The Little World – How To Survive A Hobby Shop

We are all in danger at some time in the day. We drive a car, fly in an airplane, eat servo sandwiches, tell our spouse that they are wrong…and for the most part we get away with it. No-one hits us on the road or in the kitchen, we do not get food poisoning, we do not crash. We have learned that the dangers are manageable.

Such is not the case for the hobbyist who goes to the hobby shop. There the dangers are multiplied a thousand-fold…few escape. Wallets and credit cards are seen crashed and burning everywhere you look. Survivors are staggering out of the wrecks with armloads of kits. Painters lie in the aisles overcome by fumes – their partners beside them, overcome by the prices of the paint. It is not a pretty sight.

Shoppers in Bunnings, Home Depot, and Spotlight will also know these distressing sights…with the additional horror in the gardening section of bodies sticking up out of the loam. Whatever can be done to arrest the carnage?

Here is a list of precautions:

a. Do not take more than you can afford to lose. Like the casino, the hobby hell will consume every bit of funding that you can find. Leave your credit and debit cards at home. And don’t go to the counter with a child’s piggy bank and a hammer – it just looks pathetic.

b. Wear dark sunglasses in the shop. Hobby goods are marketed on bright colours – particularly the toy cars and R/C aircraft. If you can’t see them very well you won’t be tempted. You might pick up some dodgy paint choices in the finishing aisle if you’re wearing sunnies but use it up anyway and tell people that it is a special camo scheme.

c. Do not sniff the glues. They are addictive. Likewise, do not sniff the kits. If you have to sniff anything, sniff the owner of the shop. They get little enough love as it is.

d. Learn to make a specific list of what you need and go directly to the place it is stored. Select only as much as you need, pay for it at the counter, and run. Do not browse the cabinets. That way madness lies.

Once you are outside you have proved to yourself that you are strong, moral, and not self-indulgent. Celebrate the fact with a double martini and a glazed doughnut.

e. Never give in to the temptation to stock up on anything. If you add just that extra kit or bag of parts you are starting down the slippery pathway that will lead eventually to an intervention. No-one wants to be the person on television with the garage full of Airfix Spitfires and a sneering relative.

f. Know the signs of addiction before you get there. Is the grocery store refusing to exchange balsa wood strips for bread? Has your bank cut up your credit card, ATM card, cheque book, statement, and half the teatowels in the house? Is the bathtub full of glue? You are in need of treatment. You can get a 1:35th scale treatment kit by Trumpeter for a little under $ 40. Where’s the piggy bank and the hammer?

g. Do not sneak kits into the house. Do not sneak empty boxes up into the attic space. One day the plasterwork on the ceiling will give way and your secret will be out.

h. Do not lie to your spouse. Don’t say that you will be going off to have a night of squalid sex with your lover and then sneak around to the workshop and glue things. The plastic smell and the dried glue on your fingers will give you away, no matter how much you douse yourself in perfume.

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The Little World – Nowt Boot A Trick – Part One

I always remember a lifestyle exhibition I worked at in the 80’s for two things; Dire Straits’ song about money for nothing playing ALL WEEKEND in loop and one old Pom who circled around our camera stand. The stand had a television set playing the vision from a closed-circuit camera that the firm sold. It pointed out at the crowd and they could see themselves as they passed by.

The chap, from Yorkshire, kept bobbing his head in front of the camera and then in front of the screen, trying to catch a glimpse of whoever it was on the set…possibly wtiout realising that it was himself. Finally he gave up in disgust and turned to a companion and said ” Ee, it’s nowt boot a trick “. From that day forward it has become a catchphrase for all who worked there.

Same thing in the Little World. I am engaged in making a series of buildings that are going to be nowt boot a trick…albeit a clever one at that. I am about to do my first low-relief street scene.

Low-relief, bas-relief, flat face modelling – call it what you will – is a very good way of creating an image when you need two chief points; viewing from one angle only, and more scenery crammed into a small space. In my case it will be big cars – 1:18th scale models – with shop fronts behind them. The idea is not new – I’ve seen it done fabulously well by 1:24th plastic car modellers and OO railway builders.

My efforts are going to be regulated by the need to fit the display onto a standard trestle table as supplied at exhibition halls. My first expo this year showed me that there is only a limited amount of space available when there are a lot of exhibitors, and you must make the most of what you can get. Full buildings in 1:18th are generally too big to go on an 1800mm x 600mm trestle table and leave any parking space for the model cars. I hope that the strip concept will work better.

