Wednesday, February 19, 2014


What do we do on one of those days when superglue seems to lose its “oomph..?”

I think we must have all had them, or maybe it’s a symptom of aging, but there are days when the “passion for precision,” to borrow Academy’s old slogan, is dulled somewhat, by the simple expedient of things not going as expected, predicted or otherwise planned for,

Aftermarket decals that behave so badly you wonder why the manufacturers bother if they couldn’t make a better product? Photoetch that springs away into the carpet never to be seen again. Paint that is absolutely not the colour that the catalogue claimed it would be (well, you have to add a filter to make it the right colour, only nobody mentioned that at the sale stage). Parts which, though well moulded, are never going to line up. And so on.

Our skills are supposed to be what compensates for the shortcomings of the manufacturers, this is an engineering artform, after all, and that’s a tub I’ve thumped often enough. But sometimes it would be nice if the parts really, genuinely fit, the colours were truly accurate without any pushing and pulling, and the decals behaved well. To be fair, I just used some Aeromaster decals and they were a dream, they separated cleanly and readily, responded well to manipulation, even survived secondary wetting and application perfectly, and the carrier film is absolutely clear, with no hint of silvering. If I have a gripe it’s that they didn’t snug into recesses tightly enough to take a panel wash throughout, but that’s the only shortcoming. It doesn’t qualify as AMS anymore, but again, to be fair, maybe my setting solutions are getting old.

So what do we do when we encounter the point that I call being “down to superglue and hope?” Glue that should grab in seconds doesn’t always, and even for a lifetime modeller there is always an aspect of close-enough-is-good-enough. Is this the pleasure we want from the hobby? Or is it a case of being an artist looking at a finished canvas and being let down by reality when compared to one’s inner vision?

We need to be realistic, of course. Some are more talented than others, that’s the way the world works, and even the most brilliantly skilful will always be harsh critics of their own work. It’s good to bear that in mind when perfectionism bites and we see every little flaw (and are inclined to say they are not so little, while others may have a hard time spotting them.) Understanding that it’s the fun of the journey, not the destination, also helps – that flush of pleasure with each completed stage cannot be undone, even if the final product falls short of the styrene nirvana we hoped for, and, if truth be told, still believe in with an unshakeable faith.

In the end, the answer seems to be the next kit. Can we resist it? We might have been temporarily scared off a particular subject, genre or scale, but we know it won’t be for long, because when we look at the stash it’s not as if we’re looking up the north face of the Eiger, it’s as if we’re looking into a candy store, and we can’t wait to open another box. Many of us resist removing the shrinkwrap from kits so as to preserve the heady feeling of that very act, followed by opening the box and seeing those fresh, welcoming parts, and gladly accepting the artistic and technical challenge of bringing those parts slowly, steadily together, into, if not a genuine work of art, then something not far short of it in the eyes of no few of our peers, friends and families. Yes, that’s the answer I was looking for…

So, as soon as this one is in the display case, which shall I finish next? As ever, I’m spoiled for choice!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Etch – When Necessary!

Sometimes there’s just no option, and a 1:32nd scale aircraft with a perfectly clear canopy is one of those occasions – you just have to bite the bullet and consider etch, no matter how much you hate the stuff.

I set out to build Hasegawa’s 1:32nd scale Fw 190 A-8 in markings for Operation Bodenplatte, and I stalled out for a number of reasons – difficulty with obtaining the paints in the format I wanted, finding display space for so large a model, but really, ultimately, there was only one reason, and that was the fact the kit cockpit came without harness. I needed harness before I could complete the cockpit, before I could close the fuselage, before I could do one more stroke of work, much less finish the project. There it lay in limbo, because the basic etch set I picked up from Eduard (#32-053) was just too intimidating.

Fast forward a couple of years and I spotted 32-600, a pre-painted set which was even self-adhesive. Well, I thought, that might simplify things to the point even a sausage-fingered hack like me might manage to not make a pig’s ear of it, so long as the light is bright enough and the magnifying specs strong enough..

Still, it took a long time to commit to the job, there is always another kit to procrastinate with, and eventually it was a blazing hot day in summer that was too hot to airbrush even at 8am that set me thinking about itty bitty etched parts that didn’t need painting.

I had studied the instructions a number of times, visualised the process, realised there was no way you could pass two thicknesses of etch through the same hole no matter what the instructions said to do, and at last trimmed the first few parts and gave them a go. They worked, more or less, I’m sure any mismatches were my fault, and an experienced etchaholic would have knocked the straps out in no time at a much better standard. The main thing is, they look the part and dress the cockpit with a detail that is otherwise all too obviously missing. Under macro-enlargement the fabric effect printed into the paintjob is nothing short of remarkable and prompts the question as to what eyesight these things are made for? Certainly not mine! (Thanks to my bro in law for the super-closeup images!)

The frightening thing is imagining doing it at a smaller scale. A bit of painted tape is fine for 1:72nd scale, I feel, unless one can miniaturise oneself to both do the work and appreciate it afterwards. Yes, now you mention it, I do still need glasses… My favourite 48th scale? I don’t know… Am I an etch convert now? Well, let’s just say that there are times when it’s the go-to solution!