Thursday, December 29, 2016

My disappointing year

Every December Hyperscale readers post photos of the models they built throughout the year, but while many modelers are enjoying the fruits of their 2016 efforts, my look back is leaving me dejected. I had a terrible year. Not only was my output low, but the quality of what I finished was below my expectations.

I like to think that my skills are growing from year to year, but if 2016 is any indication, my skills are declining. It began with my build of the Airfix 1/72 P-40, a project that was originally conceived as being a super-detailed build, complete with cockpit, engine, and open ammunition bays. The model quickly went south when I struggled to find a way to properly mount CMK’s resin engine to the fuselage, and I had to scrap the kit and buy a new one. And I struggled through it as well.

I also fought Hobby Boss’s 1/72 Rafale M to its mediocre end. Like the P-40, I had to buy a second kit after I screwed the pooch on the first one, and the final result does not reflect my best work.

(You can read more about both models here.)

I’ve had issues with my most recent build as well, Academy’s 1/72 F-16C. I didn't properly address a seam in the intake, which now looks horrible, and I failed to anticipate the consequences of attaching the ventral strakes prior to applying the complex Thunderbirds decals to the lower fuselage. When I tried to apply the aft-most decal, it wouldn’t fit around the strakes and  after trying to cut it and slice it to make it fit  I had to discard it.

Last but not least was another ill-fated attempt at armor. I started Trumpeter’s Pz.Kpfw 38(t) with optimism, but as you can see in the picture below the final application of pigments resulted in a total mess. My hat's off to those of you who’ve mastered the use of these media, but I’ve decided to go back to techniques that I’m comfortable with and refine my own style rather than copy the style of others.

As I look at what went wrong with these models I think it all comes back to planning. I need to better visualize every model’s assembly and the consequences to its painting and weathering. 2017 has to be better.

Friday, December 16, 2016

How to promote your contest

I often see folks post to the forums advertising upcoming model contests, but their promos often fall short of being completely effective. If you're talking about an upcoming contest, your goal is to entice people to attend, so you need to make it as easy as possible for prospective attendees to:

1. See that you’re promoting a contest.
2. Quickly determine if the contest is close to them.
3. Learn where specifically the contest will be held.
4. Learn more about the contest, vendors, and related events.

Here are a few suggestions.

First, always include the following items in the subject line of the discussion thread:

  • The name of the contest
  • The contest date
  • The contest state *

* This is a US-centric suggestion, so those of you in another country should find a suitable reference point.

In the body of the message repeat the above items and include the following:

  • The complete address of the contest
  • Directions (not everyone uses GPS)
  • A link to the contest web site
  • Contact person and his phone/email

You should also use the opportunity to mention anything that might further entice modelers to attend. For example:

This year’s theme is Eggplanes Weathered in the Spanish Style!

25 vendors will be attending, and they’ve all promised not to sell mold-covered models.

Master modeler John Smith will give a demonstration on how to paint your armor so that is looks like everyone else's.

Last year’s contest included more than 300 models (although 15 were dusty as hell).

Registration is only $5 for 5 models.

My long-time readers know I’m a big proponent of contests. Contests should be the heart of the hobby, so don’t neglect the importance of fully promoting yours.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Where does the time go?

As I left work last Wednesday I was filled with enthusiasm. A four-day weekend was directly in front of me with the promise of copious free time to spend in the workshop. True, there was Thanksgiving, but unlike prior years, this year I was cooking only for my fiancée. I anticipated making great progress on my Thunderbirds F-16, applying a final coat of white paint, painting the exhaust and the black areas around the cockpit, and laying down a coat of Future for the decals. I also planned to start a new piece of armor so that I could continue trying all these newfangled weathering media and refine the techniques used to apply them. How exciting!

Alas, it was not meant to be.

Here I am, the day after this promising weekend, and I think I spent not more than five or six hours at the workbench. I didn’t touch the F-16, so it’s at least three or four days behind schedule. I did pull an old Tamiya Stug III from the stash and begin assembling it, and truth be told, made decent progress due in large part to my not detailing the model. But all those road wheels sucked at least 60-90 minutes of my time to clean up.

This feeling of frustration, this inability to make the time to build, is not unique to holiday weekends. It happens all too often. I could argue that it shouldn't be a big deal, that I should spend time at the bench only when I’m truly motivated, but when I look at my stash of unbuilt models the reality hits me that I’m unlikely to build them all, and that leaves me feeling dejected.

As I get older I’m exploring ways to re-frame my enjoyment of the hobby. Last year I offered five ideas to increase your modeling output and suggested that you paint cockpits black. But even with changes like that, I suspect we’re all left with the harsh reality that there’s simply not enough time to do everything we want. I think my challenge — and maybe yours, too — is to find satisfaction in whatever it is we are able to build and finish. There’s happiness in building five models as much as there is in building 10, or 50, or 100.

I just have to convince myself of that.

P.S. I have to admit that the weekend wasn’t a complete waste. I spent quality time with my fiancée, cooked four great meals (such as the butternut squash and kale risotto pictured below), enjoyed a number of good wines, watched a good horror movie and a few episodes of Shameless, and spent time with family. And those are good things.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Movie review: Toward the Unknown

I’d never had much interest in USAF aircraft of the 1950s. I grew up during the Cold War, so I’ve always had an affinity for the aircraft that flew during the 1970s and 80s. Then I visited the National Museum of the United States Air Force in 2015 and really studied these old aircraft up close, and I was hooked. There’s something intriguing about the raw functionality of those aircraft, their almost primitive nature (that is, primitive compared to an F-22, not a Wright Flyer).

