The Little World – Scrooge McModeller Looks At the Empty Box

I am delighted to say that I have finished another 1:72 airplane kit. It came out pretty much the way I envisaged it and I did not make any major botch-ups. It will take its place in the collection and be duly photographed. All is well.

No it isn’t.

Scrooge McModeller here has just looked into the empty box and counted the number of extra parts still attached to the sprues – variant parts not needed for the aircraft type that was being built. Of course, they will be preserved for use in future projects, and may be glued onto a motor vehicle, ship, or dinosaur as future occasion demands. But that leaves the question of the sprues. Even if you carefully separate, catalogue, and store the useful bits there is still going to be nearly the weight of the finished model in discard sprues – plastic I paid for that is destined for the waste bin. The Scottish ancestors I do not have would have been aghast, if they had existed…

What can you do with the sprues? They are likely to be of wildly different colours and may even be of markedly different composition – at least it feels like that when you are knifing through the plastic. And they are nearly always awkward shapes and sizes – so they are unlikely to be structural parts for future large-scale pieces.

I did envisage cutting off the side pieces and using the long straight bits for paint mixing stick but found that the effort needed to trim them far outweighed the benefit – and the round-section sprue made a poor job of it in the paint bottles. I gather coffee stirring sticks wherever I go for that purpose.

I should be tempted to melt them down again and press them into a new shape if I knew how to heat them up safely and had moulds that would take them. I suspect that the liquidised polystyrene plastic would still not be very runny and that it would not be possible to just pour it into a mould like plaster or resin.

You understand my desire to reuse the sprues is not ecological concern at all – I regularly hunt dolphins with arsenic bullets now that the unicorns are gone – it is parsimony. I hate wasting something that was paid for. You might say that of the cardboard boxes that the kits come in, but I save these and cut them apart for building material and spray platforms so they get full use.

And frugal ideas from the readership would be greatly appreciated.

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The Little World – Raw Materials

I used to look at model engineers and marvel at their patience. Patience and hard work. Patience, hard work, and dedication. Basically, I thought they were nuts.

Not because of the models they made – the traction engines and steam locomotives and V-8 engines – and not because of their appearance ( though the English ones did have a tendency to look like a cartoon of themselves ). It was because of the problem they set themselves in trying to make one model that would occupy them for fifteen years. I could not conceive of someone sustaining an interest in one piece of modelling for that period of time. I thought it was some sort of fraud.

I still did not get a clue to the real state of affairs when I read the model engineering magazines and saw how many of the articles were dedicated to making things for the workshop in preparation for making the model. I thought it was still preliminary stuff. I’ve since learned the lesson of the scratch building shop…and I am delighted.

I’m also a little taken aback. I am currently engaged in making model structures for dioramas and a good great deal of the time involved is not in the actual fabrication or decoration – it is in sourcing and then preparing the raw materials. And sometimes in solving engineering puzzles of how to treat large objects so as to make them appear small.

Part of it is the challenge of frugal modeling. Even when I can afford to go to a hobby shop and buy a Plastruct part I begrudge the money spent on it. I’m time-rich now and can afford to put in the hours to make a complex part from smaller components of it can be done cheaply.

Part of it is the discovery that there are modelling materials everywhere. I used to view some of the models my friend Don Smith made with a jaundiced eye because they were made with popsicle sticks and Tarzan’s Grip glue. No more – I recognise the skill he demonstrated in finding the raw stuff of modelling in such humble places. I spent the better part of a very good day with a Shachihata Fineliner pen and a ruler making a very large mastic sheet roof and then cutting up a sheet of newsagency construction card for lengths of 1:18 siding. The fact that I had the pen, matt board, and card lying about the workshop doing nothing only serves to make it more delicious. Free modelling.

Part of it is the pleasure of component modelling…or subassembly work. Getting things right in small chunks and then eventually seeing it all come together on the main frame. Any modelling project involves some stages that are a drag, and I can certainly view drawing roof tiles in that light, but if you get them right once you do not have to get them nearly right twice.

The Little World Week – Part Three – You Want How Much?

My new best friend forever hobby shop has a fine selection of goods and is within a short  drive from my home. It is open pretty much every day and is air-conditioned. The shelves are widely spaced and the products set out logically in divisions. They have credit card facilities and do not impose a surcharge for usage. the staff is kindly, knowledgable, and attentive.

So why do I walk around in there muttering under my breath?

Because it costs $ 69 for an AMT 1/25 scale plastic car kit.

It is a good kit. It has lots os spare parts and you can build the car in many ways. It is accurate and well-moulded and is of a vehicle that one would never have been able to obtain in the 1960’s. And it is $ 69.

$ 69 buys me an extremely good meal in a hotel with drink and dessert.

$ 69 buys me a bottle of good rye whiskey.

$ 69 transports me for two weeks around the town in my little car.

Of course, I also need to be honest and admit that $ 69 buys me all the new clothes I get in a year, and that’ll give you an idea of what my dress sense is. And $ 69 is the price of one of the cooking-quality die-cast cars that I collect – not a sophisticated piece by any means whatsoever. Modest tastes.

It’s old-guy sticker shock brought into the hobby store. It doesn’t take into account profits, inflation, economic trends, or anything. But it is a barrier to entering the world of model kit building – a barrier that I have finally had to leap by commencing scratch building.

Of course, that has its own impediments; skill levels, organisational plans, need for tools, need for ideas, need for courage – everything looks too difficult when you first see it. Even the books on the subject daunt one, as they seem always to have people who accomplish far more than you could ever contemplate…so how could you even start…

But one thing the scratch building does have that is appealing – price. I proved to myself just how little need be spent on weeks of fun by building a Cobbers caravan in 1:18 scale for my new diorama. The wheels are the only thing that had to be purchased – everything else was sitting in the scrap box or on the shelf of the office. Paint included, it represents    the price of pint of beer at the Guildford Arms Hotel…and well under the price at the posh Swan Brewery pub.

Not quite 50¢ value for two weeks hobby time like the Airfix 1:72 scale airplanes, but darned close in modern terms.