Monday, March 24, 2014

Resolutions and hairspray

I admit it: I used to use hairspray. Back when I was as handsome as Tom Cruise and the ladies would swoon when I'd walk into a room carry the latest Monogram release under my muscular arms. Those were the days!

I have a different relationship with hairspray these days. I don't need it for my hair as much as I do for my models. Unless you've been living under a rock or been overly preoccupied with The Simpsons, you're at least vaguely familiar with the use of hairspray in scale modeling. In case you're not, it's a technique that allows you to create extremely realistic paint wear and chipping. Here's an example, a 1/48 Hs-129 by Bob Windus seen at last year's IPMS Nats.

 The general process looks something like this.

1. Apply color #1.
2. Apply hairspray.
3. Apply color #2.
4. Use a pointed tool or brush to removed color #2, allowing color #1 to show underneath.

Mig Jimenez has a very nice tutorial on his blog, and if you can find your way to Google and can type on a keyboard, a quick search will turn up dozens of other articles and SBS's where the technique is shown. There are even some very helpful videos on YouTube. The ultimate FAQ, in my humble opinion, is found on this thread on the Mig Productions forum.

I'm talking about the hairspray technique because, as you may recall, one of my New Years resolutions for you (and me) was to experiment. I've wanted to try this technique for a long time but have been afraid of failing -- because, you know, if you screw up a model your life has no value, right? So I found an inexpensive Hobby Boss 1/72 MiG-3 (which is quite a gem, by the way), purchased a bottle of AK Interactive's Worn Effects Acrylic Fluid (i.e., hairspray), and said a prayer to every god I could think of, including Tengri, the primary deity of the the Xiongnu, Hunnic, Bulgar, and Xianbei peoples.

I won't go into great detail about the process I used on the MiG, other than to say I used Tamiya paints exclusively, with a typical application of Future before and after applying the decals...and before the application of the chipping fluid and white paint. I'm pleased with the results, but I'll offer the three reactions I had to my efforts.

First, the paint didn't come off as easily as I had expected, even though I started working it within 10 minutes of applying the chipping fluid. Maybe it's my choice of Tamiya, which is a surprisingly durable paint. Next time I'll try Polly-S.

Second, it's very easy to chip or rub through the paint right down to the bare plastic. I did so on one or two areas, though it's not obvious given the color of the airframe. This may be the result of my using Tamiya, but in general I'd suggest proceeding carefully.

Third, the results are somewhat random. I guess this is a good thing, but as an "artist," I like having much more control of the final effects that I have envisioned. Some spots on the MiG are over-worn and others under-worn, at least to my eye.

Overall I'm very happy with the model. I think it turned out quite well for my first attempt at a new technique, and I'm eager to try it again. I hope you're experiementing as we move further into 2014. I'd love to hear what you're doing!

Monday, March 10, 2014

This model is crap!

This is my story about how I learned to love rivet counters. It's a path of anger, annoyance, irritation, acceptance, appreciation, and affection.

Our hobby is just like any other hobby and special interest. We attract all kinds of people. There are casual participants. There are enthusiasts. There are zealots. And everything in between. I know this isn't a surprise to hear, but it's important to acknowledge it as we walk our sprue-strewn path toward scale modeling enlightenment and unconditional love of elitists and rivet counters.

Last year there was a thread on ARC where modelers discussed the merits of IPMS membership, and one of the criticisms often leveled at the organization is the elitism that some modelers have encountered. I've seen it myself, but my sense of humor pulls me through those moments even when I want to punch an elitist in the throat.

For example, I was at a contest many years ago mulling around the contest room with a friend and soon found myself chatting within a circle of modelers he knew. One of them was a well-known and respected expert whom I'd never met. At one point he pulled me over to the table behind us, pointed to a model, and proceeded to tell me what was wrong with it. Mind you, I'd never met this guy before and there was nothing in the group's conversation that should've triggered him to take me away from it. I was taken aback. I was speechless. I would have been less surprised had he shown me a tattoo of a tricycle on his inner thigh. What if it had been my model? What if it had been the first model that a 14 year-old boy had ever built? This guy, as knowledgeable as he was, had absolutely no tact. He could've been the poster boy for the elitism that many people complain about.

More recently, in the last few months in fact, I've noticed a number of contentious threads across many forums where casual modelers and rivet counters are debating the accuracy and subsequent value of new kits. You have the rivet counters pointing out every major and minor error, and you have casual modelers expressing their annoyance and proclaiming, "It looks like a Periland-Hawthwait Gumbat Mk. IV." Here are a few:

The DML M103, on Armorama.
The Trumpeter T-38, on ARC.
The Great Wall Hobby (re-tooled) F-15B/D on ARC.

In my experience most modelers are good guys who enjoy building models for relaxation or to indulge their interest in Cold War jets, German armor, World War Two destroyers, 28mm trolls, or whatever. But elitists exist everywhere no matter how you indulge your weird interests. Do you like wine? You'll find oenophiles who won't buy anything but French wine. Are you a chocolate connoisseur? My best friend will laugh at you if you talk about Godiva ("candy," as he calls it) in his presence. Are you a car guy? Don't drive an automatic as I do, because sports car elitists will laugh at you on track day.

So what do we do with these people? Nothing. You can't change people, so to preserve your sanity you must find a way to accept their contributions to the hobby.

I've learned to love elitists, and you should, too. Let's face it; the "experts" in the scale modeling hobby are not paid historians. They're not professional engineers. They are usually self-taught historians and enthusiasts who are simply eager to share what they've learned. They spend a good amount of time studying new kits, comparing them to photographs or scale drawings, and generally offering educated analyses of the discrepancies they've found. I think that's pretty generous on their part, and I'm glad they're willing to do it.

Your challenge is to read their reviews and take what you need from them. The wings on the Cyber Hobby Sea Venom are too long? You have to consider whether you can live with that inaccuracy if you want a Sea Venom in your collection. The wheels on the Academy Merkava aren't aligned properly? You have to consider if that's a deal-breaker for you. If the errors don't bother you it shouldn't be too difficult to simply click the Back button on your browser and find something else to read. We don't have to chastise rivet counters for offering a (fair) critique of a model. Sure, some are self-important blowhards like the guy I encountered, but so what? Don't let them ruin your enjoyment of the hobby. Or a glass of wine from a Missouri winery.

Embrace the suck!

Monday, March 3, 2014

A frog into a prince

It's 2014 and we're enjoying some of the highest quality kits we've ever seen in the hobby, and while some of us have been quietly selling some of the older, "obsolete" kits in our stashes, a few dedicated modelers have been building them and creating masterpieces in the process.

If you want my respect, build an old model and do it extremely well. That's what Erik Houghton did over on 72nd Scale Aircraft with a really old Frog 1/72 Javelin FAW.9R. He's rescribed the model, added a great deal of detail, and applied a top flight finish to it. If I didn't know better I'd think that Trumpeter had done gone and released a new-tool Javelin while I was off watching the Winter Olympics!

Take a look at Erik's build. You'll be inspired, and you'll find a few tips (such as his manufacture of the wing vortice generators) that you can apply to your models, whether they were manufactured 40 years ago or four months ago.