There, I've said it. Hate me for saying it, but someone has to stand up and express the concern that we're slowly losing whatever sense of craftsmanship we might have.
What separates us modelers from model collectors -- the guys who buy pre-assembled, pre-painted diecast models -- is that we are engineers, craftsmen, artists. At least we aspire to be. You see, anyone with the money can buy a diecast model and put it on a shelf. Modelers are better than that. We create representations of aircraft, armor, ships, and vehicles with our hands. The models that sit in our display cases showcase our skill, talent, and experience. That's a privilege that people who engage in other hobbies enjoy.
I worry that every year we hand off that responsibility to the aftermarket industry. (To be clear, I don't fault the industry. They're simply giving us what we ask for.) I present the following evidence to the court:
- Resin cockpits
- Pre-painted photoetch
- Canopy masks
- Camouflage masks
- Off-the-shelf weathering washes
- Paint chip decals
- Printed flightline surfaces
If you use any of these products, you are lazy. When I use them (and I admit I do) I lose a little bit of self-respect. I firmly believe that with practice and time I -- and you -- can master the effects that all of these items provide. The sense of pride we'd would feel would be much greater than simply using a collection of pre-made bits and pieces in an effort to build something "better."
Here's a recent example. Some modelers are asking the decal manufacturers to produce decals for the RAM panels on the new 1/72 F-35 kits. Really? I admit, masking them will be tedious, but won't that result in something better? And isn't tedious what this hobby is all about? How many times has someone looked at your models and said, "Oh, I could never be that patient." But we are. At least we used to be.
I know, you could argue that model kits themselves are cheating when we could build models from scratch. That's true. I could also manufacture my own paints and glues. But we have to draw the line somewhere, otherwise we'll find ourselves admiring 200 tables of diecast models at the 2025 IPMS National Convention.
Here's my advice. Don't be afraid to rely on your skills to do what seems difficult. You'll find a greater sense of satisfaction.