Category Archives: deep thoughts

Gear Acquisition Syndrome

 

This post is the missing pair of the “Should you hoard?” post…

It’s about the well-known syndrome all hobbists suffer from regardless of their chosen hobby: the gear acquisition syndrome.

Simply put we are very much prone to buy newer and newer additions to our respective hobbies, even if we do not actually use them. This is more of a problem when you sink in thousands of dollars in new lenses you will use once or twice, than for model builders – our trinkets cost way less. But this also means we can buy them more often. An exciting, new product to stimulate rust? Sign me up even though I have not learned to use the previous new, exciting product yet! New line of acrylic paints? In with the new, even though I have similar colors still in their bottle! They will make all the difference, after all! Special filters to simulate aging? Bring it on! …And the list goes on. I think companies bank on this tendency when they roll out the newest and bestest(est) products which promise to help you achieve professional, award winning results with minimal effort on our part. More often than not I have been very disappointed in these products. In some cases I could not use them -no user’s guide is usually provided-, so the results were not as spectacular as I was led to believe, and often my old-school methods worked better. (Once learning to use them I usually found that the results were no better or worse than the techniques I used before.) Sometimes the product was simply not good – acrylic filters that jumped into small droplets even on the flattest surfaces, for example, or acrylic fillers that shrink and do not actually fill cavities. (Acrylic weathering products, in general, are somewhat difficult to use, due to the high surface tension of water. They do not spread as easily as the solvent-based products; the price you pay for being friendlier to your brain cells.) They might just cost more than the repurposed non-modelling product you have been using before – I’m thinking about odorless mineral spirit, for example, or, and I say this with great tepidation, acrylic pencils which you can buy in art stores; but artists’ oil paints are also on this list, among a million other items you used to go to artists’ stores before.

The truth is this: only practice will produce great results. Putting something out of the bottle onto the model will not achieve the expected effect, even though this is what you see on the label. (Many times what you see is the result of using multiple products -a very prominent issue with the different “mud” products*- ; an advertising technique I find somewhat dubious in morality.)

I am not saying you should not buy the special filter set for tonal modulation or a specific rust set with all sorts of colors (in fact, I do have a set of rust colored paints I really like); what I am trying to say is that do not buy everything that strikes your fancy (I also have a set of rust filters I do regret spending money on). Buyer’s remorse will be the result more often than not, and having stuff lying around you have forgotten to try. (I was really surprised the other day to find that I do have a couple of dust-products I did not have a recollection of buying.) Always think if you need something, always read reviews, watch youtube videos before buying. These products can make your life simpler and help you achieve great results, after all.

 

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*I was really excited when the first mud-in-the-bottle products arrived, especially seeing the labels with photos of muddy tracks and wheels (realistic dust and mud is still a holy grail for me), only to get a product that was a somewhat thick, greyish-brownish slush. When you apply it, it looks uniform and unrealistic. Then you learn you also need the resin beads, the special grass imitation, and three other tones of mud, plus the same tones in “splashed mud” configuration to produce the results you see on the photo -a significant investment, and not at all what was promised by the photo on the product. Using plaster, pigments, sand or even real soil will yield the same results; the only thing the ready-made product makes it easier for you -and this is a big thing I do admit- is that you don’t have to fret about the colors and tones.

The “correct” colors

I keep seeing discussions on different scale model related groups on facebook, and on forums about the correct colors and hues of models.

Sometimes there are real vicious arguments about which paint brand is the closest to the “real” color, see a lot of discouraging comments about specific models about how inaccurate their specific version of Russian green, chocolate brown or whatever.

You can also buy really nicely priced paint sets from different manufacturers claiming authenticity, promising you that by buying the specific set for the specific vehicle your model will be accurate. (And making you spend money on the 50th shade of green paint you will have in your paint collection.)

They might indeed be authentic in a way, meaning that their color probably matches very well to a certain vehicle.

But are these the  definite colors? Will using them make your model into some absolute accurate representation of all vehicles of the given type?

Well…

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Probably not.

