Friday, October 13, 2017

How to search your favorite web site

There's been some buzz on Hyperscale and ARC recently about the sites' search features. Apparently they're not working as advertised, which I suspect can be attributed to a bug in the software used to host the sites or a bad configuration setting deep in the network somewhere. I’m sure it will be fixed in time, but there’s a very easy and effective way to search your favorite forum or web site that doesn’t force you to rely on a web site’s search algorithm, which can sometimes be hit or miss.

To begin, you need to know the URL of the site you intend to search. It’s that long, sometimes convoluted string of text at the top of your browser window. It looks something like this.


The key component of the URL is what precedes the .com or .net, what’s known as the domain name. In the example above, which shows the News section of Armorama, the domain name is armorama.com. What follows the .com is just the more discrete address to the News section.

If you want to search Armorama, Google is your friend, as they say. That minimalistic search box that you've seen on their home page is all you need. Simply write a search query that's composed of two components.

The first component consists of the key words you want to search. For example, if you’re looking for information about the Takom King Tiger, those three words are probably your best bet. If you are looking for information about King Tigers in general, you’ll probably use just the words King Tiger.

The second component is the domain name of the site you want to search. In our example, that’s armorama.com, but you want to put the word site: in front of it (including the colon), which tells Google, "Hey Google! I want you to look for these word only within this web site. Nowhere else!"

What you wind up with is a search phrase that looks like this.


The search results on submitting the search look like this.


It’s that easy…for the most part.

Here are a few tips from my experience as a software manager in my day job and as a scale modeler who enjoys searching the web.

Google does a good job of displaying what it believes to be the most relevant search results at the top, but if your search returns too many hits, you can narrow the results several ways. Just add more search terms. When I searched for takom king tiger site:armorama.com, you see that I got 504 results. If your interest is specifically in the interior that Takom provides, add the term interior to the search words. That reduced my search results down to 222 pages.

Use quotation marks. When you put a search phrase in quotation marks, Google will look for that precise string of words. For example, if I search “takom king tiger” site:armorama.com Google will give me only pages with that specific phrase. It won’t return articles about the Dragon King Tiger, unless that model happens to be mentioned on a page where the phase Takom King Tiger is found.

Google lets you refine a search by date, displaying only those web pages that were created or updated within a specified period of time. From the search results, click the Tools item and then select the date range you want to use, or enter your own using the Custom Range option.


Maybe you’re searching for information about the King Tiger and seeing too many articles about the Takom kit. You can exclude pages from your search results that contain the word Takom by putting a hyphen (the minus sign) in front of the word you want to exclude.


There are additional ways to restrict your search. You can learn about them on Google's support site, or you can use Google’s own Advanced Search page if you don't want to commit these specialized strategies to memory.

A brief note about searching scale modeling web sites, and particularly discussion forums.

Your search results are relevant based not only on the search terms you choose but also on the words that web site authors and forum participants use. For example, if you’re looking for information about the F-105’s use in Vietnam and using the search terms thunderchief vietnam, you’re likely to miss pages and discussions where all references to the aircraft are as the Thud. Or maybe you’re looking to see if the AIM-9M was used in the Gulf War but everyone referred to it as the Nine-Mike ‘Winder. As you compose your search, think about other ways that modelers might have talked about the subject. (And if you contribute to online conversions, try to use widely accepted words and terms so that your wisdom can be found in the future.)

Like scale modeling itself, searching is a skill that takes trial and error to give you the confidence that you’re getting the information you seek. There’s an incredible amount of information out there that’s literally at your fingertips. Go get it!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Reconsidering cheating

My recent article about the use of aftermarket really struck a nerve among a large number of you. Based on the comments I received here on the blog, on my Facebook page, and in a closed Facebook group you vehemently disagreed, and you didn’t mince words in letting me know. It's even resulted in a new hashtag, #cheating. To you I say…message heard loud and clear!

Demonstrations outside the Scale Model Soup editorial offices last week.

I love the passion you have for our hobby, and I appreciate your feedback, no matter how you expressed it. I always listen to criticism with an open mind and re-evaluate my opinions when presented with new information and viewpoints, and I see now that I fell short when it came to my views on "cheating."

Where was I off base? Two things come to mind.

In hindsight I think the word "cheating" was unnecessarily pejorative and accusatory. Cheating implies you’re doing something wrong. As many of you pointed out, this is a hobby where each of us is building models for ourselves, so how can you "cheat?" A better term would've been "taking shortcuts." For example, if I drive from Atlanta to Dallas and take a shortcut to save an hour off the drive, no one will accuse me of cheating, right? Let’s go with "shortcut" going forward.

My second gaffe was my overestimating the importance of craftsmanship in the hobby — that is, the process of building a model. Many of you commented that the ends (the model in your display case) is more important than the means (the products you use to create it). You’re willing to take shortcuts to create a satisfying representation of a favorite aircraft, tank, ship, or vehicle; you have no interest in detailing cockpits, reshaping inaccurate noses, or adding plumbing to landing gear bays. I get that now.

So here I am a week later with a better understanding of how others enjoy the hobby. I knew that writing a blog would be a learning process and might be difficult at times. Here’s a sample of some of the feedback I received.

"Scale modeling is a fantastic example of one arena wherein you're forced to become proficient in a series of skills in order to produce something truly beautiful."

And…

"There is some skill and craftsmanship needed with some of the aftermarket stuff. I'd like to know how bending and or rolling photoetch does not require skill."

And…

"I absolutely agree. I mean, craftsmanship is what we do, right?" But, he continues, "Does the proliferation of aftermarket really diminish the skill sets of craftsmen, or does it inspire and draw in modelers, encouraging them to try things they might have feared to try?"

These are good points that I hadn’t considered deeply enough. Ironically, as I wrote that original article I was selling a particularly complex photoetch set because I don’t have the skill required to assemble it. My hat’s off to those of you who can work magic with photoetch or are willing to take the time to grind and sand a resin cockpit or engine to fit it into a model. That’s craftsmanship. Frankly, anything that motivates you to build model after model is good for the hobby.

"The older we get...I'm 56, the less and less time I will be able to build what I have. So I buy the stuff that corrects what I would have to do but now don’t."

I can relate. I’m fast approaching 50 myself with more models in the stash than I have time to build. I've written about how to speed up your builds and increase your output. If aftermarket lets you do that, that’s a good thing.

"Results are what count, not the process." 

And…

"Are you trying to show off your personal skills, or are you trying to build the best possible scale representation of the prototype? Personally, all I care about is the finished model."

Several of you told me that the end model is the important part of the hobby to you. That’s as valid an approach to the hobby as any other. One person implied that he’d like to scratchbuild but knows he doesn’t have the requisite skills. He said, "So what happens when you scratchbuild your own parts and they suck?" In response I’d say that you learn from the experience and try again...if you want to. My own use of pigments ended horribly, as did my first attempt at rigging a 1/72 biplane, but I press on with the hope that every model I build gets a little bit better.

"The arrogance of everyone has to enjoy the hobby in only the way I see fit."

And…

"Everyone needs someone else to look down on I guess."

And...

"I just checked my workshop rule book and it reads this guy's an ass."

