Thursday, November 22, 2018

Time to be thankful again

It’s been three years since I shared the things I’m thankful for, so I thought it time to reflect again on all the good things I enjoy in our hobby.

Scribing tape

I’ve always intended to write about my experience scribing -- because I’ve found it to be quite zen -- but just haven’t gotten around to it. The desire is stronger now after having discovered HIQ Carving Guide Tape via Hobbyworld USA. If you’ve struggled scribing around curved surfaces — trying to apply multiple layers of masking tape to create a scribing guide or cutting long strips of label tape — you’ll find that HIQ’s tape is the bee’s knees.

Modeling reference books

Over the last few years we've seen an explosion of magazines and books describing how master modelers, build, convert, paint, and weather their models. We’ve come a long way from simple 4-5 page articles in magazines. Today you can find a 25-step photo instruction on how to paint and weather a P-51D fuel tank and entire books dedicated to building a single model. With so many books explaining every little technique, there’s seemingly no excuse not to build a decent model.

Video reviews

YouTube has become a prime medium for delivering thorough in-box reviews of new kits. Web sites such as The Modeling News and BritModeller have long offered comprehensive photo coverage of new kits, but a video offers a new dimension to assessing them. Look at the BlitzGreigModelWorks or Genessis Models YouTube channel for good examples.

Facebook groups

I know I’ve been critical of the deluge of groups on Facebook, but the result has been an abundance of information shared from all corners of the globe. I suspect many of the groups we’ve joined have been created by modelers for modelers, but they attract real-world pilots, soldiers, seamen, etc. who are eager to share their photos and experiences. We modelers have everything to gain. I’m still concerned that content is being diluted when there are so many groups intended for the same subject (for example, nearly 15 groups for the F-4 Phantom), but the value of Facebook cannot be denied.

Our hobby

The older I get, the more I realize that most people don’t have a hobby. While those folks are wasting away watching television or doing god-knows-what, scale modelers like us are actively engaged in history, research, and craftsmanship. We’re lucky to have a passion that drives our thoughts and activities on a day to day basis.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

We visit Maraudercon

You know it's a great contest when there are vendors in the bathroom!

But seriously folks, I had the pleasure of attending Maraudercon, north of Baltimore, this past weekend, and it was arguably the best of the three contests I attended in 2018. The contest had more than 500 entries, and the vendors were a mix of professional dealers and private sellers, all of them offering a variety of paints, supplies, books, aftermarket, and kits. And oh were there bargains!

Maraudercon is a bit unusual in two respects — it’s held every two years, and two chapters join forces host it (IPMS Baltimore and IPMS/Washington DC). I can only guess why they choose not to make it an annual event, but after having attended in 2016, the show will definitely be on my must-attend list in the years to come. The only thing that might keep me away is an early snowstorm, like the one we saw here in the Northeast just two days earlier.

In the contest room, the tables were full and the quality high. Here are a few of my favorite entries, with others posted on my Facebook page.

My two favorite models on the table came from the same modeler, Nelson Key. This guy is expert at two of the more complex aircraft finishes that all of us have discussed on the discussion boards, the metallic-like paint of the F-22A Raptor and the tedious masking of the F-35A Lightning. The paint on his  Hasegawa F-22 was absolutely perfect, and the masking on the Meng F-35A as tight and precise as anyone could ask. It was a pleasure to see both in the flesh.

My long-time readers may remember my struggles with rigging several years ago, but the modeler of this 1/72 Voisin 3 (a combination of Eduard and Flashback kits) seems to have no problems with it whatsoever. I don’t know the modeler, but his models always impress.

This was the first time I’ve seen the newish Kitty Hawk 1/32 OS2U-2 Kingfisher in person, and it’s an impressive model on its own, but with the Eduard Big Ed set and skills to impress, the modeler of this example set a high bar to inspire others.

If I were to award just one model for degree of effort and overall success it would be this Testors 1/48 SR-71. I’ve never built one, but everyone of us has heard stories about how difficult the kit is to build. That this modeler was able to create such in impressive model speaks highly of his skills and dedication.

