Why oh why do I do it to myself……

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Before my latest blog kicks off with more of my musings I would like to take this opportunity to dedicate this weeks offering to my long suffering partner and better half Kerry who has to put up with my moans groans and shouts of frustration as I struggle getting to grips with my hobby especially the painting aspect.

This summer I have been going through what many would call a purple patch and have managed to start and complete the building of 2 complete kits, the Meng Models 1/35 Whippet and a Tamiya 1/48 T34, these builds have not been without incident however they have been quite enjoyable and it has felt really good being back at the cutting mat. The only problem with having 2 complete builds finished, they need to be painted, and this is where I begin to get nervous and the odds of a disaster get shorter. I will not sit here and lie to you all and say that painting is my favourite part because it is not I hate it and try to avoid it and if I could I would not do it at all, it may be completely irrational behaviour to something that should bring me enjoyment however for some reason it doesn’t.

As my two builds came to together in the final throws of completion my thoughts turned to the painting and the finishing of the damn things and have them ready for the Farnborough model show in mid September, the painting the decals the weathering, aarghh!!! it seems like a never ending list of possible disasters just waiting to happen. Now as my working week ended and I turned my attention to getting these 2 models well on the way to being completed this weekend I set about preparing the shed so it was tidy and ready for me to inflict paint upon my models, I set the airbrush and compressor up, ran some thinners through the airbrush as it has been a good 8/9 months since it last saw action, set the table up so I could do some detail painting on a couple of 1/48 Tamiya KV’s that have been on and off the back burner for the last couple of years and I was set. My Saturday morning was going as planned and I had moved an old Tamiya 1/35 Sherman onto the spraying area to get in a little practice before the main event.

Now when it comes to me and painting things very rarely go according to plan and the list of disasters could quite honestly be endless, last year in the build up to Telford whilst finishing my Tamiya MKIV I broke my 2 most used airbrushes lost decals broke the tracks and ruined the paint job itself on numerous occasions by simply not knowing when enough was enough. Painting and me shall we say is not a marriage made in heaven, I do not know what it is, it is as if I am just one step away from disaster at every turn. On my return from Telford last year I purchased some paint from Mig Jimenez’s range of paints consisting of 3 bottles of paint, a base coat, a shadow and a highlight, I bought these paints in 4 colours, Russian green, Panzer grey, Olive drab and Dunkelgelb (German desert yellow) and as quickly as they arrived they were as quickly put away for future use. Now Saturday was that day, the day of that future use, so off I went to the little plastic box they are kept in and I selected a base coat and highlight but no shadow, so I looked for the shadow in the other colours but to know avail, a very weird and strange turn of events, there I had on the floor in front of me was 8 bottles with their little yellow lids, 4 base coats and 4 highlights, where were my 4 yellow lidded bottles of shadow, the plot thickened and the hunt was on.

Being quite an organised person I knew that those 4 bottles of paint could not be far away, firstly I looked through and organised the modelling cupboard in the dining room, nope loads of paints but not the 4 I was looking for, it was then off to the shed to see if for some unknown reason these 4 little bottles had been banished out there and once again I returned empty handed, standing scratching my head deciding that there was only one place left that they could be, the workroom. I looked in every drawer, cupboard and storage box, I opened every part built kit and the ones I have bought since last years Scale model world yet I was still coming up empty, where could I have put these 4 bloody bottles???, yes it was the burning question even the million dollar question, where could they be??. Deciding that it was only a couple of bottles I turned to the internet and re-ordered the 4 bottles plus some green moss from the same range to paint the Whippet, now it was back to the job in hand, painting. Feeling a bit fed up and slightly demoralised however undeterred and although a large chunk of my day had been used up by trying to hunt the 4 bottles down I returned to the shed and put away the Sherman I had put out earlier to practice upon and decided that it was time to prime. Out came the Whippet and T34 and I spent the rest of the evening spraying the 2 tanks with Tamiya fine surface primer being my trusted choice. Now not being one to listen to what my Mum would call old wives tails however a lot can be said that when you have lost something it is always in the first place you look and sadly on this occasion it turned out to be very very very true, while in between visits to the shed to apply yet another coat of primer I was busy applying detail paint to a Tamiya KV, and it was while I was looking for a bottle of dark rust for my exhausts I came across a bottle of Mig olive drab shadow followed by the other 3 bottles of shadow that I had spent hours looking for in exactly the first place I had looked you just could not make it up, now before any of you think it may be a good idea to get me analysed and locked away for my own safety the 4 bottles had orange lids and not yellow, who would have thought it and believed it? Mig bottles with orange lids, I just could not believe it, and the moral of the story?, perhaps I should have looked properly in the first place.

