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.

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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…

 

The Little World – You Can Buy It In Any Size But The One You Need

Here – pick a card from the blue deck. Any card. Now turn it over. What does it say?

1/72?

Okay, that’s your scale. Now pick a card from the red deck and turn it over. It says…?

Portuguese torpedo bomber?

Okay, that’s what you need to buy from the hobby shop. Here is a large pile of money and a stopwatch. You have five hours to go to every hobby shop in town to buy a 1/72 Portuguese torpedo bomber – either in kit form or as a die-cast. If you do you get to keep the pile of money and if you fail we take all the tyres off your car and burn them in your back yard. Ready? Go.

This is the best game. The desperate modeller heads out the front door at a dead run and drives to the nearest hobby shop. They have 1/35 scale torpedo bombers. The next one is five miles away and they have 1/48 scale kits. The third store is across town on the freeway and they have a special on Portuguese torpedo bombers this week. All at half price and all at 1/32 scale…

It’s a big town and there are lots of stores and the five hours tick slowly away as the candidate rushes to each one. He is assured of success at the four-hour, 55 minute mark when he reaches the last one in the outer suburb that advertises itself as ” Portuguese Torpedo Bombers R Us ” and has the 1/72 signal beaming onto the clouds above the parking lot. Bursting into the doors he is confronted by the man who says:

” Oh you’re too late. We sent them back to the wholesaler yesterday. There was no call for them…”

I don’t know about you, but I like a nice tyre fire in the back yard on these summer nights. That, and the sobbing of the modeller, seems to be a home comfort.

The Little World – The Box That It Came In

Oh, what a fool I have been! If only I had known! If only I had taken the time! I could be sitting on a pile of old cardboard that would be worth $ 45 dollars today!

Well, I can only be depressed as I see eBay sales of empty boxes that once contained plastic model kits. Relics of the 1950’s found in the back of the chicken run and now offered to the nostalgia market. Things we once threw out as rubbish…but now can be sold as rubbish.

I blame my parents. They were cruel and hard and fed me regularly and let me sleep in a warm bed and wear good clothing…and moved regularly to continue work within the construction industry. They never stayed long enough in one place to build a dedicated, air-conditioned storage warehouse to let me keep my plastic model kits and the empty boxes. They deprived me of a career as an empty-box mogul.

I should have seen it at the time. I should have taken firm steps to compel them to my will. If only I had thought to go to a lawyer and take out injunctions…

At least I should have carefully cut the front box art off every kit I ever had and pressed it into an album. All the rest could have gone, but it would have left me with a wonderful souvenir of the times…and a valuable reminder of the kits. As it is, I think I can go to the collector’s books and Google right now and assemble a series of images of the box art as far as I can remember what I had. Some of the colours were a bit bright and glaring, but that was the 50’s for you – the world was made of different dyes then.

Love Canal still is…