I’m sorry you interpreted the article that way. Some of my statements were a bit harsh, even though I admitted that I cheat, too. No one has the right to tell us how to build our models, but everyone has the right to talk about the choices we make.

And since I opened the article with an analogy to cooking, one reader took me to task in the kitchen.

"Chances this guy has ever made his own gravy? I'm guessing about 10% so he cheats at breakfast."

Actually, I do make my own sausage gravy. And my own BBQ sauce, my own tomato sauce, my own coleslaw, and my own ice cream. Cooking is my other passion, and I most enjoy preparing meals when I can do so from scratch. I do admit that I keep a jar of Progresso tomato sauce in the cupboard for weeknight meals. A shortcut? Yes.

"Make sure to ask him if it's cheating if he doesn't approve comments that disagree with him."

No cheating here. I don’t delete comments, not from my blog nor from my Facebook page. In fact, the harshest comments I received were in a Facebook group where I have no ability to edit them, and I’m sharing a few here.

"Make sure you have an adblocker of some sort enabled so he doesn't get any revenue from the traffic generated."

And...

"Its all clickbait. Some of the modellers that have pages/websites/youtube channels have started to follow the mainstream media style of posting inflammatory articles, causing a plethora of emotion and plenty of web clicks/page hits. They then go to manufacturers saying 'I have xx amount of hits today, give me free stuff, and you'll get xx amount of people seeing your product…'"

Fake news. Clearly, this person has never visited Scale Model Soup otherwise he’d know there are absolutely no ads on the blog. I average only 75 page views per day, which might generate two or three dollars a month at best, and certainly not enough to entice anyone to give me free products. I have just over 1,000 Likes on Facebook, which pales in comparison to other bloggers who have 10-20 times more. No one is thinking about me when they want to promote a product.

Finally, I’ll leave you with this exchange, where M. asked, "Who gives a shit what he says? Its his opinion...doesn't affect or change anything,” to which B. responded, "I need something to get mad about or my time is being wasted on the web.” I think that pretty much explains this whole kerfuffle.

Back to the workbench, with or without aftermarket.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sausage gravy and the slow demise of craftsmanship

Editor's Note: After you read this article, be sure to read my follow-up, Reconsidering cheating.

Having grown up in the South one of my favorite breakfasts is sausage gravy over biscuits. After I graduated and left home I enjoyed frequenting a little mom & pop restaurant when I was home on vacation, always ordering the gravy and biscuits. It wasn’t the best I’d ever had, but I liked the idea of getting home cooked food over the mass produced stuff served in chain restaurants. You can imagine my dismay when I peeked into the kitchen during one visit and saw the crew opening a can of pre-made sausage gravy. I never went back to the restaurant again. They were cheating, taking short cuts to satisfy their customers. (On hindsight that probably explains why I could eat breakfast there for around five dollars.)

Two weeks ago there was a brief but lively debate on the WingNut Wings Fans Facebook group when one of its members posted a link to LF Models’ new prefabricated wooden propellers. Several of us expressed our view that using these prop constituted something akin to cheating. One member said, "This is modeling equivalent of turning in homework that you didn't do yourself." He's right.

LF Model's propeller for the Albatros D.I-V, Fokker Dr.I and D.VII, Pfalz D.III, and Roland D.V and C.II.
To be sure, the propellers looks amazing, and why shouldn’t they? They appear to have been manufactured exactly like the real thing, with laminated layers of multi-color woods, shaped, and polished, complete with an aluminum hub. The “modeler” will spend more time removing the prop from the packaging than he will attaching it to the model.

As you might imagine more than a few modelers in the Facebook group will buy LF’s props, and predictably they defended their right to do so. I don’t begrudge them the desire to create a better representation of an Albatros D.III or Fokker D.VII, but I do believe that using these props removes a good bit of craftsmanship that forms the basis of scale modeling. Using these props is cheating. Period.

“Cheating?” said another member. "If this is cheating then so is using Eduard photoetch, Yahu instrument panels, and resin replacement parts.” And he’s absolutely right. When you use those products, you introduce elements into the model that aren’t the product of your mind and hands, and the your model then only partially reflects your skill as a modeler. You’re another one, two, three steps further removed from being an "artist" (not that modeling is art). Yes, there is a degree of skill required to properly clean up, assemble, attach, and paint photoetch or resin, but not nearly as much as creating those components yourself using plastic, metal, and other media. One of the modelers that inspired me early on, Bob Steinbrunn, used very little, if any, aftermarket and produced amazing representations of aircraft in scale. He, my friends, is a true craftsman.

Some of you reading this will take my argument to an extreme, setting up a straw man by suggesting that modelers should create their own paint and glue. Or scratchbuilding models completely, eschewing kits entirely. That might be true, but I’d make a distinction between products used to construct and paint a model and products used to replace or add components of a model.

Here’s the deal. If you use wooden props, photoetch, resin cockpits, and so on, it's okay. There are valid reasons for doing so, but admit that you’re cheating. It’s okay to take shortcuts to create the models that you want to display in your display case, but realize that a bit of your craftsmanship is lost in the process.

I’m a cheater myself. Look at the photo below, which shows a small selection of the canopy masks, resin, and gun barrels in my stash. I could mask canopies on my own (as I am for an ESCI 1/72 AV-8A Harrier), but Eduard’s and Peewit’s products make the painting process faster and the results more predictable, and that is important to me. And maybe those wooden props are important to you.


We're cheaters.

You can learn more about the LF Models wooden propellers here.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

5 reasons why model kits are inaccurate

The newest release from Trumpihawk Boss just arrived at your doorstep and you’re excited to build it. But wait! The rivet counters on your favorite forum are lambasting the kit for its many inaccuracies. The nose is misshaped, the intakes are too high, the canopy shape resembles that of the prototype not the production variant, there are panel lines that shouldn’t be there. “It’s a caricature of the actual aircraft,” says one observer with an annoying affinity for hyperbole.


Whether you’ve learned to love rivet counters or not, you stare at the model wondering how the designers could make such obvious mistakes.

We'll I can tell you. In fact I'll give you five reasons.

Inaccurate plans


The designers may have used inaccurate plans. The manufacturers don’t always have access to the plans and schematics from the original manufacturer, so they use what they can find. For many of the aircraft, armor, ships, and cars we build there are two, three, or more sets of plans floating around out there in books, magazines, or online. The designers choose one, believing (or hoping) they’re correct. Clearly, when they’re not, mistakes in the plans are reflected in the model.

Inaccurate prototypes


The designers may have studied an inaccurate prototype. This is what happened with Eduard’s initial release of their 1/48 Bf-109G. If you followed the endless chatter online last year you may recall the model featured a bump on the wing root, which the designer dutifully included based on their analysis of a Bf-109G in a museum. It turned out that the bump was a a post-war modification. How were the designers to know that? In Eduard’s case, they didn’t find out until the kit was in our hands and modelers more knowledgable about the 109 pointed out the error. (To their credit, Eduard corrected this, and other mistakes, by re-tooling the molds and releasing a new kit.)

