Monday, November 23, 2015

Planning: A needed key to modeling success

The monthly topic over at the Sprue Cutter’s Union is all about planning your builds or not. Specifically, “Do you plan and prepare for every step of your build’s process, or do you wing it as you go?”

I would like to think I plan out my builds but not to the level that I really should to avoid future problems. For most builds, I will read the directions, look at the sprues, see if there was a build review or photos of a build on the web, see if anyone I know might have built the kit and pick their brain or sometimes I just go for it. Especially if I think the build will be out of the box.

However this is not the best way to do things given my love of After Market Parts and all things brass and resin. You really need to plan out what you are going to do in order to increase you chance at success. Yes it is a model kit and odds are you might be able to fix the problem you created. But wouldn’t be better if the problem never existed in the first place to need fixing? This is why I need to do a better job planning not just before the build but during it as well. In some builds, I have taken the time to highlight where AM or PE parts will go and reviewed what I needed to do to prep the kits. Other times, I don’t and I end up looking at the kit and wondering why I have some much brass left only to realize I didn’t replace half the things I could have or should have. Of course this normally happens after paint so there is no chance I am breaking off parts to get the PE in place. 

Planning is not only needed for working with AM parts or conversions of kits, it really is needed throughout the whole process. I, for one, still have a hard time building things out of sequence. I figure the manufacturers did it this way for a reason. However, I have learned that sometimes you shouldn’t glue item X on the kit even though the instruction say to do it. I have also learned that you need to think of all the other stages of kit assembly not just the one you are working on at the moment. In my most recent build, I glued the lower and upper hull together on a 1/72 T-90 thinking I would have enough room to add the running gear later.  Wrong!  I had a hell of a time getting the tracks in place and it involved a lot of repainting and frustration. Had I taken the time to plan to keep the parts together for painting but not in a permanent way, I could have done a better job on the running gear and tracks. It just is really hard sometimes to go out of order. Not sure if it is OCD or some lack of confidence in my skills but it is a challenge for me. Now, what I plan to do in the future is to include notes on the sheets so I know and remind myself about future pitfalls. My hope is that my kits will be better and I will not spend as much time reworking things.

So while I think I plan, I really don’t.  But I am not really winging it either; I mean I am not building a Tamiya kit where I can just add glue and shake; “ducks from the oncoming comments.”  So Plan People! Your builds will be better and you might find you enjoy the hobby more.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Patience - A Building Essential

This month’s Sprue Cutters Union asks “what do you think are the essential aspects you cannot afford to cut corners on during a build? What are your imperatives?”  For me, there is one thing I have learned that I can’t do without – Patience.

I know this sounds clique and I can already hear the “Well of course you need patience, you are building a kit and that takes time.”  But when I talk about Patience I am not talking about the time it takes to put all the parts together or sand the sprue nubs off a delicate part. When I talk about Patience, I am talking about the overall process of being okay with the fact that something might not get done right away or when you want it done. Or the fact that a part broke and now I have to figure out how to make it work and I might not get it done in time for a contest or club meeting and that is okay.  

In the past I have tried to rush to get kits completed to either take to my local meeting on contest night or to take a local show. Several times something has happened that was less than ideal. In some cases it was something simple like an antennae broke off or a wheel wasn’t properly aligned. In other cases, I tried to weather something too soon and the process damaged the paint because the sealer coat was not totally dried/cured.  All items that could be fixed, just not in the time I had left to meet my self-imposed deadline.

Now I have a cut off for meeting a deadline. If I can’t get it done a day before needing it, I don’t try to rush it or stay up all night with a hair dryer hoping to finish off the kit. This “rule” applies to local meetings and shows. And to be honest, it has worked out great. I am not longer up all night and tired at the show and it allows me to ensure the product I am producing is up to my standards. The “rule” is a little more flexible for events that I may not go to again for several years such as AMPS and IPMS national events. But even in those cases, I still try to plan a little time out to make sure I am not rushing.  Nothing good has happened when I get impatient and rush to finish a kit. Several times I have stopped myself and called it a night and tackled the problem the next time at the bench. And in most cases, just stepping away has cleared my thoughts and I am able to either thinking of a solution to the problem, the problem has fixed itself such as with paint curing,  or a fresh set of eyes found the part taken by the carpet monster.

