Thursday, July 30, 2015

Five kits I did not buy at the Nats

Several years I wrote about attending my first IPMS National Convention in 1984. I returned home that year with nearly 30 kits. In fairness, many were incredibly cheap and the enthusiasm of my youth made them irresistible.

Thirty years later I pretty much have everything I want, so in an effort to save money for things like aftermarket accessories and books, I'm making a strong effort these days to limit my acquisitions. That said, I'm still susceptible to impulse purchases and enticing new releases, so I knew it would be difficult last week to attend the Nats and be tempted by so many models. I'm proud to say I bought only one. Here are the five kits I decided not to buy.

I generally build 1/72 aircraft, but I've been intrigued by the detail I could incorporate into a 1/32 jet. I saw this Academy 1/32 F-16CJ for only $75 but decided not to buy it. I already have a Trumpeter F-105D, a Tamiya F-15C, and the new Kitty Hawk OV-10D. I really don't need another large scale kit taking up even more space.

This Academy B-24 was priced right, but I already have on in the stash, albeit a different version. What is the likelihood of my building two B-24s anytime soon? Slim, at best.

I really like the look of this Spitfire with the contra-rotating prop. I'd like to build one in 1/72 scale, but I already have its 1/48 Airfix counterpart with lots of cool aftermarket for it. Do I need to build two? Probably not.

There were several Academy F-4s in the contest, and I heard positive feedback about them from friends who judged the respective category, and as a huge fan of the F-4 Eduard's release was incredibly tempting. I picked one up and carried it around their display area for a while, but then I remembered the new Zuki Moira kit that's in the works. I decided to wait and see how the Z-M kit will ultimately compare.

I like the look of the Vincent/Vildebeest, so having this Azur kit in my hands tested my willpower. But then I recalled my struggle with rigging and decided there are better ways for me to spend my time.

So what did I buy? Here's a snapshot of my haul from the weekend.

My model-buying days are far from over, but for now I'll think twice before buying a new kit.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Favorites from the 2015 IPMS Nats

The 2015 IPMS National Convention has come and gone, and the eight-hour drive home (alone) afforded me time to reflect on the event and the contest. I'll write about the event itself in a day or two -- with a strong response to the negative voices that wondered if the Nats has become irrelevant -- but the models are my focus today.

There were 2,780 models in the contest, and the quality was very high across all categories. For example, I judged one category that had only 15 entries, but each one was outstanding, requiring us to study them for nearly 90 minutes in an effort to make the best decision we could. Entries in the automotive and ship categories seemed to be off from prior years, but that was just my impression and a solid number could easily debunk it. There appeared to be a ton of small scale armor, and I'm happy to report that their 1/35 siblings generally didn't feature the heavily modulated and weathered finishes that seem to be all the rage online and in print.

As usual a number of the models in the contest will be the most memorable for me years from now. Here are the dozen or so that stood out. Some placed in their respective categories while others will go back to the shelf with only the unofficial admiration of the contest attendees, which is sufficient.

My favorite model in the contest was this 1/72 PB4Y Liberator. Anyone who can make a Matchbox look this good is a superhero in my book. I don't think it placed, probably due to some minor nitpick that we judges obsess over, but it was one of the best examples of modeling among the kit-based entries.

You can imagine my devastation when I realized my humble P-51D found itself in the same category as this 1/72 TBD Devastator. It was beautifully built, the modeler folding the wings, and weathered. It won first place in its category.

Also among the 1/72 aircraft was this little Zero, whose finish was possibly the best among the models in any scale.

Painting and weathering 1/144 aircraft is a skill that few modelers possess, but the modeler behind this C-47 can work magic with paint and an airbrush. It was perfectly finished, and a better photographer could easily pass it off as a 1/48 model.

It's one thing to apply a natural metal finish, but distressing the aircraft skin and realistically weathering it is a skill above and beyond. This 1/48 Ki-84 was a standout among the many 1/48 single-engine categories.

Remember vacuform kits? Well it seems that some modelers are gluttons for punishment and still build them! Crazy, I know, but thank god they do. This Formaplane 1/72 Boeing Model 215 YB-9 bomber was built extremely well, and the end result is a very attractive, if not unusual, aircraft.

This Pzkpfw II caught my attention among the armor categories. Nicely painted with subtle weathering that allowed the model to shine.