And yes, you can say, that those Ruskies have no clue about quality control, and just slap any green on their armored vehicles, but then take a look at those precise Germans…

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So yeah. The moral of this is that if it looks good enough, it is probably good enough. You probably do not need to buy fourteen different “Russian green” from ten different paint brands.

Let’s talk about rust

Take a look at these photos

A manhole cover which as been in place for over thirty years (at least), a green metal door exposed to the elements for 19 years, and a skip that has been banged around for at least two decades.

The point is: they are rusty and faded- something we like to represent on our vehicles. However, real life is not as interesting as the models we build.

When you look at a tank, or a truck, you will very rarely find chipping paint, and rust and rust streaks in the degree we depict it on the models… even derelict vehicles kept outside for decades don’t tend to accumulate this much weathering.

Except for the US tank collection in Maryland… The fact that it was left outside to literally rust away is pretty sad; but the point still stands: they -and similarly abandoned vehicles around the world- are the only tanks I’ve seen with comparable level of rusting we build our tanks with. (The last photo of the BMPs were taken in the Exclusion Zone in Chernobyl – and the amount of rusting since 1986 is not exactly massive, either.)

So the fact is we overweather our models. (I’m not going to put in examples from other, better builders, since it is a contentious area about model building, and I do not wish to fan the flames further with posts that can be seen as picking on others.) You can find plenty of rust on this blog.

There are several reasons for this. One is that combat vehicles rarely lasted more than a couple of years in wars- if they were lucky. That means Panzers, T-34s, and Shermans tended not to have the time to seriously rust, even if they were not maintained. Which they were. Not to mention the whole war lasted 6 years altogether, which also limits the time massive armor plates had to rust, even if a tank managed to get through the war from day 1.

In peacetime, even older equipment is meticulously maintained. Maintenance was an important part of combat troops as well, by the way; you really did not want to have fuel stains, rust, dust and other environmental damage affect your vehicle’s survivability; not to mention your superiors would not look at you kindly if you let your standards drop.

The point is: if you weathered your tanks and other vehicles the way they actually looked like, they’d look quite boring, and well, unrealistic… I think we add the weathering as a way to depict metal, wood and canvas, as a representation of the real thing, and not as an imitation of the real thing. (This is why I don’t like figures that much added to vehicles. A model of a Panther is merely a symbol of what a Panther is.) By overdoing it, we convince our brain that what we see is a solid metal object that has been through heavy use, it tells a story. This way we do not just see just a piece of plastic, even though the real thing has never looked battered, run down like that.

 

 

PS: Since I have now a little, eight week old human living with us, my hobby time has seriously been reduced to one or two hours a week. (If I’m lucky.) Posts will be rarer from now on I think.

Ode to 1/72

Braille scale has a lot going for it. I used to be a “1/35 only” person, but my circumstances gently pushed me towards the 1/72 scale. Namely I started my PhD in the UK, and had to move into a small room. Gone are the generously sized walk-in closets of the USA. This obviously impacted my hobby: no space to store my tools, my stash and my finished models. The other reason was the recent development in the quality of 1/72 models. Back in the days they were mostly toy-like models; the detail and the quality did not match the detail and quality of larger scale models. Well, not any more. Now we have really high-tech plastic models in this scale (with a subsequent increase in price I might add), and I also discovered the joys of resin models.

Here are some positives of the 1/72 models:

Braille takes shorter to finish, takes up less space (imagine a 1/35 T29). There are a lot of conversions, or full resin kits you could not get in 1/35. (Paper panzers, rare vehicles, conversions.) If you check my Sd.Kfz.251 series on the blog, it would have taken me years to finish all the variants I wanted to build. (Not to mention the collection would require a lot of shelf-space to house.) Since I’m short of both time and space, Braille offers a great compromise.

One thing to keep in mind is that normally Braille kits normally don’t have smaller, more fiddly parts than the “pro” 1/35 kits; they are not scaled down 1/35 kits. (Well, mostly. Flyhawk is getting there with their tanks.) I mean I break out in cold sweat every time I see a workable tool hinge in 1/35, yet generally I’m fine with the 1/72 scale. Companies in both cases like to get as much out of the injection moulding technology as possible, but the limits of technology don’t change depending on the scale. If anything most 1/72 kits are quicker and easier to build (due to having less parts normally, although the older 1/35 kits do seem simplified compared to the new 1/72 ones).

The detail is also pretty astonishing, most of the time. The “premium” plastic makers like DML or Flyhawk have excellent 1/72 kits (I would suggest you take a look at their pnzIIJ), and some (but not all) of the resin companies produce incredibly detailed kits as well. Some of these kits have more details than a lot of 1/35 ones. (Older Tamiyas, Italeris, and some Hobby Boss models, like the Toldi I come to mind as the ugly ducklings of the 1/35 world.)

To sum up: 1/72 has become high-tech similarly to the 1/35 scale.

I lately went back to 1/35 –mostly for writing reviews and to finish my stash I collected back in the US. I have a ton of kits with resin interiors and whatnot I really want to build; but in general I’m really happy working in 1/72 for most of the “not-so-important” projects. Let me give you an example: I have an OKB Object 279 waiting to be built. It’s a very expensive resin kit in 1/72 –you could buy the 1/35 plastic ones for the same price (or even cheaper). Yet the large ones would need to find space, they would take up more time than I would like to spend on building (it’s a delightfully weird tank, but I’d rather work on my T-55 with full interior for months if I have the choice), so I went with the small scale version. Another example would be Armada Hobby. They offer some really cool engineering vehicles based on the T-55. If I wanted to build all those, it would take forever, and would cost a LOT –even if I could find conversions available. This way I can just get them off the shelf, and build them in a couple of weeks/months, and have enough money to finance my wedding. (I’m serious here; some resin conversions can cost up to £150; a couple of those and you’re at the thousand pounds regions already.)

So this is my pitch: whatever you want to sink a lot of hours and money into, you go with 1/35. If you just want to build a cool tank (or multiple versions of the same vehicle), go with 1/72. It’s definitely worth it.

100th post

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I just hope we all live at least as many years as many posts this blog has.

So a little retrospection (if anyone is interested).

I started this blog without a clear mission in mind; I just wanted to share the stuff I build, and hoped it might generate some feedback, get a little community, perhaps. I started writing reviews for Armorama, and I guess it’s a logical evolution of that activity. Scale models are something my fiancee does not understand (but tolerates), and they seem to be taking more and more of my time. To be fair it’s something I enjoy, so I don’t really mind. (I do mind going to the office, though…)

I have built connections to several companies, perhaps I’ll be able to launch (well that’s a big word for you) a paint additive product line (four colors so far), and maybe collaborate a scale model company to be named later on producing models. I might try setting up a webshop, too, selling the things I like: 1/72 resin models of weird and rare vehicles. I know I’m not going to be able to support myself only from this hobby, but it will be fun to try something I’ve never done- entrepreneurship.

Perhaps nothing will come out of this. Nevertheless I have three Luchs models (one Flyhawk and two Maco), perhaps a fourth (Armory); I have a Tamiya/Verlinden T-62 in the works, a DML/Royal Models Sd.Kfz.250, a Bronco Zrinyi II, a 43 year old Airfix Bentley (older than I am), an OKB Bathcat and Object 279, among others. I also have a couple of brief “how to” posts in the works. I’m also building a couple of “custom” Astrates warriors from The Nightlords novels and from The Talon of Horus. So please stay tuned; I hope I can deliver something of interest.

A quick explanation of the difference between aircraft and armor modelling

As I’m in the process of being domesticated, I’ve been trying my hands on different stuff in the kitchen. (I did cook a lot beforehand, so I’m not a complete noob.)

Anyhow, trying to get a cake recipe right, it drawn on me.

Building armor models is like cooking. You do have the recipe, but there’s a lot of room to manoeuvre. You can add more of this, you can substitute that, you can just leave out something else; and the results will be -for the most part- still pretty good.

With aircraft on the other hand, you must be extremely precise, just like with baking. If the temperature is slightly off, if you add a tiny bit more baking soda, or do anything sloppy, the result will be, well, something that is certainly edible, but definitely NOT a cake.