Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Approaching the bench

The Sprue Cutters Union requests: Show us your Workbench.

About 5 years ago my wife and I became empty-nesters as our adult kids moved out, and over the subsequent years the vacant space has been assimilated into our needs. Two rooms in the basement were knocked into one to create a fitness room for my wife, and – more by osmosis than planning – I took over most of the rest of the floor for modelling. It doesn't always look as tidy as the photos and there've been some minor changes recently but it's essentially still the same.

The main work area is a simple IKEA table flanked by a couple of storage cabinets. 

Since this photo was taken I've added a third angle poise lamp. The small set of drawers in the right corner of the table contains paints and spare parts, and was a gift from my parents in 1973! The kit on the bench is the MPM Gloster Meteor, long since finished.

The cabinets on the wall to the right of my work area contain reference books, model mags and some of my stash, mostly the 1/72 kits.

Painting is done in the utility room, where I've recently installed a spray booth although I'm not happy with its location and may have to move things around.

And directly above the spray booth, the remainder of my stash. (Well, besides the kits below the stairs and in the spare bedroom closet...) 

How other Unionists work: 

Thursday, 5 December 2013

World Peace, and an Airfix Hurricane.

This week's SCU question: What are four items on your wishlist? Since the answer to that can change daily, I'd better carpe diem and write something down now. As tempted as I am to wish for 'more time to model' or 'better canopy masking skills', I'll try and respond in the spirit in which the question was posed.

Truth is, I really don't need much of anything, least of all kits. In fact I've spent a good part of the year whittling down my stash so to wish for more seems counter-productive, but inevitably there are a few items which I could find room for on the shelf:-

1. Airfix Hurricane Mk. I 1/72
This is a new-tool from Airfix and by all accounts is a lovely little kit which I can see being a weekend project when my mojo fails me (a weekly occurence, so I wouldn't have to wait long).

2. Pit Road Vickers Crossley armoured car 1/35
This is a re-release of a kit that has been pretty hard to find for the last few years, so when it was announced as being in stock at Hobby Link Japan I went straight over there and ordered it. Well, I tried to anyway; there must have been a glitch because I went in a perpetual cycle from log-in page to 'your basket' then back to log-in page, so I was unable to actually land one. Perhaps it was divine intervention preventing me from buying yet another kit I didn't need, or simply a dodgy Japanese server, but as a result it remains on my wish-list.

3. Paint storage racks
Unfortunately I've yet to find a commercially available paint rack system that will comfortably hold all of my hundreds of jars of various brand paints, and my DIY skills are seriously lame, so I'm hoping some generous woodworking friend will see this and offer to do it for me. I've got some plans drawn up...

4. Special Hobby AH-1G Huey Cobra 1/72
Can I wish for a kit that's not even out yet? I've loved the Huey Cobra since I built a Matchbox kit of it back in the 70s, and at last a new-tool kit has been announced and I've even seen test shots of it online, so it must be imminent and I must have one. (Please don't bother telling me there's an AZ Model kit already out – if you do, I'll know you've never built an AZ Model kit).

Other Unionists on this topic:-

Friday, 15 November 2013

Epic = Fail

This week's SCU question: If you had the resources, would you attempt one HUGE project? In the context of 'Go Big or Go Home' I'd be on the first bus back to my house. Considering my current out-of-box build of the Eduard 1/72 Bf110D has been on the bench for over four months, the chance of my completing a super-detailed, pull-out-all-the-stops mega-build is like a Calgary winter – well below zero. As other Unionists have stated, there are just too many subjects, too many kits in the stash, too little time and I have way too short an attention-span to focus on a single, huge project. 

I enjoy looking at other peoples' super-projects though, like the Scale Model World showstopping Steam-Punk Bugatti. Superbly conceived and built by Stefano Marchetti, the humbling reality is that even if I had a decade to spend on such a model, I'd never be able to achieve anything like this. (Photos by Darrell Thompson, used with permission)

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The needle and the damage done

I've missed a couple of Union assignments recently because of workload. This month's question: What is your preferred airbrush/paint brush manufacturer?

Aeons ago, back in the early 80's, I was an airbrush illustrator, producing images for design studios and ad agencies in Manchester. I started out using a Devilbiss Sprite, a half-plastic/ half-metal double action brush which was adequate for most projects, but after a few years I decided to upgrade to a more professional brush. I chose an all-metal Japanese airbrush called an Olympos, and I loved it. It was perfectly balanced and capable of ultra fine lines (I was spraying inks, mostly). At the time I couldn’t justify buying another of these brushes for my modelling, so the Devilbiss gun was relegated to that role, and again, it was fine for most purposes. In the early 90's I bought my first Macintosh computer for work (a IIcx for anyone who’s interested) and the days of cutting thousands of frisket masks were over. At that point, the Olympos did become my modelling airbrush, and it proved just as adept at spraying enamels as it was watercolour-inks.

