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 Box That It Came In

Oh, what a fool I have been! If only I had known! If only I had taken the time! I could be sitting on a pile of old cardboard that would be worth $ 45 dollars today!

Well, I can only be depressed as I see eBay sales of empty boxes that once contained plastic model kits. Relics of the 1950’s found in the back of the chicken run and now offered to the nostalgia market. Things we once threw out as rubbish…but now can be sold as rubbish.

I blame my parents. They were cruel and hard and fed me regularly and let me sleep in a warm bed and wear good clothing…and moved regularly to continue work within the construction industry. They never stayed long enough in one place to build a dedicated, air-conditioned storage warehouse to let me keep my plastic model kits and the empty boxes. They deprived me of a career as an empty-box mogul.

I should have seen it at the time. I should have taken firm steps to compel them to my will. If only I had thought to go to a lawyer and take out injunctions…

At least I should have carefully cut the front box art off every kit I ever had and pressed it into an album. All the rest could have gone, but it would have left me with a wonderful souvenir of the times…and a valuable reminder of the kits. As it is, I think I can go to the collector’s books and Google right now and assemble a series of images of the box art as far as I can remember what I had. Some of the colours were a bit bright and glaring, but that was the 50’s for you – the world was made of different dyes then.

Love Canal still is…

The Little World – Flat, Flatter, Flattest

No, I’m not referring to paint finish. Flat should mean flat in any case there. Of course it is also mixed in with matt, matte, eggshell, lustre, and a number of other descriptive words. When in doubt, paint a sample.

I really mean the basic necessity for all scratch or kit builders…a flat surface. Some portion of the big world upon which to erect some portion of the little one. It is closely aligned to the other necessity – a right angle. These sound easy enough to do but practice shows how hard it is to get them.

Model airplane builders need a flat base to act as a measurement basis for the curves of the fuselage and the angle of the wings. They need a flat base for the undercarriage, and a level flat base to set up the aircraft. The vertical stations that might be measured on a plan need to rise from this base at 90 degrees.

The model ship builder needs that level ground to also establish rib positions. Unlike the  full-size counterpart, there’s no need to use gravity to slide the model into the water. so you don’t need to build on a slope.

The model architect absolutely needs a level flat base to raise walls and structures. Even if there isn’t a straight line in the building, the thing has to be vertical. Pisa was a mistake…and Gaudi a greater one…

My solution for my workshop has been to use a commercial whiteboard in a frame laid on top of a standard trestle table. It is a smooth Laminex surface bigger than any of the model foundations I use, supported with a 25mm-thick MDF board captured in a metal frame. Glue does not stick to it and when it is truly horizontal everything erected upon it is true as well.

Currently I use a small modeller’s set square for much of the setups, but will purchase a larger metal square in the future. You cannot have enough precision.

Note: the whiteboard is far larger than most building models but the extra room can be used to set up clamps and jigs to hold building components as they set. As long as I do not need to nail to it, I can build anything.

The Little World – It Was Just Sitting There

How many of your good ideas have just been sitting there in the store waiting for your brain to come along and see them? I say your brain, rather than your eyes, because you can look at something for months and years without perceiving it. It is only when the brain stirs that the magic begins.

My latest Ahah! moment was in our local electronics parts store whence I had repaired for plugs, sockets, and pilot lamps. These got, I dawdled through the place marvelling at the rubbish they sold. A spring-powered fly swatter? Disco lights? Don’t need ’em. I mean I’m 69…I can get disco lights by standing up quickly…

But they also sold parts for radio-control model cars and buggies. These were unattractive, but the spare electric motors for them were wonderful. I have to wonder what the operators are doing if they burn them out, but then the large number of spares for suspensions and steering are a clue. They are thrashing the guts out of the stuff.

I won’t be that hard on the electric motor I bought. I’ve no idea what it will power, but at $ 17 for a 6900 rpm 12 volt motor that looks like it could power a bomber, I couldn’t resist.

It was just sitting there calling to me. Hold my beer and stand back.

