The Little World – The Warm Orgasm Of Cleaning Up

Think what you will about the pride of accomplishment and possession that grips a modeller during their time in the workshop  – I say there is no thrill to equal that of cleaning the place up after completing a project. And in some cases it does not even have to be after successfully finishing something…sometimes just the act of getting free of the whole wretched mess is reward enough.

I don’t know what kind of modeller you are, or in what direction your work has taken you. Nor what sort of workshop and tools you have. I don’t even know whether you are a neat and tidy person in yourself or a wallowing hog. Wherever you fit in the spectrum from surgical cleanliness to cow pies on the counter, you will have gotten to the same point at sometime in your career – you’ve finished the last thing possible on your model and put it carefully up on the shelf for posterity.

Now look around. Does it look like a minimalist living room or does it look like Stalingrad? Can you see the floor? Can you see the walls? Is the paint on the ceiling? is the paint on the cat? Is the cat on the ceiling? Whatever – it is time to recover the place and get ready for the next idea.

Find the tools. You will not find them all the first time you look. You may not find some of them no matter how hard you look. Accept an attrition rate of drill bits and tiny hand tools during the best projects. If you have lost the bandsaw or the air compressor, however, check that the workshop locks are still present.

Then start to pick up the off-cuts from whatever you were using. Are any of them still useful? Save them in special boxes that you can throw out in a year when you realise you were wrong. Or save them for 35-40 years and discover that you were right.

Are there any half-used tins of paint? If so, tip them all unto a bucket and paint the back porch with the result. It will either be flat grey or a salmon colour, depending upon whether you are a good moral person or a pervert. The neighbours will know by looking at the porch.

Collect all the parts that you find on the floor that skittered out of your hand or the bench vise as you were making them. Regard these as the working models of the parts that you then had to remake when you were unable to find the first ones on the floor. Throw them in the bin and curse them.

Clean the bench top. Possibly with a broom, possibly with a cloth. Possibly with fire. Just get it back to a semblance of flatness as you will be building your next project on there and it is no good trying to get things in plumb if you are sitting on old glue blobs.

Sharpen the pencils and cap the marker pens. Try the old ones out to see if they are dry enough yet to throw out. Hammer the ruler flat again.

Clean the paintbrushes by rinsing them in the appropriate thinner, working the bristles carefully. Rinse them, shape them so that they have a straight edge, and then throw them into the bin. They sell better brushes than you have just ditched in packets of five for three dollars.

Gather all the sprues, boxes, unused decal sheets, instructions, and spare parts from the kit that you have just finished – note that fully 3/4 of what you paid for at the hobby shop is still in the box and is now totally useless. Go to the hobby shop tomorrow and ask for 3/4 of your money back. Tomorrow will be a special day for you…

And finally, vacuum the floor and benches. No matter how clean you got it before, this final step will suck up the final detail part that you could not find on the sprue ( you’ll see it clearly just before it shoots up the vacuum nozzle ) and make for hours of fun as you sift through the dust bag to find it. We can supply a book of words to say while you look, but don’t let the kiddies read it.

Advertisements

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 – It All Ends Up As Grey Or Brown

Little World builders – as opposed to Little World collectors – generally end up with a more muted palette for their art.

By that I mean, as they are painting and weathering things, initial toy-like colours that can be put on models in a factory are dulled down and authentic colours get painted on plastic assembly kits from the start. Of course this generalisation goes to the winds when it comes to plastic model car kits and hot rod customisers but otherwise it holds.

I weather some of my die-cast models to fit my own Little World, and I use thinned versions of matte paints and varnishes to do so. It is amazing what a thin coat of acrylic dust can do to bring a shelf model to life. The structures that are built in various scales also benefit from sprayed dirt and dripped ( acrylic wash ) corrosion.

But it need not be so. You really have to look into your own soul and discover what rings your bell. You might be the person who dearly loves Disney colours on your models and would be sad and dispirited if they all had to look used. If that is the case, paint them as well as you can, but keep to the bright colours that please you. It is your Little World after all, and you may be a cheery as you want to be.

For the grubby brigade, we soon discover that whatever we do, the world gets dirtier. It does so with brown dust or grey dust – and there are very few other colours of weathering. Oh, the wet portions of the Little World may get mouldy, which can be somewhat green, but you’ll rarely see blue, red, or yellow as a predominant wash. Of course small plumes of industrial contamination can run to vile colours for specific highlights…but you are always still better off with a dark wash of grunge.