You’re probably familiar with the aviation-themed movies from the 1950s. Strategic Air Command is probably the most famous and has received a good deal of buzz over the last couple of months with its release on DVD, but another notable movie is Toward the Unknown, starring William Holden and Lloyd Nolan. The movie was based on a novel by Beirne Lay, who went on to write the screenplay for another aviation movie, Above and Beyond, as well as Strategic Air Command.

Movies like this don’t have much of a plot. This one sees a broken fighter pilot make his return to the air at Edward AFB’s Flight Test Center thanks to the support of an old flame. Pretty boring stuff. Movies like this are worth your time just for the flying footage. If the B-36 and B-47 were the stars of Strategic Air Command, the weird and unusual XB-51 (dubbed the XF-120 for the film) is the star of this one. It’s a huge, ungainly aircraft — one that we almost never see or talk about — so watching it climb and dive is a real treat for enthusiasts like us. You’ll also see the F-100 and F-102 in flying sequences, and too many 50s era aircraft on the Edwards flightline to count.

It’s interesting to note that only two XB-51s were manufactured, and one crashed on its way to Eglin AFB for filming of the movie.

Check out the Turner Classic Movies web site for future airings of the movie. DVR the movie and fast-forward through the non-flying segments.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Dustbin walkaround

Last month Replikant Technologies announced a new product, a 1/35 scale dustbin. This is another welcome addition to a growing trend in the hobby where we're seeing more and more diorama accessories. Miniart in particular has been producing some great products (you may recall my having fun at their expense last month), so it's good to see the cottage industry jumping on the bandwagon, too, enabled in large part by the growing availability of 3D printing technology.

Knowing how obsessive many of you can be in adding maximum detail to your models, I thought you might find it helpful if you had a thorough walkaround of an actual dustbin. I thought about offering these photos to Prime Portal, my favorite site for walkarounds, but since they don’t have a section for household items, I’ll just share them here.

Here's the first side of the bin. Note the dirt stains at the bottom where I "kick" the bin to tilt it over and pull it around. Also notice the wear on the plastic wheels.

Here's the left side of the bin. The Replikant item doesn't have the Toter Incorporated logo, so we can only hope that Eduard produced a photoetch set that includes it.

The front of the bin, which receives the most abuse when the sanitation engineers lift it and empty it into the garbage truck. The manufacturer's logo appears here as well.

The right side of the bin, again featuring the manufacturer's logo.

The bin lid, which features usage information and warnings, the latter I assume mandated by the government. These would be too small to read in 1/35 scale.

The underside of the lid. Notice how little wear and tear it receives, save for the edges.

The inside of the bin. My bin is used only for household trash, always bagged, so it's in relatively good shape, even after 15 years use. Be sure to put a few leaves in yours to add a degree of authenticity!

A detailed view of the lid's hinge mechanism. Note the use of rivets and not screws to join the two assemblies.

The underside of the bin, which as you might image receives the most abuse. A few strokes of a course grit sandpaper on Replikant's model should represent this wear quite accurately.

So there you have it. Scale Model Soup's first walkaround! I hope you find it useful.

Next month I’ll feature a walkaround of this milk jar to help you with Miniart’s 1/35 “Wooden Barrels & Village Utensils” set.

Be sure to check out Replikant's web site. They have some really cool products, most which don't require a bogus walkaround.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Book review: B-25 Mitchell in Civil Service

I’ve had an affinity for the B-25 going way back to my teenage years. One of the first models I built was Monogram’s B-25, and a few years later I found that an airworthy B-25 was occasionally tied down at a nearby airport. Then in 1985 I got a flight in a B-25 at (if I recall correctly) Sun ’n Fun, the big Central Florida airshow. Today I have two Hasegawa B-25s in the stash, as well as a Minicraft 1/144 kit, and I’ve been patiently looking for the HK Models 1/32 kit for the right price.

A few weeks ago while browsing the Warbird Information Exchange forums I found a promotional link to Aero Vintage books, where Scott Thompson’s book B-25 Mitchell in Civil Service is offered at a discounted price of just $10. It’s rare these days to find a true bargain, so with a couple of clicks and a short one-week wait and the book was in my hands.

And it’s a very nice book. As you know, in the downsizing that followed World War Two thousands of aircraft were scrapped or sold, and this book traces the path of many of the B-25s that wound up in civilian ownership. Chapters focus on executive and research use of the B-25 (a role in which the B-25 served in the USAF for many years after the war), air tankers and agricultural sprayers, and conversions for use by Hollywood for air-to-air filming and photography. The history of the B-25’s post-war usage is accompanied by dozens of fascinating photographs showing the B-25 in a myriad of civilian markings and, sadly, disrepair.

Interjected throughout the book are fascinating stories about several pilots who flew the B-25, such as one who flew avionics test flights for Bendix, an air tanker pilot, two who flew B-25s for movies, and another who restored the B-25 that I flew in as a teenager, 44-31508/N6578D. (On a side note, that aircraft is now in Australia, having been purchased by Reevers Warbird Roundup. It’s in restoration and will be unveiled in April 2017. Warbird News wrote about its acquisition.)

The books wraps up with a substantial history of individual B-25s.