The other thing that it will do is allow me to transport the displays more effectively. My little car – a Suzuki Swift – has a limited capacity in the hatchback cargo area. I barely squeaked it in with the May display and I don’t think that some of the stuff I have made for my studio would actually fit in to travel across town. So I am going to make my street strips modular – 900mm x 600mm with removable structures – and take as many as i am allowed to display – at least I can get two on a table.

More news as the idea develops.

The Little World – I Wish I lived There…

It is no secret to say that Little Worlders wish they lived there – in the Little World. They spend a great deal of their time and an undisclosed amount of their money building their place in it – railways, houses, businesses, vehicles and aircraft…they sew clothing for it and make fabulous scale treats. They make the LW a grander, cleaner, safer, more colourful place than they occupy right now. It is only fitting that when they show this to us, we look carefully.

Thus my visit yesterday to the WA Miniature Society exhibition. I had a stake in the show too, as my ” Pearl Of El Paso ” set is displayed at one end of an exhibit table. But for me, the most fun was looking at the other Little Worlds.

Pearl of El Paso being filmed.

M. Vincent’s studio.

The fish van.

The pub.

Just a quiet garden corner.

1:48th bungalow.

Every scale vision is a little different and every one is a new destination for the Little Worlder to go to when life gets tiresome. It may not be cheaper than a Bali holiday but it doesn’t leave a hangover.

The Little World – Theatre In The Roundhouse

My visit to the West Australian Model Railway Exhibition is always enjoyable, but this year has been even more so…I have had time to reflect upon the theatre of what I was seeing. In some cases it was a complex thing and the layouts deserve praise for the sheer scale of their works.

None more so than that of the large-scale operators. I have a particular affection for them as I once owned a large amount of LGB rolling stock and track and took part in several of the rather crude early layouts at this exhibition. It was held in different halls on various years and we took advantage of hall tables and stages for the large brass track. It all arrived in boxes, we assembled a scratch layout on the floor, and then ran trains rather willy-nilly for a weekend.

No such crudities now. They have a large dedicated oval layout with three tracks available, plus shunting yards and steaming bays. They operate electric two-rail, battery-powered r/c, and live steam. I’ll bet they would run clockwork if they could get the mechanisms. The trains seem to be the same mixed bag consists that we used to lash up, but with better cars and more realistic operation. As the operation is of first concern, they are nor worried about mixing different rail systems on the layout…as long as the trains are accurate in themselves.

One thing I was bemused by was the different show that the electric trains provided vs the live steamer. The LMS locomotive with the wonderful carmine LMS passenger coaches was being driven by hand, and the minute adjustments needed to get it started and then trimmed for steady running around the circuit meant that the driver had to circle the layout at a fast clip himself. You got to see the train at intervals between seeing him. The electric people could stand in the centre and drive the trains past you for an uninterrupted view. I did note, though, that they had to contend with oil and material on the rails so there was a fair bit of wiping down after the steamers had finished. One thing – he got more healthful exercise that they did.

The temporary nature of the exhibition combined with the massive nature of the trestles and rail yards meant that scenery was kept to a minimum. It would be good to see some of these trains in a natural setting like a garden, or on a fully sculptured layout. The scale would hover between 1:22.5 – 1:29 but that is pretty consistent with the car model scale so there should be a fair supply of accessories available. Even dollhouse gear can be found in 1:24, if you wanted to get really, really detailed.

And I really, really think it would be a good idea.

 

The Little World – The Perils Of Perth

Perth, Western Australia is a good city to live in. We eat and drink well, sleep safe, and have about as much fun as we deserve. But it can be a frustrating place when it comes to buying certain things.

You can apparently get narcotics here and there and hamburgers everywhere. I have avoided both for years. People who regularly dose up on either of these are a nuisance.

But the real nuisance is the fact that we are at the end of the world as far as retail goods go. This is no new thing – we’ve missed out on stuff for the last 200 years. But now we have the instant reportage of the internet and we find out about it all daily. Unfortunately the local retailers and wholesalers are limited in the amount of stock they can afford to carry and there are vast classes of desirable things that we never get.

How frustrating to have this paraded and reviews, forums, and overseas travellers crowing about our loss.

For those who point out the internet trade as the answer, we can only say that you have to look carefully and sadly at the cost of shipping for whatever you want. You might be able to order some new thing from New York but if the cost of transport makes is double the purchase price, the joy is gone before it arrives. Fools run out of money faster than wise people.

