Tuesday, April 28, 2015

5 ways to increase your output

I'm a slow modeler. Like, four or five models a year slow. I enjoy detailing and I've been known to obsess over seams and fiddly bits, but with more kits in the stash than I'll have time to build, I've been thinking a lot about what I can do to increase my output. A couple of weeks ago I suggested painting your cockpits black as one way to move more models across your workbench, so here are five more ideas. I know they're not for everyone, but maybe you'll find something here that can increase your output, or at the very least get you thinking about other shortcuts.

1. Don't use photoetch

I like the idea of photoetch, but I'm growing increasingly frustrated with it, and by the look of the comments on this thread on ARC and this one on Hyperscale I'm not alone. When you use photoetch for a kit you're often building a second kit; you have to cut the parts off the fret, sand the cut edge (and usually the other edges, too), bend it, and apply it. One small part may require 10-15 minutes of preparation and application. Multiply that by 25, 50, or 100 and you can see how much photoetch sucks from your modeling time. I'm very close to avoiding it altogether unless it provides significant aesthetic value (such as the mesh for engine grills on armor).

2. Minimize time spent on the underside

Ever try to look up the kilt of a 90mm Scottish Highlander? There's nothing to see. The legs of figures often just attach to the block of resin or metal that forms the torso. Figure painters are smart. They don't waste time modeling things that 99 percent of the viewers don't see. Aircraft modelers can learn something from them. Why do we obsess over landing gear bays, resin wheels, and underwing weathering? I know, I already hear some of you saying, "I know it's there." I understand; I've said that myself and have replicated my share of landing gear hoses and whatnot. But you also know there aren't tiny pistons within the engines you just attached to that B-17, yet you're still happy with the model, right? Think of the time savings if you did just the minimum with your undersides.

3. Don't obsess over minor seams

I'm no trophy hound but admit to enjoying the challenge of trying to build each model better than the last. I spend a lot of time trying to get the seams on my models perfect, because an obvious seam can be a major detractor from an otherwise excellent model. One of the quickest ways of speeding along a model is not spending too much time on minor seams. Maybe we should ensure that only the prominent seams are good but leave the others "good enough."

4. Skip the seamless intakes

I like the idea of seamless intakes, but I rarely notice or appreciate them, particularly in 1/72 scale. The only time you see a seamless intake, or the horror of a blanked off intake, is when you look directly at the model. How often do you do that? Are those few moments worth the time and expense of modeling them? I'm not sure.

5. Skip the stencils

We like stencils, but with the exception of 1/32 scale models, and maybe a few subjects in 1/48 scale, most of them wouldn't be seen in scale. You can probably skip the NO STEP markings on your 1/72 F-16 and still dazzle your friends with your epic skill with filters and pigments. The four hours you don't spend applying those 50 stencils could be time spent starting your next model.

So what do you think? Are these good ideas, or am I diminishing the value of our craft?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Paint it black and close it up

Like many of you I have a lot of models in my stash. More than I can build in my lifetime. Well, maybe....

What if we could speed up our builds, go from building five models a year to 10. Or if you're already building 10 a year then to increase your output to 15 or 20? We still may be be able to build all of the models in our respective stashes, but we'd build considerably more by the time we go to that big hobby shop in the sky, right?

I've had a few ideas, and I've wanted to test and write about them. This one is a bit of a success story, so I thought I'd share it, if only to prove that I practice what I preach...and that sometimes my suggestions are actually viable!

Last summer I saw an F4F Wildcat fly at The World War Two Weekend in Reading, Pennsylvania. I'd never seen one in the air before and was struck by its speed relative to the other aircraft. Who knew that a reciprocating engine could propel a rocketship! I knew I had to build one eventually. Fast-forward a couple of months, and I stumbled upon an Academy 1/72 F4F Wildcat on sale at the LHS. It was cheap, so I bought it.

I took it off the shelf recently to build it but immediately saw how crude it is. The cockpit is barely better than those provided in the old Matchbox kits of the 1970s, and the engine is about as simple a representation of a radial engine you will see while still being identifiable as an engine. I briefly looked for a resin replacements for both, found what I needed on eBay, and put them into my watch list. Then I thought to myself, "Self, as cool as the airplane is, you're not really a huge fan of the Wildcat. Why do you want to put a great deal of money and time into this particular model when there are so many others in the stash that excite you more?"

I wondered how I could build a $5 model without investing $40 of resin and 40 hours time into it. And do so relatively quickly. What if I build the cockpit using only the parts provided in the kit but paint it completely black. It's a small cockpit and the single-piece canopy can't be positioned open, so black would hide the nonexistent detail and allow me to quickly proceed through assembly and to painting and weathering, which is what I most enjoy. Could I do the same for the engine? Sure.

So I committed to building the model as quickly as possible so that I could focus my time and effort on the finish, which is what I enjoy most. A quick application of black paint on the appropriate parts and I was ready for assembly within 30 minutes of opening the box.

Assembly was fairly quick, and after filling seams and rescribing a few panel lines I had the airplane ready for painting.

That's where I spent most of my time with the model, painting it. I used my typical custom-mixed Tamiya paint, matched by eye to photos of Wildcat models I studied on Hyperscale and ARC, and weathered it with some post-shading, pastels, and artist pencils. I'm happy with the result considering how quickly it went together (even if my photography skills leave a lot to be desired). It looks good in my display case, where the black hole of a cockpit detracts little from the overall look of the model.

In fairness, painting a cockpit black may not work for everyone. Some cockpits are quite large and visible (such as an A-37), or you may simply enjoy painting and detailing cockpits. I do, too, but looking forward I can see myself doing this again, if only to increase my annual output by one or two models a year, which could amount to my ultimately completing 50-60 models more than I would otherwise.