Lack of subject matter expertise


From the conversations I’ve had with insiders familiar with the model design process, the designers employed by the manufacturers are often design generalists. They’re not necessarily aviation or military enthusiasts like you and me. They might be designing parts for a refrigerator on Monday and designing the canopy of the upcoming Su-35 on Tuesday. They’re not familiar with the subtleties of your favorite subjects. It’s not surprising that they don’t “see” that gentle shape of the rear fuselage of the F-4 Phantom or notice the different angle of a Sherman glacis plate between the early and late variants.

When a subject matter expert is involved in a project (and we’ve recently seen a number of kits that are reviewed by modelers during the design process), there can be communication challenges. With many kits being designed in Asia or Europe there’s no guarantee the designers will be fluent in English, so when the expert sees an error in an early design image, communicating the nuance of the recommended change can be a challenge. For example, I have a basic understanding of Spanish; I know common words and phrases (and can certainly look up words I don’t know), but I’d be hard-pressed to assemble a clear, coherent explanation in Spanish of why the nose of the Trumpeter 1/72 Su-34 is wrong. And a Spanish designer might have a hard timely clearly understanding precise instructions I give him.

And I should point out that even when a third-party expert is consulted it doesn’t mean that the manufacturer will follow their guidance or that the expert is provided anything other than the CAD images.

No quality assurance


I don’t have any evidence to back up this theory, so I’d be eager to hear from anyone who can set me straight, but I have a feeling there’s no quality assurance check of the basic design of a new model prior to its going to production. The manufacturers hire designers, whether full-time or freelance, and give them the responsibility to design a model. But who checks their designs? I suspect it’s a product manager, but who’s to say that he's familiar enough with the subject to determine whether the designs are correct or not? He could look over the CAD drawings and declare, “Well, it looks like the photos of the Fruitbat Mk IIc that I’ve seen,” but would he notice that the exhausts are incorrect or the wheel hubs feature five bolt heads rather than six? Probably not. So the manufacturers release kits based on the best efforts of their designers.

The Dunning-Kruger effect


Finally, this leads me to the most likely reason your favorite model is inaccurate, the Dunning-Kruger effect. This concept suggests that we mistakenly consider ourselves to be more intelligent or to possess higher skills than we actually have. The guy who designed that inaccurate kit you bought thought it was accurate. He did the very best he could given his experience, skill, and resources available. But it turns out he wasn’t quite good enough to get everything right.

The Dunning-Kruger effect explains why you feel slighted when your model doesn't win at a contest...even though the wings weren’t aligned or you missed a seam on the stabilizer. Or why a chef at a restaurant featured on Kitchen Nightmares believes he's serving amazing food even though the restaurant is on the verge of bankruptcy because no one eats there. If Tamiya is producing the most accurate kits in the hobby, it's due in large part to their hiring the best talent.

You can read more about the Dunning-Kruger effect on Wikipedia.

In Summary...


Being aware of these factors should give you a clear understanding of just how difficult it is to produce a perfectly accurate kit.

1. Ideally the designers work from the manufacturer’s plans, and

2. They have to have access to an accurately restored prototype, and

3. They consult with subject matter experts with whom they can clearly communicate, and

4. There’s someone in the company who’s familiar with the aircraft or vehicle prototype to double-check the designers’ work, and

5. The designers are the very best in the industry and — ideally — aviation, military, naval, or automotive enthusiasts themselves.

That’s a tall order by any measure!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Your stash when you die

Like most of you, I have a lot of models in my stash. I have great affection for them, and I have a good idea of the paint scheme and markings I intend to apply to each one. In my mind’s eye I can envision how they’ll look when complete.

Then reality sets in when I do the math and realize that I have more kits than I can build in my lifetime, at least at my current rate. Some evenings I’ll sit and look over the models and come to the harsh realization that that Hasegawa 1/72 EF-111A or the Tamiya 1/48 F-16C may be sitting in that exact same spot when I die. It’s downright depressing. All that inspiration and ambition is pointless when I face reality.


To be sure, there are ways we can increase our output. A couple of years ago I suggested painting your cockpits black, and I offered five ideas to speed up your builds. But even doubling or tripling my rate of completion may not be enough, especially considering all the great kits that will inevitably be released over the next 20 years. Heck, just today I received the new AMK 1/72 Kfir, another kit I may never build!

I’ve been thinking about this dilemma a lot recently. The ripe old age of 50 is clearly on my radar. Reading on Hyperscale of the passing of several modelers. A friend who's been selling a collection of die cast models for the widow of a friend who died. And my fiancee, who casually asked me what she should do with my models if something were to happen to me.

I can hear many of you already. “I’ll be dead. I don’t care what happens to my models.” We can laugh at a flip, apathetic response like that, but I’ve come to believe that leaving behind an enormous collection of models to your heirs to deal with is a burden. It’s inconsiderate and unloving.

The prospect that one of your friends might leave you 500 models, for example, has an element of opportunity to it — once you get past the grief. But then the reality of the situation would set in. How are you going to get the models from their home to yours? Where will you store them? How will you sell them? Are they complete? Are they even desirable?

Clearly, there’s potential for a collection of models to have significant value…if they’re sold individually. But if you’ve every sold models on eBay, on Facebook, or via the forums you know what I know, that being a seller is a total pain in the ass. Determining a viable price for each model, the logistics of posting them, responding to email, acquiring shipping material, packing the models, printing postage, mailing the items, tracking the packages, responding to follow-up communication…it can be a full-time job. Yes, the money is nice, but I’d rather be building a models than packing them en masse.

“My wife can call one of the second-hand model dealers and sell them in bulk,” you say. True, but she's likely to get pennies on the dollar. Those twenty WingNut Wings models in your stash might earn your wife $100 amid all the other models she’d offer to the buyer. That doesn’t seem fair to her.

So what’s a guy to do? Here are a few suggestions.

With each passing year after 50 take a hard assessment of the kits in your stash, and those that don’t excite you should go to a sale pile. Sell them online or buy a table at a local contest and sell them there. The goal is to have a reasonable number of unbuilt models in your stash, knowing that nearly anything can be found on the secondary market if you “accidentally” sell a model that you decide you want to build 10 years from now.

Give some of your kits away. There are organizations that will gladly send models to our troops overseas. If you’re a member of a club, give some to new members or to a junior member. Or to your friends; having been the recipient of many kind offers over the years, I can assure you it’s greatly appreciated.

Slow your purchases. For example, the next time you're at a contest and see an enticing kit at a bargain price, be strong. Ask yourself if you really need another Hasegawa P-51D when you already have 10 of them at home, even if the price tag says only $5.

Make arrangements for the disposal of your unbuilt kits upon your passing. If you’re going to bequeath them to a modeler-friend, first, make sure he's up for the task, and if he is, be sure to designate him in your will and communicate that to your family, and let them know whether you're giving the models to your friend outright or whether you expect him to sell them on behalf of your family. If you’re content for your family to sell them in bulk to one of the second-hand retailers, make sure they have contact information for two or three of those retailers. (And it wouldn’t hurt to call out any models that are of particularly high value.)

Look, the goal isn’t to have zero kits in your stash when you die, just not to have hundreds that someone has to deal with amid all the other estate issues they’ll be managing at the time. As we get older, protecting our friends and loved ones is incredibly important, and it extends to the assets of our hobby as much as anything else.

Live long and prosper. And downsize.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy Birthday to Scale Model Soup. Five years ago on this date I started this blog, and it’s been a fun ride sharing my rantings and ravings with you.


