Monday, March 16, 2020

COVID-19 traced to moldy plastic model

Yesterday the World Health Organization (WHO) revised its conclusions to the origins of COVID-19. The source wasn’t a wet market in Wuhan, China as previously reported. Rather, it was this moldy plastic model sold at a model contest in New Jersey last year.


“This totally took us by surprise,” said Jacob Schumacher, senior epidemiologist at the WHO. “We were alerted to the possibility of an alternate origin of the virus when a scale modeler told us that he and nearly all of the members of his model club came down with Coronavirus symptoms.”

“That club member was very helpful after he realized the mistake he'd made in purchasing the model,” Schumacher said. “He's an international hero, even if he admits to pre-shading and using Future, which I'm told are crimes in his weird community of enthusiasts.”

That modeler, who asked to be identified only as Carl N., told investigators that he thought the model might be problematic when the mold on it got worse over time. “The model was pretty funky when I bought it, but after six months the green mold had turned black and spread to other kits in my stash.”

When asked why he would be stupid enough to buy a model in such condition, Carl said, “I really wanted the model. The vendor hadn't put a price tag on it, so I had to ask -- which I really hate. He offered it to me for $35, which he said was 5 percent off the regular price. How could I say no?”

WHO researchers spoke with the vendor who sold the model to Carl and asked why he would sell anyone such crap. “Look, a lot of these old models come from damp basements and garages,” the vendor said, who asked not to be identified. “There’s bound to be a little bit of weird shit on some of them. Modelers are real men. Carl and his buddies will be fine.”

The vendor told Scale Model Soup, “Please let everyone know that I just picked up a new collection of kits that have been stored in a pig barn in Pennsylvania that I’ll be selling at contests later this year.”

WHO researchers confiscated Carl's model for analysis at a Berlin laboratory.

“I hope to get the model back eventually,” Carl said. “Yes, I have 475 other models in my stash, but I might want to build it one day? Or I'll save it as a collector's item.”

Friday, February 21, 2020

Even more eBay insanity


Gosh, it’s been well over a year since I shared an eBay insanity post, but the laughs have not stopped. Here’s another round of auction items that made me wonder aloud, “WTF?”

With all due respect to Admiral David Nichols and his service to the United States (he retired as Deputy Commander of US Central Command in 2007), I find it hilarious that the seller of this photo was asking $899 about a year ago. You can find autographed photos of Presidents Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and Obama at the same price point. (Autographs of the Kardashians will set you back much less.) I see that the price is now down to $180.


Okay, it’s pretty cool that someone saw that this Frito-Lay Sun Chip looks like a jet and is willing to sell it to the right aviation enthusiast. But $999? I don’t think so.


If you enjoy sloppy seconds, $19.99 will get you this model. I hope the seller included what was left of his tube of Squadron Green Putty. Oh, and if you’re in the US you’ll need to tack on an additional $17 for postage from the Italian seller.


For just $14.99 you can buy this model of the Space Shuttle…less the Space Shuttle itself. Really? On the upside, the seller claims it was owned by a former NASA engineer.


I’ll never understand why people believe that old, yellowed decals are worth anything more than one dollar. Hell, anything at all! Here’s another example of a demented eBay seller offering decals that would look like shit on your model, assuming you could get them off the paper. The price? $15.


I’ve shared a few eBay auctions of slides that have sold for over $200, but this one takes the cake. The seller was asking $405 for this slide of a C-124, which would be insulting enough if it hadn’t been marked down from the original price of $899.



Tuesday, January 28, 2020

My 24-hour build experience

The 24-hour group build on Facebook is over, and I’m sorry to report that I didn’t finish my Monogram 1/72 A-1E Skyraider.Time got away from me, despite working on it until 2 am Saturday night. I spent about 14 hours in total, which was almost sufficient to build the model in its entirety. If I had allocated another two hours, I think the model would be complete.


Here’s my after-action report.

What worked in my favor


Despite not finishing the Skyraider, I still think it was a good choice. As I wrote earlier this week, it has very few colors, making painting relatively quick and easy. And luckily I didn’t have to do any touchups.

Pre-planning was very helpful, and I should do this more often. For example, I made sure that when I painted black, I painted the interior, wheels, and prop.

I followed some of my own advice for building models faster, which I’ve written about over the last few years. I painted the interior black, didn’t spend much time on the underside, and didn’t obsess over minor seams.

Finally, I didn’t add much detail. The cockpit is a massive black void of nothingness, but detailing it would’ve sent me down a wormhole of lost time. I thought about replacing the exhaust stubs with brass tubing, but that, too, would’ve cost precious time. I did, however, replace the pitot tube (?) on the vertical stabilizer with telescoping tubing.

What worked against me


The Monogram A-1E features raised panel lines, which I knew I wanted to rescribe. Even though there are minimal panel lines, the task was more time-consuming than I’d expected. And I skipped rescribing the lines on the underside!

Even though there weren’t many colors on the model, I’m fastidious when it comes to cleaning my airbrush. Each airbrushing session is followed by a cleaning, and that was a time suck. I probably spent the equivalent of an hour doing just that.

I underestimated the time required to mask the Skyraider’s canopy. Tedious to be sure! That said, I was very happy with the outcome, a reminder that canopy masking need not be as frightening as always anticipate.

I didn’t  finish the Skyraider, but I’m okay with that. As I told a friend on Saturday, despite the goal of finishing a model in 24 hours, I didn’t want to sacrifice quality. I’d rather stop where I did, take a breather, and wrap up the final tasks over the next week. As I said earlier today, the best part of the experience was simply spending an extended amount of time at the workbench doing what I enjoy most.

The same group of guys has already schedule next year’s 24-hour build, though it appears to be intended only for car modelers. If you’re interested, you can join their Facebook group.

Here are links to my earlier articles about building models more quickly.

5 ways to increase your output
Paint it black and close it up

Friday, January 10, 2020

A 24-hour build

I recently shared a Facebook post from a group of modelers who organize an annual 24-hour model build, this year planned for the weekend of January 25. Their objective is "to get together with friends or by oneself and completely build a model of your choice wholly within a 24 hour period. It is a challenging endeavor but highly satisfying to complete successfully.”

So — Gary, John, Chip, Jeff, Carver, and George — I’m in! I’ve joined the Facebook group to participate.

I’m nervous. I’m a notoriously slow modeler, usually completing only four or five models per year. I’ve often looked to the Christmas and New Years holiday as an opportunity to crank out a single model, but I’ve never been successful. Doing that in 24 hours seems incredibly daunting, but the enthusiasm of this group has inspired me.

Having joined the group, I had to select a model for the build. I really do want to finish the model in the required timeframe, so my choice is crucial to setting myself up for success. After thinking it through, I came up with a few criteria.

  • The model has to be relatively small; the fewer the parts, the better.
  • I like using pin washes, so to avoid having to spend too much time rescribing any raised panel lines, the model would ideally have engraved panel lines.
  • The paint scheme should be relatively simple. Masking, painting, and touching up three or more colors would be very time consuming.
  • The aircraft cannot feature much, if any, ordnance, which would be a big time suck.
  • Most importantly, the model had to excite me. The prospects of spending this time on something less won’t keep me engaged.

I’ve selected the very old Monogram 1/72 A-1E. Yes, it has raised panel lines, but rescribing them shouldn’t be terribly time-consuming, particularly given that the remainder of the kit is very basic. I’ll use Caracal decals for an all-blue AD5, so painting and masking time will be minimized. I built the model back in high school, so there's a strong nostalgia factor for me as well.


I’m excited about this challenge! Anyone care to join the group? Click here to join the Facebook group.