If you’re a fan of the B-25 you’ll appreciate the history of industrious engineers and pilots who extended the life of the aircraft well into the 1960s, and beyond if you consider the 25-30 B-25s that are airworthy today. (Someone let me know if that count is inaccurate.)

Friday, October 14, 2016

More eBay insanity

A few months ago I wrote about some of the silly postings I’d seen on eBay, and needless to say the insanity continues. I don’t expect it to stop, which gives us another opportunity to enjoy and laugh at some of the crap people try to sell on eBay and via other venues. Enjoy!

This Testors F4U Corsair was described as “parts only…as is,” and “nice.” I think a more accurate description would’ve been “Testors F4U Corsair, nothing but sprues.” At least the Buy It Now was only $2.00, which buys you a good bit of sprue to stretch.

This “rare” Dragon 1/35 Shilka was offered on one of the buy/sell forums for $38 earlier this year. Nevermind that a.) there were five kits just like it on eBay at lower prices, b.) the last kit like this one to sell on eBay went for $22, and c.) there were two new-tool kits in the pipeline at the time.

If a decal sheet can be considered “rare,” the Two Bobs F-14A Splintered Tomcat sheet would qualify. An eBay seller listed this one at a Buy It Now price of $70. I could admire this capitalist for being optimistic, but see that he’d had it listed at that price for more than eight months makes me think otherwise. If your high-priced item hasn’t sold in, I don't know, six months, it just might be overpriced.

Described as having been acquired from a police locker, the seller of this “Vintage Model Kit panzer Kampfwagen ll Ausf F/G” priced at $109.99, should be arrested for price gauging.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

MiniArt’s new crockery and glass set

MiniArt just announced a new kit that will be of great interest to armor and diorama modelers, so in anticipation of its release I thought I’d look ahead and anticipate the questions and comments that will surely be made on the forums. Enjoy!

  • Can anyone tell me if Europeans in 1940s drank their coffee with or without milk? Did it vary by country? I need to know how light or dark to paint the coffee.
  • Wrong scale.
  • Which Alclad color should I use for the coffee pot?
  • Can I use the beer mug for a diorama set in Vietnam?
  • Can someone recommend the best paint to use for the green teapot?
  • Squadron is showing this as out of stock.
  • The deer emblem on the porcelain mug looks wrong. The rear of the deer looks a little too rounded compared to pictures I’ve studied.
  • How about a 1/35 T-34/100?
  • The whiskey decanter is completely misshapen. It’s a caricature of the real thing.
  • How can I represent the steam that’s rising from hot coffee?

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Inspiration: Francois Verlinden

I’ve met many excellent modelers in my 30 years in the hobby and seen the work of hundreds online and in print, but there are a handful that have truly inspired me, whose techniques, craftsmanship, or approach to the hobby shaped the modeler I am today. This is another installment in a series of articles to acknowledge their contributions.

You’ve probably heard about Francois Verlinden’s retirement by now. A few weeks ago photos were posted to Facebook showing the closure of his warehouse outside St. Louis. It’s a sad time for the hobby, but we have much to be thankful for given Verlinden’s presence in the hobby.

When I started building plastic models I focused solely on aircraft, but an early mentor introduced me to armor, sometime around 1983 I think. At the same time he introduced me to Francois Verlinden’s work just when his business was taking off. My mentor had incorporated some of Verlinden’s techniques into his own armor modeling, and I dutifully followed his lead by doing the same. All these years later I can credit my mentor and Verlinden for my interest in armor, even if the techniques we use today have significantly changed over the years.

I saw Verlinden do a presentation at the 1984 IPMS National Convention, which I recall was simply a slide show of his work, but what we saw was inspiring at the time. He painted and weathered armor with much more contrast than we’d ever seen before and the results were stunning. In the years that followed I bought some of his books — those about modeling techniques as well as the Lock-On series featuring what we might today refer to as “walkarounds” — and several issues of Verlinden Productions Modeling Magazine. They made me a better modeler.

Several years later I was driving through Missouri and had time to stop at VLS’s headquarters and see Verlinden’s models in person (as well as Bob Letterman’s dioramas). I have to admit that their work didn’t look quite as good in person as it did in photographs, but the ambition of their efforts was a point of inspiration. I don’t think it’s a surprise that many modelers today are drawn to big, expansive dioramas, in part due to Verlinden and Letterman’s early work.

Verlinden’s products, while not always the easiest to build, set a standard for the products that we now enjoy from the aftermarket industry. His company produced products for armor, aircraft, and figure modelers. Other modelers and entrepreneurs with good product ideas followed Verlinden’s lead. I’m sure many of you still have a Verlinden conversion or detail set in your stash.

It’s unfortunate that the Verlinden brand didn’t continue beyond its founder’s retirement, but his presence in the hobby laid a foundation that many others built upon.

Read more about other inspiring modelers.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Two models that almost broke my spirit

Scale modeling brings me great joy…and moments of intense frustration. I’m sure you’ve had these mixed emotions, too. The hobby should be about relaxation, but some models seem to fight you through the entire process of building and painting them, and that was exactly my experience with my last two – yes, two – models.

Airfix 1/72 P-40

I planned my build of Airfix’s 1/72 P-40B with great optimism. My experience with their 1/72 P-51D confirmed the reports I’d read about the manufacturer’s attention to engineering, so I anticipated the same experience with their Hawk. I hadn’t super detailed a model for a long time, so I bought CMK’s Allison resin engine, replacement spinner and prop, and exhaust stacks, as well as Dana Bell’s excellent book to show me all the great detail that I needed to add.