I have even seen instances of people using real dirt and degradation to weather their models, and there is certainly something to be said for the uneven nature of nature as it erodes and fouls things. If you can point it in the right direction you need not buy bottles of Tamiya acrylics for $ 5 each. Just don’t wipe your eyes after handling the model…

 

” This One Is Named Henry…”

I stood behind myself in Bunnings today and I am very proud to say that I did not kick myself in the arse. The fact that I was wearing thongs would not have made a difference – for a while there I was prepared to break a toe if need be.

It was the oak strip and mdf board aisle – the one down the back near the waste bins. I rounded the corner at a fast lope looking for two sheets of 3mm 1200 x 900 mdf to make an airport hard stand ( As you do…) and was brought to screeching halt by me. I was blocking the aisle with a Bunnings trolley and carefully selecting the most suitable oak strips and mdf boards for my project. I have no idea what my project is.

In case this all sounds too mysterious for words, consider that we all have a doppelganger somewhere – that we generally never meet. In most cases the doppelganger looks like us, and all who see them can recognise the fact. I my case the chap picking out the wood was nothing like me in appearance, but exactly like me in actions.

I could see him eyeing every piece of wood to find out whether it was straight or twisted – not really a thing with short lengths of oak and flat sheets of mdf. Then scanning each piece from either end about half a dozen times and then going back to consult a paper list pulled from his pocket. This went on for a dozen bits of wood, and the list went back into the pocket and came out again a dozen times.

I was surprised that he did not pull out a carpenter’s square and/or ruler to check whether the dimensions listed on the price tag were accurate.

I just sat on the big stack of marine ply and watched…and waited. I kept a pleasant smile upon my face and thought about happy things. For what seemed like 12 hours. When he finally decided that he had enough wood, he slowly pushed the trolley away. I brushed off  the spider webs and lichen that had been growing on me, dived for the mdf shelf and grabbed two pieces.

I’m not a vindictive man. Or a rude one. But I could see what was going to happen if he hit the cash register before me…so I literally flew down the side aisles to beat him to it. I may have been a bit precipitate, as I could hear an avalanche of hammers and wood clamps falling behind in my wake, but I made it in time. I got through the till before he arrived with his list.

I cannot say whether I will be a different shopper in the future, but I will at least look over my shoulder and let other foursomes play through while I consider the fall of the green.

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 – Thick And Sticky

I have revisited my childhood and I’m thinking that things has changed down the ol’ hobby shop.

As a kid in Canada I had access to basically four brands of model paint – Revell at first, then Humbrol, Testors, and Pactra. Enamels all, with different characteristics and markedly different vehicles.

The smell of the paints was a clue to which they were – you could tell a puddle of Pactra from a similar amount of Humbrol with your nose. Revell was lousy paint but it had a particular odour – probably sourced from Love Canal. Just as well I graduated to Humbrol early.

But earlier in the year I tried Humbrol 22 – gloss white enamel from the familiar little tin. I was flabbergasted at the thickness of it. Admittedly it was a cold day here in Perth, but it was a cold in Calgary too and the paint was never like this. Fortunately I was not going to brush it on – it was destined for airbrush use and I had purchased a bottle of the recommended Humbrol thinner for it.

Thinning is a sometimes art – more akin to alchemy than science. I use a souvenir teaspoon as the basic measure of quantity and dilution, and am getting pretty good at estimating the amount of paint needed for any particular job. This is a doddle with the acrylics as they flow so readily. But this Humbrol needed two scoops and three dollops before it even approached the consistency of milk. It did go through the gun successfully and it did coat the job, but I made sure that I flooded out the mechanism with about 5000 gallons of mineral turps afterwards to clean the nozzle.

I was undecided about whether I wanted to move back to enamels or not. Next coat on the job was a matt brown – I still used Humbrol and see if it was any better. I was not prepared to reject a useful tool that others seem to employ based on just one experience. If it allowed for multi-layer effects that were less prone to dissolution than acrylic, I decided to continue to pursue it. I still had that much affection for dear old Humbrol and I had always thought their tins the cutest thing in the world.

Addendum: Next day analysis showed that the sprayed 22 Humbrol had done as well as could be expected – given that it was covering a dark plastic with no undercoat. The test wasn’t as fair as it might have been, and should not be taken as gospel. I thinned the tin mix slightly and used a brush to re-coat the job, and it came out splendidly. I was wary of touching it for a week, however, as this was not good drying weather.

I’ll suspend judgement now that warm weather has returned – time will come to try another colour or consistency.