Taking that time away from the bench was also important because it kept me from making more mistakes trying to fix the initial mistake. This is an overlooked feature of practicing patience. It keeps you from making more mistakes that could lead to even worse consequence. Prior to getting back into modeling a few years ago, I quit because I hated painting. I thought I was horrible at it and I would never be any good at it.  I was always trying to fix my painting mistakes right away and this lead to more mistakes that caused me to not enjoy the hobby.  And what is a hobby if you don’t enjoy it…I would call it work.  However, either due to maturity or experience or just straight up exhaustion from working and raising a family and having to take a day or five off from working on a kit, I realized that I needed to be patient if I wanted to get a good finish or to get the results I wanted.  I started to take my time and the results started to speak for themselves. My builds were getting better, I was enjoying what I was doing and I liked the results.

In all those cases, patience was the key and it has been my most essential tool when working on a build.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

It's all about the Scale and nothing but the Scale

The topic this month for The Sprue Cutters Union is all about scale. Which scale do you prefer and which do you avoid like the plague? For me as a mostly armor modeler, it would have to be 1/35th scale. I know that 1/35th  while popular in AFVs and with some lines of helicopters is an odd scale given that there are other scales out that make more sense given their railroading origin, like 1/48th  and 1/72nd .  And I have heard the stories that the scale was started by Tamiya to fit their motorization parts they used to include in their kits, and the remnants of this are still found in some of their newer kits such as the M1A2 Tusk II kit (Really you couldn’t retool this for a $80 kit!). But the more I build, the more I like the 1/35th scale. Most kits scale out to a nice size that make them manageable to build, detail and fit in the spray booth without the need to break them into a lot of subsections. Also, most of the finished kits will fit nicely on the display table or shelf and for the most part the kits in this scale are reasonably priced for what you get now from the modern kit makers. Also with the increase of larger military subjects such as ICBM launchers or Patriot Missile System coming out to the market place 1/35th scale is really coming into its own as the scale for AFVs. These larger kits used to be only in 1/72nd due to price, size or manufacturer ability. Advances in molding and equipment now make these larger scale kits a reality. A reality with a higher price point but with the details to match that make them a must buy for me.

Now that doesn’t mean 1/35th is the only scale I build. I have tried 1/48th armor and I thought it would be the way to go but the limited modern subjects and the lack of the larger manufacturers getting on board with this scale has caused me to not like as much as I thought I would. However, I have a new scale I like for armor, 1/72nd. Yes, I tried 1/72nd a while back and the kits looked a lot like toys to me as well; but recent improvements and an increase of subjects lead me to give it another try.  I have not been disappointed. I am currently building a Model Collect T-90, and while as not as detailed as the 1/35 from Meng or Trumpeter, it is a really nice kit with an enough details to make it look like a replica of a military vehicle and not a toy. The newer kits out are really good. Model Collect has some great kits out on some crazy subjects that will never be in 1/35th scale or not in 1/35th any time soon. So while 1/48th was a letdown, I have learned to love 1/72nd. Yes the newer kits are a bit more expensive than the $10 Revell or Airfix 1/72nd kits but they are still cheaper than a full 1/35th kit. A lot of the newer 1/72 kits also include PE or metal parts which you didn’t see in the older kits. While not as cheap as the older 1/72nd kits, the price is still good for those that want to try out a new subject or genre. Also, 1/72nd gives people the right scale to try those larger subjects such as the ICBM launchers without breaking the bank or the shelves.

There is one area where I don’t care what scale something comes in as long as it is a standard scale – Sci Fi Kits. Sci Fi has to be my second favorite to AFV/Military Vehicles (I am a closet Rotor Head, even though I have yet to finish one). The thing about Sci Fi is that you are trying to make the kits manageable and affordable. Yes we would all like a 5 foot Star Destroyer but really where would you put it and could you afford it?  So I don’t mind the smaller scale in Sci Fi like the 1/1200 or 1/500 but what I really dislike are the kits that don’t give their scale and are so called “Box Scale”. I’m looking at you Revell!  I mean is it so hard now a day with computers and all the technology we have to try to make things standard scale. Box scale doesn’t make any sense to me. You are developing a product; you should be able to spec a box out after you decide on the scale not after. Not knowing what scale a kit is because it is box scale is a huge pain and there is no reason for it. It detracts from the overall collection of a kit. It would be nice to keep all the same scale so that you have a sense of scale when looking at the finished product. I mean you look at a Fine Molds Falcon kit in 1/72 and you know when you compare it to another 1/72 product that the Falcon is a large spaceship. Yes in the other kits you know it is big but knowing the scale gives you a better comparison.

In conclusion, my preferred scale is 1/35 with 1/72 a close second. I also have to “Just Say No to Box Scale”

Model On!


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Details, Details, Details.

