The Little World – The Warm Orgasm Of Cleaning Up

Think what you will about the pride of accomplishment and possession that grips a modeller during their time in the workshop ¬†– I say there is no thrill to equal that of cleaning the place up after completing a project. And in some cases it does not even have to be after¬†successfully finishing something…sometimes just the act of getting free of the whole wretched mess is reward enough.

I don’t know what kind of modeller you are, or in what direction your work has taken you. Nor what sort of workshop and tools you have. I don’t even know whether you are a neat and tidy person in yourself or a wallowing hog. Wherever you fit in the spectrum from surgical cleanliness to cow pies on the counter, you will have gotten to the same point at sometime in your career – you’ve finished the last thing possible on your model and put it carefully up on the shelf for posterity.

Now look around. Does it look like a minimalist living room or does it look like Stalingrad? Can you see the floor? Can you see the walls? Is the paint on the ceiling? is the paint on the cat? Is the cat on the ceiling? Whatever – it is time to recover the place and get ready for the next idea.

Find the tools. You will not find them all the first time you look. You may not find some of them no matter how hard you look. Accept an attrition rate of drill bits and tiny hand tools during the best projects. If you have lost the bandsaw or the air compressor, however, check that the workshop locks are still present.

Then start to pick up the off-cuts from whatever you were using. Are any of them still useful? Save them in special boxes that you can throw out in a year when you realise you were wrong. Or save them for 35-40 years and discover that you were right.

Are there any half-used tins of paint? If so, tip them all unto a bucket and paint the back porch with the result. It will either be flat grey or a salmon colour, depending upon whether you are a good moral person or a pervert. The neighbours will know by looking at the porch.

Collect all the parts that you find on the floor that skittered out of your hand or the bench vise as you were making them. Regard these as the working models of the parts that you then had to remake when you were unable to find the first ones on the floor. Throw them in the bin and curse them.

Clean the bench top. Possibly with a broom, possibly with a cloth. Possibly with fire. Just get it back to a semblance of flatness as you will be building your next project on there and it is no good trying to get things in plumb if you are sitting on old glue blobs.

Sharpen the pencils and cap the marker pens. Try the old ones out to see if they are dry enough yet to throw out. Hammer the ruler flat again.

Clean the paintbrushes by rinsing them in the appropriate thinner, working the bristles carefully. Rinse them, shape them so that they have a straight edge, and then throw them into the bin. They sell better brushes than you have just ditched in packets of five for three dollars.

Gather all the sprues, boxes, unused decal sheets, instructions, and spare parts from the kit that you have just finished – note that fully 3/4 of what you paid for at the hobby shop is still in the box and is now totally useless. Go to the hobby shop tomorrow and ask for 3/4 of your money back. Tomorrow will be a special day for you…

And finally, vacuum the floor and benches. No matter how clean you got it before, this final step will suck up the final detail part that you could not find on the sprue ( you’ll see it clearly just before it shoots up the vacuum nozzle ) and make for hours of fun as you sift through the dust bag to find it. We can supply a book of words to say while you look, but don’t let the kiddies read it.


Brothers And Sisters, Let Us Spray


Spray copy

I am not too proud to admit that I am not too proud. I take pride in that admission…

I think it is the effect of this afternoon’s spray painting. I have been on a journey of discovery and adjust now scrubbing the evidence off my hands. But the fumes are still circulating.

First discovery: Like inkjet printers that can clog up if you do not print weekly, airbrushes can also get into difficulty. Apparently I did not wash through the spray channels sufficiently on my new birthday airbrush, and found it plugged solid.

Fortunately I had a cleaning kit that a friend gave me and enough solvent to break the blockage down and sweep it away. I must be extra careful to rinse in the future.

Second discovery: Old paint is not good paint. My Tamiya white acrylic paint could be mixed and coaxed back into life, but it lead to a rather zombie-like first coat. It sort of lurched out of the gun. Sanding and more topcoats improved it in the end. Moral? When it gets to the last two drops, clean out the glass jar and save it for future custom colours.

Third discovery: When you are dealing with 1:12 scale and larger, commercial spray cans from the local hardware warehouse are a good resource. You need to pick and choose, but with proper selection and a not-too-exotic palette, you can get a great deal of painting done cheaper than you can with 10 ml Tamiya jars. Plus the fan is large and you can get more even coverage.

Fourth discovery: Even after making a mistake and deciding to re-do a day’s work. you can still economise in material by taking apart the defective project. I changed horses in mid-stream a day ago and decided to do things differently. Resigned to the loss of a sheet of foam-core board and a metre of expensive strip wood, I was delighted to find that I could snap apart the original parts, sand down the glue fields, and reuse the materials in a new design. Very little waste.

Fifth discovery: No workshop that is busy making things ever has enough space to set things out to let them dry, set, or cool down. You spend half your time juggling things.

All this aside, the project of the miniature theatre flats and furniture is going well. The internet is a wonderful source of information about actual practice and you can adopt their methods in some cases to give the same result on the tabletop as they get on a wooden stage. The next obstacle will be to design coherent sets for a production with some eye-appeal for the miniature audience. I think I need a stage designer’s eye for this, but don’t have it. I will just have to ape what I see others have done in real life and hope for the best.