The Combat Workshop poses an interesting topic for September’s Sprue Cutters’ Union:
What’s your preferred scale(s)? What do you like, what do you not like, and why?
I’ve put a lot more thought into scale than probably any right-thinking human should, and so my longer answer is…complicated. But the TL;DR version:
My preferred scales are:
- 1/32 for World War I and World War II aircraft
- 1/48 for modern aircraft
- 1/35 for armor
That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions. I have several 1/32 jets, I’ve built a 1/16 tank, and so on. But in general, those are my scales.
Why? For many reasons.
The “Ideal” Box – The bigger the scale, the more presence a kit is going to have. That’s just the way it goes. A 1/48 kit is going to have a lot more presence than a 1/72, and a 1/32 more than 1/48, and 1/24 more than 1/32 and so on.
But you have to consider the size of the kit as well. How much display space it occupies. How much bench space it eats up while it’s being built and painted. Beyond a certain size, it just gets unwieldy, if downright impossible to accommodate.
For me, that ideal box is about 15″ x 15″. Roughly the size of many WWII fighters in 1/32 scale. There are a few WWII aircraft that blow through this bound – a B-25 or Mosquito for instance – but Corsairs and Spitfires and Mustangs fit comfortably here. Most modern jets also fit within that box or some permutation of it (10 x 20…) in 1/48.
1/32 jets, on the other hand, are just in general too big. I still have a few, because they’re awesome and because their shorter wingspans make it possible to squeeze them in. But in general, the ideal box is my scale limiting factor.
I’m making an exception for the A-6, but damn it’s huge
Kit Selection – Another factor in my scale preferences is kit selection (and quality). In some cases, one manufacturer provides enough quality kits to keep things interesting – for example Wingnut Wings with its 1/32 WWI aircraft. In others, there’s a diverse collection of great kits. This is definitely true for 1/48 jets and increasingly for 1/32 props. A new, amazing kit seems to land every other week from the likes of Tamiya or Trumpeter or new players like Great Wall Hobby and Kitty Hawk.
But some scales are…sparse. 1/32 jets in particular. There are a few great and very good kits. Tamiya’s F-16. Trumpeter’s A-6 Intruder. Rumor has it, Academy’s legacy Hornets. But for many subjects, you’re either SOL, or stuck with a Trumpeter kit of variable quality.
Aftermarket – Hand-in-hand with kit selection is aftermarket availability. It’s been ramping up fast for 1/32 props, but 1/32 jets still lag. Consider the A-6 Intruder mentioned above. In 1/48 you can get seamless intakes, wonderful wheels, and decals for pretty much any Intruder that ever flew. In 1/32, there are no seamless intakes as far as I know. No good aftermarket MERs. And the decal selection is very, very limited.
The scales I’ve landed on generally see alignment in these three criteria. 1/32 props and 1/48 jets fit my ideal size, have great kit selection and strong aftermarket support.
If there’s one scale that kind of pisses me off, it’s 1/35, which is generally the standard for armor.
The Problem with 1/35
Here’s the thing. 1/35 armor is basically equivalent to 1/48 aircraft. It can work pretty well, size-wise, for modern armor and for some of the larger WWII AFVs. But a lot of smaller tanks (like the M3) and softskins get really small, really fast. They may be great kits, but they lack presence.
That’s a 5×7 frame…
But 1/16 is just too big. I built Panda’s Pz.Kpfw 38(t), and it’s massive, about the size of a large shoe box.
The Pz.38(t) next to a 1/35 Sherman, for size comparison
Now…1/16 kind of works with the 38(t) because it’s tiny. But even medium-sized tanks like the Soviet T-34 become downright gargantuan. It’d be like jumping from 1/48 to 1/24 aircraft.
What armor needs is its own 1/32 equivalent. Something about 50% larger than the standard scale (1/16, like 1/24 for aircraft, is effectively 100% larger).
1/24 scale would be perfect, I think.
It will never happen of course, short of a consortium of manufacturers making a concerted effort. But a guy can dream.