Sunday, August 30, 2020

7 suggestions for beginners

 I can’t imagine what it must be like coming to the hobby today. Even if your interests are restricted to just aircraft, armor, ships, cars, there are hundreds of kits, aftermarket, and finishing products available that could be overwhelming to the newcomer.

That wasn’t my experience in the 1980s. There were only a handful of kit manufacturers, just two or three aftermarket companies, and no one was producing any weathering products at all.

There's a lot to explore these days, and I see a lot of new modelers asking questions in Facebook groups looking for recommendations on kits, paints, airbrushes, etc. Here are my high-level suggestions if you’re new to scale modeling. Clearly, you’re free to take whatever path you choose, but I think these ideas will put you on a solid path as you learn about scale modeling.

Select good kits

I think it’s important that your first few kits are well-engineered and relatively easy to build. You don’t want to spend time fiddling with assemblies that are over-engineered or trying to fix problems that are the result of poor kit design. Most modelers will recommend Tamiya as the standard of quality no matter your interests — aircraft, armor, ships, automotive — and I agree completely.

Ignore inaccuracies

If you spend more than 10 minutes in any Facebook group or discussion forum you’re sure to see guys pointing out inaccuracies in the kits you have or would like to build. These criticisms are justified, but as you build your first 10 to 20 kits, focus on mastering assembly and painting. You can learn how to fix kit inaccuracies later in your career. You may even learn to love the so-called rivet counters!

Skip the photoetch and resin

There are dozens of manufacturers that offer photoetch and resin to improve your kits, but they often present challenges that will challenge the skills of a beginner. Start introducing aftermarket products as you master the basics.

Buy an airbrush

I hate to recommend that you spend a lot of money from the start, but most modelers will say that an airbrush is a necessity. Yes, you’ll see really good looking models that are brush painted, but those modelers are wizards blessed with skills from the heavens. Most of us rely on airbrushes, even for small subassemblies. With practice you’ll find that an airbrush can produce results beyond a paintbrush. 

Don’t obsess with weathering

Like aftermarket products, there are dozens of weathering products on the market these days. Making sense of them all, much less mastering their use, is challenging. Focus on applying a clean paint job to your model with your airbrush, and then introduce weathering products and techniques later.

Don’t strive for perfection

I really don’t think this is a problem with most beginning modelers, but don't be too disappointed if your first efforts don't look as good as you'd like. Look at each model as a learning experience. Make mental notes (or better yet, written notes) of what didn’t turn out as well as you’d hoped, and look to improve with your next model.

Ask for help

Finally, ask for help. Scale modelers are a friendly bunch, and we’re eager to answer your questions. That can be a double-edged sword at times, as you’re likely to get conflicting advice. Also, don’t be afraid to experiment; each of us has products and techniques that work for us, but you’ll need to find what works for you.

There you go. None of us got where we are overnight, so pace yourself, look at others’ models for inspiration, and enjoy the experience.

Welcome to the hobby!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Inspiration: Joe Caputo

I’ve known many excellent modelers in my 35 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 the next in a series of articles to acknowledge their contributions to my participation in this wonderful hobby.

It’s been a long time since I last shared a story about the modelers who’ve inspired me, and I’m sad to say that this one is being share posthumously. 

The older gentleman enjoying the company of this bodacious, WW2 re-enactor is Joe Caputo. He passed away two weeks ago. You probably don’t know him. He didn't write magazine articles, wasn’t a best of show contest winner, and didn’t create a cool line of aftermarket products. He was a simple model builder like most of us. But meeting him 35 years ago set the tone for my enjoyment of our hobby since.

I was about 15 when I met Joe. I was beginning to learn more about scale modeling and discovered IPMS through a magazine ad. Soon after I learned there was an IPMS club about 30 miles from where I lived. My mother kindly drove me to a monthly meetings, held in a bowling alley. It was intimidating but exciting to meet a bunch of guys who shared my interests, and Joe couldn’t have been more welcoming. And as I’d see in the years after, to other newcomers as well.

Joe had been in the hobby for 20 years when I met him. I drew on his experience to learn how to build models the right way (buying good brushes, filling seams, using an airbrush), and he was always encouraging. He always shared a positive word to club members. When I brought a younger, less-experienced friend to a meeting with a poorly built A-10, Joe told him how smart it was that he’d attached the model to a base so he didn’t have to handle it. That was Joe!

I remember Joe inviting me to his home where I saw how he’d converted his entire garage to accommodate his hobby. The back part of the garage was walled off for his workbench and unbuilt stash; the better portion of the remaining space was lined with DIY shelving that displayed — I’m guessing — at least 300 built models, aircraft, cars, armor, and everything in between. Joe built practically anything and always found the fun in the hobby. In fact, "It’s All About the Fun" is the motto of the club he founded and I joined, IPMS Ocala (Florida). 

Joe rarely competed in contests, but his super-detailed build of the Testors 1/48 OV-10A Bronco won third place in its category at the 1984 IPMS National Convention in Atlanta. He was thrilled! He was a huge Bronco enthusiast, and subsequent builds of other Bronco kits and variants were equally impressive. You can see photos of Joe’s OV-10 Bronco on iModeler

I’ll miss Joe. We didn’t talk as frequently as I would’ve liked, but when we did he made me laugh with his quick wit and sarcastic sense of humor, and I always came away from those conversations with a renewed excitement about scale modeling. As I reflect on my friendship with him, I hope we can all find ways to encourage each other and especially newcomers. Our hobby truly is a wonderful place to make new friends.

Joe's obituary is available on the website of Downing Funeral Home.