Friday, September 3, 2021

Automotive modeling inspiration

I don’t write about automotive subjects often enough, if only because I build aircraft, armor, and figures. That said, I really enjoy ogling over a well detailed model of a car or truck, especially those intended for the racetrack. I have a couple of car models in my stash, so I’m always looking for inspiration to finally crack one open and see if my skills can do them justice.

There was no shortage of great looking automotive models at the IPMS National Convention last month, but one caught my eye. Daniel Valencia’s Italeri 1/35 Opel truck, which won first place in its category, Automotive Conversions and Scratchbuild.

The good folks with the Silicon Valley Scale Modelers kindly uploaded the convention awards presentation slide show with the scale modeling community, but the one photo of Daniel’s model wasn’t enough to indulge my curiosity, so I contacted him and he kindly sent me a few photos that I share here.

Daniel has a background in racing and has fabricated race cars himself, so he has an understanding of these vehicles that aided him immensely in this build. He said the model consists of roughly 3,000 parts. Many of them are scratchbuilt of course, and those that come from other models invariably required modification.

I hope you find Daniel’s work as inspiring as I do.

If you’d like more information about this truck, Daniel explains all of the design considerations that go into building the actual vehicle on his YouTube channel.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Contests are back! Mosquitocon 2021

Mosquitocon kicks off the contest season here in the Northeast every April, so when COVID struck last year the contest was cancelled, a big disappointment to area modelers. After another delay earlier this year, IPMS New Jersey was finally able to schedule the show for late July 2021. Based on the attendance and entries, it did not disappoint. Here are a few of my favorite entries across the major categories.

I always enjoy seeing the Revell 1/48 B-1B built up, particularly knowing how challenging it is to build. This entry featured the Armycast wing set; Barracuda intakes, wheels, and ECM bits; Metallic Details exhaust nozzles; scratchbuild fuel tank; and highly modified landing gear. One of the most impressive builds I’ve seen of the kit!

The finish on this Kinetic 1/48 Super Etendard was expertly done.

Speaking of finishes, this Tamiya 1/48 P-51D was beautifully painted with Gunze Super Metallic paint.

I wrote about in-flight aircraft a few years ago, so it’s always a treat to see a model represented in its natural environment, so to speak. This Airfix 1/72 Buccaneer was very nicely done.

A few of you are old enough to remember when vacuform kits were somewhat more mainstream than they are today, so it’s great to see one executed as well as this Execuform 1/72 XB-51. It included part of a True Details F-94 resin cockpit, modified landing gear from a Hasegawa B-47, and (as you might imagine) lots of scratchbuilt parts.

Brengun has produced some interesting models over the last few years, and this YHO-1A shows how well they can be built. All of the brass parts were soldered. The modeler noted that the rotor was driven by compressed air jets, which eliminated the need for a tail rotor.

While we’re looking at tiny models, this Sword 1/72 Beechcraft D17S  Staggerwing was absolutely gorgeous. Among all of the modifications the modeler made to the kit, most impressive was the scratchbuild windscreen and windows. I mean…wow!

My favorite armor entry was this Trumpeter 1/35 MTVR gun truck. It features several parts from Live Resin, Def Models, and Master Models. The weathering was excellently done, reflecting what we see from the best European modelers.

Another excellent finish I noticed was on this Cooper State Models 1/35 Lanchester armored car.

This Flyhawk 1/700 HMS Lively was gorgeous. The painting of many of the components and accessories really highlighted important parts of the ship.

I’m always intrigued by what a good modeler can do with cars, so this Revell 1/25 Tony Nancy 22 JR dragster was impressive.

Weathered cars is no longer a trend. This Revell 1/25 57 Ford Gasser finished as a barn fine was perfectly done. Built out-of-the-box, the weathering made it pop. 

One of the best figures in the contest was this Nosferatu bust.

Gundham, science fiction, and fantasy entries continue to gain in popularity. I think this year’s contest had more entries than ever. This Wave 1/20 Gans caught my attention. The modeler added weld beads, antenna, fuel tanks, and N scale train parts.

I always enjoy the miscellaneous entries, such as this Airfix 1/32 1804 locomotive. What was great about this entry — besides the model itself — was the advice the modeler provided on the entry form. I'd love to see this catch on.

See you next year. With any luck, in April!

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

My go-to books

 It’s 10pm. You’re tired. Too tired to work on a model. You’re bored with the internet. But you want to feed your interest in the hobby, so you pull a few books off the shelf and browse them. What books do you typically select?

I had an interesting conversation with friends last week when someone asked what our go-to books are when we want to kill time or find inspiration. Because I often grab a book off the shelf when I want to read in bed, it was pretty easy for me to share my favorites.

