Like most kids of my generation I was an avid model maker, spending most of my spare time and spare money on kits, glue, paint and other related supplies. Unlike most members of my generation I kept making models into adulthood but when my professional life branched off into sculpture, prototyping and other three-dimensional work I found that plastic kits didn’t hold the same interest for me as before as they had become too much like work to be much fun.
About two years ago the plastic bug re-infected me; I don’t know if it was from reading FineScale Modeler or collecting Osprey Publications Modeling series – I was hooked on a whole new world with kits engineered to a degree unheard of years ago, so well designed that they just kind of fell together. There were also these new things, “After-market kits” with customizing details or corrected components comprised of metal, resin or photo-etched brass that now made it possible to depict details to an extent only dreamed of years before.
I was hooked….but like every addiction there was a dark side.
This stuff is EXPENSIVE – and I’m not just talking the customizing products. The kits themselves have gone up in price far out of proportion to the rate of inflation with models that fifth-grader David bought with 50 cents at Spenard Hobby Shop setting college professor David back $15 on eBay today. Your time is no longer your own as well: fifth grader David would build a kit right out of the box in an afternoon while now I feel a complete slacker if I’m done within a month’s worth of evenings.
It all came to a head last week as I was trying to finish up a model of the F4F Wildcat in 1/48 scale manufactured by Tamiya of Japan. The Wildcat is a long-time favorite of mine, a plucky little fighter plane used by the U.S. Navy in the early days of World War II. This Tamiya kit is a jewel in polystyrene and I decided to invest a little extra time and money in tricking out the plane with inspection panels left open and showing interior details like machine guns and radios.
It seemed like I was doing OK but as I got closer to the point where all the major sub-assemblies were to be put together I started getting a little edgy. All that interior detail in the back? Well, the access panel I removed wasn’t nearly as large as I had envisioned and by the time I got the cockpit installed and the fuselage gas tank mounted you couldn’t see a thing. Extra cockpit details made putting the two fuselage halves much harder than it should have been, but the proverbial straw came with the interior wing detail, the boxes holding the machine guns and ammunition trays.
They don’t fit.
No. Nope. Nein. Nyet.
There is no way to get the upper and lower wing halves to close around that subassembly – not that I didn’t try. I spent so much time with that part and a piece of sandpaper that I looked like I was making paper dolls there towards the end…and even then you couldn’t get them all to go together. For a moment I was tempted to throw the kit on the floor and jump up and down on it, smashing it to pieces but that’s not what I did this time…mostly because the kit cost too d*mn much to waste . I gathered all the pieces up in a box and stored it away in the shop for another day and builder.
Does this mean I’m giving up the hobby? No, but I am changing some of the way I do things. I’m restricting myself to 1/32 scale or larger to I can actually see the $%#@ parts as I put them together. I’m going to be very selective about the aftermarket additions I get so I don’t go broke on just one model. I will continue to avoid the rivet-counter mafia, that have wet-dreams about “accuratizing’ kits
(Is ‘accuratizing” even a real word?)
Most importantly – I am photographing any and every interior detailsI add just in case I end u with undersized access panels again. If I take the time to make it I want people to e able to see it.