My friend Mark Muller scratchbuilt this 1/35 Crossley fire tender. The only kit parts he used were the tires from a Churchill Crocodile. Mark is an impeccable modeler bordering on perfectionism, and it was great to see something new from his workbench. I was surprised that it didn't win Best Armor.

Maybe it's because I'll never be able to afford the real thing, but I've come to have a strong affinity for Ferrari cars. This 250 GTO was a stunner.

Here's the car which I believe won Best Automotive, a Model Factory Hiro 1/24 Porsche 917/30. The detail incorporated into the chassis and engine was unbelievable.

This Trumpeter 1/350 Jeremiah O'Brien caught my attention in one of the ship categories. Nicely painted and weathered.

My final favorite from the contest was this scratchbuilt 1/72 AeroVironment Helios HP01, which you may know holds the world altitude record of 96,863 feet. The modeler wrote on the entry form: "The main structure is music wire, tube, and 145 PE ribs. Upper wing surface is vacuform, "fuselage" pods and engine nacelles are resin castings. Custom decals from Red Pegasus." The unique subject matter alone makes it memorable, but it was perfectly executed from a scale modeling perspective featuring the prominent curvature of the long wing. From what I understand it's headed to The Children's Museum of Indianapolis for display, so if you're ever in town you can stop by and see it. I've long believed that having one of your models on permanent display at a museum is, to my mind, the ultimate sign of success as a modeler.

A big thank you to everyone who entered. Your willingness to bring your models to a contest is what makes it a success! If you didn't enter any models, you should next time.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Don't be that other guy

A few years ago I begged you not to be "that guy" at contests and conventions. My observations resonated with many of you, and one prominent forum webmaster even deleted a discussion I started because my article was in his words, "mean spirited." Well, as far as I'm concerned attending the Nats with body odor is mean spirited, but whatever.

With the 2015 IPMS National Convention this week I'd like to continue a little rabble-rousing by introducing you to "that other guy," whom you've probably met over the last year.

1. The whiner - If you don't win, don't whine about it like a five year-old child. Having judged many contests I can assure you that the judges have done their best to be fair. If you didn't win it's probably for one of two reasons. Suck it up and move on. Likewise, if you're not happy with the convention facility or arrangements, shake it off. Know that the men and women who've been planning the convention for the last two years have worked their butts off to give you a great experience. If something doesn't go according to plan, they'll be more disappointed than you.

2. The joker - Don't be that guy who shouts out jokes during the awards banquet. There are some genuinely funny guys in our hobby, so if you're going to put yourself out there, your little quip better bring the house down.

3. The inconsiderate ass - Have you ever been walking into the contest hall carrying your latest masterpiece when the guy in front of you doesn't hold the door open? Don't be that guy. Look around and be aware of who's nearby and hold the door for them. Likewise, when you're in the contest and vendors room, don't hold lengthy conversations that impede the flow of viewers and shoppers.

4. The farter - Need I say more?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Why the large stash?

This month’s topic from the shop steward at The SprueCutter’s Union is why we have large stashes of unbuilt kits.

Here’s the thing. I don’t think anyone enters the hobby with the intention of having a large collection of unbuilt kits. I’ve never met anyone who, at the time, owned 25 kits and told me, “I plan to have 500 kits some day.” No, it just happens.

I had the beginnings of a stash when I was 16 years old, when my unbuilt kits could no longer be stored in a suitcase under the bed. There was that momentous day when my latest acquisition wouldn’t fit inside with the others, and that was when I started having a “stash,” and it’s been growing ever since.

I haven’t counted my unbuilt models recently, but there are more than I care to admit. Suffice to say, I didn’t indend for it to get this large; it simply grew one model at a time, each purchased for one of three reasons:

  • It was a new release that I had to have
  • It was on sale
  • It was a bargain

We all know the appeal of a new release of a favorite plane, tank, ship, or car, particularly one you’ve been waiting for for years. When Trumpeter released their first T-64, I had it within weeks. Have I built it yet? No. In our excitement we forget, as Jon at The Combat Workshop suggested, that we’ll be able to buy that kit anytime in the future. Few models are “rare” these days.

I’m a sucker for a good sale. I always find Squadron’s Black Friday sale irresistible, and Rare-Plane Detective’s half-off sale on the final day of the IPMS Nats always entices me to buy a model or two.

