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.

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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 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.