The Little World – Meets the Big World

And they do not meet at the hobby shop – they meet at the DIY shop – the Home Depot – the ironmonger’s – the Bunnings. And you have to be ready when they do.

We are accustomed in the Little World to being done. In some cases over, and in some cases like a dinner. We have long realised that our wallets and purses are merely containers for someone else’s money. We have patronised hobby shops, dollhouse shops, gamers shops, and toy stores for decades in the sure and certain knowledge that we couldn’t possibly live without whatever it is that has taken our eye, and that it will also take our drinking – and in many cases our eating – money for a month or more. We swim up to the counter with mouths open and gasping for goodies. We’re like human goldfish. No need to be koi about it…

But it need not be so. We can be modellers, miniaturists, and collectors without becoming the natural fodder of the hobby shop. All we need to do is adjust our viewpoint and our scale.

As you get bigger in scale, the designs, materials, and techniques employed get much closer to real life. And they get, surprisingly , cheaper. Oh, it is more expensive to buy a 1:1 scale Chrysler hemi engine than it is to buy a 1:24th scale model, but the reverse is the case when all you want is corrugated iron. And when it comes to paints, scale equates in a logarithmically reverse order to price. If you painted a Ford Prefect in 1:1 with pots of Tamiya paint it would come out to the price of a Bugatti Veyron.

So. So take advantage of the low prices on paint when you need it for a 1:18th, 1:12th, or 1:6th structure or vehicle. You can get perfectly good coverage for any of these in the hardware store. Bucket or spray can, the paint can be made to look scale-correct with a bit of thinning and in the case of some of the enamel sprays can do a damn sight better job than an airbrush. You can score sample pots of paint and complete a whole project for $ 5.

Likewise fasteners, screws, nuts, bolts, and odd bits of casting made for many other purposes can all be swung into battery with the larger scales and at hardware shop prices. The oak strip wood and moulding racks are your friend and even the humble MDF stacks can be the materials of your dreams…if you dream big.

I have yet to find a good scale reason for regular doorknobs and bags of chicken manure, but I’m still thinking about it. At least in Australia you need not think hungry – Bunnings does a regular sausage sizzle on Saturday that most of us regard as sacred. Sacred with onions.

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 – Of What I Did On My Holidays

I went on my holidays to see my Uncle and my Auntie.

They live in a house at Tolleshunt which is out in the country, but not so far that you run out of roads. Also there is the Britishrailway, which my Uncle says is the only thing that Tolleshunt has going for it past the pub. But we did not go past the pub, and neither did the Britishrailway, so I don’t know what he means.
 My Auntie said that I was going to stay for a week but my Dad said I could stay longer and my Uncle said why. But he never told me why and that was the year that my little sister was born but it was 9 months later. My Auntie was very nice, and she laughed at my Uncle but he did not laugh back.
My Uncle said go and look at the railway because my Dad had let me bring the Ilford camera with me. It is our Ilford camera and my Dad said that it was loaded with a role of Seebacrome film and I was not to waste it but take good pictures because it cost a King’s ransome to develop. The Ilford camera is white and it has a strap that you put around your neck so that you do not drop it. And it has three speeds and Bulb, so you can take pictures at night, but I wasn’t allowed out after dark. I can wind on the film myself.

These are the pictures of the Britishrailway I took. The trains come by every so often and the steam one smells like a hot potato cart. The coach is very fast and it is not sharp but that is okay. My Uncle says that it is a wonder that the Britishrailways moved fast enough to blur but I don’t know what he means.

 I think it is wonderful to live so close to the Britishrailway and when I grow up I want to do this. I also want to be a cowboy. I also want to go to visit my Uncle and Auntie again for more than a week but my Mum says not if it is that again, but I don’t know what she means.

The Britishrailway has sandwiches that you can buy but Mum doesn’t. She packs me jam ones.

