Thursday, December 31, 2020

The box art of 2020

 Let’s take a look at the box art of 2020.

Worst box art of 2020 goes to the Dora 1/72 Lysander. I really, really like the kits that Dora has been releasing these last couple of years, but this box art fell short, particularly given how great the model itself is.

Best box art of the year goes to the Takom 1/35 Merkava Mk. 2D. I’m usually not a fan of head-on shots of armor, but this is nothing short of awesome.

If there were an award for most daring box art of the year, I’d have to give it to Airfix for their 1/48 Spitfire Mk. Vb. The plane is inverted! I don’t recall seeing another model marketed that way. Kudos to the graphic arts department at Airfix!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020 in review

Every year provides its share of dazzle, amusement, and head-scratching. 2020 was no exception.


You may recall the crazy suggestion in 2019 to use cinnamon to weather armor. Well, this year we saw someone suggest using oatmeal to create water for ship models.

We also saw that the sexy women trend that we noticed in 2018 refuses to die, with numerous manufacturers releasing additional models, such as Armor35's bikini girl. At this point, I'm conceding that this is no longer a trend. It's clear that we're a horny bunch, and we're going to see more sexy women in the years ahead.


The Shizuoka Hobby Show, which had been scheduled for May, was cancelled as the Coronavirus took hold in China and other Asian countries. This would portend the cancellation of practically all model-related shows and contests through the remainder of the year.


Members of the Facebook Airfix Modeling Club worked themselves into a frenzy after Facebook began deleting photos of models with swastikas. Several members suggested creating a new forum on a different platform, but as far as I know, no one did.

Much of the world locked down for the Coronavirus, but modelers barely noticed as we carried on enjoying our solitary hobby in basements around the world. Rye Field Models kindly included two masks with orders for their kits; not wheel or canopy masks, mind you, but the kind you wear.


In one of the biggest disappointments to hit our hobby in the last 10 years — maybe even the last 20 years — Wingnut Wings announced the closure of their business. Kit prices have soared on the secondary market, and fans of the company’s kits expressed hope that some of the designers would find employment elsewhere. At least one has so far, Bryan Wall, starting Beacon Models and promising a range of kits in 1/144 scale.


Bandai announced their newest model…of a cup of ramen noodles. Yep. You can’t make this stuff up. Will we see a split in the Miscellaneous category at the IPMS Nats next year for “Food?"


A new company named Suyata releases some bizarre, abstract series of military subjects. If it entices newcomers to the hobby, why not?


In what is the most game-changing product to hit the hobby since Eduard introduced pre-colored photoetch, Quinta Studio’s released 3D-printed resin cockpit decals. Modelers were immediately impressed by their quality and the ease with which we can now represent cockpits in scale. And that’s one less skill we have to master!


Modelers went berserk on AK Interactive when they used video from POW camps to promote their new book, Condemnation: When Modeling Becomes Art and Art is Social Commentary. They apologized a day later, but the modeling community was not impressed. Regardless, the book features some well-executed dioramas.

We lost two significant players in the hobby. Bill Koster was an early pioneer in the cottage industry and helped design dozens of Monogram kits that are to this day exceptionally accurate, such as the 1/48 F-4C/D, F-15E Strike Eagle, F-100D Super Sabre, and P-51B.

Mark Bilas might not be as well known, but he produced nearly 150 decals sheets over the last 10 years, mostly in 1/72 scale, featuring roughly 900 markings. I could be wrong, but I think only Microsoft/SuperScale has been more prolific.


One of the greatest aviators of the twentieth century passed away, Chuck Yeager, capping off a year of suck.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Reflections on the year of Covid

I have to admit, when my employer told me on March 4 that I would be working from home indefinitely, I was very happy. You see, my commute is a lengthy one, about 90 minutes door-to-door, longer in the evening when traffic in the greater New York tri-state region gets heavy. Working from home, instead of returning at 7:30 pm, I’d already be here when I “leave” work at 5. Good times!

The first few months were good. I’d typically be done with dinner and other minor chores by 7, and then I’d spend a couple of hours in the workshop. I made good progress on a number of kits. Then I hit…not a wall, but more of a series of rumble strips. Things got busy at work and, despite working from home, I was dog tired by 7 or 8 and didn’t have the energy to focus on the tedium of model building. I still spent time at the workbench, but more often on weekends than weeknights.

As I sit here in late December, my output in 2020 was very good. 

Dragon 1/35 T-34/85
Italeri 1/35 L6 Carro
Trumpeter 1/35 BTR-80
Tamiya 1/35 Schwimmwagen
Monogram 1/72 A-1E
Platz 1/72 T-33A
Trumpeter 1/48 P-40B

My typical output is roughly four models a year, so it’s been a good year. Except….

No one has seen these models.

Without having had contests to attend, finishing models feels incomplete. I’m not talking about the competition per se; as I said in a post a long time ago, “The main reason for entering your models is to share your work with other modelers.” I could share photos of my models online, but that’s not the same as seeing models in person and having conversations about them with like-minded enthusiasts. When a friend mentioned this to me a few weeks ago, I saw his point and made the analogy of writing a book without anyone ever reading it. To be sure, there is value — potentially great value depending on why you build models — in the process, but for me the endeavor in its entirety feels incomplete.

With the Covid vaccinations now underway, I’m looking forward to 2021 and the resumption of shows and contests. I miss seeing models. I miss exploring the vendor rooms. I miss my friends.

What’s it been like you for? Better? Worse? The same?

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Facebook insanity

 Many of you enjoy my eBay insanity posts, so now it’s time to expand these lighthearted observations to what I’ll call Facebook insanity. These won’t have anything to do with selling models, rather people’s comments to photos or posts. Like this one.

You’ve probably seen this photo of an F-4S Phantom II with two bombs mounted backward on the inboard pylons. It’s pretty obvious to most observers that it was a joke that the ordnance guys played on each other or the pilot and WSO. But when someone posted the photo to a Facebook group, the responses were more amusing than the ordinance. I mean…ordnance.

One guy asked, tongue-in-cheek, “Are you referring to the really dumb, dumb bombs or the poor guy being eaten by the landing gear?” To which another responded, “I think he’s referring to the bombs.” Yeah, no shit Sherlock.

A former Marine wrote, “Must be Air Force.” Two guys responded, both clearly lacking a sense of humor that exists in inter-service rivalry, responded, “Air Force never used that paint scheme. Try again.” And, “Don’t be a dick.”

Speaking of no sense of humor, another member of the group wrote, “There has to be an explanation for this.”

One guy, who we’ll call Captain Obvious, wrote, “The bombs are mounted backward.” Mind you, this was after all of the other comments.

There's hope in humanity, because some guys got the joke and played along, one writing, “This is for those 90 degree nose-high deliveries.” Another, “Just turn the jet around.” And another, “It’s for bombing things behind you as you pass overhead.”

The next time you get bummed out on Facebook -- for any of the many reasons we get bummed out on Facebook -- click into your favorite group and read the comments.