Lo and behold, the color looked good, and I pressed on with four additional colors to basically complete all of the green on the upper surfaces (multiple colors to represent weathering).

The benefit is bigger than just having put more completed models on the shelf at the end of the year. It’s about feeling a sense of achievement and satisfaction in the midst of a long work week. I find a new sense of happiness the morning after these productive sessions and it stays with me through the day.

This mindset might work for you. The next time you’re too tired to do some modeling, force yourself to do something at the workbench, anything. You may find the energy that I have.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pecans are expensive, Airfix kits are not

In honor of Pi Day, I made a pecan pie over the weekend. Well, bourbon chocolate chip pecan pie to be specific. Not a model, but a real, edible pie. I wasn't up for the task of making my own dough, so I bought a pre-made crust (kind of like using a pre-painted photoetch) and the ingredients for the filling, but when I found myself on aisle 11 to buy the bag of pecans, I balked at the price...six dollars! Why are nuts so expensive? I quickly learned that making a delicious pie was going to cost me big money! No wonder a pie purchased at a farmers markets costs $15.

Like those pies, it seems as though good models are becoming unaffordable. Trumpeter's 1/48 Su-24 is $130. Hasegawa's 1/72 Typhoon is $58. Tamiya's BT-5 and BT-42 are $75, and Dragon's latest releases are in the $60 price range. Ship builders have it no better with a good 1/350 scale kit exceeding $100. And if you paint little figures, expect to pay $50 for a 54mm figure and $70 for 75mm.

It's easy to get bummed out when confronted by these prices. Many modelers have wondered if the hobby is becoming unaffordable, especially for younger modelers. It's okay to cry. It's okay to get angry.

I think that's why it's important to look for and highlight value in the hobby, and no one is giving us more value today than Airfix. Their latest 1/72 scale releases, while a bit on the simplistic side, are very nice and can be made into real gems.

Wolfgang Henrich posted photos of his Airfix Bf-109E to Hyperscale today, a kit which you can find for around $7. His model is a perfect example of the potential that the kits in this line offer. Wolfgang did an outstanding job with this inexpensive kit. Airfix deserves our thanks for producing kits that everyone can afford. Take a look; I think you'll be impressed!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Frustration and joy and frustration

The enthusiasm of new modelers is inspiring, and a reminder of how long I've been in the hobby. Even though their models aren't very good, the energy these modelers offer always sends me back to the workbench with a new perspective on what I'm doing.

New modeler "Michael" posted his experience to Hyperscale yesterday. He said it's "a lot of frustration, joy, a lot of learning, feeling of success, again frustration, feeling of being just bad and then all that again -- in no particular order." I replied to tell him that my experience is exactly the same after 30 years.

As this year's contest season kicks off, make an effort to talk to newcomers to the hobby. Or reach out to the new members of your model club. You may find that they can help you more than you can help them!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I don't like the IL-2 Shturmovik but I'll build Tamiya's kit

Would you build a model outside of your primary area of interest simply because the kit is excellent? For example, if you build jets, would you build a Bf-109 knowing it's nearly perfect?

I'm a jet guy. Most of of the models I build are modern jets, generally from Korea to the present. This is my primary area of interest. But I do venture off into other areas on occasion. In fact, one of the two best models I've built is a Fujimi 1/72 Bf-110, but on a day-to-day basis, most of my mental energy is spent thinking about jets. And hamburgers. And women. But I digress....

I am most tempted to stray when I see a really good example of an injected molded model. That's why I bought Eduard's Bf-110 and Revell's P-47D. These are outstanding kits. The former the perfect example of a state-of-the-art molding, and the latter an exceptional value. The most recent object of my intrigue is Tamiya's new 1/72 Il-2 Sturmovik. From the pictures on Hobby Search's web site, it appears to be yet another example of Tamiya's prowess at high-quality, high-detail kits in this scale, seemingly on par with their A6M Zero and P-47D.

What I'm saying is, I'm a sucker for a high quality kit, no matter the subject. I'm a modeler. I find the process of building a model just as satisfying as what sits in the display case when I'm done, and the attraction to a new tool kit like the Il-2 is knowing that I won't have to struggle through the entire build. It will probably go together well, provide 90 percent of the detail I need to create a better than reasonable representation, and offer a unique and attractive model at the end of the day.

How about you? Does a state-of-the-art kit entice you to build outside your area of interest?