 

The Little World – So Many Chances To Get It Right

And so many times that they have gotten it wrong…

I go to visit major toy outlets several times each year. My visits are frequently when on holiday – both to increase the sense of joy and freedom of the occasion and to find the treasures that are kept away from my local stores. In the past I have been successful in some cases – not all manufacturers send their products to Western Australia, and sometimes the eastern states have goods you just never see elsewhere. But lately it would seem that the chain-store approach to toy and hobby sales has also led to a big-batch sameness in all states. And the stuff they sell to kids isn’t worth an adult buying it.

For instance, I know it is folly to visit Toys R Us looking for decent die-cast models. There will be a few Hot Wheel types and the occasional bargain Maisto but they will be the sort of zoomie model a 7-year-old wants. I understand that they are selling to that market so I can’t ask for too much sophistication. Where I am critical, however, is in the fact that there is a paucity of many other normal toys that could be turned to good use in a collection. An example:

As a child I remember playsets of figurines that came in all sorts of styles. Plastic, mostly, with a few lead soldiers, they were sold by chain stores, dime stores, department stores, and specialty toy stores – much as they are now. But they were sets of REAL figures – real workers, cowboys, soldiers, etc. and could be painted, modified, and set up in more serious modelling dioramas. Nowadays you cannot find these – the figure market has been over-run with transformers, monsters, aliens, and animadversions of everything from trains to trilobytes. I cannot say whether they thrill the tinies but they leave the collector cold.

Likewise the building sets. Apart from the ubiquitous Lego, there are few of the useful building sets left. Brickwork is nursery blocks if anything and mechanical building sets are so specialised as to leave no extra parts for individual thought. You build what the box says you build, and at the price that you pay, you cannot afford to argue.

Well, hope springs eternal, and I’ll be on holiday ( a holiday piled on retirement is an odd concept…) soon and I’ll do the rounds of the stores in Sydney. With a bit of luck the latest container ship from Hong Kong will have disgorged fresh supplies and I can bring home plastic road signs, sea containers, and fences. It would be too much to hope for a brick building set, but you never know what the knock-off factories will have found amongst the old moulds.

Addendum: back form holiday. Exactly as said, but with the interesting news that Hobbyco in Sydney have a complete line of silicone moulding and resin casting kits at a reasonable price. I have a pair of them coming over and will try some detailed part production.

 

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.

The Little World – When You Try To Decide

The business of decision in the Little World is a great deal more difficult than it used to be. I do not envy a beginner in the various hobbies; diecast collecting, plastic model building, miniature houses, or r/c hobbies.

What a crock… I envy them prodigiously and wish I was starting out again in half a dozen different fields. With half a dozen separate sources of hobby money, I hasten to add…

The peep at the plastic modellers show was reminiscent of what I have seen in lots of other places; literally hundreds of kits available in any division of endeavour. The days of half a dozen Airfix plastic baggies and one model of the Bismark at the local toy store plus two tins of gloss Humbrol are well surpassed. I was staggered at the number of kits of things I would be delighted to build, and equally at the number that left me cold. The limiting factor would be money and time…no other technical restriction seems to exist.

The scale problem always exists, of course, and is nowhere more painfully evident than on the display tables for general modelling societies. There are wonderful models of all scales jumbled cheek to jowl and they all suffer from it – you can’t really appreciate any one thing unless you see it it concert with others that match it in scale and period. This is not what the exhibitors want, or can achieve, so it is no good me grousing about it. I noted that a society dedicated to a particular scale like the 1/72 ship modellers or to one era like the WWI airplane people do have a much better chance of a coherent show.

But the choices seem to be far more than I as a child would have been able to cope with. I had Airfix, Revell, Monogram, Hawk, and AMT to choose from – now there have to be a couple of dozen major makers to add to that and who knows how many specialist, garage, or wildcat makers. Of course some of them have priced themselves past what a child or sensible adult could ever afford to purchase…but then there are any number of foolish adults ( bless them ) wandering the aisles of the hobby show and some of them are seriously cashed-up. They are the golden hope that buoys the retailers and wholesalers and makes it possible for the lesser fish to have food as well.

How DO you decide what to do? I’ll explore the mindset of this in a future post…in the meantime grab whichever kit is nearest to you on the counter, pay for it, go home, and start cutting into the tips of your fingers.