The Little World – Knowing When To Stop

Knowing when to stop is a concept that all Little Worlders should firmly grasp. It is most useful for the designers as well as the builders.

a. I built two kits of the same vehicle recently – One by Hobby Master, and one by Airfix – both long-established firms. Both designed in England and manufactured in China. Both made with good-quality materials – in the case of the Hobby Master this included plastic castings, a zamac casting, and rubber tyres. The Airfix kit was all plastic. Price for the HM was higher, but not excessive.

Well, they both made up to good models, and I was pleased, but the Airfix kit had been made with more pieces of plastic on the sprues and consequently there were a lot more joins to be made. Some of them were joins that required the parts to be 90º accurate – difficult to do in 3 planes.

I’m a reasonably careful worker, but even so I got more things out of line with the Airfix than with the HM – and the extra-fine detail does not show enough in 1:76 scale to merit those inaccuracies. I’ve noted this problem with my next Airfix kit as well, and will look to other makes for my needs in the future.

The designers should have stopped dividing the master model into parts earlier – sacrificed some of the tiny parts for integral moulding. The end result would have been more certainty for the modellers – particularly if they were juniors.

b. I noted that there is yet another re-issue of a die-cast car model by a well-known firm in yet another fanciful livery. I think they have put it out in about 10 varieties…only 2 of which have any basis whatsoever in reality. By all means put out something that returns money to the company, but try not to flood the shelves with examples that have no further value. Stop at 2 authentic models and one fantasy.

c. Other die-cast makers and resin casters are putting out what may be accurate models of especial vehicles by the score – luxury vehicles, racing cars, one-off show cars. Lovely work, but far in excess of the more mundane cars and trucks we see on our roads or remember from the past. Some makes are ignored completely – others have perhaps one example of a line that actually went for decades. The collector is hard pressed to make a representative collection – it is all dessert and no potatoes. Time to stop and to start making more average sedans.

d. Some collectors pursue balanced collections. Some concentrate on one make. Some concentrate on one model from one maker, and break their hearts and our ears with their search for the fabled lost variant that was only available on Wednesday March 18th, 1959 on a radius of 2.7 miles from a newsagent in Pinner.

I am willing to believe that they care about this, but they should stop before they try to make the rest of us care.

e. That final touch of paint on the model often is the final touch plus one. And that extra spritz or brush then spoils the whole paint job by running or skinning. Oh, if only we had stopped earlier…

f. The extra model on the shelf is just a little more weight. And then another. And eventually the shelf – like the camel’s back – has just one straw or model too many. You can see where  this is going.

g. Some model lines – some model collections – are finite things. There were only so many of something that were ever made and only so many models are possible. What do you do if you come to the end of that line and there are no more things to collect? A sad stop.

So it is all a matter of timing – and balance. Success may be reached but should not be over-reached. Every meal has a satiety point  – up until then it is all delight…but after it, everything is nauseating. We must learn our saturation points and stop in a timely fashion before we reach them.

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The Little World – The Measure Of A Diorama

You all know what a diorama is – a miniature set with scale plastic models. But did you know it was a historical thing too? Apparently one of the original definitions was of a scene  that was meant to be viewed through one peephole and that had lighting effects that changed as you looked.

Well, you could do that today with the plastic models, of course, but it would require a good deal more design skill than most people possess. I include myself in the most people. I can manage pictures of a scale set when I make it for one purpose, but I never restrict the viewer to just one angle . People are free to see the thing from all sides.

This may be a mistake – the older artists may have had the right idea about it all. I believe Vermeer made dioramas to help him with some of his most famous paintings…or maybe the paintings helped with the dioramas.

Most of the works that I see at the model exhibitions are model-centric. The builders do a splendid job of a central figure or a plane, ship or vehicle, and the surrounds are merely to shore up or show up that model. They may be very well done, with superb weathering and accessories, but they are a stage set or enlarged plinth for the model.

The other approach is one that is seen sometimes in museums. If they need to depict a famous scene or battle , there may be anywhere from dozens to thousands of models employed, but they are subservient to the overall impression or story that the diorama tells. It’s rare that you see it from all sides – the only one I remember was a Waterloo set depicted in one of the castles somewhere in England that was on such a scale and in such a large room that you could walk all around the thing. I’d been a re-enactor in one of the Waterloo years and was able to make more sense of it than a casual visitor.

I often recall this, and other Imperial War Museum dioramas, and think that it forms a good basis for judging our own efforts. LIke the railway layouts that are very well done, a good diorama can stand on its own with no models visible – or at least none that dominate the viewer’s attention. Then it really becomes a Little World.