In 1993 I emigrated to Canada, and for various reasons – not least a contentious divorce – I barely touched plastic for five years while I tried to get my life back in order. When I finally was able to return to modelling I discovered the needle tip on my Olympos was broken, but was unable to find a replacement. Frustrated, I looked for an alternative airbrush and ended up buying an Iwata HP-B. When I got it home and started playing around with it I was amazed at how comfortable and familiar it felt. After a while it dawned on me why: the Iwata was the exact same brush as the Olympos, just the company name had changed. I bought another Iwata needle and kept the Olympos as a back-up.

I’m still using Iwata brushes exclusively simply because that’s what I’m used to, and because they perform perfectly as long as they’re properly cleaned. Spares are expensive, but I've rarely needed them. As a testament to their reliability, that original Olympos is still in working order 20 years later.

Other Union Posts:-

Friday, 18 October 2013

Best laid plans

The Sprue Cutters' Union wants to know how I prepare for my next build.

It's not complicated really. Once I've decided on the subject matter, I'll do a quick Google search for any reviews or information on the kits available, figuring there are plenty of people out there more knowledgeable on the subject than I am. If there's an overwhelming majority of opinion that a certain kit's awful, and if at least some of that feedback is coming from guys I respect, I'll probably avoid buying it. (Magazine reviews are also useful, although if it's an older kit I'd have to look back through years of back issues to locate an article, so I probably won't bother). If there are a few minor inaccuracies that I can live with or easily correct, I'll find the kit at the lowest price online and order it. There was a time when I'd order a bunch of aftermarket to go with it, but years of experience has proven that the more I spend on a project the less likely it is to get started, let alone see completion. Aftermarket nowadays is more likely be limited to a resin ejection seat or pre-painted photo-etch seat harnesses.

Assuming I haven't totally lost interest in the project by the time it arrives, I'll start to do some more research. Again, the internet is my first resource, and I'm mainly looking for Walkround images and photos of the real thing. Jim Watts mentions Airliners.net as a go-to resource, and it's one of my primary references too. I'm looking for alternative colour schemes and close up images that show antennae, stencilling, undercarriage mechanisms, all the little details that can be added to enhance the basic kit. I have a reasonable library of books and magazines as well, so I'll also consult those. Although some modellers like to check the kit against scale plans, I rarely do; I don't know enough about the veracity of the drawings, and I'm lazy enough to assume the kit manufacturer has already done that for me.

There's still lots of potential for the project to be shelved even at this stage, but if it survives my low boredom threshold and I haven't been distracted by some other equally colourful project, I'll begin the actual build. 

Here's how other Unionists prepare:-

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Pima Pilgrimage

I'd often heard modellers enthuse about the Air Museum at Pima, and last Tuesday I discovered why. My wife and I took a couple of days from our stay in Phoenix to drive down to Tucson, where we spent several hours at the Museum. Spread out on 80 acres there are 250 aircraft to see so it was an exhausting but incredible experience. As you can imagine from being parked in the baking Arizona heat and sand-blasting desert winds, the outdoor exhibits aren't in the best of condition, but where else could you stand alongside B-52s, a B-36, a Mojave helicopter and a B-58? (The weathering effects in themselves are quite photogenic – not necessarily accurate for aircraft in service but useful inspiration for abandoned and derelict subjects). The indoor exhibits are much better maintained and well presented, and these include a B-29, B-24, Hurricane, F-14 and C-46 amongst many, many others. After six hours of roaming around the site we'd barely scratched the surface of what the museum has on display, nor did we have time to sign up for the boneyard tour. To a modeller and a keen amateur photographer the Pima Air Museum offers almost unlimited resources, and I'd love to go back someday.

Below are some random pictures, I'll try and post a few more over the coming weeks. The photos have been reduced to 1200 pixels wide, but I've posted an example of a full size image here.

Spot the model geek... Photo by my long-suffering wife

Friday, 11 October 2013

F-16 Surprise

There isn't much of a military air presence in Calgary, so when the occasional CF-18 does fly over, virtually the entire street rushes out of their homes to catch a glimpse. So we found it somewhat unusual that the inhabitants of Surprise, Arizona – very close to Luke AFB and where we're currently on vacation – don't even glance upwards as F-16s thunder over their golf carts. I, on the other hand, was getting whiplash from leaping off my deck chair everytime I heard a rumble in the sky, so yesterday my wife and I decided to drive to the end of the runway at the air base and get a proper look, as well as take some pics. It was harder than it looked: by the time we'd spotted the little black specks hurtling off the runway and got the camera ready the F-16s were virtually on top of us, and trying to get them in the lens, let alone focus, was pretty hard. The noise was deafening, but man, they were impressive. (I only have a 200mm zoom so these have been greatly enlarged).

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Like it.

I could respond to this week's Sprue Cutters' Union question – What do you like to build? – with a one-word answer: aircraft. However the Union members demand a little more thought than that so I feel the need to expand a little...

I like to build 1/72 aircraft. I have some 1/48 models on my shelf and can appreciate the extra detail that they allow, but there's something about a well executed 72nd scale model that is almost jewel-like. When I attend a Nats I'm drawn towards the small-scale subjects with their exquisite details and immaculate finishes. There are obvious practical reasons for choosing 1/72 too – they occupy less space and there's a much greater variety of available subjects than in 1/48 scale.

I like to build unusual aircraft subjects. At model shows I'll walk by the ranks of Bf 109s, Corsairs, Fw 190s and Spitfires with nary a glance, in favour of a tiny gyrocopter or a Breguet Alize (yes, I also like ugly aircraft). That isn't to say I won't build a mainstream subject – an Eduard 1/72 Bf110 currently occupies centre stage on my workbench – but the majority of my stash is of more obscure types.

I like to build biplanes, and 1950s jets. Those are the two genres that I find the most appealing. As much as rigging biplanes can be tedious and frustrating, the satisfaction in completing the task far outweigh the difficulties. And 50's jets are just downright cool with their fancy colour scheme bravado and Gerry Anderson-esque details.

I like to build old aircraft kits that need re-scribing. There, I've said it. The same comments apply to rescribing as I mentioned above regarding rigging; it's tedious, repetitive and constantly prone to disaster. But when it's done and the plastic has been polished and that old Airfix kit looks like a new-tool Hasegawa (in my mind, at least) it's all worth it. It's also one of the few modelling tasks I can do upstairs to keep my wife company while she's watching a TV show, as there are no sofa-melting solvents involved.  

This post doesn't tell the whole story as I do enjoy occasionally dabbling in other genres, notably armour. But, if I was stranded on a desert island and only allowed a stash of 30 kits, at least 29 of them would fit into the criteria described.

Other Union posts: 

1/72 models (not mine) photographed at various Nats. 
1/72 models (not mine) photographed at various Nats. 

1/72 models (not mine) photographed at various Nats.
1/72 models (not mine) photographed at various Nats.
1/72 models (not mine) photographed at various Nats.
1/72 models (not mine) photographed at various Nats.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

A question of Assembly

This week's Sprue Cutters' Union wants to know how involved we all are socially with the hobby, by asking: Where do you gather? It's a valid question; scale modelling tends to be a solitary pastime, involving many hours hunched over a workbench alone in the basement. How do we socialize with other like-minded hermits?

(I had to smile at the photo accompanying JonB's original post, showing a scene from 'Friends'; it's about as diametrically opposed to a typical meeting of modellers as you'll ever see. Not a single beer belly, F-4 ball cap, beard or bermuda shirt amongst them…)

I'd been in a local IPMS chapter in Lancashire since I was a young teenager, and loved every minute of those meetings. Completely in awe of many of the modellers there, I learned so much of the hobby from them. They were friendly, willing to share and just good guys to be around. And they were refreshingly 'normal'. Plastic was the common interest that drew us together, but they also had other interests, jobs, families, etc. Although not a builder himself, my Dad used to accompany me to the meetings and serve tea and coffee to the guys, enabling him to be involved in my hobby. In terms of my modelling development, those were halcyon days.

Not surprisingly then, when I landed in Calgary from the UK 20 years ago I soon sought out a local model club. It was a decent size – 20 or 30 guys at every meeting – and I was gradually accepted into their ranks. Although the format of the meetings was different, the dynamic was similar and I made several good friends there. Unfortunately over time, two or three individuals began to make the meetings less than enjoyable. Politics and personal agendas took over. One member suffered serious anger management issues. Another began telling malicious lies to undermine a committee member. The fun was gone from the club, and a couple of years ago I resigned as president. 

Today I'm not in any formal club, but many of my modelling buddies (most of them also having left their former club) and I get together regularly in an informal setting, meeting in each others' homes or at a local coffee shop. Without exception they're all quality builders, and we continue to learn from each other without the stress of politics, committees or in-fighting. Whilst the internet has replaced a lot of person-to-person interaction, and although I have many online friends whom I've never set eyes on, I really appreciate being able to actually hang out with a bunch of like-minded, humorous, affable guys.

Other Union posts on this subject:-
Yet another plastic modeller
David Knight's Weblog
Motorsport Modeller
The Combat Workshop
Martin's Bench Corner

Friday, 27 September 2013