This Kitty Hawk 1/35 T-28B stood out in the large scale category and its entry form was accompanied by a long list of enhancements that took it to another level. The finish was well done, too, the modeler telling me that all of the weathering was done with traditional pastels and washes. No trendy products used here!

I really liked this simple BTR-40. It was expertly constructed and painted and shows that you needn’t apply heavy weathering techniques to create a remarkable example of an armored vehicle.

Speaking of newfangled products and such, it’s nice to see a modeler go “old school” and convert a model as we used to 20 years ago. This 1/35 T-54 is not a Miniart or Takom kit. It’s a kitbash of Tamiya, ESCI, Tank Workshop, and Chesapeake Model Designs kits and aftermarket.

I don't know much about automotive subjects, but this Etzell's Speed Classics 1/25 Miller was an eye-catcher. Those spoked wheels!

Mark your calendars for Maraudercon in two years, Saturday, October 17, 2020.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

eBay decal insanity

It’s been a long time since I shared some of the outrageous, model-related listings I’ve seen on eBay. I never expected it to stop, of course, but the ongoing insanity gives us another opportunity to laugh at some of the junk people try to sell on eBay. This time, it’s all about decals.

For just $5.00 – the price of a venti coffee at Starbucks – you can be the proud owner of these old, yellowed decals from a Monogram 1/72 F8F Bearcat. Don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll look great once applied to your latest masterpiece.

Experienced modelers know that we can fix a lot of things, but water or mildew stained decals is not one of them. Here's a sheet of 1/72 F/A-18 decals.

A sane person would toss these Mosquito decals out with today’s vegetable scraps, but not this eBay seller. At least he (or she) opened bidding at just over one dollar.

Here’s a crappy sheet of decals for your Hawk that will set you back just 1.15 GBP.

Are you looking for a set of completely useless decals for your Revell F-4? (And I know you are.) This set was available for $6.99 last year. Put them in a south-facing window for five to eight years and maybe, just maybe, that yellow decal film will fade away.

Enjoy earlier moments of eBay insanity here and here.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Dora, I see what you're doing

Dora, I see what you're doing, and I like it!

If you follow the Rumourmonger forum on (and you should, because it’s one of the most lively conversations about upcoming releases), you may have noticed an interesting series of releases from newcomer Dora Wings.

Beginning in January 2017, and continuing through this year, Dora Wings has announced a series of new tool kits of the P-63 Kingcobra. That wouldn’t be particularly remarkable except that the kits span three scales — 1/48, 1/72, and 1/144.

To be fair, other manufacturers have done that. Hasegawa has F-16s in 1/32, 1/48, and 1/72. Monogram released kits back in the day of the F-105 in two scales. Trumpeter has released several tanks in 1/35 and 1/72. But what makes Dora Wings’ releases interesting to me is the close succession in which they’re coming to market.

I was intrigued by this strategy, so I messaged the company and subsequently had a nice conversation with the proprietor, Eugen Evtushenko. As I suspected, Eugen is taking advantage of 3D technology to release these kits across many scales. From his original 1/48 P-63, it's relatively easy to scale down the design to 1/72 and 1/144. “It’s a marketing move,” he said. “Let’s see if it’s right.” Based on the responses to other manufacturers’ new releases, where modelers often chime in with “wrong scale” remarks, I think Eugen is onto something.

Eugen said he produces kits that are interesting to him. Recently it’s been the Kingcobra, hence all the kits we’re seeing. As a modeler himself, he prefers 1/48 scale but realizes there’s a demand for 1/72 in particular.

His next three-scale release will likely be the Fairey Delta 2, and he has plans for at least two other models in two scales.

Looking further ahead Eugen tells me he’s most inspired by the Golden Era of aviation. “There are a lot of undeservedly forgotten prototypes, which are unprofitable for large producers to produce. Short-run manufacturers can help,” he said. "The cost of production for us is much less, and we can afford to produce a model with a circulation of 500-1000 copies."