I haven’t read my first post since that day in 2012, so it’s been enlightening to go back to it and assess my progress. I’ve done my best to promote the hobby. I try to stay positive. That said, I have been critical of trends that I believe are bad for the hobby, particularly those that diminish the craftsmanship that each of us brings to scale modeling, but I restrain myself more often than not.

I’ve shared my experiences, which I hope have offered some reassurance that you’re not the only one who suffers through the mundane or curses the tedious.

I’ve been a strong advocate for your entering contests, because I believe that's the best way you can support and promote the hobby. Along the way I dispelled the biggest myth that contest naysayers spew on the forums, that contests are full of trophy hounds. They're not.

I fell a bit short in my ambitions. The first two years I posted my selections for model of the year, best WIP of the year, best build of the year, biggest disappointment of the year, etc. In subsequent years I realized that it was simply too difficult to make those choices. There are too many great models released every year, too many outstanding models posted to forums and blogs, to choose just one. And as a modeler who builds only aircraft and armor, I realized it’s unfair to the ship and automotive communities to ignore kits and modeling in those genres.

With five years and 258 articles behind me the biggest “takeaway” for me on a personal level is the process of discovery and elucidation that comes with writing. On several occasions I’ve begun writing an article to make a strong statement in support of an idea only to find that I was unable to offer reasonable evidence or arguments in favor of that claim. When I approach the issues and controversies of the hobby with an open mind, as in most of life, I find that nothing is black and white as some people would lead us to believe.

Whatever it is I’m doing here, I sincerely appreciate the comments you leave on Scale Model Soup directly or on my Facebook page, whether you agree with my ranting and raving or challenge me. I know your time is precious, and I’m honored that you choose to read Scale Model Soup from among the hundreds of blogs, web sites, and Facebook groups at your fingertips. Likewise, I’ve enjoyed meeting many of you at local contests and the IPMS Nats.

Tomorrow I begin another five years. I have no shortage of article ideas, so look for more Soup, including some new article themes I’ve been mulling over.

Thank you!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

7 ways to improve your club's newsletter

Writing has long been a big part of my professional life, as a technical writer and currently as a software product manager. While in high school I served as the newsletter editor for IPMS Ocala, composing The Leading Edge on a manual typewriter on the family dining room table. In the mid-Nineties I wrote The Turret Bustle for a very informal club of Ohio armor modelers. It was just a matter of time until I returned to the hobby publishing "industry" to create Scale Model Soup, which will be five years old later this week.


I’m fortunate that a friend forwards at least a dozen IPMS club newsletters to me every month, which I'm always excited to read. Some of them are really good, so I’d like to share a few of the things that can make a newsletter stand above others.

Put your club meeting date and location on the front page

The primary goal of your newsletter is to drive attendance of your club meetings. Make it easy for new readers to find out when and where you meet by putting that information on the front page.

Include contact information for club officers

New and existing members might have questions about the club. Make sure each officer’s email address is readily available. Better yet, follow the example set by IPMS Butch O’Hare (Chicago) and include a photo of each person, which is particularly helpful when new members attend their first meeting.

Promote upcoming contests

I’ve talked ad naseum about why you should enter contests, so always include a list of upcoming local contests. I'd also suggest you indicate the city and state so readers can quickly assess the distance from their homes.

Use large photographs

Many of the newsletters I see include small photographs of models. If your distribution is primarily online and printing and postage costs are not driving factors in the length of your newsletter, use large photos so readers can better view the models, reviews, and articles you share with them.

Ask someone to proofread your text

Misspellings and bad grammar in your newsletter are like glue marks and seams on your models. Take the time to proofread what you and your contributors write. Don’t let readers suspect that a 10 year-old wrote your newsletter.

Don’t fiddle with your fonts

Keep it simple. Use no more than two or three fonts — such as Helvetica for article titles and Times New Roman for the text. Avoid using ALL CAPS. While you’re at it, there’s no reason to use red, blue, or green text.

Consider unrelated content

IPMS Livonia (Michigan) includes enticing recipes in their monthly newsletter, BullSheet. Steak and BBQ are just two examples of topics that are likely to be of interest to your readers, so explore opportunities to entertain your club's members in new ways.


P.S. Observant readers will notice that The Turret Bustle pictured above didn't feature our club meeting information on the front page. If I recall correctly, we didn't meet on a regular basis...or I was simply young and naive.

Monday, July 3, 2017

When your favorite web site goes down

“Is Britmodeller down for everybody?”
“Anyone else having problems accessing Trumpeter’s web site?”
“Is the Aviation Maniac site down?”

Most of you have seen posts like these on the forums, or maybe you’ve asked the question yourself. Either way, it can be alarming when a favorite web site is unavailable, and it’s easy to fear the worse...that the site is gone for good. Witness the demise of Fencecheck earlier this year. We've come to rely on the internet for a great deal of the information that feeds into our modeling, so I understand the panic that sets in when something goes wrong.


Fear not, my friends. I’ve worked in the software industry for 20 years, so the harsh reality of technology is that sometimes things break and web sites are inaccessible. Similarly, web sites are intentionally brought offline for upgrades and enhancements.

So what do you do when you can’t seem to access a favorite web site?

First, don’t panic. Click your browser’s Refresh button and see what happens. If the site doesn’t load, take a deep breath and tell yourself that everything is going to be okay. I know it’s difficult, but it’s times like these that test a man’s character. Remind yourself that you can handle whatever happens.

The best and easiest thing you can do is simply wait a few hours, or even 24 hours, and more often than not you’ll find that the web site is magically back online.

But, if you’re impatient and want to troubleshoot right away, here are some suggestions.

Clear your web browser’s cache. Browsers do weird things depending on how they “save” web data on your computer, so clearing the cache will sometimes help.

Try a different browser. Most laptops have two or more browsers installed, so if you can’t access a web site on Chrome, try Internet Explorer instead. Or Firefox. Or for you old timers, AOL.

Try accessing the site on a mobile device. It’s not unusual for there to be two different “paths" to the data that’s used to render a web site, so occasionally a mobile device will offer an alternative.

Check the web site’s Facebook page, assuming one is available. Responsible webmasters will let their customers know when an outage is planned or an issue has been encountered.

More often than not, web site issues sort themselves out over time. Webmasters check their web sites throughout the day or their Internet Service Provider (ISP) sends them alerts when a problem is detected. Usually doing nothing is the best course of action. Go waste time on another web site or, better yet, sit down at the workbench and build a model rather than read about them. If you're anything like me, you spend too much time on the internet anyway.

Editor's note: A kind reader reminded me of another resource, Down For Everyone Or Just Me. Simply type in the URL of the web site, and they'll let you know if it's truly offline.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

My love hate relationship with resin kits


Every evening I check the Rumourmonger area on Britmodeller, which is one of the best sources of news about upcoming kits. My heart skips a beat when I see a new thread about an enticing subject, but sometimes a wave of disappointment quickly follows when I see that the kit will be in resin rather than injected molded form. 