With the weekend of painting not quite over I went back to the shed this morning and I  finally managed get some painting done but not without some issues, I glossed a KV, base coated another KV chassis yet made a mess of the turret, I added shadow to the Whippet at a second attempt after not mixing the paint properly and I managed to highlight the T34 and stopped there as I had avoided any major disasters and felt I was edging my bets ever so slightly. Painting? why does it cause me such dread and anxiety, I am not really sure, maybe it is because I over complicate things trying new and untested products or techniques on my latest projects, it could be that I find the airbrush an unpredictable tool that I have not used and practiced enough with, or trying out new paints when I should stick with a medium I am familiar and comfortable with, what I do know is that I need to change my whole approach to painting so that I feel more comfortable with it, learn to mix paint better selecting the correct air pressure understanding how to get the best out of my compressor and practice using the airbrush so I feel more comfortable with this whole painting thing, there must be a magic and simple formula to it and I need to find it over the coming months.

The Average Modeller

Moaning modellers, are we spoilt or are we just too hard to please??..

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I was flicking through social media the other lunchtime and specifically Facebook and was reading with not too much enthusiasm the news that Takom, or it could have been Meng or perhaps both announce the release of the Panther A family in 1/35 scale, please do not get me wrong I love a Panther it is a great looking tank, although I do prefer the G variant, I am digressing, of course it is just another model of just another tank that has been released before by someone else, now I am no real judge of the decisions made by model manufacturers as to what they should or should not release but please why do they need to recycle what has been done before when there are numerous subjects that have yet to see the light of day in plastic, and why oh why does one manufacturer announce a kit and low and behold someone else announces the same kit a week or so later, it smells of a lack of imagination from my point of view. During the same visit to the said social media platform I also noticed that Tamiya had announced a 1/35 British Archer SPG which raised a few social media eyebrows however from my point of view it is a far better choice than yet another model of yet another tank that has been released before, now I am aware that the Archer was released by Bronco a few years back however you can’t beat a new release from the big T.

I am playing devils advocate of course, when I started modelling in the early 90’s and back then when you visited the local model shop, we had no internet in those days you had very few choices to what you could see on those model shop shelves, Tamiya italeri Airfix Hasegawa and very early Dragon kits were all that you could spend your hard earned cash on and new kits were few and far between jump forward 25 years and the plethora of kits available is mind blowing in comparison we have never had it so good, so why is it when another new kit is announced we all groan with a lack of enthusiasm and excitement, we then start seeing the CAD rendered drawings being picked apart by the so called social media and forum dwelling ‘experts’, I have a theory on this we have become spoilt, spoilt by the amount of subjects being released, spoilt by the openness of kit manufacturers who are willing to share with us theses early rendered drawings and sprue shots and spoilt by our willingness to take to the internet and have a moan about yet another panzer Messerschmitt or Spitfire that will soon be hitting the model shop shelves.

Since the advent of mass internet access in the mid to late 90’s it has become quite normal to see a new kit announced and then see it being picked apart and the manufacturer criticized by forum and armchair experts as to their subject choice, we are not being made to buy what is being released, nobody is visiting your house in the middle of the night dragging you out of bed holding a gun to your head until you buy it, we all have a choice as to whether we buy this newly released kit or not. From a personal point of view when I see a new kit announced or released it either excites me or it doesn’t, I will either buy it or not, I do not see the point in criticizing it just for the sake of it, yet sadly there are those out there that do, those who just like to moan just for the sake of moaning picking new kits apart like they are some kind of rotting carcass by the modelling definition of vultures who are just waiting to do so.

Modelling in 2017 is a great place to be we are seeing kits being announced on a nearly weekly basis, and the subjects that are seeing the light of day are ones we could have only dreamed about 10/15 years ago, I can remember drooling over Accurate Armours selection of Scammel’s wishing that they would be available in plastic and low and behold this year we have seen them being released by Thunder and IBG models respectively, a definite golden age of modelling. Earlier this year Kittyhawk released the Sukhoi Fitter in 1/48 scale a kit that took quite a bit of negative press when it was released, now I will be honest it isn’t a kit that I am ever likely to build although when I saw a pair flying at RIAT in 2015 I may have been tempted however I have a huge amount of kits to build and I do not really need to add to them. There have been many negative comments littering the many internet forums about it’s alleged flaws and fit issues however I have also seen many positive comments and have seen one or two built up on the internet, I think this is a prime example of trial by internet and the way I see it is it is all opinion based. Now there is nothing wrong with voicing your opinion and after all we all like to do it however it does not help when all this opinion is not based on actual fact, I can’t say that the Kittyhawk Fitter is accurate easy to build and goes together like a dream as I do not have one and have not built it, what I do know is that there are those that are in a better position than I who have seen one, built it and these are the people who in my mind are the ones whose opinion we should be listening to and not those keyboard moaners who like nothing better than to moan, it also has a negative effect and puts off the newcomers to the hobby, there is nothing worse than seeing a kit of something you would love to build only to visit a forum to court opinion and all you see is negative comments and opinions, it’s not helpful one bit, although I believe the kitthawk Fitter is quite a complex kit and not an ideal kit for a beginner to cut there teeth on there are plenty of kits out there that are perfectly suited to this task, I personally would never reach for anything complex if I was to say change my area of modelling to say aircraft, I would love to build a wingnut wings aircraft they just look so beautiful built up and painted however I am well aware of my shortcomings and they are just to complex for my skills set for now, maybe soon but not just yet.

In this golden age of modelling with the large range of kits and accessories available to us, the huge amount of specialist tools paints and finishing products, the vast amount of specialist books and magazines, access to the internet and the many forums and meeting places to share information and research yet we still have the nerve to moan about this and moan about that like petulant spoilt children throwing a virtual tantrum every time a new kit is announced that is not to our liking. I can come to only one conclusion when I read internet threads bemoaning the fact that the next big release will be yet another non descript paper panzer and not something that we want personally and that is we have become very spoilt and very very very hard to please.

The Average Modeller.

 

 

Getting it over the finish line…

 

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Tamiya 1/35 Tiger 1 Early Version

 

The hardest part of modelling for me is getting the project across that finish line, when I find myself in the zone, which does not happen as often as I would like, I select the project which is usually inspired by a model I see in a magazine or online, do a bit of research source the kit or reach for one from the stash and start the building process, this of course has to fit into my stringent set of parameters, is it Tamiya, can it be built in a couple of weeks because if it doesn’t I am likely to lose interest, can it be painted in a single colour, if the answer to all of them are a resounding yes then on we go. Once the build starts I make my way through the instructions usually ignoring the parts that I don’t fancy plus the wheels and tracks which I tend to revisit bit by bit whilst doing the bits that I do like, it is something that works for me and helps me get those repetitive jobs done bit by bit and helps to hold my interest. There are occasions when I am building a tank when I will digress if I have trouble with the barrel or tracks or need some etched brass especially on an older kit and I will spend hours tracking replacements down on the internet when I should have really done this at the planning stage (not that I have much of a planning stage to be honest) and not when I am part of the way through, sadly I never seem to ever learn my lesson as it is a habit that I have repeated over and over again for as long as I can remember.

 

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Tamiya 1/48 Komatsu Bulldozer

 

Once the build is completed as far as the construction phase is concerned this is where it goes a bit awry and where the wheels can begin to fall of my project, not literally of course however they may as well as this is the hurdle where most of my projects fail, the painting stage. I have read many articles and internet posts by some of the worlds top modellers who say that the building of the kit is the bit they least enjoy and that the painting is where they get the most enjoyment, for me it is the other way round I dread the painting I don’t quite understand it to be honest, it is possibly because this is where it can go spectacularly wrong and all that time building the kit can be messed up in a couple of minutes and I do have previous. I remember building Tamiya’s older Jagdtiger kit in about 1993 and in the painting guide it said that it could be painted in a lovely dark panzer grey with what I can only describe as lime green blobs, so after having an uneventful and enjoyable build, I even cut down the side skirts to replicate damage which showed how I was developing as a modeller, plus I used some etch brass for the first time in the shape of some mesh for the engine vents on the rear deck. Feeling very happy and accomplished with the build I reached for the airbrush, a tin of Humbrol 112 tarmac (think I read about it being a good likeness for Panzer grey in a magazine) thinned it and sprayed away, can you imagine my horror as all the paint just ran off the side of the tank like I was just giving it a random wash over of water, I was gutted and the tank was put to one side in a box, all my hard work down the drain in just a few moments of madness, that may of been the last time I airbrushed with enamels, and was probably the catalyst to my dislike of painting.

 

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Tamiya 1/35 M13/40

 

If my project is going to progress any further than just the building process this is the moment, the moment I start contemplating painting the damn thing. I do not know about anyone else I give my build a wash in the sink before I think about painting in some diluted screen wash, I don’t know if this does any good or not but I do it anyway, once it has been washed I pop it in my airing cupboard, (top shelf so it does not suffer from any damage due to a towel being dragged from underneath it) for a day or so until I can be sure it is dry then it is off to the shed for some primer, a bit like the bath it receives I am not sure why I do this but it is something that I have been doing as far back as I can remember. This is another instant where my project can stall, many projects are sitting in little plastic boxes primed in a lovely grey colour just waiting for me to take interest again and move it forward, I think that many of my projects stall here because at this point the airbrush needs to come out, yes I could paint them by hand and I know quite a few modellers still use this mode of painting however I am a bit of a perfectionist and I like the finish you get from using an airbrush so that is always my preferred choice and has been since I got my first ‘spray gun’ back in 1993. I have had quite a few airbrushes down the years, a badger 250-2 basic spray gun, a badger 200 which was my first proper airbrush, I then moved on to an Aztec A4709 which I just could not get on with at all, then it was Iwata time, the only time I have ever felt comfortable with using an airbrush, this of course has not been without it’s triumphs and disasters, I have ruined more paint jobs than I care to think about, badly mixed paint, too mush pressure, lack of concentration, interruptions, and most recently using the airbrush without the lid on the colour cup which enabled me to splash paint all over the place including onto the model I was painting, I have bent needles, split air hoses and sheered off the smallest of parts whilst cleaning the smallest of nozzles, airbrushes and me have a love hate relationship.

 

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Tamiya 1/35 Tiger 1 Mid Production (model by Anthony Finney)

 

Now if that is not enough to put me off painting and finishing what comes next most definitely is, once I have washed, primed, highlighted, although I am not sure why I add highlights as for most of my projects I get carried away and paint over them completely. Once the highlights are done, on goes the main base colour, normally either sand yellow dark grey brown or varying shades of green, once this is done and dry I paint all the bits that do not need to be this boring monotonous colour by hand and I have to admit it is not a part I enjoy,  using a paint brush adds more danger to my project as it is so easy to slip and mess up the base coat. If I could find a kit that needs to be the same colour all over with no wheels, tracks tow cables and tools I would be a happy man. That is if, and it is a big if the project gets this far and has not fallen at some hurdle way down the line. When and if we get this far it is time for a gloss coat, I have dabbled with several gloss coats over  the years from Johnsons Klear to Vallejo gloss varnish however when I built my Tamiya MKIV last year I used a tip from esteemed and highly respected modeller Spencer Pollard and mixed some Tamiya X22 and Mr Color levelling thinner which gave me the best finish I have ever found for decaling and weathering. Now this is definitely a hurdle I would avoid if I could, I hate decaling with a passion, I have reached this stage with many models only to come up short and drag a disaster from an odds on triumph, I admire these finished models with their perfect looking decals, luckily tanks and military vehicles have few in comparison to their flying companions, I have used all the decal setting solutions however I have yet to find one that does the decaling for you. Once the decaling is done I return to the airbrush and spray over some more of that gloss finish and the weathering can begin. Now if I have reached this stage and the project has survived the building, washing, priming, highlighting, base coating, detail painting, the glossing the decaling the glossing again the chances are that it may actual stand a good chance of being finished, now I won’t bore you all with how and with what I weather the thing with as it is always a bit hit and miss and I tend to make it up as I go along until I like what I look at and as I have only finished one kit in living memory that does not happen very often. Once I am happy with what I see I go back to the airbrush and give it a couple of coats of matt varnish, then voila it is done, I could say I then add numerous figures and put it on a base but I would be lying, it is something I really need to look at as a next step however getting projects finished is what I am working on achieving at this moment in time.

 

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Tamiya 1/35 M113 ACAV

 

The process that starts the moment you snip off that first piece of plastic with the sidecutters is a lengthy one and is always fraught with danger and far too many opportunities for things to go wrong and the project go to the dogs. I can admit that my approach to modelling is in a way very haphazard, could do with a bit of organising and I give away far too many opportunities for things to go wrong. There is a very true statement that says practice makes perfect, I need to take time to practise and perhaps find a way that I feel is more me when it comes to finishing off projects as far too many stall at the many stages along the way for far too many reasons. Over the years that I have been modelling it has become far too easy for myself to become bogged down while trying to copy how other modellers approach the hobby, maybe what I need to do is find my own approach, work out my own ways of over coming the problems that I face whether that be in the building painting decaling or presenting my models, I certainly need to change something as I need to get more projects over that most vaulted of places the finish line.

The Average Modeller.

Playing it safe….

For those that are familiar with and read my blog you will know and be aware of my struggles when it comes to finding the time drive and inspiration to get myself to the workbench and do some modelling, my poor return of 1 completed kit in the last 7 or so years speaks for itself and although that is not just down to the fact that I have had several long bouts of modellers block life also gets in the way too. This last week has given me the opportunity thanks in no small part to having 2 weeks holiday to get some quality modelling time in and although it has not been at my trusty workbench I have managed to get quite a fair bit done. Whilst I was sitting waiting for the glue to dry this afternoon it occurred to me that all of my current builds (and most of the ones previously) have all had one thing in common, the paint finishes are all the same. Whether I am building and painting armour from WWI to modern day if they have anything but a one colour finish I avoid them like the plague, that is not to say that I have not attempted a camouflaged finish however I have not had much success and being my biggest critic found them to be not very good  and not very authentic. It is a similar reason I avoid both figure painting and aircraft the thought of painting faces and eyes plus the gluing of the two halves of an aircraft fuselage together fills me with dread and gets me running to the hills. I know it may all be just in my head and a matter of knowledge or lack there of also a lack of confidence, still I avoid it and it plays a big part in what I decide to purchase and build for future projects. Last summer I planned on building 3 projects for that winters trip to Telford, I chose the Tamiya MKIV male tank, the Tamiya Char B and the Dragon 15cm Sig33, both the Tamiya kits went together like a dream however the Dragon offering fought me all the way and was dropped as August became September and then October, by this time I had also dropped the Char B as painting the camo scheme was keeping me from finishing anything even though I had a set of J's work masks to help me complete it so in the end I poured all my energies into the MKIV and had it finished just in time to make the journey to Telford.

The same can be said of my choice of model kit manufacturers, for the most part I also play that safe, if I was to list here what I have in my unbuilt 'stash' it would be predominately Tamiya, I love a Tamiya kit, the instructions the parts break down and the overall ease of build makes me reach for one of their kits over everybody else's nearly every time. However sometimes they do not offer in their fantastic range a particular vehicle that I want to build so that is when I am faced with a huge dilemma, I am currently in the middle of 2 builds, the first being a lovely little T34/76 from Tamiya's 1/48 range, a no brainer really, I wanted to build something quickly and a T34 so I reached for the Tamiya one, their 1/48 scale range of vehicles are lovely easy to build and if you are quicker than me can be built and painted in a week or so, even a weekend if you have the time and a longer concentration span than me. The other was not so simple, I wanted to build a WWI British tank, last year I built Tamiya's MKIV male tank which I thoroughly enjoyed building and painting, I have Mengs MKIV male however this has a full interior and did not want such an involved build as I knew there was a good chance I would not finish it and would just get added to my 'pile of shame' so I thought maybe I should source another of Tamiya's lovely MKIV's after having looked at prices of these on eBay I decided to look elsewhere. Like how all good modelling projects start I decided to 'google' 1/35 British World War one tanks and up popped the whippet now this is done by both Meng and Takom so another google and I decided that the Meng one would be my kit of choice and low and behold one came through my door a week or so later. I have to admit I was a bit concerned that it was not a Tamiya however these fears were soon to be dismissed as the Meng Whippet is a lovely kit that goes together just fine and the only issues I have had have been with my own inability to read the instructions properly, 20 plus years as a modeller and I am still making rookie errors….

The choice of scale I choose to model in is also a safe bet, when I modelled in my early teens it was always from the Airfix and Matchbox 1/72 1/76 ranges simply because they were cheap and easy to get hold of after all you could buy them in the local sweet shop and post office, as I got into my mid teens my eldest brother in law kept saying to me you should get some 1/35 Tamiya kits and it was these I turned to when I got back into the hobby in the early 90's, plus I had an old Tamiya catalogue that had been looked at time and time again so much so in fact that I knew exactly what I wanted to buy on that very first trip to the model shop, sadly it was not to be and I had to buy what they had in stock so that wonderful 88mm I had drooled over for so long had to wait a few more years. 1/35 is definitely the scale for me it gives you a great amount of options across the board as long as what you want has wheels or tracks there is a vast array of figures and accessories plus that was the scale of those wonderful dioramas I had studied in my dog eared Tamiya catalogue. That was until I went to Scale model world in about 2009/2010 and saw on a club stand the Tamiya 1/48 KV II and got a bit hooked they are lovely kits so from time to time I will dabble into the Tamiya 1/48 range like I am currently with the T34. Moving forward and looking to the future I would love to have a go at painting some figures, it's not that I don't have any, I have them in 1/35, 1/16, 1/24, 1/48 I even have a few busts, it's just those eyes and those faces, I know, I know, practise makes perfect and all that What I need to do is step out of that comfort zone, maybe I will later on in the year when Telford is over and it's too cold to go outside and tend to the garden. As for aircraft well, I have these in 1/72 1/48 and 1/32 scale I just dread that gluing of the 2 halves together I know it is another case of stepping out of the comfort zone, sad thing is I kinds like it in that comfort zone I can sit building and painting single colour tanks in1/35 and 1/48 until the cows come home yet that leaves me a touch frustrated, does not push my skills and I will never know if I can paint a face, glue a fuselage together or paint a camo scheme if I do not come out of that comfort zone and stop playing it safe.

The Average Modeller