The final product and what remains of my first, scrapped effort.
My project went to crap as soon as I removed the engine panels as recommended in CMK’s instructions, and it continued to go south as I tried to determine how the resin parts of the engine should be assembled. Once those panels were removed the front half of the fuselage lost all structural integrity, and it was clear to me as I taped the major pieces together and joined the fuselage to the wings that none of it was going to fit. And as I tried to visualize how to install the engine into the fuselage it was clear to me I was in over my head.

I should be honest and forthright and admit that I’m more of an artist than an engineer, but I like to think that with a little time and concentration I can surmount most of the engineering challenges that a model can throw at me. But not this time.

I eventually scrapped the model, after having done a good bit of detailing in the cockpit and cutting open the cargo hatch on the port side of the fuselage, and purchased a new kit via Amazon. I began the replacement with lowered expectations, but even it didn’t work out so well. I opened that same cargo hatch and detailed the interior of the fuselage only to discover that the opening was too large. I tried to fix it but the results were shabby. I finally filled the opening, sanded it smooth, and rescribed the panel lines.

I ultimately finished the model, although even in its final moments I encountered further issues. When I attached the landing gear the airplane seemed to sit a bit too nose-high, so I pull them out, cut them down a bit, and re-attached them. The slight change of angle from that minor “improvement” resulted in the pre-flattened tires provided in the Airfix kit from not sitting completely flat. And you’ll notice that I didn’t have the spirit to replace the wing machine guns as I had planned. But hey, it’s done, and it looks halfway decent with Starfighter Decal’s markings and a bit of weathering. Like most of my models, it looks really good…from a distance of 10 feet.

Hobby Boss 1/72 Rafale M

The other hot mess that’s consumed the better part of my time at the workbench this year is Hobby Boss’s Rafale M. Unlike the Airfix Hawk I didn’t set out for it to be a super-detailed model, opting to use only an Eduard Zoom set, so I wasn’t expecting to struggle with it as much as I did. I blame my own lack of foresight as well as Hobby Boss’s poor instructions.

The remains of another failed project.
The engineering of the fuselage is a bit complex with multiple pieces coming together resulting in many seams that need to be addressed, much like most of the F-4 Phantoms on the market. I failed to fill the seam that runs the length of the forward fuselage before I attached the intakes, so cleaning it up would’ve been extremely difficult. And it was only after I’d attached the intakes that I realize the lack of intake trucks meant there was a HUGE void when you look into the intakes. Now I’m not one of those guys who obsesses over intakes, but this was too much.

I also realized too late that you have to install the main landing gear BEFORE you join the upper and lower fuselage halves.  The instructions don’t make that clear, so between this, the labor required to properly address the seams, and the black hole behind the intakes, I decided to scrap the model. Like the Airfix Hawk, I bought a replacement kit and started over. The result was much better the second time around, even if my spirit was slightly broken. The rest of the project went well, and the model looks good if I do say so myself. I like the look of the GBU-24 under the aircraft, but I didn’t have the energy to scratchbuild the targeting pod that’s mounted behind the starboard intake.

So, what can you learn about my experience with these two kits?

Read reviews and WIPs of the model you’re planning to build. A modeler on Brit Modeller who built the Rafale pointed out the issue with the landing gear, but I hadn’t seen it; if I had, the project might have gone a little smoother.

Carefully study the assembly of the model before you start it. Determine where the seams are going to be and how other parts will affect your ability to fill them. Look at the assembly sequence and don’t assume that the model will go together exactly as the last 20 models you build.

Consider removing the major parts of the model from the sprue and temporarily assembling the model to see how it looks.

Finally, don’t hesitate to scrap a model that’s not going well. You could argue that the time you’ve invested in the kit is wasted, but I believe that any time at the workbench is time spent improving your skills. As long as you’re learning from the experience, you’re on a good path.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Scale Model Soup’s aircraft wish list

I really dislike the recurring threads we see on the forums where everyone submits a list of the aircraft, armor, ships, cars they’d like to see in kit form. After two or three pages of these lists the manufacturers — assuming they’re even reading the forums — are left with a list of pretty much...everything! Whenever I see a new thread I think to myself, here we go again.

Well, here we go again!

Being as big a hypocrite as the next guy, I’ve compiled my own list, too. But my list differs from those I've seen online; these are kits I believe would actually sell. As much as I’d like to see a 1/32 Convair B-36 Peacemaker, I doubt that more than 100 modelers would buy one. My list includes models that I would invest my own money to see produced, which implies that I’d see not just a return on my investment but a profit as well.

Two notes on these choices. First, I’m assuming these kits would be new-tool, injection molded kits from a major manufacturer, not short-run or resin kits. I realize that some of these aircraft are already available in kit form, such as the Otaki C-5 Galaxy; where that’s the case, these are models I’d like to see replaced with a better product with more options. And second, I did not list models that (to my knowledge) have been announced for future release, such as a 1/32 F-111A and F-111E, which Tan Model lists on their web site.

So onto the list!

