A New Column Has been Born!

Fans of The Little World posts here on this column will now have a dedicated channel for their miniature and scale model interests – I’ve decided to open another WordPress free site to take the Little World traffic.

Please go to:

littleworld678590491.wordpress.com

– and see if your computer, tablet, or phone view see the new site. It’s a horrendously complex address, so please bookmark it. I think that the WordPress people want me to buy a paid site theme that has a simpler name and simpler address, but I will just see if this basic opening has merit first.

This column will continue as before, and you can view all the older Little World posts on it just by dialling back into the archives. Please feel free to contact me with advice and consent. And chocolate biscuits.

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The Little World – Scrooge McModeller Looks At the Empty Box

I am delighted to say that I have finished another 1:72 airplane kit. It came out pretty much the way I envisaged it and I did not make any major botch-ups. It will take its place in the collection and be duly photographed. All is well.

No it isn’t.

Scrooge McModeller here has just looked into the empty box and counted the number of extra parts still attached to the sprues – variant parts not needed for the aircraft type that was being built. Of course, they will be preserved for use in future projects, and may be glued onto a motor vehicle, ship, or dinosaur as future occasion demands. But that leaves the question of the sprues. Even if you carefully separate, catalogue, and store the useful bits there is still going to be nearly the weight of the finished model in discard sprues – plastic I paid for that is destined for the waste bin. The Scottish ancestors I do not have would have been aghast, if they had existed…

What can you do with the sprues? They are likely to be of wildly different colours and may even be of markedly different composition – at least it feels like that when you are knifing through the plastic. And they are nearly always awkward shapes and sizes – so they are unlikely to be structural parts for future large-scale pieces.

I did envisage cutting off the side pieces and using the long straight bits for paint mixing stick but found that the effort needed to trim them far outweighed the benefit – and the round-section sprue made a poor job of it in the paint bottles. I gather coffee stirring sticks wherever I go for that purpose.

I should be tempted to melt them down again and press them into a new shape if I knew how to heat them up safely and had moulds that would take them. I suspect that the liquidised polystyrene plastic would still not be very runny and that it would not be possible to just pour it into a mould like plaster or resin.

You understand my desire to reuse the sprues is not ecological concern at all – I regularly hunt dolphins with arsenic bullets now that the unicorns are gone – it is parsimony. I hate wasting something that was paid for. You might say that of the cardboard boxes that the kits come in, but I save these and cut them apart for building material and spray platforms so they get full use.

And frugal ideas from the readership would be greatly appreciated.

The Little World – The Yellow Pups

I have had to make a New Year resolution for my Little World – to only do one project at a time. It will be a serious brake upon my personality as I can be to sort of hound who goes howling off in all directions after different game…and sometimes ends up catching nothing.

The project for this year will be airfields. I think I have accumulated enough die-cast and plastic aircraft in my collection to provide suitable models for photography. They just need a setting and a story.

The first is to be RCAF Wet Dog…out on the Alberta prairies in 1943. The field is concerned with training as well as ferrying aircraft, so I will get to make quite a few different models. I say ” make ” though in some cases it will be just buying die-casts that fit into the scene perfectly. Otherwise, I must turn to the kit shelf and the airbrush.

Fortunately, the first trainers I am embarking upon are well represented in the model kit trade – the Harvard and the Tiger Moth. And as I am just regaining modelling skills in this small scale, I have opted for the simplest of paint schemes – Trainer Yellow. Also, fortunately there were few markings –  so a judicious use of decal sheets should make things look good.

Dedicated aircraft modellers will pick holes in what I do – so will diorama makers and award winners. No matter – it is my Little World and I will appreciate it.  My other readers may be sickened by the flood of tabletop photography, but that is fine too.

Note: I hope to use a trick to model time as well – you’ll see it if it succeeds.

Heading Image: it’s 40º out in the shed and I’m not there…but the paint dries a treat.

The Little World – The Layout Vs The Play Set

Dedicated readers to The Little World segments of this column are generally pretty sympathetic people. They are model builders, painters, or collectors themselves and are tolerant of the interests of others. But tolerance, like the little tubs of tartare sauce they give out at the fish and chip shop, only goes so far. You usually run out of sauce before you run out of snapper.

I am not suggesting that Little World citizens are going to throw other people’s hobbies out the window entirely – at least not if they are wise – but there may be a certain amount of sniffing and pooh-poohing. And a tendency to see the cracks in the paint jobs rather than celebrating glorious workmanship.

Some of it can be rivalry – some jealousy. Some of it can be meanness, and some of it can be ignorance. None of it is necessary – The Little World is large enough to hold everybody.

A prime example of this is the play set. The Marx Toys tinplate Fort Apache with the moulded plastic cavalry and indians, plus a few cardboard pine trees and a corral fence. Or Cape Canaveral with the horrible out-of-scale rockets and the plastic buildings. Plus the spring-loaded launcher that was surprisingly powerful. I have the scars to prove that.

These play sets were the meat and drink for kids in the 50’s – the big item under a Christmas tree and the main focus of a play session when your friends came over. You were lucky if you knew kids with these sets and a basement to play in when winter snowed you all in. A rec room and a tabletop were all you needed to enter the Little World, and you only had to come back out of it when supper was called.

But there were detractors – and most of them were kids who had the next step up in the toy structure – an electric train. If the train set had a siding, and some structures, it trumped the play set. And it was very rare that the kids realised that you could combine both aspects to make an even bigger Little World. We wouldn’t have worried about scale or appearance, and the perennial problem of figuring out which pieces belonged to whom at the end of the day would have been easier to solve.

