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."


"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."


"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." 


"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."


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


"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."


"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.


  1. My hat comes off to you sir. That's manly and laudable

  2. Short cut works. I find that better than cheat. It is more fitting.

  3. Oh and Steve, I have never used aftermarket props. If it is in the box I use it. I don't scratchbuild either. I do nof find that relaxing. My builds are average at best but my daughter, wife, and friends all like them. That makes me happy.

    1. Truth be told, there are many aspects of building, painting, and weathering a model that I don't find relaxing, so I hear you. I sometimes joke with my fiancee telling her, "I really need to find a hobby that's relaxing." LOL

  4. I was OK with "cheating" :-) Were I to use such completely finished parts like those props I'd accept that I was stepping outside what I consider modeling. It would not be kit building, nor conversion, nor scratchbulding, and I would accept it as such and use such parts if I desired. No need to fool myself as long as in the end I enjoyed the hobby.

    1. Thanks for the comment. There's room for all of us no matter how we build our models.

  5. Very nicely said, can't agree more with most of it !! Hats off !

  6. I enjoyed the whole discussion. One thing about aftermarket; no matter how skilled you are with an X-Acto, .005 wire and .005 sheet styrene you will run up against what I call the "limits of scale fidelity" unless you have access to a chemical milling process, photo lab, or cad/cam program there are some things just too tiny to fabricate with scale realism at the average workbench. The most obvious example would be the P/E instrument panels.
    Yes you can paint the plastic panel but trying to do all the dial tick marks, placards, and instrument bezel contrasting markings in paint or Prisma color pencils. It CAN be done but IMO the color P/E will look better just about every time.
    Another example would be the bevel gears used to rotate the gear on a F6F or P-40. They can be seen in the wheel well but would be tough to replicate out of .005 sheet with an X-Acto....
    Pat D

    1. Good observation. When it comes to fidelity, I try to remember an old adage passed on to me years ago: "Representation, not duplication." That always helps me regain my perspective. Thanks, Pat!

  7. I love this article it gave me a laugh, BRAVO!