To detail or not to detail that is the question, Tis it better to suffer the slings and arrows of rivet counters or build as you see fit. Detail inclusion or exclusion while building is the topic of this month’s Sprue Cutter Union. More specifically do you add details that won’t be seen in the final model or do you skip them and add them when they will be noticed. For me, the answer is it depends.

It depends because I am still really getting back into the hobby even though I have been back for about three and half years. Prior to this I did build kits but I had such fear when it came to painting that nothing ever was completed. My recent incursion has seen me get over my fear of screwing something up when painting and my apprehension of cutting off a fender or part to replace it with PE or wire. But my fear of screwing up the whole kit is still strong to the point that I don’t skip any of the steps. My thought process is the step is there for a reason and if I skip it, it might screw up something later like an alignment or cause a gap somewhere unexpected. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t see the advantage of adding extra details to a kit to make it more accurate. It just means that I do add the interior to a kit if it comes with it even if I have no plans to show it off. I just don’t super detail it with PE, resin or scratch built parts because no one is going to see it.

I also find the process of adding interiors that may not be seen or other details as good practice. By this I mean they are good opportunities to try a new wash out or a new technique such as paint chipping. The process is also good practice at building or figuring out instruction especially if it is new kit manufacturer you have not built before. Or use it to practice basic skills like sanding, scribing or gap filling, because if you screw up, who cares, no one will see it.

However, if the interior will be seen, I think the amount of detail depends on what will be seen versus the final build. If all the hatches on an AFV will be closed except for the one for the commander, I won’t add a new interior to the vehicle but I might make sure the open hatch has some detail to it. Or if it is wheeled vehicle, such as the recent MRAPS is the subject of my build, I may add a few details to it to flush it out if the plan is to keep it buttoned up. But if the plan is to open it up, I think you have to be prepared to add some detail to make it at least looking decent. I am not sure I am to the level of some modelers that add all the various wires and other items along every surface but I do feel items such as seat belts, some wires from the various electronics, and tie downs seem like a must to make open interiors at least realistic if not presentable.

In conclusion, I do build the detail if it is included in the kit because I am not at the point in my return to the hobby to not include it for fear of it screwing something up later. Also I find it an opportunity to try something new out and a chance to practice some basic skills. However, if the interior will be seen, I do say you need to add at least a little detail to upgrade the basic interior to make the kit presentable.

Thanks for reading. I hope to have a post about my first trip to IPMS Nationals later this month. Until then, model on.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Why do we have stashes?

Hi everyone, recently I have once again tried to start a blog about scale modeling with the hopes of sharing wisdom, industry news, tips and unsolicited advice to the masses. To help push me in posting more I have looked into joining a blogging ring about scale modeling called the Sprue Cutters Union,  The idea behind the Union is that everyone blogs each month on the posted topic and posts it to their blog. Of course more posts are encouraged on your own blog but the monthly topic is usually the starting point for the month. The topic for July is a very timely topic as I keep looking at my growing stash of kits - Why do modelers maintain and even grow a stash that may never be completed in their lifetime?

I have a few ideas on this issue. Some of it is financial, some is due to the vast number of kits and kit makers that exist now and some of it has to do with plain old addiction and how that makes us feel as well as how easy it is to find our drug. I will start with financial. We have all mused and pined away that the hobby is made up of males that are mostly in their late 30’s and older and it is not getting younger. There have been several articles in modeling magazines and editorials in said periodicals that allude to the aging of the hobby and while some this may be true there is other evidence showing that the hobby does have some young blood coming in to keep it refreshed. But that is another topic for another time. Here we are talking about our stash. And while the hobby goers may seem to be getting older, there is one advantage to this – money. Most of us are currently employed or we were employed and now enjoy the lazy days of retirement gluing PE together. This current or past employment gives us something we probably didn’t have years ago, disposable income. And while we can’t go buy those $100 plus kits all the time, when that one kit we have always wanted to build or a new subject that we have always been interested in comes on the market, odds are we can skip a few lattes and pick up some plastic to get the kit we want. Income also gives us the ability to purchase all the add-ons that go with the kit, the PE, the resin wheels, the upgrades and the aftermarket decals and figures. You start to add this all up and you can see why the stash grows – Because we have the means to make it grow. However, as I said money is not the only reason, the proliferation of kits and kit makers doesn’t help much either with their shiny new plastic and ever increasing detail and add-on parts.