This happened to me last year when a new 1/72 YC-125 Raider was announced. It’s an usual aircraft to be sure. I’d never heard of the plane, much less seen one, until I visited the National Museum of the US Air Force many years ago. (It's not one of those aircraft that makes it to magazine covers.) It has an ungainly sit, looking more like a 1950s era Soviet design than something an American engineer would create. The nose-mounted engine looks like it could have been the result of a barroom bet among the designers after wrapping up a more conventional two-engine configuration. "Hey Jerry, I'll bet you fifty bucks I can stick an R-1820 on the nose and the Air Force brass will eat it up!"


You can learn more about the Raider’s history on the museum’s web site,  but to make a long story short, only 23 Raiders were produced, so it’s a near-miracle that any manufacturer would choose to produce a kit of it. That said, I’ve always been intimidated by resin, and a lot of modelers I talk to feel the same way. I understand that resin is often the only choice for limited run subjects, but I wish the resin manufacturers would partner with one of the plastic manufacturers and produce subjects like this in injected molded form. As much as I'd like to build many of these resin subjects, I just don't see struggling with resin when there are so many other models awaiting my time.

Of course you might feel differently, especially if you really want a model of the YC-125 (as one example), and I can't deny the skill of modelers who are willing to tackle resin kits. We've all seen resin kits at contests to know they can be made into masterpieces just as well as a plastic kit can be. Kudos to you willing to give these resin kits the attention they require, but they're not for me.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The joys of old decals

There’s no shortage of aftermarket decals these days with dozens of companies producing decals in every scale and for nearly every subject. Sadly, some of these decals don’t perform very well. No names, but there are plenty of conversations on the forums and Facebook with modelers expressing their frustration over decals that are too thin, fold over onto themselves, break up, or are simply inaccurate.

Amid all these choices it’s easy to forget the forerunner of the aftermarket decal business, Microscale. I’ve collected a ton of their decals over my years in the hobby. None of today’s manufacturers has come close (yet) to producing as many choices as Microscale (and later Super Scale). Unfortunately, I’ve learned the hard way that their older decals can be fragile. Quite often they'll shatter into a million pieces as they come off the backing paper.

That’s why it’s always a treat to use a really old set of decals and not experience any issues. That was my experience as I finished my Hasegawa 1/72 Ki-51 Sonia a few weeks ago. The kit decals were terribly dry and yellowed, so I dug into my (decal) stash and found sheet 72-5, which might be older than me. (Does anyone know when Microscale started producing decals?)


A day or two after the usual application of Future floor wax on the model and using Microscale’s Sol and Set products, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the decals did not shatter and laid down onto the model quite nicely. They’re not as thin as Microscale’s later releases, but all things considered, they look decent. A bit of Solvaset didn't hurt.

The lesson is, don’t dismiss older decals. They might just work out.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

We visit the 2017 AMPS International Convention

I’ve been going to Armorcon in Danbury, Connecticut for several years now, so I was thrilled when AMPS chose Danbury for their 2017 International Convention. Armorcon is a good show, but this weekend’s convention was a great show.

The contest is the core of every convention, so with just over 600 entries there’s no denying the success of this year’s show. AMPS makes a strong effort to accommodate all modelers’ skill level — Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced categories offer a place for every modeler. Each model is judged individually and scored as objectively as possible. A team of Associate Chief Judges reviews the scores of all the models, looking for consistency and unusual outliers, and when aberrations are found, ask the judges to review their scores. A friend who was involved in the judging told me this was done several times during the two shifts that he worked. Kudos to the organizers and leadership for doing all they can to create a competitive but fair environment. (Read more about the AMPS judging philosophy here.)

Armorcon’s strength has always been its vendor room, so it’s no surprise that the International Convention’s vendor room was a compelling attraction. There were a number of vendors selling practically every armor kit currently in production. Other vendors offered a huge assortment of painting and weathering products — Mig Ammo, Vallejo, Wilder, Hataka, you name it, it was there. And there were a handful of vendors selling books and magazines ranging in price from $5 to $500. I don’t think anyone walked out of that room empty-handed. The only weakness might have been the lack of modelers selling models from their private collections; there were only one or two, so true bargains were few and far between.

There were seminars, too, another credit to the convention organizers. It’s unfortunate that contest attendees enjoy seminars only at national or international conventions like this one. I wish clubs that sponsor small, local shows would make the effort to do the same for their customers.

Next year’s convention is in my old neighborhood, Dayton, Ohio. Until then, here are some of the models that stood out for me.

My favorite entry was this Dragon 1/35 Su-100. Perfectly built and finished.


The most interesting model on the tables was this 1/35 jeep and carrier pigeon conversion. Most unusual and fascinating!


There were a number of really well done T-34s.



I've always had an affinity for the M5A1. This example was as well done as any I've seen.


I've also had a long interest in IDF subjects. This Tiran was expertly finished, I suspect with a very effective black base.


At every contest there's always one model of a subject that hadn't been on my radar but, upon seeing it, prompts me to say, "Damn, I gotta build me one of those!" This weekend it was this nicely done Dragon 1/35 Su-76i.


There were many, many more great looking models. Watch the AMPS Facebook page and the forums for more photos.

See you next year!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Inspiration: Diego Quijano

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.

One of the best models I’ve ever seen — albeit, never in person — is Diego Quijano's 1/72 Fujimi F/A-18A Hornet. It’s one of the handful of models I’ve seen over the years that’s remained in the front of my mind and serveed as an example of the qualities that I try to incorporate into my own work. The model reflects Diego’s diverse talents, and I can think of few modelers who attain this level of excellence.


You’ve probably seen this F-18; photos of it have circulated in magazine articles, on the web, and on Facebook for many years now. It’s just one of a large number of models that you can see on Diego's web site, and I have no doubt that you’ll be as impressed with his work as I am.

Here’s what inspires me about Diego's modeling.

Years ago an early mentor of mine pointed out that modelers tend to reside somewhere between engineer and artist. That is, we tend to be really good at building and detailing models, or we tend to be really good at painting and weathering them. Few modelers do both exceptionally well, but Diego is one of them.

Diego understands composition. He’s not always content to display his models on a flat base. He’s willing to take risks by displaying models in extreme vignettes, such as his Shades of Death, as only one example.

Diego builds science fiction. Check out his Jedi Fighter and you’ll see that it’s not hard to imagine him building models for a Hollywood studio.

Of course it’s with aircraft that Diego truly excels. In addition to the F-18, the natural metal finish of his 1/48 Fw-190, about as realistic as I've ever seen in scale, is further evidence of his skill.

And the best thing is, Diego doesn’t keep any of his techniques secret! He’s published five books that explain his techniques, an investment that’s probably worth everything that you’ll learn, particularly if you’re new to the hobby. He also has a Facebook page, but don't send him a friend request; he seems to have reached the software-imposed limit on maximum friends.

Someday I hope to meet him.

My thanks to Diego for allowing me to use one of the photo of his F-18.


Read more about other inspiring modelers.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fencecheck is no more

One of my favorite web sites for modern military aviation has long been Fencecheck. It was a hangout for aviation photographers — amateur and professional alike — and was a valuable repository for us modelers. Unfortunately, I learned over the weekend that the owner of the site has shut it down.

The good news is that many Fencecheck participants are now collaborating and sharing photos in a new group on Flickr, aptly named Re-Check, which is fine for new photos going forward, but what about all the photos that had been posted on Fencecheck?