Douglas C-133 Cargomaster
Martin JRM-1 Mars
Boeing B-29/B-50 Superfortress
Martin P5M Marlin
Lockheed C-5 Galaxy
Boeing B-52 Stratofortress series

Lockheed B-2 Spirit
Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot
Grumman F7F Tigercat
Cessna T-37 Tweet
Sikorsky H-53 series (HH-53, MH-53)

Bell AH-1 family
Bell UH-1 family
Bell CV/MV-22 Osprey
Northrop B-2 Spirit
Lockheed U-2 series

Waco CG-4A glider
Martin B-26 Marauder
Lockheed Martin F-22
Lockheed Martin F-35
Lockheed U-2 series

So there you go. I don't doubt that we'll get some or all of these eventually, an increasingly move toward a day when the manufacturers have run out of subjects. In the meantime, where would you invest your money?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Bachelor build

Our hobby tends to be a solitary one, each of us building models alone in our workshops. We come together only for club meetings or contests. When I lived in Ohio my friends and I would occasionally get together to build models, sharing ideas and techniques, or to simply make modeling a social experience. I don’t have any modeler-friends near my today, so it’s great to see other modelers coming together from time to time.

This article by Craig Gregory originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of The Navigator, the monthly newsletter of IPMS/USA Alamo Squadron. My thanks to its editor, Len Pilhofer, for allowing me to share it with you.

On Saturday, July 9th and Sunday, July 10th I hosted a bachelor build weekend at my house; as my wife was visiting the East Coast with her relatives from China. There were three of us on Saturday; one started a new tank project, another a new aircraft build, while I continued working on an aircraft and a starship projects. I also BBQ hamburgers, while others brought the associated sides.

I joined Alamo Squadron for two reasons: to learn and improve my plastic modeling skills, the other to meet people. I had built a few models after college, but I had no mentors. I did not know about seam repair or how to mask canopies; my work did not meet my expectations. I still continued to grow my stash waiting for that day I would build models again. In 2013, we moved to San Antonio, I decided that this might be the time to start anew with plastic modeling. I was also new to San Antonio and wanted to meet other like-minded people (well like plastic modeling at least.)

I am of the opinion that meeting once a month for a club meeting is not enough. I am always looking for other ways to learn more about our hobby and meet others. Hosting the bachelor build weekend accomplished both goals. There is no better way to learn than to see it happen; and then to do it yourself. And no better activity that to share with others.

What did I learn? I learned that a tank has a hell of a lot more parts that a typical aircraft kit.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Scale modeling and the Olympics

Two years ago I gave you three compelling reasons why you should enter contests, and watching the Olympics has reinforced my belief. And keep in mind, I am NOT a competitive person by nature, so it’s a struggle for me to practice what I preach.

This video has been making the rounds on social media even though the Southeast Asian Games were held a year ago. These divers are terrible, but notice how they congratulate each other after their dives and are all smiles nonetheless.

I have to assume they knew they wouldn’t be competitive before they left for the Games...yet they competed anyway. They understand the value of competition even when they knew they’re unlikely to win due to their country’s diving program being underfunded. Here’s what these divers know that many of us scale modelers need to learn: Win or lose, we get to do what we love, whether it’s diving or building a scale model.

Okay, I know it’s a precarious analogy, but a passion is a passion.

JD Pahoyo, one of the divers in the video, wrote this on Facebook after the event: “It was a nice experience. Great crowd, great people.” And later he wrote, “We overcame what we once knew was our limit, and that makes us a champion."

That spirit should guide you as you consider whether to enter local or regional contests, or the Nats.

Maybe you’ve followed Ryan Lochte's quest for gold and his friendly competition with teammate Michael Phelps. After he placed 5th in the 200-meter individual medley he spoke about how he’s always tried to keep swimming fun, which for him is a driving factor in his participation in the sport. Despite his poor finish, he said, "I can’t say that it’s over.” Even that swimming machine Michael Phelps, after coming in second place, was content to say, “That’s what I could do today," which I could say about many of the models that I build.

Finally, maybe you saw Kariman Abuljadayel, the first Saudi American woman to compete in the 100m sprint. She came in 7th in the preliminary heat but was all smiles afterward. The moment wasn’t about whether she would win; it was about her participation in the race.

As you watch the remaining week of the Olympics, watch how the competitors handle defeat. They do it with grace despite the disappointment, as deep and profound as it may be. For us scale modelers, the most compelling reason to enter contests is simply to share your models with others. As my friend Gil Hodges wrote in a discussion on the IPMS forums:

"I also take time to point out that everyone who competed is a winner! They came, they competed, and they successfully showed off their work. I ask them: 'What models here inspired you today?' I then point out that those inspiring models might not even take home an award that day; and that a model of theirs that didn't place might have inspired someone else that day!"

Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Report on the 2016 virtual convention

The 2016 Virtual Convention is history. It wasn’t as well attended as I’d hoped, but I’m happy to have offered an alternative to those who couldn’t attend the IPMS Convention in Columbia.

I started my dat at 9 a.m. and spent the better part of the morning putting the finishing touches on two models that came close to breaking me down, an Airfix 1/72 P-40B and Hobby Boss 1/72 Rafale. (More on those models in an upcoming article.) I had intended to finish them earlier in the week so I could spend the entire day on something new, but as I’m slowly (too slowly) learning in my middle-age years, everything seems to take longer than I anticipate.

On of my recommendations to those of you who couldn’t attend the Nats was to pick up the phone and talk to a friend, so before I left for lunch I spoke with my friend David. He’s one of my oldest friends, and a conversation with him always reminds me of the enthusiasm we had for the hobby as teenagers. Then I was off for lunch, a quick roast beef sandwich at Roy Rogers.