For modellers there is always one golden Western Australian rule: If something is offered for sale and you both want it and can afford it…buy it. There is a very real possibility that it has come as an extra in another shipment and will never be seen again. If you wait a week, you lose it forever.

You will also need to be careful in your online dealings as there are shops who will not sell to you…preferring to deal with people who do not live at such a remove. It is sad, but you cannot force someone to take the time and trouble to post something to you if they are not used to doing it for their own countrymen. Take it as an encouragement to scratch building and the development of skill. It is no different in other remote regions.

Also take advantage of the extensive do-it-yourself shops and suppliers here. If you have  a Little World hobby that is a larger scale, there are no-end of things in a regular hardware shop that can be turned to good account. Do not be afraid to buy from furniture stores or IKEA either – I have been building structures for years from the off-cuts of IKEA wooden slat blinds.

The retro markets and collector’s warehouses that dot the outer suburbs are tempting – their advertising suggests everything you have ever desired. I cruise their stands, but find that their definition of retro and/or treasure is drawn from a different dictionary than mine. I read Webster – they read Captain Kidd.

And the toy stores? Large amounts of several items…

The Little World – A Rainy Sunday

” A Rainy Sunday In Cannington ” is not exactly the title of a show-stopping Broadway tune. Even given full Eurovision treatment, it is unlikely to get in the semi-finals…Yet it was as much fun as any exhibition could be. Here are photos of the day, and you can pore or gloss over them as you like. The aficionados will know what they are seeing and the rest of the populace can occupy themselves with looking at the enthusiasts and shaking their heads…

It was fun to see the wheelers and dealers circling each other’s wallets as well. It is quite reminiscent of the camera markets in Leederville…

The Little World – A Skewed Point Of View

Modellers or modelers? I find both words in general use to describe people who cut themselves with craft knives and bleed all over the workbench.

Whichever it should be, the individuals who construct the Little World are not as other people – they have a unique set of traits and behaviours that set them apart from the rest of the citizens. Consider:

a. No modeller can pass by a commercial model of anything without stopping and looking at it. They may build toy trains or racing cars or figures of Napoleonic hussars, but they will still stop and look at an architect’s model of a new toilet block. There will be the inevitable mental note: ” I could have done that much better…”.

b. No modeller can pass a hobby shop without a visit that costs money. It might be only a packet of blades or it might be an entire R/C helicopter, but money must change hands. And it always goes over the counter towards the till.

c. When two modellers meet they ask how the hobby is going before enquiring about family matters.

d. No modeller has clean hands. Whether they are covered in glue, paint, or blood depends upon the state of the build and the age of the hobby knife blade.

e. Modellers have spares. They may be in boxes, bins, or wardrobes, but there is a ready supply of arcane parts somewhere in the vicinity. In most cases there will be two fewer parts than are needed, requiring another purchase. Whatever it is will be in packets of either 5, 14, or 300.

f. No true modeller will admit to doing a bad paint job or glue job. Oh, they’ll do ’em all right – they just won’t admit to it.

g. Modellers will purchase a $300 kit just to use up the remains of a $13 tin of red spray paint ” so it doesn’t get wasted…”.

h. Hobby shop owners can smell modellers from 200 metres. Sharks are limited to blood at 50 metres.

i. Modellers can excuse the purchase of anything.

j. Modellers are their own worst critics and their own most implacable enemies when the project is not going well. They lose all sense of proportion and all motivation over a glue joint that will not take. Entire models have been dashed to the floor and trampled when a part will not fit.

k. Modellers get greedy. Every one of them has tried to cut too deeply into the carving…or loaded too much paint onto an otherwise perfect surface…or held the soldering iron onto the joint just that fraction to long. The Little World has sure and swift punishment for this greed in the form of gouges, runs, and warps.

l. Modellers love gift certificates and they don’t even have to be for hobby shops. They can happily get value in a hardware store or a haberdashery.

m. Modellers love to show off their projects in any stage of completion.

n. Modellers save their coffee stirring sticks. Also corks, thread spools, used .30-06 cartridge cases, swizzle sticks, and broken slide projectors. In fact there isn’t anything a modeller will not save, apart from money.

o. Modellers know the subtleties between different blacks, different greys, and different reds to a degree that would baffle an art expert. They might not be able to tell the difference between champagne and lighter fluid by taste but they know exactly how both liquids behave when soaked onto enamel paint.