Diego Quijano has inspired me for a long time, so his books are always within reach. His encyclopedia series offer a ton of rich content, so every time I browse them I’m reminded to try something new.

I can say the same thing about Adam Wilder’s books on armor. They are perfectly illustrated and offer a wealth of techniques and inspiration.

I’m a sentimental old fool, so Squadron’s line of books have long-offered more than a few ideas and always get my creative juices flowing and eager to start something new.

For armor subjects, Concord’s books are jam packed with excellent photos of armor in action. They are out of print now, but they’re an excellent value when you can find them online or at contests.

There you have it. What books do you find yourself looking at over and over?

Monday, May 24, 2021

Takom’s new Yamato anchor and the questions it raises

Takom used the 2021 Shizuoka Hobby Show this month to announce 1/16th scale anchors from the IJN Battleship Yamato. I’ve been a fan of anything eligible for the Miscellaneous categories at model contests, so this release caught my attention.

The model does, however, raise some pretty big questions for the anchor enthusiasts in the hobby.

Is this the first in a long line of new kits of ship anchors?

Will each anchor consist of just five or six parts, or will they have 200-300 parts as most modern kits do these days?

How should I build, paint, and weather it? As if it were new? Rusty and neglected? Restored? Restored and neglected? As part of a zombie vignette?

Is there a rivet counter assessing the accuracy of the anchors? If it's one scale inch too short, it's unbuildable. (Remember, we love rivet counters, right?)

Will Osprey publish a book on anchors of the Japanese Navy?

Will Eduard include a photoetch set for the model among their August releases?

Will Micro Master Details or Black Cat Models produce 3D printed chain links for the anchors?

Which aftermarket company will be the first to produce 1/16 scale barnacles for the model?

How long do we have to wait for AK Interactive to produce a set of paints specifically for these anchors?

When will someone in Japan take 40-50 photos of the actual anchor at the Yamato Museum in Kure, Hiroshima and submit the walkaround to Prime Portal?

Should I create a Facebook group named "Takom Yamato Anchor Group Build?"

Will HK Models release a partial 1/16 kit of the Yamamoto — just the bow — so that we can display the anchor in situ?

When will Trumpeter, Hobby Boss, Bronco, and Rye Field Models release their versions kits of the Yamato anchors?

Is there a chance of Drachinifel doing a YouTube video about the evolution of Japanese anchors on his channel?

When I finish building this Takom kit, can I share it in the Airfix Facebook group? Yes.

If scale weight was a thing, just how much would a 1/16 scale anchor weigh?

(Thanks to four friends of mine for helping me brainstorm these questions. I've chosen to keep them anonymous on the strong likelihood that these jokes fall flat.)

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Weathering armor and analysis paralysis

In late 2016 I wrote about the disappointments with several of my builds that year, including my attempts to finish a Trumpeter Pz.Kpfw 38(t). I struggled through weathering it — trying my hand with pigments in particular — and ultimately trashed the model when the results were not up to my expectations.

Since then I’ve gone back to basics with painting and weathering armor, at least the basics in terms of the process I’ve mastered (such as post shading, pin washes, and the use of pastels for dust effects), and I’ve slowly introduced new products and techniques. Usually I try them on a paint mule and then incorporate them into my next build. So now I’m much more comfortable with:

  • Modulation
  • Filters
  • Washes
  • Oil paint rendering
  • Paint chips
  • Hairspray chipping
  • Mud splashes

Despite my newfound confidence with each of these, I now find myself suffering from analysis paralysis, wondering with every build which products and techniques I should incorporate into the model and in what order.

To be sure, I have plenty of books on the topic.

I have multiple products.

I have magazines.

I’ve watched plenty of videos on YouTube, such as Adam Wilder’s incredible 27-episode series on painting and weathering a KV-I.

And I've taken notes on the dozen (hundreds?) of articles and builds you can find on modelers’ personal blogs and Facebook pages.

Despite all of these resources it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the choices you’re confronted with. Every modeler has his preferred products, techniques, and process, and it’s a challenge to understand them and then to incorporate them into your own modeling.

That’s what happened with this build of the Trumpeter JS-4. I'd worked through the fundamental steps of painting and weathering it but then hit a wall of sorts wondering what to do next. I’m figuring it out, but the model languished for a few weeks untouched.

I started moving forward with the model this week, but it doesn’t feel…right. It feels like there was probably a better way, and I’m figuring that out as I go, even if in hindsight, and I know I’ll continue to refine my products and techniques with subsequent builds.