And then there’s the bargain, that $25 kit you find for just $5. You probably would not have bought the model at retail, but the deep discount leaves you powerless. I wrote about this a couple of years ago, buying a Hasegawa 1/72 F-16 for $5 despite the fact that I already had six in the stash.

I've purchased every model with good intentions, and I can point to each one and tell you how I intend to build it and which markings I plan to apply to it. I want to build every model in my stash…even though my basic math skills tell me there’s no way I’ll ever build them all, at least not at my current rate.

I’ll talk about where that leaves me in a future post.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The power of a partnership

Our hobby is full of entrepreneurs, collectively known as the cottage industry. Usually they’re hobbyists like you and me who have a good idea and the gumption to invest the time and money required to bring it to market. While it’s easy to create a business but a challenge to make it successful. We’ve seen a number of hobbyists create promising little enterprises only to watch them fizzle, usually with great disappointment from those who were eager to buy their products.

An intelligent entrepreneur knows when to pursue a partnership. One person has a great idea and the other has the means to market it. That’s just what happened when Aaron Rhodes photographed the helicopters of the 4th Battalion of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) at Ft. Lewis, Washington with the intention of assembling a CD of walkaround photos of the unit's aircraft. He started a conversation about the idea in a discussion on the Aircraft Resource Center, where it was well received by fellow enthusiasts.

The discussion caught the attention of Floyd Werner, proprietor of Werner’s Wings, a cottage industry company that specializes in rotor wing conversions and accessories. “Aaron's pictures were awesome,” he said. "He wanted to put together a CD, but the battalion flies only the MH-47G and the MH-60M.” Floyd's friend Aaron Drake stepped in with an offer to expand the coverage of the CD to include other aircraft operated by the 160th — the AH-6M, MH-6M, and the MH-60 DAP — at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.

“Aaron Rhodes accepted the proposal, and the Aaron Drake coordinated access to the 160th's aircraft at Ft. Campbell through the Public Affairs Officer. I asked what the plan was to distribute the CD,” Floyd said. "He said that he and Aaron hadn't thought that far ahead, so I proposed that Werner’s Wings do it.”

That partnership became the key what is shaping up to be a successful product, which is now bigger and better than first envisioned. Aaron knew the limits of his interest in the project, realizing he didn’t want to manage the distribution of a CD, which would consume a great deal of time. Werner's Wings is a known presence in the hobby. Why not work together?

With a plan now in place, Floyd caught up with Aaron Drake at Ft. Campbell where they shot more than 2,000 photos walkaround photos of the aircraft there. "We were granted access to all the aircraft. They were even nice enough to set them up as they would be for a downrange mission,” Aaron said. Their access to the Night Stalkers was unprecedented. “They allowed us to shoot just about anything we wanted. The only thing they didn’t want us to shoot was the instrument panels," though edited photos may be available, with sensitive areas obscured. Anyone remember the F-4G photos in Detail & Scale's book back in the 1980s?

With so many high quality photos Floyd is considering publishing a book rather than the CD. And the team is not done yet. Floyd is planning a visit the 3rd Battalion in Savannah, GA to photograph their aircraft. "Each unit configures their aircraft differently as per their geographic location,” he told me. And if that’s not enough, Aaron Rhodes has a photo shoot in August with the 4th Battalion. Adding those two battalions to the CD (or book) will provide complete coverage of the 160th’s aircraft for modelers interested in these unique aircraft.

While photographing an MH-6M, Floyd, who was a Production Control Officer in 1980, was reminded how small the aviation community can be. A soldier approached Floyd's escort and asked if that was Mr. Werner. Turns out the Master Sergeant was a private 15 years ago and recognized Floyd. “I figured out I was old,” he joked. "He’s going to Ft. Stewart to be a First Sergeant. I was also able to talk to some guys who were there the day my friend Major Matt Worrell died, and they were able to fill me in on the circumstances behind his death. That made the trip worth the time and effort.”

Editor’s note: Major Worrell was killed during during combat operations in 2006 in Yusifiyah, Iraq and posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star.

Floyd and the two Aarons are going to donate $5 of each DVD sold to the Night Stalker Association and an additional $5 donation to the Special Forces Association.

Keep an eye on the Werner’s Wings web site and follow them on Facebook for an announcement when the CD or book is ready. In the meantime be sure to stop by their table at the IPMS National Convention later this month.