Back at home I finally started my next project, an Academy 1/72 F-16. I did some research on the kit over the last week and have been studying high-resolution photos of the team’s aircraft, so I’m ready to begin. I didn’t get very far, but I’m a slow modeler by nature, and I find that I need to take my time to avoid making mistakes.

I spoke on the phone briefly with my friend Graham, who was also participating in the virtual convention. We share many of the same interests and approaches to the hobby, so it’s always a pleasure to get his take on what’s happening in the hobby.

By 6 pm I was done for the day. My fiancee and I went to dinner and then to the movies to see Star Trek Beyond.

Here’s a glimpse into what other Scale Model Soup readers did….

My friend Graham spent time doing what all armor modelers hate, assembling track. At the very least it’s a task that can be done while watching television. He also primed a Whippet.

Pedro Negron sent me photos of a couple of models he recently completed. The first is an impressive Takom 1/16 FT-17 Renault. He tells me the kit is mostly out-of-the-box, replacing only the gun barrels and springs. He painted it with Ammo colors and and pigments, as well as Tamiya and Windsor & Newton oils. You can see Pedro’s full build here.

Pedro also sent me photos of his Tamiya 1/35 M4A3 105mm Sherman.

After chopping the top and applying Red Bull promotional paint scheme to a ’53 Chevy, Peter Johnson spent time over the weekend applying additional coats of clear to the model and then sanding and polishing.

Peter’s other project for the weekend was this Ford Focus. Peter tells us that he’s painted it five times (been there, done that!) after a series of mistakes and flawed application of either paint or decals. Peter, if you hire a priest for that exorcism, let me know; I may have an exorcism to perform in my workshop as well.

Mark Deliduka was our most prolific participant. From our thread on the IPMS forum it appears he worked on at least a half dozen models, so I can only assume he was awake for 72 hours. I’m impressed by the work that’s going into his B-377, and his Vomag 7 bus has a striking paint scheme.

An early mentor of mine sent me photos of his recent build, an Airfix 1/72 Dominie that he purchases for just one dollar. Why so cheap? It was missing the engines. Always the industrialist, Joe cut down a couple of spare wing tanks and used them as replacements. I'm not surprised. This is the same man who scratchbuild a Spitfire wing using a deck of playing cards.

All in all, it was great to allocate the entire day to the hobby, and that is the biggest lesson for me, which was echoed by Graham as well. We realized that we usually get only an hour or two here and there to work on models during our busy lives, so it’s rare to have a solid four, six, or eight hours at the workbench.

Looking forward, maybe the virtual convention isn’t something that happens once a year. Maybe it’s something we’ll organize two or three times a year. It could be less of a virtual convention and more a virtual buildathon. We’ll have to give more thought to the idea and look to expand it beyond IPMS circles. My primary goal with Scale Model Soup has always been to stoke enthusiasm for the hobby, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than to get dozens or hundreds of modelers to spend an entire day building models together, even if virtually.

My thanks to others who participated in this virtual convention.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Let the virtual convention begin!

My plans for our virtual convention are set. Unfortunately it won't be as grand as I had planned, but I'm excited about the weekend nonetheless. I was intending to take a vacation day tomorrow (Friday) so I could spend a solid two days at the workbench, but I’ve decided to save the time time for an upcoming family vacation instead. I suspect most of you are in the same boat, being able to commit only Saturday to the virtual convention, and that’s okay. The goal isn't necessarily to spend four days on the hobby, but to commit a little more time than usual as compensation for not attending the IPMS Nats in person.

Here’s what I have planned.

As luck would have it, just today I received a small order of photoetch and canopy masks from Hannants, so that feels good; the cool thing is these were items I don't think I would've found at the Nats! And two days ago I placed an order for the new Valom F-101A and a number of decal sheets from a favorite eBay vendor, which I expect to arrive tomorrow.

Last night I spoke with one of my best friends, chatting a good deal about models, and earlier today I talked to another good friend and early mentor who always increases my enthusiasm for the hobby. I expect to talk to a few more modelers over the next two days.

I plan to spend a couple of hours at the workbench tonight and tomorrow with the intention of wrapping up two models, which ironically could have been done in time for the Nats. Alas…. With those off the bench I’m going to start two new projects on Saturday, the PzKpfw 38(t) and F-16 you see above.

My fiancée knows that I’m committed to being at the workbench all day Saturday, so she’s made plans to spend the day at the mall. We’ll have dinner together after the virtual convention Saturday night (as we would have had we gone to Columbia), and then she's taking me to see the new Star Trek movie.

I may sneak in a war movie or documentary if I get a chance, even if it's running in the background while I perform some tedious task on the tank or jet. Amazon Prime subscribers have a large number of movies they can stream, and if you’re a Netflix subscriber use these links to see a list of the military-related movies on the service.

All military action and adventure movies
Military television shows
Military documentaries

So there you have it. That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it! Don’t forget to let me know what you're up to this weekend. I hope you're able to spend time deep in the hobby, too.

P.S. I’ll be checking IPMS’s gallery from the actual IPMS Nats from time to time, and yes, wishing I were there.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

So you’re heading to Columbia?

While some of us will be enjoying a virtual convention this weekend, many of you will be heading to Columbia, South Carolina to enjoy the IPMS-USA 2016 National Convention in person. I’ve written a lot about the Nats experience over the years, so in an effort to drive the excitement that already surrounds the show, here's a collection of links to those articles.

