A New Column Has been Born!

Fans of The Little World posts here on this column will now have a dedicated channel for their miniature and scale model interests – I’ve decided to open another WordPress free site to take the Little World traffic.

Please go to:

littleworld678590491.wordpress.com

– and see if your computer, tablet, or phone view see the new site. It’s a horrendously complex address, so please bookmark it. I think that the WordPress people want me to buy a paid site theme that has a simpler name and simpler address, but I will just see if this basic opening has merit first.

This column will continue as before, and you can view all the older Little World posts on it just by dialling back into the archives. Please feel free to contact me with advice and consent. And chocolate biscuits.

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The Club Rule

The club rule is that the club rules rule. If a club rule has been ruled by the club the rule of the club is ruled, club, rule…club, club, club…

This started out well, but seems to have gone off the track.

We all live by rules. Every day Commonwealth, State, and local statutes govern where we can drive, what we can eat, who we can shoot, etc. For the most part we accept the existence of these and obey or break them as our character dictates. We pay enormous sums to politicians to invent or remove them, and for the most part they do it somewhere else, so we are spared the sight of the process. A blessing.

Today I ran foul of a club rule – a club for people who collect toy cars – by not having my paper membership slip pinned to my shirt when I visited a toy collector’s fair. The punishment for this breach was the loss of a $ 5 bill. I still benefitted from the toy fair as I found several models to help me complete my scale airfield, but the episode of the $5 paper badge rankles.

Even the intervention of the club president did not sway the jobsworth at the entry desk. Apparently that paper badge and the unwritten club rule has more power than he does. A daunting prospect.

Well, I shall make sure that I have the badge prominently displayed on my person in the future. Laminated to a large metal tag and possibly slung around my neck like dogtags. I wonder how many more fiscal rules have been written into the club book?

One good thing. They never do get my name right – even when they presented me with a trophy for an exhibition model last year they spelled it wrong…but the paper card is closest that they’ve gotten yet. I live in hope.

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…

 

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 – Dux

Dux is a strange word here in Australia. People who are the highest – scoring students at their schools are known as the Dux of the class. Older women are also called Ducks – it is a term of easy affection.

But the Dux I remember was an entirely different thing – it was the Christmas of 1959 when I encountered the Dux construction set. I had no idea at the time how unusual it was in the world of toys.

You’ll all know Meccano from the UK and some of you will know the A.C. Gilbert Erector sets from the USA. Dux was from Germany, and I am now convinced that it was East Germany rather than the Bundesrepublik. A very unusual thing for 1959 as it was the height of the Cold War.

Still, the DDR needed foreign currency, and the department store in Canada that stocked the Dux set might have gotten them in for the Christmas trade at a very cheap price. The set was my prized present for the year, and it came in quite a large red cardboard organiser box. There were steel girders, connector plates, plastic sheets, L brackets, T brackets, wheels, axles, rubber tyres, and a wonderful fully articulated clamshell bucket. It had the look of Meccano to some extent but the girders were stiffened with a steel lip at one edge that meant they could support themselves better. The fastenings were good-quality plated nuts and bolts but there were some very odd little grommets that enabled steel shafts to turn in the girders.

There was an instruction book but even I could tell at that stage that the writer of it was not an English-speaker. I have since learned to recognise the Teutonic technical style as the Metz electronic flash company used it in all their customer communications. It was at once the most painful and frustration document you could read – the photos and diagrams hinted at wonders that the text could not support.

Well, when you’re 11 you don’t need an engineering degree to invent things, and I spent years using that Dux set to do just that. Cars, trucks, cranes, etc…though I never did succeed in getting that clamshell bucket to work properly – it was a fine piece but you needed to rig up pullys and blocks as well as the steel work to make an overhead loader of it.  It was always going to be the next project.

Well, I am ready for it now, but all trace of the Dux construction sets seems to have vanished – perhaps they evaporated with the DDR. I’ve tried eBay with no success and even the basic Google search for illustrations produces very little – certainly not the thing I remember. It might be too much to hope that an entire set has survived, but I would settle for the clamshell bucket.

There is an overhead coal loader in me that is itching to get out.

The Little World – Just Leave the Milk And Cookies On The Table

When I am finished playing I will eat them. I may be some time – I’m currently in 1959. And if I can find the sort of things I need on the internet, I may not leave for years.

You see, 1959 was the year that I got the Schuco wind-up Ferrari racing car. It cost $ 10 at Uncle John’s Hobby Shop on 7th Avenue in Calgary, Alberta and the $ 10 represented the entirety of my birthday money. I cannot say why the pressed-tin car appealed to me – but I knew that it was a must-have.

Normally that $ 10 would have meant at least three plastic models and some paint from Don’s Hobbies – about a block away from Uncle John’s. It was my central model shop – every other place was judged in relationship to Dons. I’m delighted to be able to report that it still exists – some 60 years later. Changed, moved, but still Don’s.

Well, I took the Schuco home, ran it around every flat place I could find, and carefully kept it safe and sound for decades after that. I knew that there were other Schuco wind-up models as I encountered them occasionally in hotel gift shops, but I never had any money to buy any more.

The Ferrari came down to Australia with me, and for some reason I cannot remember, it was eventually traded for some die-cast ship models. I put it out of my mind…until I went to Nürnberg in Germany in 1995 and visited the largest hobby shop in that toy city. There was a whole cabinet of Schuco tin toys for sale – modern reproductions by the company of their classic models. I saw the red Ferrari, and any thought of other purchases went out the window – At a vastly inflated EEC modern-day price I was the owner of my birthday car again. It has pride of place in the model cabinet…and as you can see, has been the favoured prop of a favoured live model – Jane Hebiton.

And yes, the Ferrari still goes like a rocket when you wind it and set it out to run on a flat tiled floor.

Note that I am still in 1959 for another reason; more of that in the next column.

The Little World – Won’t Someone Think Of The Adults?

I suppose it is a little silly to be going into a toy shop looking for adult entertainment – unless you are an adult that likes playing with toys. That’s a hard thing to be, and an even harder thing to admit to – it’s no wonder that the trade doesn’t think it needs to cater to us.

I say us, because I like to play with toys, and I am considered to be an adult. Shows how just how successful I have been at fooling the rest of society for the last 69 years…

I went into a Toyworld store in Fremantle a couple of weeks ago to see if I could add anything to my toy car collection or find any accessories that would help with scale model photography. I had plenty of time, my own transport, and a credit card  – I could have taken away any number of boxes of fun from that shop. Sadly, I left empty-handed…there was just nothing that answered the need in the place.

Had I been buying for children, I could have had a ball. Several balls. As many balls as you can have ball-games for. If I was playing in the sand pit out the back of the house i could have had dirt diggers and dump trucks  in any size and colour. I could have had farm tractors and ploughs. But I couldn’t get any decent scale models that I would put on a shelf and display.

People may say that this should be the province of the hobby shop – and to a certain degree it is – but toy stores are the training grounds for hobbyists and it seems like it would be a good thing to give the buyers some bridge between radio control helicopters and friction toy racers.

Either that, or I get ten cubic yards of sand delivered and go outside and start to make sand roads…