It has been said that we now live in the golden age of modeling with all the kits and kit makers and none stop line of various topics that stream out of the plants in HK, Japan, China, Europe and the US. Odds are if there was something or some topic you really liked, it is in kit form somewhere or will be soon. We now have kits of things people thought would never happen or in scales that are mind boggling, 1/32 bombers, 1/35 helicopters and 1/200 battleships. All this choice has led to larger stashes because there is just some much out there. You no longer have just one version of a kit that if you wanted to build would have involved hours of rework to make it look presentable. You now have two to three new version of said model that put the old one to shame. The new kits are in most cases easier to build, fit better, have better details and are not that expensive when you think about what you are getting. Sure there are some duds out there; I am looking at you Dragon and your Black Series kits. But overall, kits are better than they were ten to twenty years ago, except for Tamiya kits which seem to be the Dorian Gray of model kits, even the old ones go together great. This great amount of choices combined with the money I talked about above are two of the reasons for the growth of stashes. The third is Al Gore’s invention and how we use it to get our fix and how we feel when we open that box.

The internet is a great and powerful tool that has made the world a smaller place and has opened options and markets to people that didn’t exist ten years ago. You can now order direct from places overseas had have kits here as soon as a week. There is no need to wait until the kits come in to your LHS, another topic for later discussion, you can order direct from the stores in HK that don’t have to literally wait for the slow boat from China to get your kit sent to you or to have it arrive here in the States. In addition to access to Asian sellers, we have eBay, message and forums where you can buy and sell to other like-minded souls and a relative new activity at least to me, buying and selling on Facebook. There are several groups where you can buy and trade kits and there is even support in Facebook to help post what you have for sale or trade. Of course products like PayPal and Facebook’s new fund transfer system make paying for items safe and secure. All these options make it possible to find the kits you are looking for or to just get that new one that you have to have. And to go along with this ease of purchase is the psychological effects one has when you open that box to inspect your new kit. It makes us feel good, we enjoy it. Yes this is similar to how addicts feel when they get their fix but the same could be said for the person that enjoys a certain food, or good coffee or shopping for any other item. It all has to do with how purchasing and enjoying something makes us feel. The internet and other avenues allow us to experience this satisfaction quicker and whenever we want if we have the money and the kit makers have made the kits we want.

In closing, we have stashes because we can afford them, the kits we want are now being made or being redone to current standards and purchasing a kit has never been easier and it makes us feel good. All of these factors lead to the growth of our stashes. Is that a bad thing, maybe? But remember that large stash today will keep the vendor rooms at the shows buzzing years from now when we replace the new kits we purchased today with the kits we will want years from now. It will also allow us to ramble on with the next generation about how kits in our day didn’t even come with metal barrels or photo etch. So I say stash on! – Just don’t tell my wife.

Until next time,


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Anti slip - the next step in progression?

I was wondering the other day if adding antiskid or antislip to a kit is the next level of a modeler's progression in building better kits or an new thing we all feel we need to add just to make our kits presentable. 

Some may argue that photoetch is the next step to make better models. And while I agree, PE is awesome and a great add to any kits it comes at a prices both literally and figuratively. PE sets can cost $15 to $20  for an average set up to $60 plus for some of the more detailed Voyager and Lion Roar kits. Also, it can be a bit overwhelming to some at first to have to grind, cut or remove parts of a kit they just purchased for $65 and then try to bend and place a small piece of metal and hope it works and doesn't pop off to feed the carpet monster. This is why I think adding antislip is a better "first" modification to modelers.

The reason for this is simple. Antislip is for the most part easy to apply, can be done in a variety of ways and it can be removed if needed without to much effort depending on the method. It also adds an instant upgrade that is low cost and has high visual impact that is noticeable to the modeler and the viewer. Antislip can be done with purchased specialty products from Mig or Tamiya, it can be done with various pastes and medium you get at your local craft store, it can be done with glue and sand, and it can be done with special cans of spray paint if you mask carefully that you can get at almost any hardware store. The variety of techniques you can use to produce the results makes it good place to start adding more detail to your kits. The variety allows you to pick which method you like and works best for your skill level and budget. Some may say you need to worry about the scale of the antislip but while I agree that different nations have different sizes and ways of applying antislip, I contend that any decent job that is within scale to what you are building will add to any model regardless of how it is "supposed" to look. Also, I know that antislip is a more modern addition to AFVs, I think same logic could apply to zimmerit on German armor from WWII or even adding cast texture to Allied armor. All these techniques add to the kit are easy for people to add without breaking the bank or their nerves.

Here are some links to applying antislip.

Or a nice YouTube Video using Gesso medium:

Thank you for reading and see you around the sprue.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

In the beginning....

Starting a new blog to talk about the one hobby I seem to always come back to, Scale Modeling. My goal is to provide new information, discuss techniques, and to just talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of the hobby in general.

Thank you for reading.