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"

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 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.


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.


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?

DEF Model
ET Model (three versions)
Live Resin
Mig Productions
Panzer Art (two versions)
Pro Art

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.

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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...


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.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Scale models at the state fair

Modelers often have conversations, face-to-face or online, about how to increase interest in the hobby. I’ve heard ideas about how to introduce the hobby to young people and adults alike, though it’s the latter group who I believe should be our target audience — that is adults who have an interest in aviation, militaria, naval history, or cars.

Regardless of where you stand, the members of Albuquerque Scale Modelers Club know how to promote the hobby.

For more than 10 years the club has run a model contest that’s part of the New Mexico State Fair. This is brilliant! State fairs attract thousands of children and adults, who just might have interests that could lead to a hobby in scale modeling. These fairs usually have arts and craft competitions, so it makes sense that scale modeling should be among the categories.

Last year the New Mexico State Fair model contest saw 69 models entered by 40 modelers, with categories for youth (11 years and under), senior youth (12 to 17 years), adults, and professionals (those who make a living as model makers, as well as all ASM members themselves). The club members serve as the judges, which ensures that judging is fair and consistent with what those in the hobby have come to expect.

I’d love to see other chapters follow ASM’s lead. I’m guessing that nearly every state has a state fair, so it’s an untapped resource in bringing newcomers into the hobby.

Kudos to the guys in Albuquerque! Take a look at photos from the 2016 fair, and browse their web site to enjoy photos from prior years.

Thanks to Joe Walters, ASM’s Newsletter Editor, for permission to use the photo you see here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Grievous inaccuracies in movies

It’s always entertaining — if a bit frustrating — to read movie reviews from modelers, aviation enthusiasts, and armchair historians, who are always quick to call out inaccuracies to show how knowledgable they are. For example, one discussion I read a few months ago about “Sully” included the observation that the squadron Sully was assigned to at Nellis AFB flew the F-4D not the F-4E. Never mind that the producers had access only to an E model.

For what it’s worth, inaccuracies can be found in movies of all genres if you look for them. In "Bottle Shock,” a movie about the 1976 Judgement of Paris wine competition, there’s a scene that was filmed at Chateau Montana, a winery in California. If you look in the background you’ll see wine fermentation tank controls that, I’m told, where installed by Hale Winery Refrigeration. Unfortunately those tanks hadn’t been installed when the events in the movie took place.

Sounds ridiculous, right? Like, who the hell cares? I suspect that's how 99 percent of the viewers of "Sully" would respond if told about the inaccurate Phantom.

Sometimes I think our knowledge about a subject can get in our way of enjoying a simple movie.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

More of the same

Five days into the new year, and there’s already evidence that we’ll see yet more multiple releases of the same vehicles and aircraft from the manufacturers. Feel free to yawn now, and don’t be surprised if someone else yawns, too.

On January 1 Trumpeter announced a new kit of the BMR-3 on Facebook, and I complimented them on moving into the realm of engineering vehicles, an area that has been underserved by the manufacturers. But then yesterday Meng announced their own kit of the BMR-3.

What the what is going on among the manufacturers? Why do we see so many concurrent announcements and releases of the same subjects?

I pondered this question almost exactly a year ago. In that post I mentioned the T-10, SCUD-C, and MiG-31. Since then we’ve seen three new kits of the Su-34, two kits of the ZSU-23 Shilka, two kits of the 9A52-2 Smerch, three of the BMPT, two of the King Tiger, and several M1A2 Abrams in its different incarnations.

I point out this phenomenon again with the same frustration I felt a year ago, with the realization that for ever model kit that a manufacturer produces, it’s not producing something else. If Manufacturer A announces a kit of a vehicle or aircraft and then Manufacturer B decides to produce their own version of it, it means that Manufacturer B is not producing something else, something unique that could drive sales equally well. I don’t know who conceived the BMR-3 first, but the company that responded in kind should have chosen something different, like a BREM-1 T-72 recovery vehicle, which is not available in plastic form.

At the beginning of every new year I'm excited about new kits that have not been previously announced (there are always surprises), but that excitement is tempered this year knowing that several kits will be variations on a theme.

So, who's taking bets on how long it will be until Tiger or Takom announce their own BMR-3?