All is not completely lost. Although there’s no way to view the old discussion threads (they’re not accessible via the Wayback Machine), you can find many of the photos using Google. Here’s how.

Let’s say you’re looking for photos of T-38Cs for your upcoming build of the Trumpeter kit. Go to Google Images and enter this search query:

“T 38C" site:fencecheck.com/forums/


Most — but not all — of the resulting photos should be accessible. Simply click on an image, click the View Image button, and enjoy the photograph.

You can search for photos of any other aircraft, base, exercise, or unit by replacing T-38C as appropriate, for example Red Flag. And if it’s not obvious, you can use the same search strategy to find photos from other web sites; simply replace fence check.com/forums/ with the URL of the web site of interest.

Happy searching!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Your stash is out of control when...

You may think you have a lot of models, but your stash isn't really out of control until you’ve experienced at least five of these six scenarios.

You store models vertically in the empty spaces

No matter how big your storage room, space inevitably becomes precious at some point. You have to take full advantage of those nooks and crannies between your carefully stacked kits.


You display models as if your workshop were a hobby shop

When all the nooks and crannies have been filled, you find extra space on top of the larger kits on the shelves.


You relegate models to boxes in the basement

I know you want all your models to be easily accessible, but sometimes you just have to push them deeper into the bowels of your home.


There are models in your bathroom

True story, no joke. Many years ago I was in a club whose president received a call from a local modeler who wanted to sell his kits. He didn't want to wait until the next club contest, so the guy invited several of us to his apartment for a garage sale of sorts. On the way over I joked with my friends, “Watch, I’ll bet he has kits in his bathroom.” And you know what? He did!


You have overflow in cute baskets

You old timers will remember bagged kits. Where do you put those and other random kits that don't fit anywhere else? You steal baskets from your significant other and stash them away.


There are models in your car

You bought a huge 1/32 scale kit at last week's contest but don’t have room for it? Leave it in the trunk of your car!



Where’s the most unusual place we’d find the overflow of YOUR stash?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Disagreements and opinions

Several bloggers whom I respect — and dozens of modelers across the interwebs — have worked themselves into quite a tizzy these last few weeks. It all started with Kitty Hawk’s release of their Su-17,  Doogs’ Models comprehensive build and review of the kit, and the conversations that followed. I was tangentially part of the conversation sharing Paul Cotcher’s thoughts on the kit as part of my Other Voices series.


In case you’ve been asleep these last few weeks, here’s a summary of the conversation.

Some modelers, such as Paul, are thrilled to see the KH Su-17 because it represents an improvement over the old KP kit that was produced more than 20 years ago. Other modelers, such as Matt over at Doogs’ Models, are critical of KH for many engineering shortcomings that make the model difficult to build.

Modelers seem to be falling in line with one or the other camp and, as in all things remotely political, I find myself somewhere in the middle, which positions me to be The Voice of Reason in this mess.

Here’s the thing. I think very highly of rivet counters, really I do. In fact three years ago I wrote about how I learned to love them. People like Matt provide a valuable service to the hobby by digging into new models to assess their buildability, and other modelers are quick to assess new kits for their accuracy and share their thoughts on sites like Hyperscale, ARC, and Missing Links. I remain impressed that modelers — total strangers, mind you — will invest a significant amount of time to help the rest of us make informed buying decisions. Every one of them should be commended.

I also have great affection for casual modelers, people who are content to have a reasonable representation of a favorite subject, even if it requires significant modeling mojo to build or if the model is somewhat inaccurate. My “godfather” in the hobby, a man I met more than 30 years ago, has an almost childlike enthusiasm for the hobby and could care less about accuracy. When I feel myself getting bogged down in the hobby, struggling with a model or obsessing over the accuracy of small details, I'll call him and his spirit immediately renews my own enjoyment for what we do. Mind you, this is a man who scratchbuilt a Spitfire wing out of playing cards after he bought a model and found that a wing was missing. Who among us would do that in today’s world?

I don’t blame Matt, rivet counters, or other bloggers for this or any other hubbub (have you seen related conversations about the Airfix 1/48 P-40 or the Z-M F-4?). I blame the rest of us. You see, the frustrating aspect of internet conversations is the need that most of us feel to comment on everything we read that we disagree with. Facebook and blogs like this make it easy — even enticing — with those little Comments boxes, and many of us are absolutely compelled to share our thoughts. But here’s the thing…just because I can comment on a post doesn’t mean I should comment on a post. Believe me, I see plenty of things online that I want to comment on, but I continually remind myself that it’s okay to remain silent, to hold my opinion to myself.

To be fair to all of us who participate in these forums and Facebook, internet conversations generally mirror the conversations we have face-to-face. When I talk to my friends on the phone we chat about the same topics I see online — the prices of kits, judging at contests, whether the KH Su-17 is worth what appears to be inevitable frustration. I guess if those topics are fodder for in-person conversations, they should be for online conversations as well.

Where does that leave us? I can't help but think of two favorite quotes, one from an old work colleague and another from a modeling friend:

"Your opinion, while interesting, is irrelevant."

“Opinions are like Sherman tanks. Everyone has one.” (Obviously he’s an armor modeler.)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Don't fix your mistakes

My decals silvered. What do I do?
How do I repair a cracked canopy?
The wings on my aircraft are misaligned. How do I fix them?

I often see questions like these on the forums and my gut reaction is usually to say, “Don’t fix it.”

We modelers can be perfectionists. Even though most of us aren’t driven by competition (it's true), we want our models to look good, and we’re usually willing to work and re-work a scratchbuilt detail, a troublesome seam, or a challenging paint scheme for hours on end. But at the end of the day, what’s so terrible about having an imperfect model in your display case, particularly if you intend to improve with every new model, year after year?

I found myself in this situation on my build of Trumpeter's 1/35 Pz.Kpfw 38(t). I attempted to use pigments on the model and the results were, well, pretty shitty. (Kudos to those of you who’ve mastered the black art of pigments.) I could repaint the model and start over, but that’s time that will be better spent on a new project where my enthusiasm is higher.


In our quest for perfection we forget that this hobby is a journey. Every model is not going to be perfect nor will every model meet your expectations. You’re going to make mistakes and bad choices along the way, and models will leave your workbench that are disappointing. That’s okay. There’s always another model in the stash whose prospects are higher than the last one, and that’s where you’ll apply what you’ve learned.

My advice is this. Allow yourself to make mistakes, and don’t fix them. Let them remain visible as reminders to not to that again.

Don't believe me? Here's a real artist's take on the subject.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Welcoming new members to your club

One of the benefits of a hobby is having the opportunity to meet new people. I’ve moved several times during my adult life, and each time I've immediately looked for a local club. I met two of my best friends as a member of IPMS Dayton a thousand years ago and several other friends via IPMS Columbus after frequent visits to their annual contest, Blizzardcon. Unfortunately I haven’t had any luck making friends in other clubs, and I think it has a lot to do with how welcome I felt at my first few meetings.


Duane Hayes, the newsletter editor of Model Creations Unlimited IPMS in Jacksonville, Florida, understands the importance of hospitality, even suggesting that their motto should be, "You Are Only A Stranger Once, After That You’re Family.” He recently offered some excellent ideas for making new members feel more comfortable at their first meeting, ideas that your club should begin implementing immediately.