Eugen casts a wide net when designing a new kit. He’ll search out books, magazines, and drawings, and is not averse to reaching out to the modeling community for assistance. One Britmodeller member, he told me, was key in providing references for the Dora P-63 racer.

Scrolling through Dora’s Facebook page you'll see many new and exciting releases. There’s a Percival Proctor and Vega, Bellanca CH300 and CH400, a Bf-109A/B, Dewotine D.501, and Gee Bee R1. I’m excited to see what Dora Wings will produce in the coming years.

Until then, here are a links to a few reviews of Dora Wings models.

1/72 P-63E on Hyperscale.
1/48 P-63E on KFS Miniatures.
1/48 TP-63E on Scalenews.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

If something seems too good to be true...

Earlier this week Matt McDougall over at Doogs’ Models posted his findings of an informal survey he conducted on modelers’ buying habits. One of the questions he asked is where we buy our kits, paints, and tools. Much to my surprise, Amazon came in third, behind our local hobby shop (another surprise) and eBay.

Like many of you I’ve been going to Amazon quite a bit over the last few years in search of bargains. If you're an Amazon Prime customer in particular, the program's free shipping gets you around the bugbear of online purchases, postage. Even with that nugget, true bargains remain rare.

I’ve found a few over the years. Three years ago I found a Trumpeter 2S7M for $42 and a Minicraft 1/144 KC-135 for $8, both eligible for Amazon Prime! The only trick to finding these bargains is luck. (On the other hand, there’s no luck necessary if you want to buy models for pennies.)

I thought I got lucky last week when I spontaneously searched for one of the models on my short wish list, the Roden 1/144 C-5 Galaxy. You can imagine my surprise when I found this listing for the kit for $26.97.

I reviewed the description to make sure it was legit, not for just the box, or the decals, or just the fuselage. Everything looked good, so I ordered the model. I figured if it turned out to be a scam Amazon would back up a complaint. Amazon confirmed the purchase, so I set up camp in front yard to anxiously await the delivery.

Alas, there was no happy ending. Two days later I got an email from the seller informing me that his software had listed the model with the incorrect price. It should've been $126.99. He kindly offered me a 10 percent discount if I wanted to proceed with the purchase, but I declined and chose a refund instead. Total bummer.

There was a lot conversation about the Roden kit when it was released last year, and I tend to agree with the masses who find it's price tag a bit steep. I'll be patient and wait. Like most of the models that have been on my wish list, I’ll find one eventually at a good price, even if it's not $25.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Eight awesome war movies from the awesome 80s

I’m a child of the 1980s, and it was a good time to be alive. Madonna ruled the airwaves, I promised myself to have two female roommates after watching Three’s Company, Bill Cosby was the father that I wished I had, and a Hasegawa 1/48 F-4 was just $15 (and a Tamiya 1/35 Sherman for $8).

How times have changed. Madonna is no longer relevant; I’ve since learned that one female “roommate” (i.e., wife) is enough; Bill Cosby was, never mind; and models are nearing (and surpassing) the $100 price point. But I have good memories from that decade, including a flurry of remarkable war movies that are as enjoyable now as they were 30 years ago. That is, if you can suspend your disbelief long enough to endure bad acting and implausible plots.

Here are my eight favorites.

Top Gun

I can’t think of another movie that captured the imagination or interest of aviation enthusiasts more than Top Gun. It has a look, a feel, a spirit that I haven’t seen in any other movie about fighter pilots. Yes, the plot is simple and mostly predictable (even though — spoiler alert — Maverick doesn’t win the Top Gun trophy in his class), but the flying sequences are amazing thanks to the Navy’s cooperation. As for Top Gun 2...we shall see.

Iron Eagle

Absolutely terrible plot in every way imaginable, but like Top Gun, the flying sequences are breathtaking. The Cessna 150 scene at the beginning is worth the price of admission and ensures Iron Eagle will always be among my favorite aviation themed films.

Red Dawn

For those of us who grew up in the 60s, 70s, 80s, war with the Soviet Union was a very real possibility and always in the back of our minds. Red Dawn was a poor representation of what a Soviet invasion might look like, capturing that underlying fear we lived with.