The Little World – You Need Not Listen When They Tell You…

Do you remember when they used to tell you things? Like not to sniff glue or make sure that the drill was grounded before you ran it through the wiring? You always assumed that someone knew better than you and that they were telling you something for your own good. That was what they wanted you to think.

Pretty much how North Korea and your local Centrelink office do right now…and hasn’t that worked out well…

So now I am going to suggest that you cross the flux streams, cut the red wire, and make up your own damn mind about what to do with your hobby. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Case in point: I needed to paint the front of the Goldfisch Tivoli cinema on my latest diorama – a light blue with dark trimming. It’s a large fascia, and there was no way it was going to get done on one bottle of Tamiya acrylic paint – and no-one else had a light blue matt paint anyway. So I determined to mix my own, which is what they tell you never to do. Sort of like ” Don’t sail west Christopher, or you’ll fall off the edge…”.

Good cheap paint is hard to come by these days. If it’s good, it has a price tag that looks like a phone number. If it’s cheap it has the consistency of sewage. But you can indeed find the right combo if you go for the pots of sample paints that the good paint makers put out. They are tasters to let you get hooked on their big-ticket pots…but if you are a Little Worlder and prepared to do the old Dr. Chemistry dance, you can make them into custom colour.

I got the plain white Dulux in a sample pot for $ 2.00 off the clearance shelf. I already had used one on another structure and cleaned out the empty pot. Into this crucible went  1/3 of the sample white, 60ml of water, a little Tamiya X-20A thinner, and a couple of dollops of Tamiya Flat Blue. The important thing about mixing custom colours is not the exact shade that you get, but making sure that you mix enough into the pot for the entire job. Sacrifice 10 ml at the end if you must, but do not run dry at the last post and try to re-mix it. You will fail.

Okay, ingredients in place and shake mixing all done, it was time to apply the stuff. it was going on foam-core board that had been prepped with Tamiya undercoat so it was bound to go on fairly evenly. But there was no way I was going to try to thrust this soup through my airbrushes. Fortunately I had a set of foam brushes from Bunnings – laughably cheap trim items that you would think were just throw-away junk.

Not a bit of it. Given a medium thin mixture of flat paint, the Chinese foam brush is an awesome implement. I got even coverage and no bubbles. Easy clean up, and the brush looks untouched. All this for pennies!

The front of the Tivoli is done. The coat is great and the trim strips are setting it off marvellously. All-up it might have cost $ 1.75, and for the nollekins modeller, that is extremely good news.

The Little World – Mark II

One of the interesting characteristics of an older person is their capacity to do it again. It? Something that they did before, but have become dissatisfied with.

This is not a project that they have abandoned, nor the one that they have become disinterested in. It is not something that they have run out of money on…though that is always a possibility these days. It is something that they have decided to do better.

I had one of these occasions this week, when I unceremoniously tore apart a model that had been done a few months ago. It was a simple utilitarian box that housed a battery for model lighting. Made of foamcore board and then clad with painted matte board, it was dull and surprisingly unsatisfying to see. When it started to separate at a seam, I realised that my previous effort had been simultaneously complex and shoddy.

I need a battery box to power the 1:12th scale studio lights on my model film set. These have turned out splendidly, as anything that you make from yoghurt containers does. It is also needed for the  1:18th scale garage – leading to a possible scale disparity.

The answer was to make it as a nondescript but detailed mobile starter cart like they have at airports. A coffin body with four rubber-tyred wheels at each corner and a low-slung profile. Perhaps a tow hitch at one end – certainly the switch and plug connectors at the other. And the top need not be hinged – it can just be removable.

Scrap 3mm mdf board and some oak strip reinforcement went together easily and this time no fussy cladding was needed. I primed and painted the chassis a good light grey and then put bright warning signs about voltage on it to jazz it up. It can park near any model and provide 3 x 12 volt DC for as long as an exhibition lasts.

Best of all is the cost. Under the $ 5 mark all up – and I am much more satisfied with myself for having done it.