I hear the convention team is using new software this year, so give 'em a break if you find yourself in a slow-moving registration line.

If you're a first-time attendee, I offer some ideas for you.

You should enter the contest. Really, I mean it. I offer three reasons why and I bust the biggest myth there is about contests.

If you choose to enter the contest, here’s some advice.

Here’s more advice for your time in the vendors room.

If you’re a vendor, I have suggestions for you, too.

Don’t be that guy. Or that other guy. Please!

So there you go. Send me a photo of your favorite model in the contest, and I’ll compile an after-action report for the Soup. We're always eager to see the great models that capture your attention.

Enjoy the show! You lucky blokes.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A virtual convention if you can't attend the Nats

The IPMS-USA National Convention is two weeks away, and I'm not going. That makes me a sad panda. It’s the first time in five years that I haven’t been able to attend. The convention has always been a highlight of the year, and I come away from the show with a renewed passion for our hobby. In a perfect world I’d attend the convention and then take the following four weeks off to take advantage of that enthusiasm to completely immerse myself in models. I’ll have to wait until retirement, I suppose.

But just because I can’t attend that Nats doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy the weekend. And that goes for you, too. A few years ago I offered several suggestions for those who couldn’t attend the Nats, so I’m going to drink my own Kool Aid this year and take my advice.

Here’s my proposal. If you can’t go, let’s celebrate the hobby by participating in a national, virtual convention!

To begin, let’s be clear of the spirit of the weekend. Since you won’t be at the convention itself, your goal is to spend as much time immersed in the hobby as you can. The convention runs Wednesday to Saturday, so ideally you'd take those four days off and spend a solid four days indulging yourself, but that’s probably not realistic for most of us. Maybe Friday and Saturday is an option. Or only Saturday. No matter, but since the convention schedule runs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., you should plan to spend the entire day at our virtual convention.

Now that we’re clear on the goal, here are the specifics.

Prepare for the day by staking claim to the weekend. Take Friday off if you can, either using a vacation day or calling in sick. (Anyone feel a cough coming on?) Let your spouse, significant other, children, non-modeler friends, etc. know that you’re going to spend the day by yourself. You won't be available to mow the lawn, take little Timothy to his soccer game, or fold laundry.

Next decide how you’re going to spend your time. I suggest four ways to make the weekend productive.
  • Spend time with other modelers who aren’t attending the Nats.
  • Visit your LHS and treat yourself to a model or two.
  • Spend the day at the workbench.
  • Watch a favorite movie.
With these ideas in mind, plan your day. For example, if you were going to Columbia you’d probably be browsing the halls of the convention center by 9 a.m., so wake up early, have breakfast, and be at your workbench or headed to the LHS by 10 a.m. Or maybe watch a few episodes of Band of Brothers before painting your Dragon Sherman.

If you’re fortunate to have friends in the area, meet up with them for lunch. If you don’t have anyone nearby, pick up the phone and call a friend. This is a solitary hobby, but when I connect with friends — whether at a convention or one-on-one — it increases my enthusiasm for the hobby.

If you have lunch with friends, hit the LHS with them afterward. Take that $100 you would’ve spent for gas driving to South Carolina and spend it on a new release or two. Yes, I know you can buy those kits cheaper online, but support your LHS since you can't be at the “largest hobby shop in the world."

At the end of the day, if you didn’t see them for lunch, have dinner with your modeling friends. Or take your family to dinner to thank them for the time they’ve given you to attend the virtual convention!

So there you have it. You can enjoy the weekend even if you can’t attend the Nats. I hope you give these ideas a try. Send me your stories and photos, and I’ll post as many as I can in a follow-up article. I'm excited to see how you enjoy the weekend!

This effort is by no means offered as an alternative to actually attending the Nats. There are many compelling reasons to attend in person, as well as to enter the contest. This virtual convention is intended only for those of you who cannot attend the convention itself.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Your first flight

Do you remember your first flight in a small aircraft?

My first time was through an orientation flight as a Civil Air Patrol cadet in the early 1980s. It was amazing, and I knew immediately that I wanted to learn about aircraft and flying. I eventually took flying lessons later in high school thanks to a modest CAP scholarship, and soloed after 13 hours of flying time, one of the top five moments of my life to be sure. Sadly, my lessons stopped soon after that when I found that my $3.60/hour job bagging groceries would be insufficient for the expense of the more time-consuming training and flying that was to follow. I never became an Air Force pilot either, for reasons too complicated to explain right now, but I always take advantage of every opportunity I can to fly, even if it's in the aisle seat of an Airbus A320.

You probably remember your first flight as well, which is why I enjoyed this video so much. The kid's smile is priceless as the plane leaves the ground at the 2:11 point. You can see the magic of the moment, and you know he’ll never forget his first flight either.

By the way, in case you aren't aware of his videos, Mr. Aviation 101 is Josh Flowers, a 20 year-old commercial pilot, flight instructor, and YouTube sensation. He’s an excellent pilot with a rare ability to clearly explain what he’s doing in the cockpit. He's uploaded dozens of videos, each providing an in-depth look into flying that we non-pilots don’t often see. I think you’ll enjoy them. Yet another fun way to waste time away from the workbench!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The challenge of selling low-priced kits

I’ve been reducing the size of my stash over the last few years, four or five models at a time, using the many venues available to us modelers — eBay, discussion forums, and Facebook groups dedicated to selling and trading kits. I'm here to tell you that it ain’t easy.