Fortunately, in the grown-up Little World, all this can be rectified. We can own the basement or studio, the tabletop ( and it can be a good big one too ) and the trains, planes, cars, figurines, and buildings and we don’t even have to pick up all the toys when supper-time comes. We can leave them out to play with another day. Adult Little Worlders are generally more attuned to scale equivalencies and actual distances than their childhood counterparts, but even so, when a good compromise presents itself, they can invent an excuse for it.

Let’s play…

The Little World – Change Your Focus

If you are a Little World builder you probably have a favourite scale you work in – and if you’re lucky you have a clear vision of a project for it. You might even be one of those super individuals who has a whole chain of work in their mind and who will progress to a logical and successful finish.

Or you might approach your work haphazardly – the most organisation that you can manage is finding the paint brushes before the cat does.

Whichever you are, consider doing your imagination and skills a favour by letting your focus soften for a bit – specifically, change your scale or type of building every once in a while. You’ll benefit from it:

a. You will see the normal work you do in the wider picture of things. If you make cars and decide to make a building, you have a building that relates to cars. If you make ships and build a plane, you now have a whole new palette of colour to work with.

b. Your eyes will change. They’ll change physically with time – rarely getting better – and they’ll change focus as you get interested in new projects. See big, then see small, and you’ll see better when you go back to big.

c. New scales or genres bring you into contact with new manufacturers, new tools, new materials. Everything you learn in one scale you can turn to profit in another.

d. A change in your focus will bring you into contact with new people, too. And that means new ideas. Some will not be good ideas, but that is what you get in any case with normal life. But listen to everybody and look at everything – there is bound to be something useful  about everyone else’s Little World.

e. New scale or new category means new publications, new web sites, new illustrations on Google.

f. If, in spite of it being the most wonderful type of modelling in the world, you find yourself bored with what you are doing…do something different. Go out and deliberately find a new thing to tackle – even if it is not absolutely riveting, it will relieve your ennui long enough to restart your original engine.

g. You might be good at the new thing. Maybe even really good. I’m looking at three trophies on the shelf right now that I never thought I could win.  For a guy who never got one as a kid and never succeeded with radio control boats, it is heartening.

 

The Little World – Christmas Train/Tree/House/Missile Silo

Well, it is that time of year again – when we get out the old plastic tree, dodgy string of lights, tinsel wreath, and all the unwanted gifts that have lain in storage since last year. A quick re-wrap and some new address cards and they are going to be ready to be launched again.

The shortbread may be a little doubtful by now – the use-by date starts with 19…- but the mechanic’s knitted sparkplug cosies should be no problems. And the soaps never go out of date – you just splash them with California Poppy to freshen up the aroma and no-one knows the difference.

It’s also time to get out the Christmas centrepiece – something to go around that tree or to sit on the table during The Big Lunch. Trains are traditional around a tree, gingerbread houses for the table. But this year I am going to introduce a new tradition – the Christmas missile silo. A gaily decorated hatch in the centre of the dining table that fires a fully cooked turkey when you press the launch button.

Can you imagine the look of wonder and anticipation on the faces of the kiddies as the warning Klaxons ( 190dB ) go off and the red lights flash. The armoured doors slam shut and the steel bolts shoot home. The liquid oxygen fumes rise up from the table and the  hatch swings open… The countdown  10..9..8..etc. and at ” Zero! Launch The Bird! Ignition! ” the 15 kilo butterball rises on a column of flame and gravy until it hits the ceiling.

With a deafening roar it strikes the overhead light fitting and explodes ( careful segmenting of the bird as it is roasting plus thin strings around it to take the initial launching forces ), raining drumsticks and dark meat down over the screaming diners. As they dodge potatoes and stuffing a cloud of green peas drifts toward the lounge room and drops onto the latecomers. Never mind a tablecloth – they never had a tablecloth at Bikini Atoll.

You’re always looking for a way to make Christmas more memorable for your children? They’ll never forget this one. And the good news is that they will always have a reminder – the half-life of fruitcake is longer than most people care to admit.

 

The Little World – Heating It Up – Cooling It Down

The summer heat has just started in Perth. The modelling shed has climbed to the official pack-it-in temperature of 35ºC…that’s 95º F for the recalcitrants. Not the hottest that it will get, but hot enough to remove the fun from a modelling session.

As you will have seen earlier in this column, I have made myself a portable modelling tray you take inside when this happens – I can sit in the A/C and build plastic models quite happily.

But that hot shed is a valuable asset, if only you know how to manage it. Last night I planned out how it could be programmed. It all depended up timing – I set things up before the temperature rose and then let it work for me:

a. The facade of the new 1:18 building has a number of trim strips that will be held on by PVA glue. If they go on cold and stay cold they are weak. But glued early and then left to cure in the heat, they become like iron.

b. Sub-assemblies for a 1:72 model need paint. One spritz from the airbrush does it, but if it is a cold day you wait forever for drying and the next stage. Today, the coats of acrylic were dry within 10 minutes and the assembly could speed forward.

c. Warping of paper and wooden parts is inevitable when you use PVA glues or water-based paints. But if you paint or glue early and let the parts set in the heat under tension or pressure, you get the finish you want without the distortion. Plus any distortions that have occurred yield to a slight dampening and then pressure in the hot atmosphere. It is like a giant oven of gentle heat. You can straighten strip wood the same way.

d. Paint goes on well in warm conditions. If there is a good finish coat needed, do it about mid-morning and then beetle off before you disturb the air and stir up dust. The hot, fast dry means that you’ll get a hard skin before this can happen.

e. You need not wear heavy clothing in the hot shed. You can get away with shorts and a tee shirt, which means that you are not wearing good pants when you get overspray. You can clean your legs cheaper than you can dryclean trousers.

f. Real heat keeps the faint-hearted off the road. You can go to the hobby shop with less traffic. Mind you, most of the dedicated modellers I know would travel to the place in a hurricane anyway…