The Little World – What Scale Is That?

Why, it’s a different scale from the one you need, of course. That’s how modelling is done. You go to the shop, see a wonderful model product, and then find that it is the wrong size for what you do.

So you change scales. And the next time you go to the hobby shop the best new product is in yet another scale. If you are in luck the shop will be nearby to a liquor store and you can drown your sorrows.

But don’t get too fond of any one particular drink. Because the next time you go to the booze shop they will be out of it and you’ll have to change again…

You have no chance of telling the manufacturers what to do unless they are back-yard resin casters who make limited-run plastic kits for the specialist market. Even then, your influence will be tempered by their market experience and the practicality of the thing. No good asking someone to invest a considerable amount of time and money in master-modelling something that no-one but you will ever want. You stand a far better chance of getting a one-off model by doing scratch-building yourself. The skills involved will do you good, no matter how successful you are in the finished product…and you can at least take heart that whatever you make has real value if it is unique in the world. Others may reel back in horror, but they cannot deny that you are the owner of the only one.

Smart money plays the odds:

a. If you have any particular idea in mind, do some serious thinking beforehand as to the scope of the project. If it is truly a one-off for yourself, and no-one else will ever want or get one, you can make parts by laborious means. If it is the start of a series of models, you’ll want to have more easily repeatable parts to make it up. If it is a commercial venture, the parts that make it up have to be as good as possible for as cheap as they can be made.

b. The fact that it is one-off in itself does not mean that it will always be alone…ie, if you make a 1:29th scale Roto-Rooter truck you can also use it as part of a large-scale railway layout with Bachman trains and bad drainage. An encouragement not to stray too far mathematically from current commercial scales. And be careful what you plant.

c. Smart money also knows its own limitations – particularly in terms of technical skill. If you know you can make buildings but not cars, you choose a scale where someone else makes the cars and you make the buildings. That’s not really as fatuous a statement as you might think…many’s the time when someone has started out with great ability only to foul up the works when they undertake something with which they have no resonance. I cannot make model figures that look good, but I can make buildings to house commercial figures and buy vehicles to display with them. I choose my scale based upon both of those other factors and my dioramas work.

d. Smart money knows other smart money. Using my example, I know that there are figure modellers who can make superb maquettes to people my dioramas – figures with posing, musculature, shading, and painting. Once I conceive of a scene I can measure, sketch, design, and specify in such a way that one of the custom modellers can make exactly what I need. This might also apply to other enthusiasts who are adept at vehicles, landscaping, painting, or weathering. I hope to raise my skill levels, but if they will never be high enough I can employ those who already have them.

e. Smart money knows that it only needs to make so much – a great deal of the realism of a scene is in the mind of the beholder. Michael Paul Smith said as much in his book about Elgin Park – he gets the realism right enough to start the suggestion juices flowing for his audience. They do the rest.

All this having been said, I would be grateful if the die casters and plastic extruders would set to and give us more stock of ordinary goods in the 1:18th scale. Park benches, lamp posts. fire plugs, pillar boxes, wheelie bins and rubbish tins, ordinary motor-car tyres, Belisha beacons, road signs, witches hats, and such. I would love a set of plastic or concrete temporary barriers and a portable light bank. And a complete set of traffic lights and crossing beacons for an intersection would sell like hot cakes!

The Little World – Finding The Missing Links

Every modeller – whether dollhouse builder, plastic scale worker, or die-cast specialist – has found the dark places. The parts of their chosen scale where the lights do not shine. In short – the bits that no-one has ever made. The model that they know is crucial…but no-one else wants.

This can be a very galling experience. If you are a person who thinks that 1:12th scale Victorian drawing rooms and kitchens are the be-all and end-all of existence, you are fine. There are no end of dollhouse suppliers that can fulfill your needs. If you love the British Spitfire airplane you can rest assured that you never need be out of reach of a model. If you are a person who wants to collect 1:29th scale South African flying saucers, you are on your own.