Taps aired just around the time that I joined the Civil Air Patrol and AFJROTC, and it reinforced my interest in the military. The uniforms, the marching, the camaraderie…it all had great appeal to a young man looking forward to a future in the military. The cast was pretty great, too: Timothy Hutton, Sean Penn, a very young Tom Cruise, George C. Scott, and Ronnie Cox.


Platoon was one of a long line of movies through the late 70s and early 80s that portrayed the brutality of the Vietnam war. There's an obvious anti-war tone to the movie, but the directing and acting was exceptional, from the stars to even the extras.

Henry V

You probably didn’t expect to see this on a list of war movies, did you? You may not think that a 15th century battle is as compelling as one in the 20th century, but if you can indulge the Shakespearean language, the battle scenes in Henry V show the brutality of early face-to-face combat and much more intimate than in recent wars.

Full Metal Jacket

I have a thing for movies about basic training. I could watch FMJ for those scenes alone. I know you’ve all seen the movie, so you know Private Pyle; when I was in basic training there was a guy in my flight who reminded me of Private Pyle, though I’m happy to say he fared much better than Pyle.

The Final Countdown

The dialog is painfully bad, but time travel is always offers an intriguing plot. The dogfight between the F-14s and Zeros is a fun ride.

Missing the cut by just one year, and on my mind because I just re-watched it, Hunt for the Red October. I don't think I've seen Sean Connery in a more commanding role than as Captain Ramius.

Friday, July 27, 2018

The 2nd Annual Virtual Convention

The IPMS National Convention is next week. Not going? Read on!

When I couldn’t attend the IPMS Nats two years ago, I had the hair-brained idea of creating an online convention, and thus was born the First Annual Virtual Convention. It was intended solely as a way to distract me from the mild despair of not attending the show to a more productive mindset.

A couple of years earlier I'd provided a few tips to modelers who couldn’t attend the Nats — the most important being to simply spend time at the workbench — so in 2016 I decided to take my own advice and make an effort to be constructive over the weekend, more so than usual even.

Participation in the convention was modest, with just five readers sending me photos of their models, but I enjoyed the experience nonetheless and made a few friends. A dialog with five modelers is better than none! The Virtual Convention slipped my mind last year, and it probably would’ve been off my radar again this year if a friend hadn’t mentioned it.

Despite the fact that group builds don’t seem to be very popular these days, let’s try the Virtual Convention again. Even if my friend and I are the only participants, the time at the bench will be well spent.

Here’s a summary of our expectations for those who didn’t participate in 2014.

Prepare for the day by staking claim to the weekend. Take Friday off if you can, either using a vacation day or calling in sick. Let your spouse, significant other, children, non-modeler friends, etc. know that you’re going to spend the day by yourself. You probably won’t be able to take all three or four days off, but do what you can.

Next decide how you’re going to spend your time. I suggest four ways to make the weekend productive.

Spend the day at the workbench. The hobby is about building models, so there’s no better way to spend an hour or two or eight than at the workbench.

Spend time with other modelers who aren’t attending the Nats. Gather and have lunch or dinner. If you can’t meet up in person, pick up the phone and call them.

Visit your LHS and treat yourself to a model or two. You’d probably spend at least $500 attending the Nats, so dropping $50 on something interesting will be a small treat.

Watch a favorite movie. Or a series of YouTube videos.

It’s that simple. Make some time for the hobby, for yourself. Let me know via email or Facebook if you plan to participate. We’ll keep in touch, and I'll ask for photos of how you spent your weekend. I’ll post an after-action report the week following.

See you there!

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Paying it forward

Here are a couple of heartwarming stories about friends giving me free stuff.

I was 14 years old and had been building models for a few years, not really knowing what I was doing. Somehow I learned about IPMS Ocala (Florida), which met in a neighboring town. I didn’t have a driver’s license, so my mother generously drove me to the meetings and would shop while I made new friends and learned about the finer aspects of scale modeling. A few of the club members were particularly helpful and took me under their wings, and I was eventually invited to their homes to see their workshops, stashes, and book collections.