- - - - -

Remember back to the time walking into a room full of people where you didn’t know anyone and just wanted to pretend you were invisible and stand against a wall. It was a very uncomfortable feeling, but after meeting other people during that first time, or after a couple of meetings, you began to enjoy the activities associated with the group.

After thinking about your personal experiences in new environments, think about a person who has built models for years and has never known anyone else who shares his interest. He doesn't know about any model clubs, but the website and Facebook page makes MCU sound just like a group that is going to offer a great experience for him and expand his hobby. He realizes MCU has a meeting coming up. He decides to show up to learn about MCU and see what it is all about.

If this person walked into our club meeting, how would he feel? Would he feel welcome? Would he be greeted by another member, perhaps an officer? Would club members introduce themselves to him? How would he be introduced to the club members?

Now, not all walk-ins become members, but I don’t want any prospective new member to walk away because they were not greeted, introduced, or not able to ask, or get questions answered about the model hobby or our club. Welcoming prospective new members into our club is an important role of all current members.

Make the guest feel comfortable enough to ask questions during, or after, the meeting. Ask him questions about himself. Why is he they interested in joining MCU? What are their favorite model subjects or interests?

Allow the guest to introduce himself and tell why he has decided to attend the meeting. Have ALL the current members introduce themselves; don’t make it a one-sided introduction by only having the guest stand up. When the guest asks questions, answer in a positive manner that allows the guest to understand. When a new member is proudly showing his latest model project, give him your full attention and don’t conduct side-conversations with other members.

Helping prospective members join our club is an on-going opportunity for MCU to strengthen the club’s membership and let all modelers know they are truly valued in our hobby. I think our club does a excellent job of welcoming new guests at our meetings, but there is always room for improvement.


Thanks to Duane Hayes for permission to reprint his editorial.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The sexiest aircraft ever produced

It’s Valentines Day, but before you cozy up to your wife or significant other, take a moment to think about the sexiest aircraft to ever take to the sky.

Learjet

From the Learjet 23 introduced in 1963 to the Learjet 75, every model of this aircraft from Bombardier suggests speed and class. If you were to ever sell your stash of unbuilt kits and buy your own private jet, this would be your first choice.


P-51D Mustang

The P-51D was arguably the first truly "world class" fighter ever produced, and there’s no denying its visual appeal nor its success.


Spitfire

The Spitfire was the British equivalent of the P-51, as beautiful as it was agile. And my British friends would kill me if I didn’t include it.


F-104 Starfighter

No other aircraft design suggests speed more than the F-104. The Starfighter is part airplane, part spaceship, the stuff of boys’ dreams in the 1950s.


F-16 Viper

Few aircraft have been as versatile over its life nor seen as much service around the world. There seems to be no role that this aircraft can't fill. The F-16 is probably your first choice if you're likely to find yourself in a dogfight. (F-35 pilots might disagree.)



Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A plethora of resin Humvee wheels

Have you noticed how many aftermarket companies produce resin wheels for the Humvee in 1/35 scale?

Aires
Blast
Calibre35
CMK
DEF Model
DTOYS
ET Model (three versions)
Live Resin
Mig Productions
Panzer Art (two versions)
Pro Art
Trakz
Verlinden
Voyager

And I'll bet you a banana split that I missed two or three others.

I can only surmise there’s an unspoken rule that if you’re going into the aftermarket business, you absolutely must release Humvee wheels!





And I must say…they all look very nice!

You can find reviews for many of these wheels on HMMWV In Scale, which is an excellent resource for information on the Humvee.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Other voices: The Kitty Hawk 1/48 Su-17 and criticism of new kits

Paul Cotcher of Red Star Scale Models is back for another contribution to our Other Voices series. Paul has long had a strong interest in Soviet and Russian subjects, so it's only appropriate that you hear his comments on the new Kitty Hawk Su-17 and the response from rivet counters upon seeing it.

- - - - -

Fair warning, this article is the modeling equivalent of our parents describing walking to school in the snow, uphill – both ways. Time to practice a little modeling relativism, so if that might push your buttons, you may want to stop reading now. Otherwise, let’s take a trip down memory lane.

In the days before the internet, every trip to the hobby shop could bring a surprise, there were no CAD renderings posted ahead of time, no product listings, no Facebook (or Hyperscale, ARC, or even rec.models.scale). And if the local hobby shop wasn’t good enough, a trip to an out of town hobby shop could bring even more modeling goodness. In the early 90s I frequently travelled to Miami on business, and used those trips to frequent Orange Blossom Hobbies. Not only did I get to meet a bunch of people that I still consider good friends, every trip revealed something new that I had never heard about before. Those of us that have been around the hobby for a while can certainly remember these discoveries.

This specific story, however, relates to a different out of town shop. Traveling to New York City, one would have thought that there would have been a grand and glorious hobby shop somewhere in that metropolis. Ace Hobbies, formerly of mid-town Manhattan provided plenty of exotic products that you wouldn't find elsewhere. Their product listings in the old Military Model Preview magazine would have led one to believe they were much larger. Frequently getting kits, magazines, and supplies from Eastern Europe (apparently from pilots flying in and out of JFK). That was more than enough to get me to visit. Having always been a big fan of modeling Soviet and Russian subjects, anything that was then coming out of newly opened eastern Europe was modeling gold! Alas, Ace Hobbies was far from grand and glorious, it was a dark little place in the shadow of the Empire State Building. Located on the third floor up an elevator that likely later posed as the elevator in the Big Bang Theory, you’d enter the small space to find a pile of kits strewn about in no particular order, save for the few kits on a somewhat center table that were the “new items.”

On a visit one summer day, I recall walking in (after the ride up from Bucks County, PA where I was staying) ready to shuffle through the dusty piles, after all, that’s what was required to really find what was in stock at this (and so many other) shop. What to my amazement should appear but a brand new 1/48 Su-17 from KP. Talk about modeling gold! A 1/48 swing wing Fitter! I was in modeling heaven. Not thinking for a minute, it was going home with me. Of course, they didn’t take credit cards, so I had to ask that they hold it while I went to find an ATM. Long story short (no, Steven Zaloga, you can’t have it), it was on its way home with me.


First inspection showed that it looked a lot like an OEZ kit. Which later was confirmed. OEZ had sold their efforts to KP (Kopro) resulting in their last tooling showing up under a different brand (I guess at one time they had a MiG-23BN planned, too). It was certainly more refined than the Su-7 that I had previously built. Still crude (mid-90s crude) in some areas, but again, better than the other OEZ kits I had in the stash (keep in mind there was no Academy MiG-21 yet, so that included the OEZ MiG-21 kit).