Many of the models I’m selling aren’t worth much. I recently wrote about how to price pre-owned models, and I assure you I drink my own Kool-Aid. I price my models at what I believe to be a bargain price, and yet I don’t always get buyers.

For example, I recently offered an ICM 1/72 MiG-29 (with a mostly complete Repli-scale decal sheet) and a DML 1/72 Su-24 (with photoetch) in a Facebook group for $7 and $15 respectively. I think those were fair prices, yet no one expressed any interest. To be fair, you could say that both kits are “obsolete,” what with the new Trumpeter kits that have just hit the store shelves for these aircraft, but I know from experience that there is a market for low-priced models. Maybe that Facebook group isn't the place for them.

Or maybe it's the cost of postage. I would've sold the MiG-29 for just $5, but when you add another $6-8 for postage it doesn’t look like much of a bargain anymore.

These kits eventually went onto eBay with starting bids of 99 cents. Both models sold, but at less than my Facebook prices. I really don't mind, because  a dollar in my pocket is of more use to me than a kit in a box that will never be built. Had the kits not sold on eBay, there would likely have come a point where I’ll be happy to take the models to a contest, set the box in a corner with a FREE sign on it, and walk away.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The magic of model making

Today I offer the second contribution in a series here on Scale Model Soup that I call "Other Voices." Lee Carnihan offers a look into what makes scale modeling so engaging to us, looking back to the days when toy soldiers and model railroads held a special intrigue in our young minds. As we mature in the hobby and increasingly take our subjects more seriously, I think it's important to not lose sight of the excitement we felt as children,and to indulge in a bit of nostalgia from time to time to reclaim it.

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From childhood to older age, most men never lose their fascination with models – whether it’s constructing, painting, assembling, or even just looking at them. From showpiece Spitfires to ships in bottles to military battle scenes to miniature cars, we can all connect to the enjoyment, relaxation, and craftsmanship of “playing” with models.

Model miniatures have a way of taking us back to early childhood memories, sparking our interest in history and encouraging us to admire the craft of modelmaking. Take a few minutes to look over the paintwork on a miniature vintage car model and it’s likely to evoke some kind of memory – maybe unwrapping your first toy car or playing with it for hours?

Ok, so we’re not all into cars. Maybe you remember the thrill of opening a new Airfix kit, taking out the grey sheets fitted with intricate parts, and carefully examining (or discarding!) the instructions before starting to build. It’s a pastime that has been passed down from generation to generation, regardless of the many digital distractions these days.

Battle it out with military figurines

Military miniatures still have a huge following, and they are just as popular today as they were before the rise of war-based computer games. From classic handcrafted models to brands like Warhammer, military figurines provide endless fun, not just from the design and painting but also from setting them up into battle scenes and bringing the action to life. Don’t tell me you’ve never walked past a Warhammer store without looking twice!

So how come real models are so popular when there are loads of exciting live-action options (World of Warcraft and the like) to distract us fantasy enthusiasts, history buffs, and geeks? The answer is simple. It’s an affordable hobby that can be enjoyed for life and passed down through the generations and never fails to create a welcome sense of nostalgia. 

For the older generation, some who fought in a war or heard family stories of war, painting military models is a way of keeping those memories alive. For others, it’s about remembering the models they played with when they were younger, or enjoying a collection that once belonged to their father or grandfather. As cool as they are, computer games just can’t compete when it comes to delivering a good old dose of nostalgia. 

Building and painting models also offers a sense of accomplishment and gives the painter the freedom to create any scene with his finished models. Computer games are great for immersing yourself in world of adrenaline and explosions, but painting military miniatures is a relaxing exercise in discipline, concentration, and interpretation, allowing the painter to explore the scene in detail and express his creativity – arguably a more rewarding venture.

Design your own model railway

Some people assume that model train sets are only for children under the age of 10. But the detail and artistry that goes into researching the scenes, painting the backdrops, creating the scenery, and building the sets means that model railways are still a hit with people of all ages. And now with Digital Command Controls to operate the set, they’re becoming more impressive than ever. 

One of the largest model railways in existence is at Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany, spanning more than four square kilometres. Building it required more than a few pairs of hands and some serious elbow grease. It took 500,000 hours to create! Running through model villages and rolling hills, it’s like the Holy Grail for train enthusiasts, inspiring many men to rush out and upgrade their own kits with realistic details and add-ons.

For most of us, playing with model railways is a way to relieve stress, indulge our interest in trains, and flex some creative and problem-solving skills. 

“You can begin by researching the different railways and trains, and then of course a great deal of skill goes into the planning,” says Mike Hughes, marketing director of the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA). “Woodworking skills are required to lay the track and then electrical skills to successfully install all the wiring. You improve your artistic and modelling skills as you build as well.”

Good for the Mind

Working with models is a real craft, whether you’re putting them together or painting them. It requires concentration and creativity, which in turn helps you relax. The stress-relieving benefits of creativity has been widely acknowledged by scientists and mental health therapists – most recently with the sustained popularity of adult colouring books, which dominated Amazon’s bestseller book list last year. 

If you like the idea of building your own model but don’t think your creative skills are quite up to scratch or can’t seem to find quiet time alone, then perhaps an out-the-box model is a better option. You can find all sorts of valuable models, gadgets and toys, like remote-controlled drones, helicopters, planes or boats, by rummaging around jumble sales or specialist shops. 
You never know, you might discover your new hobby!