The Little World – You Never Know What You Never Knew

Earlier in the year I joined a Facebook group that deals with my favourite hobby – die-cast toy cars and photography. The fact that finding it was completely by accident ( and a Facebook algorithm ) shows me just how much we miss in life. Even if we are alert, we are rarely alert enough.

Of course this would all have been par for the course in the pre-internet days. We functioned with hobby magazines from the newsagent or drug store, the occasional book  found buried in the public library, and the personal contact of the hobby club or the hobby shop.

If you lived in an out-of-the-way portion of the world ( we’re so isolated that the Black Plague that devastated Europe in the 14th century is just now starting here. You’ll need a note from your doctor…) you got to see the latest hobby supplies about four years after everyone else and if it was a short-lived craze you probably only saw reports of it in overseas magazines. The magazines had a greater impact than the internet now as they were frequently the only source of information. You’d be surprised how many people built marvellous models from the flimsiest plans.

And also what primitive materials were utilised. Wood, metal, early plastics, paper…they were all good stuff and they still are, but back in the 60’s people didn’t realise that they were crude and just went ahead and built masterpieces with leftovers. And they fastened them together with a wide variety of glues and adhesives that worked only fitfully. Epoxies were here, but they were very slow curing. Acetate cements were the go, and no sign of cyanoacrylates. Lots of model boats were made with powder and resin glues in an effort to make them waterproof. And lots of them came apart in the water.

Were we less happy with our early scratchbuilds? No – and we were perfectly delighted with plastic kits that would seem laughable now. The eye of the Little World builder is an adjustable one and can see past surface flaws to find the inner beauty of a model.

It would be nice to think that we can still muster up this sort of vision now.

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 – Beating The Heat

Today is hot and muggy here in Perth – we are due for a thunderstorm. It is a reminder that it will get hotter as summer comes on – we can expect 36º to 42º for at least two to three weeks in the peak time.

Hobby building in my shed is a misery then – the interior temperature in the place climbs to 38º by mid-morning and it is all you can do to stick it out in the heat to do a project. It even drove me out of my computer room, and that meant I had to sit around the place thinking up trouble. To prevent this, the wife put and air conditioner on the computer rom – I can stay there typing and imaging all day.

It occurred to me that if I can do that, there, I can do this, here. ( And all you English teachers out there can grind your occlusal surfaces in impotent rage. That’s a real sentence. ). Today I made a modelling tray to bring inside for the summer. It will also serve in the depths of the July and August cold.

Okay, it’s not the complete workshop – but then it can’t be. The workshop has dust and spray paint and mess, and I need to keep this room clean. So I’ll use it for good old plastic modelling with brush painting. I have that pile of kits to build, and if the weather is dreadful, I can sit in here. It’s the reverse of my childhood in Canada when I took refuge from the snow by building kits on the kitchen table.

Note the portable palette containing the tools – this can go back and forth from inside to shed as needed. It was free. The hobby tray was free, too, courtesy of the packaging on the new kitchen, which was not free. At this point of time I wish to ask the members of the Little World congregation to come together and pray that the new ovens and stove work when they are connected tomorrow…we are sick of Subway and pub meals.

 

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…

The Little World – The Pile O’ Boxes

I used to laugh with scorn when told of the behaviour of other model builders – particularly those benighted souls who wanted to build plastic kits. It was not the fact that they were not scratch-building, and it was not the use of plastic – I can quite see the good sense of both approaches. It was the fact that they stockpiled kits.

I’d been told of people with rooms full of shelves full of kit boxes full of unbuilt kits. I considered they were full of it. After all, how could a red-blooded modeller not rip the packet open and start gluing and painting as soon as they got in the front door? Which of us did not want to cut Christmas dinner short and make a dash for the building board? Were these creatures of flesh and blood or mere zombies?

Well, time has a way of listening to our scornful laughter and then replaying it to us. I now have a small shelf of unbuilt kits to be ashamed of.

I have fallen into the trap of every other modeller – I have decided that I really need something long before I really need it. And now I am committed to getting the paint pots that are missing from the 45,000 ones that already sit on the shelf. And more brushes. And a different knife/airbrush/bandsaw/entire modelling shed/house and land. Anyone who said plastic modelling was a road to tranquility and content needs to have an Xacto needle file in the backside…

Well, at least I have this stash inside in an air-conditioned room. We are set for hot Christmas weather and I can retreat here and cut and glue while I wait for the cooler weather to come. The evenings should be perfect for spray painting.