Fast forward a few months, maybe even a year or so, and it was time to build the beast. Likely the release of the Cutting Edge cockpit for the kit was what pushed the project over the Go line. Like most projects it was simple to get the cockpit together, but the small amount of work in to get the resin fit to the kit, and then the fuselage together. After all it was just two fuselage halves, putting those together can’t be hard. But (and here’s the but), from that point in the project fought me every step of the way. Things I remember being difficult include the main wheel well where half the well wall was molded with the upper half of the wing and the other half was molded with the bottom half. Well that will leave a heck of a seam...if the two wheel well halves even matched up. They were so offset that a totally new set of walls had to be fabricated to get one smooth wall all the way around. Seemingly everything had to be trimmed, shimmed, blended, or otherwise spackled in place. Pylons were not molded to one side of the wing or the other, and had to be filled and carefully blended. The large wing fences were split requiring careful filling and sanding. The landing gear was an atrocious approximation of the complex gear on the real aircraft (heck we had new books coming out to show us what these things really looked like). One problem after another. And let me be perfectly clear here, I am only glossing over the bigger issues.

Suffice to say, I fought it all the way to the finish line, and LOVED every minute of it. It was a 1/48 Su-17, and I was darned glad to have one to build. Despite this, I had others in my collection over the years, and even built up a host of additional details to do a “really nice” build. Cutting Edge cockpit, exhaust and outer wings, resin wheels from TallyHo!, a host of etching from Eduard and Part, weapons and pylons from Art Model, and then at the very end came Ciro and their glorious wheel wells (that fixed the out-of-register main wheel well halves). All of this would have made for some spectacular detailing on a kit that was still a bear to build. Project cost was probably in excess of $250 by the time you secured all the add-ons – not to mention some aftermarket decals. Despite many false starts I could never get myself to really engage on the project again. Would get the kit out, tinker a bit and then turn my attention to something newer.

In the two decades, give or take, since I built the first one, I never built a second. I am a far better modeler now then I was then. Better not only in terms of skills, but also better in terms of tools, materials and techniques that have come to light since that time (I mean, Squadron Green putty, am I right?). As we moved into the last four or five years with the onslaught of new 1/48 jet kits, it then became a matter of time before a new Su-17 would present itself and I would be able to build a new and improved Fitter (and the good Lord willing, all the earlier versions too).

So where is this whole thing going Paul, that’s a great story, but what’s your point here?

Thanks for asking! There is most definitely a point. Today, on my front porch, I found laying a brown corrugated box in the characteristic model kit dimensions. In that box, was a brand new 1/48 Kitty Hawk Su-17M3/M4. The kit is GLORIOUS. I’ll have details on my website and Facebook page (probably by the time you read this), but in the interim, let’s talk about why it’s a great kit, and why you almost certainly will have heard otherwise.


From the moment this kit was announced, it was already decried as a piece of garbage. Because of brand alone, it was already doomed in the eyes of many. Doomed not only to those that like to use such statements as “debacle” or “dumpster fire” or even “horribly misshapen monstrosity” to describe flaws in kit designs, but doomed to the people that just read those statements in passing and assume them to be gospel. After all everything you read on the internet is true, right?

Unlike the good old days, we get to carefully monitor each dumpster fire in progress, much like the 24 hour news cycle. Each step of a release is carefully charted on modeling forums everywhere. Announcements are made, CAD renderings are displayed, test shots come out of the mold machines, first kits are assembled, early releases reviewed, and only then does a release get to mass market. By that time the Photoshop and red pen brigade have sliced and diced every nuance of every photo.

So as we proceeded through the release process on the Kitty Hawk Su-17, we see the CAD, and it looks pretty good. We see updated CAD, still pretty darned nice. We see the first test shot build – wow that looks great! We finally see parts on the trees, those looks great, too. Wow, it’s a legit 1/48 Fitter! Yet even with all of this, the haters are still there, and more importantly those that read the hate go into the release expecting it to be wrong and not worth their while.

Here is why the negative point of view, relatively speaking, is incorrect. Let me make this VERY simple:

You ready?

Gonna be hard for some of you to comprehend, but...

IT’S NOT THE OEZ/KP/KOPRO/KARAYA/EDUARD KIT.

End of discussion. Somehow we’ve gotten ourselves into the practice of comparing every kit to some idealized non-existent kit that can never be achieved. Yeah, there’s Tamiya, they seem to be the best blend of engineering and fidelity, but they come at a price, and come out with maybe one subject a year. We need to stop comparing against unrealistic ideals and maybe look at some more realistic comparisons – like what else is out there in the 1/48 Su-17 space? Here’s a clue: It’s that project I so lovingly described above. It was a beast to build, it was full of accuracy issues, and to get it to a similar standard, would cost three to four times as much as this new kit will cost. Fair and full disclosure – there is a Hobby Boss kit coming of the same subject – not sure when, but it’s in their catalog. Maybe that will fix the canopy issue, but from what we’ve seen of early test displays, it’s not as accurate as the Kitty Hawk kit. Beyond that, you’re hoping that somebody else does a better job, but at this point you’re hoping for something that’s FAR down the road, and nothing more than a wish at this point. Kitty Hawk, Hobby Boss, Ideal Future Kit or KP – that’s your choice. Nope, sorry, I forgot one, there's the Evergreen kit too. There's always the Evergreen kit.

So back to that whole modeling relativism thing. We need to stop comparing to the imaginary and start looking at what’s in front of us. Ninety-five percent of kits are really good releases and so far and away better than what has come before. We’ve lost track of that. Every once in a while something really superb comes along, but even then, there’s a flaw somewhere, or the panel lines are too heavy (even if everything else is near perfect), but those releases are the exception and not the rule. Secondly, if you’re really into a given subject, you’re going to be willing to put more effort into the build then somebody only casually interested in the subject. That said with the huge variety of new kits coming, there has to be just about something for everyone at this point.

And yes, I get it, we want to hold the manufacturers to a higher standard. The reason why the kits are so good today is because of the input that has been received by customers over the internet years of modeling.  But while the standard has gotten better and better, the complaining about accuracy issues has not. Endlessly chasing down accuracy issues comes at a price, and in most cases, manufacturers will cut a corner here and there to keep the price of a given release in the reasonable range.

So the next time you want to build a given kit, here are a few pieces of advice:

  • Look up hyperbole (see also click bait) in the dictionary, then look at many other pieces of new, postings or similar pieces of content (whether modeling related or not). It will put things in perspective.
  • Stop worrying about what’s being said online about a kit or manufacturer. Chances are it’s something you’d never see if a subject matter expert hadn’t pointed it out in the first place.
  • If you’ve built a few models, chances are you’ll be able to overcome any fit issue that you come across. Remember these are model kits and not Lego sets. Maybe the whole “kit doesn’t fit” issue is something that I need to address in a separate article (this one is long enough).
  • Don’t apologize for what you’re building because somebody said something bad about the manufacturer or the kit. If you like it and had fun with it, a lot more people want to hear about your experience with the kit than with further comparisons to the imaginary ideal. Guaranteed that 90 percent of the folks who view your model, whether online or in person, will be blown away by the effort.
  • If you’re into a given subject, build the kit, because chances are a better kit is a lot further out than not. Unless it’s a P-51 or a Tiger tank, there will be another release of one of those in five, four, or three years.

Finally, it’s a hobby, it’s supposed to be fun, build the darned thing and stop worrying about what some expert said.

If I can build and enjoy the KP 1/48 Su-17, then it’s a virtual certainty that you’ll be able to enjoy the Kitty Hawk release. All a matter of perspective.


The opinions expressed above are those of the contributor and not necessarily of Scale Model Soup.