Friday, February 28, 2014

Look at this stash

I recently stumbled upon this article on Buzzfeed, about the US Army's Museum Support Center at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The center is the Army's repository for historical artifacts and more than 16,000 works of art reflecting military history.

What an incredibly interesting collection, though as the article says, most of us will not see it unless enough money can be raised to build a suitable museum.

Let's hope fundraising continues so that the artifacts and artwork can be enjoyed by the public. You can donate via the National Museum of the United States Army website.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Missing my favorite contest

As I write this at 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning Blizzardcon 2014 is underway in Columbus, Ohio, one of the best IPMS contests in the country. Hundreds of contest entries, great vendors, and top-flight organizers. I used to attend on a regular basis, making the flight from Newark, New Jersey to Columbus, but due to family obligations I haven't been able to attend in the last few years.

I'll write more about contests as we proceed further into the contest season in the next month or two, but I'm a big believer that every modeler should support local contests. I'll lay out a number of reasons why you should do so, but today, as I curl up and cry underneath two feet of snow, I'm reminded why I most miss attending Blizzardcon...the people. Some of my best friends in the hobby, and in my life, attend the contest, so yet another year is passing without my spending time with them.

It would be great to enter the contest and ogle at the other entries on the table; it would be nice to score a Hasegawa 1/48 F-15E as my friend Jason did an hour ago, and it would be awesome to bring home Best of Show (unlikely, but I can dream). But what I miss most is getting up at 6 a.m. to meet Mark, Graham, his wife Christie, Kurt, Dick, the other Mark, Jason, and others at a local breakfast joint. I'll miss shooting the bull throughout the day. I'll miss the emotional downer of packing up at the end of the day. And I'll miss the post-contest dinner where we talk about our favorite models in the contest and ponder what we might build for next year. Those are the reasons I attend contests.

Maybe next year.

Monday, February 3, 2014

A few tips

Over the weekend Aircraft Resource Center user DutyCat wrote about his experiences building the Hasegawa 1/72 F-14 on this thread, and I echoed his thoughts on one item in particular. He pointed out that, after a coat or two of paint, the axles on landing gear often won't fit into the hole in the wheels. I've encountered the same difficulty over the years, also upon trying to insert landing gear into the fuselage/wings as well. It's very frustrating to be so close to completing a model only to find out parts won't fit. I contributed my "cure" for this problem on DutyCat's thread, but I thought I'd share it here with a couple more random modeling tips I've picked up along the way. 

Attachment points

I struggle with alignment, a lot. Getting parts to fit and adhere correctly is crucial in building a model (especially if you seek the great fame, wealth, and glory that accompanies a win at an IPMS contest), so lately I've been masking areas that will serve as mating surfaces for two parts. For example, on the B-26 I just finished I used thin strips of Tamiya tape to mask the narrow areas where the bulkheads joined the fuselage. This, I hope, provides a strong bond of those parts.

To DutyCat's observation on ARC, I've been using Micro Mask to ensure that the holes and mating surfaces for landing gear and wheels remain clean of paint, which eases assembly and ultimately provides a strong bond. Is all of this tedious? Yes, but anything that helps me during assembly is a good thing.

Paint chips

I love weathering. It's my favorite part of the model building process, and for me it begins with painting and ends with paint chips. I used to use silver paint to represent paint chips, but I've found that it's not condusive to creating "chips" small enough and jagged enough to look realistic. I've seen well-painted models with paint chips that resemble silver amoeba rather than irregular and jagged damage.

A better medium for me has been artist pencils. Using an inexpensive pencil sharpner, I can get them sharp enough to create very fine "chips," lightly tapping the pencil on the model to create the smallest chips. The trick then becomes creating chips that appear realistic, which is difficult and time consuming. I spent approximately two hours on the paint chips on my B-26.


I'm a proponent of scale effect. I won't bore you with a technical explanation, but if you're new to the hobby the concept simply suggests that colors become less intense in smaller scales. For me it means that I never use paint directly out of the bottle. Every color I apply to a model is muted or altered in some way, and it's especially true of the so-called primary colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet), and white and black. I always reduce the intensity of these colors by adding another color to them.

For example, my B-26 features black and white D-Day invasion stripes. Rather than apply those colors directly from the bottle, I added a little tan to the white paint and white and tan to the black paint to weather them and avoid the stark contrast that a bright white and dark black would impart. The same holds true for the yellow on the tips of the propeller blades, which was toned down using tan and white.

I hope you can use these ideas for your models. I'll share some additional tips in the future.