Try it. You might like it!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Mosquitocon 2015

One of the best things about our hobby is going to contests to share the models we build and to see other modelers' work. The one contest I always attend every year living here in the Northeast is Mosquitocon, sponsored by IPMS New Jersey. It's always a good show with a lot of models in the contest and a good mix of vendors, both professional and individual modelers selling from their personal stash of kits. This year's show was as strong as any other, and for me it informally kicks off spring and the contest season in this part of the country.

Those of you who've been reading Scale Model Soup for a while know that I'm an advocate of entering contests, and generally being a man of integrity I entered my two latest builds, an Airfix 1/72 P-51D Mustang and an Academy 1/72 F4F Wildcat (which will be the subject of a separate article in the coming weeks). There were some outstanding models on the tables, so I thought I'd share a few that caught my attention.

One of the best examples of painting and finishing skills was this SBD. Looks like 1/48 scale, right? Nope, it's 1/350 scale! The finish was as good as any model in the contest four or five times its size. It even had tiny zinc chromate paint chips that you can just make out in my photos. Unfortunately I forgot to take my reading glasses with me, so I was unable to fully appreciate the subtle application of paint on the model, but it was among the best things I saw all day.

Another fine example of painting skill, exemplified on this 1/72 Tamiya Fw-190 D-9. Masterful use of an Iwata airbrush.

Here's Airfix's new-tool 1/72 Tigermoth, the first I've seen in person, built up. The modeler reported that it was mostly out-of-the-box,  with only the cockpit doors being cut out and displayed folded down. Really nice little kit that makes me excited about building mine.

I've always like the fugliness of the Aviation Traders ATL-98 Carvair, and this Roden 1/144 kit showed off the awkward profile of the airplane perfectly.

I've written about my fascination with seaplanes here before, so it's always a pleasure to see one as well built, finished, and displayed as this Azur 1/48 Loire 130M.

There were two 1/48 Whirlwinds on the table,each as well built and painted as the other. One was the Classic Airframe offering and the other the new Trumpeter kit. This is the former, which I think shows better detail overall and will be my preference if/when I buy a Whirlwind.

You don't often see a NMF Bf-109, but this one -- an Eduard 1/48 G-6 -- was among the best in its category and among all the 1/48 scale entries.

Beautiful Monogram 1/48 F-101B. The mirror base really showed off the tones the modeler used on the engines.

Another favorite of mine among the entries, a Hobbycraft 1/144 RB-36. Yes, those props are actually spinning.

Nicely built and weathered Cyber Hobby Firefly Vc.

Here's a DML 1/35 Pz. Kpfw. IV Ausf. D with a finish and weathering that, to me, is a bit of a throwback to the 90s, before filters and pigments became all the rage. I think it was one of the best looking models in the armor categories.

An Amusing Hobby 1/35 Object 279, which some of you will recall was my most disappointing release of 2013. Mind you, it's a great subject, and this modeler's example was absolutely outstanding.

I'm not a car modeler, but it's easy for me to appreciate an example of fine modeling like this Revell 1/25 Dragster.

I love the look of classic Bentleys, and this Revell 1/24 1930 4.5L LeMans Racer showed off a great deal of detail in the engine and interior.

The sight of a Ferrari stops us in our tracks, am I right?. Here's a gorgeous Hasegawa 1/24 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa as seen in a 1959 SCCA race. If the paint looks flawed you have to have read the modeler's comments on the entry form: "I didn't go crazy on the finish, because the car was painted with laquer that wasn't rubbed out to perfection."

Here's a tiny -- we're talking 1/4828 scale folks -- scratchbuilt World Trade Center. It was made from laser-etched stainless steel with the supporting buildings ABS plastic.

From steel to wood with this scratchbuilt 1/48 canoe made from basswood.

The ship categories didn't seem to have as many entries as prior years, but there were some very nice builds nonetheless. This Dragon 1/350 USS Benson caught my eye.

The most stunning ship entry was this Trumpeter 1/350 HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The nastiest thing I saw at the show, this kit on one of the vendors table covered with a thick, green mold. This is NOT something you want to bring into your home!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The elusive relaxing build

This month's topic from the Sprue Cutters Union is, "What subject relaxes you the most?"

Funny you should ask. After a few hours in the workshop I often find myself grumbling that I need to find a relaxing hobby.

While I say that in jest, it does have an element of truth to it. Our hobby, this supposedly relaxing hobby, is full of small, stressful moments where one task, one part, one brushstroke can be the difference between success or disaster. It's that moment when you remove the masking from your canopy hoping the paint didn't seep beneath it. That moment you attach that length of link-by-link track to your tank and hope that it fits perfectly as it did yesterday. That moment when you carefully attach a the railing to a 1/700 scale destroyer and hope you don't get super glue everywhere. I'd bet that each of us experiences a heart rate that rivals that of any marathon runner as he approaches the finish line. Well, almost.

I gotta be honest with you and my fellow Union members. I can't think of a single model that offers me a truly "stress-free" experience. Every one of them comes with its share of challenges and stress. That said, I generally enjoy 95 percent of the modeling, painting, and weathering process; the remaining 5 percent I struggle to overcome and master, even after 30 years in the hobby and dozens of builds under my belt. I'm not there yet, though I hope to be some day.

In the meantime, when I want to enjoy something that's truly stress-free, I cook up a pot of risotto. I've mastered that and enjoy preparing it for friends. Maybe I should take some to the Nats in July for my readers!

1:1 scale risotto and shrimp; asparagus with pancetta and mushrooms.
Catch up with other members' responses to this month's topic here.