If you’ve had the same experience, my suggestion is what I’ll offer myself with my next build. I’m going to trust my instincts and outline the steps I’ll take to see the model through the painting and finishing stages. It’s probably not going to align with any one master modeler’s process, and it might not work out well for me, but at least having a plan is better than not having one at all.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

My favorite COVID scale modeling memes

As we come out of this international experience with COVID, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite memes from the last year.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

The best April Fools' box art of 2021

 There was a time when people could be pranked on April Fools’ Day. I remember falling for the announcement that Tamiya was planning a 1/48 B-17G. We’re all too smart for that now.  It takes a brilliant mind to pull off a legit hoax...or an embarrassingly gullible mind to believe it.

So the day has become an opportunity to have some fun with each other, and the democratization of Photoshop has made it easier to create box art for the things we might like to see.

Here are some of the best of the tomfoolery that I noticed this year.

The members of the Facebook WingNut Wings Fan group were particularly creative, with convincing box art for kits that maybe, possibly, might have, could have been real if the business were still in operation.

One was clearly unbelievable, as well done as it was and as profitable as it would've been.

Airfix is always a popular target of April Fools' pranks, and 2021 was no different.

Finally, this post from the folks at Quinta Studio convinced at least one follower on Facebook that it was real.

Tom Anyz got into the spirit, too.

The best pranks turn out to be legitimate products, like Bandai’s cup of noodle soup kit last year. These bizarre releases will always be the source of most amusement throughout the year. Let's see what the remainder of 2021 holds!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

When Facebook flags your post

A handful of guys in the hobby have recently expressed their frustration with Facebook flagging their posts, indicating that they violate their standards. 

In one case a photographer friend who shares images of aircraft was warned about his content (I don’t have any other details), and he’s decided to leave Facebook.

In another case, a Dragon 1/35 Sherman was flagged because it goes against the company’s Commerce Policy on weapons.

A deep dive into those standards that I think are at play in the latter case finds an explanation of Regulated Goods, which includes a prohibition on firearms, content that, "Attempts to buy, sell, trade, donate, gift or solicit firearms, firearm parts, ammunition, explosives, or lethal enhancements between private individuals, unless posted by a real brick-and-mortar store, legitimate website, brand or government agency." If you’re reading this, I think we all agree that identifying a scale model as a firearm is a huge and unreasonable leap.

Here’s the thing. Facebook’s policies and standards are written by a committee of highly paid executives, consultants, and lawyers...but, if this article from 2019 is still accurate, they’re enforced by 15,000 off-shore contractors in eight countries, and each flagged item is studied for roughly 15 seconds. The employees' performance is evaluated based on average review or handling time, so it’s easy to see how someone can nonchalantly flag something incorrectly to keep their time low.

Facebook generally allows users to request a review of the flag and removal, but if you’re denied again, a few minutes searching Google confirms that many removals don’t permit additional appeals. 

So what do you do if your post gets flagged and an appeal is not offered? I suggest writing a physical letter to Facebook’s Vice President of Content Policy, Monika Bickert. Here’s the address:

Facebook, Inc.
Attn: Monika Bikert
1 Hacker Way
Menlo Park, CA 94205

I suggest this route because I’ve had great success in the past with contacting senior management directly. Senior-level executives typically have a dedicated team of employees who are responsible for responding to direct inquiries. For example, ten years ago a letter to Delta's CEO allowed me to rebook an airline ticket that otherwise would've been nonrefundable.

Your letter should politely but clearly make your case, for example:

I’m writing to ask your assistance with an item that was incorrectly flagged as violating Facebook’s standards or policies.

I recently posted this item, which was flagged.

<Insert screenshot here>

I believe this was flagged in error. 

Example reasons:

This is simply a scale model, a miniature version of an airplane or tank. It measures less than 12 inches and is not capable of flying nor firing any form of live ammunition. You'll find scale models like this in museums around the world.


This is a photograph of an airplane or tank. It’s intended to capture a moment in time for historical purposes, just like thousands of other images currently available on Facebook. It does not promote violence or war in any form. You'll find photographs like this in museums, libraries, and historical archives around the world.

One of the Oversight Board’s principles is Accessibility. The Board’s charter states:

"Individuals will be able to appeal Facebook and Instagram content decisions to the board. Anyone whose content is selected for review by the board will have the opportunity to share a statement explaining their position."

Unfortunately, my content was not formally selected for review by the board, so I’m taking the opportunity to proactively appeal myself. I ask you to take a moment to review this item and make it available again to my Facebook friends and followers.

Thank you for your time and for your efforts to keep Facebook a safe and fair medium for sharing content.

Why go through all this effort? Because we need to recognize that human error plays an enormous role in erroneously flagging content, and more importantly, that we hold Facebook accountable for the policies and standards they’ve published.

I know a lot of you are fed up with Facebook and many have chosen to leave. I understand the frustration. For those of you who choose to stay, I hope you’ll take this extra step to ensure our model-related content remains accessible.

No matter how you feel about Facebook, remember what a friend told me several years ago:

If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer.