The Little World – Raw Materials

I used to look at model engineers and marvel at their patience. Patience and hard work. Patience, hard work, and dedication. Basically, I thought they were nuts.

Not because of the models they made – the traction engines and steam locomotives and V-8 engines – and not because of their appearance ( though the English ones did have a tendency to look like a cartoon of themselves ). It was because of the problem they set themselves in trying to make one model that would occupy them for fifteen years. I could not conceive of someone sustaining an interest in one piece of modelling for that period of time. I thought it was some sort of fraud.

I still did not get a clue to the real state of affairs when I read the model engineering magazines and saw how many of the articles were dedicated to making things for the workshop in preparation for making the model. I thought it was still preliminary stuff. I’ve since learned the lesson of the scratch building shop…and I am delighted.

I’m also a little taken aback. I am currently engaged in making model structures for dioramas and a good great deal of the time involved is not in the actual fabrication or decoration – it is in sourcing and then preparing the raw materials. And sometimes in solving engineering puzzles of how to treat large objects so as to make them appear small.

Part of it is the challenge of frugal modeling. Even when I can afford to go to a hobby shop and buy a Plastruct part I begrudge the money spent on it. I’m time-rich now and can afford to put in the hours to make a complex part from smaller components of it can be done cheaply.

Part of it is the discovery that there are modelling materials everywhere. I used to view some of the models my friend Don Smith made with a jaundiced eye because they were made with popsicle sticks and Tarzan’s Grip glue. No more – I recognise the skill he demonstrated in finding the raw stuff of modelling in such humble places. I spent the better part of a very good day with a Shachihata Fineliner pen and a ruler making a very large mastic sheet roof and then cutting up a sheet of newsagency construction card for lengths of 1:18 siding. The fact that I had the pen, matt board, and card lying about the workshop doing nothing only serves to make it more delicious. Free modelling.

Part of it is the pleasure of component modelling…or subassembly work. Getting things right in small chunks and then eventually seeing it all come together on the main frame. Any modelling project involves some stages that are a drag, and I can certainly view drawing roof tiles in that light, but if you get them right once you do not have to get them nearly right twice.


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