That’s an extreme example, but you only have to move a very small way off the commercial pathway to be lost – try googling 1:18th scale furniture and see what happens. Yet there are tens of thousands of model collectors into 1:18th scale cars who might want to make a 1:18th scale house to go with them. In most cases they have been told to go and scratch.

Well, at least I scratch better than I did before. I was frightened that I could not reproduce the complex details of the world, and as a child I hesitated to try. But radio controlled modelling in the 1970’s showed me that the concept of stand-off scale was valid. Simplified detail could still validate a project. I use the concept all the time these days and reserve my heroic efforts for things I can do. And every now and then extend the working hands to a new spot…

Currently I am making the facade of an Art-Deco cinema as part of a 1:18th street scene. The thing resonates with me as a memory of similar things seen in my childhood. And it has speed lines, which make everything good. If you don’t believe me try adding them ot a baroque palace like Potsdam or Versailles and see how much better you feel. You need not put them on with bolts or nails – a can of spray glue will do. Or even a can of spray paint. Freddie Rex III Rules OK.

 

 

The Little World – What’s the Point…?

Every Little Worlder has had it – whether they are miniature builders, doll house enthusiasts, toy collectors, model collectors, collector collectors, scale modellers, airplane flyers, train hobbyists, or r/c boaters – they have all had that sneering question…

” What’s the point ? ”

It is not actually a question – it is a statement. It says two things about the person who utters it:

a. I don’t enjoy little things – because I don’t or can’t have, make, see, or imagine them.

b. I want to make you feel less than me – and the best way is to belittle what you obviously enjoy.

Answering a question is one thing – but none of us is required to answer a statement. We don’t have to become incensed or feel bad about it, or to notice it in any way. But if we do want to reply, may I suggest one of the following…

a. ” There is no point. There never has been nor will there ever be. Only fools seek a point. ”

b. ” I do it as therapy. Let me tell you about my illness. Have you an hour? Come close and I will stimulate you. ”

c. ” You can’t see a point? Oh, dear. Not had much to do with art, then, eh? ”

d. ” You’d like to buy my  models/toys/figurines/diorama? Well why didn’t you say so? Don’t be shy. For you –  a special price –  $ 1500. Now don’t be a piker…no-one likes a cheap-arse. Let’s see the colour of your money…”

Most bullies never expect the victim fight back. If you are ready with a faster, funnier, firmer response than they can deal with, you have them on the run. When you see them sheer off and try to run for it, pursue them. You have the entire support of the Little World behind you.

 

 

 

 

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 – 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 – The First Exhibition

Yesterday was the first time I got to exhibit a model diorama at the West Australian Model Collector’s Club…and it was a good experience.

Dropping into a fresh milieu can be a daunting thing, but the members of the club made me feel welcome, and my display was easy to set up. It encourages me to try my hand at further shows.

I’m not a seller of toy cars. I’m barely a seller of anything these days, unless you count cheesy humour – but I did get a chance to show off what I do to an audience that knows what it is looking at. As any artistic person will tell you, that is the most valuable thing of all. You may not be liked, but you are understood.

I think they liked the display of McConnell Beach and Muzz Buzz. These are two dioramas…or snapshots of life…that I have created with my 1:18th scale cars and a buildings. They are both uniquely Western Australian and as such can be readily recognised. They resonated with all the visitors at the fair. I think this was reason I chose them out of all the other dioramas available – the ease of social access.

Later in the year I will try another club and another exhibition – and the more difficult task of showing dioramas of a different country and time. I am counting on the universality of western experience to fill in gaps of perception for the people who see Mangina Motors and the Tomahawk Cafe.

If it seems to work, I will forge ahead with Crestline Drive and Mission…my slices of life in Spokane, Washington and Calgary, Alberta in the 50’s. If not, I will choose a local subject from Victoria or a country town in WA.

Did I have a good time today? Yes, I did. Did I buy some new cars? Yes, I did…though they were the bargain sort rather than the premium offerings. I have an airbrush and the desire to make my cars look real rather than fabulous. I am not daunted by beaters.

All in all, I think that I shall be very happy with the WAMCC.

PS: My vote for the best in show was the Muppet Movie display. That man has style!

 

 

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.