I remember visiting the home of Alan Royer, who was an extremely talented truck modeler. I spent a couple of hours with him as he showed me the models he was working on, explained how he converted them, and introduced me to the tools and material he used to build them. I’d never seen sheet plastic or tubing. Alan used liquid glue, not the Testors goo I had at home. The experience was, as they say, like drinking from a fire hose. There was so much I didn’t know about this hobby.

What I most remember about my visit with Alan was his generosity. He shared with me everything he knew, and when I left, he gave me a selection of sheet plastic and tubing that I could use for my own modeling. That was incredibly kind of him, and it set an example for how I should encourage other modelers that I would meet in the future.

Fast-forward thirty’ish years. Last month a friend emailed me and told me that he was downsizing his collection and included a few photos of the models he wanted to get rid of. The subject line said it all, “Free to a good home.” And here’s the thing. He wasn’t offering me a bunch of moldy old Revell and Lindberg kits from the 1960s. These were primo, new-tool kits that would easily sell for $30 or more on eBay.

I’ve had enough conversations with this friend over the last couple of years to know his downsizing is an exercise to de-clutter his life; simply getting the models out of his home is his priority. Still, it was incredibly generous of him to outright give me the models rather than sell them. And when I went to his office to pick up the three models I asked for (I didn’t want to be selfish and ask for everything), he’d added a few more that he knew I’d be interested in.

I reflect on these two moments because they’re meaningful. There’s no better way to “pay it forward” than to be generous with your time and the things that you value. It could be a small item such as a bottle of paint or a photoetch set, or it could be a model — or two or five or twenty-five.

I’ve written about the signs that your stash is out of control and about what might happen to your stash when you die. If you find yourself downsizing your collection, consider giving away some of your models to friends or the younger modelers you know. Take a few to the next contest and give them to one of the youngsters in attendance. Paying it forward, giving away something of value, may make an impression on someone who will be building models 30 years from now.

And to my friend Adrian, thank you!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Lessons learned from the Olympics

The Olympics are well behind us now, and after watching a number of the events over those two weeks I’ve been reflecting on what the experience must be like for the athletes who didn't win, or who didn't place as high as expected.

I’ve been an advocate here on Scale Model Soup for entering contests. In light of the Olympic experience, there are a few lessons we scale modelers might consider relative to our participation in contests so that we’re not completely dejected when we don’t win.

Sometimes you have a bad day

American skater Nathan Chen was expected to medal, but numerous stumbles in the short program ultimately put him in 17th place and kept him off the podium.

Lesson: Although the act of building a scale model doesn’t happen within the span of one to three minutes, I think we all know the experience of building a model that doesn’t reflect what we believe to be our true potential. Don’t let one or two shabby models diminish your confidence. Press on and build another model.

Even when you fall short you can still do great things

Speaking of Nathan Chen, even though he didn't medal, he was the first competitor to land five quadruple jumps in one program.

Lesson: Many of you have seen thousands of models over the years, either at contests or online, and a number of them are memorable to you. Did they win first place in their categories? Maybe; maybe not. If your model isn’t perfect — if a significant flaw kept it from winning — remember that it may be memorable to the contest attendees. Build something great and it will be remembered whether you win or not.

You can redeem yourself

Shaun White, who was widely regarded as the snowboarding king, had a disappointing experience at the 2014 Olympics, placing fourth in the halfpipe event. He redeemed himself in PyeongChang by winning gold.

Lesson: So you didn’t win first place in your favorite category? You made mistakes and the judges found them? Pick yourself up, learn how to improve, and try again. The good news is you don't have to wait four years!

The line between first and second place can be razor-thin

In the Alpine Skiing-Women's Super-G, the difference between Ester Ledecka’s gold medal and Anna Veith’s silver was just 1/100 of a second.

Lesson: I’ve judged in enough contests to know first-hand that the line between first place and second place (or second or third, or third and zilch) can come down to the most seemingly inconsequential item. If you fall short of where you hoped to be, remember that what the judges found might have been an incredibly small distinction between you and the guy who won. (Unfortunately in mosts contests you’ll almost never know just how close you came to winning.)

Comparing professional athletes to hobbyists isn’t really fair. Athletes invest much more time and money in their pursuit of gold, but I think we can learn something from the Olympics. If anything we can look to the Olympic Creed, which says in part:

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part.”

And so it is with scale model contests as well.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The most unusual place I've purchased a model

This week Jon at The Combat Workshop asked this question to The Sprue Cutters Union: What is the most unusual place you’ve ever purchased a kit.

The year was 1985. I was in high school and working part-time at a local grocery store. We had a small toy section in the non-foods area of the store, and among the items intended for five year-olds was a small selection of MPC model kits.

The 1/72 F-86D caught my attention, but I didn’t buy it immediately. I’d pass it every time I had to run for a price check in that part of the store and every evening I’d “close” and be tasked with corning sweeping and dust mopping. I would imagine how I might build it and paint it, but I never pulled the trigger. This went on for months and months.

One day I finally bought the model. It was only five or six dollars as I recall, so it didn’t impact my meager budget all that much. I suppose that was the most unusual place I’ve ever purchased a kit, a grocery store. That’s a pretty lame story, I must admit. I hope other members of the Union have more compelling stories to share.

Ironically, I never build the model.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Those crazy eBay prices

A recurring subject of conversation on the discussion forums and Facebook groups is the exorbitant prices we often see on Amazon for models and books in particular. I wrote about those crazy Amazon prices some time ago, and now we’re seeing algorithmic pricing on eBay. There are many companies offer software that allows eBay sellers to monitor product pricing across eBay and Amazon and adjust the prices of the seller’s items automatically.

I’d noticed some unusually high-priced models on eBay recently, but when I saw this one, a Fujimi 1/72 TA-4J for over $500, I had to dig a little deeper.

I’ve always suggested contacting sellers when you see an item that appears to be priced too high — I mean, typos do happen — so I thought I’d do just that with the seller of this model. I got right to the point:

"Hi. Is this price correct? It seems very expensive."

To their credit, the seller responded within an hour:

"Hello, thank you for contacting us. This is correct price. The sales volume of this item is decreasing, so the selling price is rising. Thank for understanding.”

I can’t help but feel a little sorry for the seller. They’re paying for algorithmic pricing software but being poorly served by it. A quick search of completed eBay listings finds the same kit having sold recently for $31 and $36, with others going unsold for $29 and $30. Clearly, this model isn’t as pricey as the software believes. I could see the software suggesting a price of maybe $50, but $500 suggests to me it’s missing the mark, by a lot.

Everybody knows that no one is going to pay $500 for that Skyhawk; well, everyone except the seller it would seem. Seeing the listing provides an interesting view into the world of eBay and Amazon sellers. I wonder how much revenue they’re missing by relying too heavily on technology.

BTW, if you get a big tax refund in the next couple of months and intend to lay down $500 for the Skyhawk, I have one in my stash that I’ll let go for just $300.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The only New Year’s resolution I need

It’s not too late to break a New Year’s resolution, but is it too late to make one?

Last week, in my contribution to the Sprue Cutters Union topic about where I most improved in 2017, I briefly listed a few things that I’d like to explore this year. After reflecting a bit over the last week, though, I think I need only one resolution, and it’s very simple:

Build more models.

I could make lots of resolutions. I could resolve to finally build one of the ships in my stash, but what if I find myself unexpectedly entranced with 1/32 jets? I could resolve to spend less time reading the cantankerous debates on Facebook and the forums, but what if I get intrigued by them? I could resolve to avoid poorly engineered kits, but what if Kitty Hawk releases a 1/48 Ryan L-17 Navion? I could resolve to attend more contests, but what if they require more time than a day trip allows?

To use a cliche, at the end of the day, none of those resolutions matter. The only resolution I need is to spend more time at the workbench and increase my output. I’m most happy and content when I’m gluing and painting plastic, and even happier when I put that one final touch on my latest creation. I’ll be a year older this month, and that stash ain’t gonna build itself.

So that’s my resolution this year. Build more models. Everything else will follow.