Down with Attaboy Culture


Recently, a certain modeler shared his latest build on a certain forum. A very nice build, with some really excellent touches that I think a lot of modelers often miss.

The thread predictably filled up with comments like “WOW that looks superb – great finish” and “that’s a beautiful build! I love everything about it…” and “that is a superb model! thank you for sharing”.

While I don’t disagree, I saw one area that I thought could be improved upon. Feedback on completed builds is a bit touchy because the damn things are done, and it’s not like we can go back and address. But there’s always the next build, right?

So I posted the following:

Really like it – nice touches especially with the heat shield shading and the scuffed cockpit sills! Really hoping to tackle on of these big F-4s myself, just have too much on the go at the moment.

Only thing I might suggest for the future is a slightly more subtle shade for the panel line wash, but I can say that about way too many of my own builds!

Mine was (and remains) the only actual feedback in the entire thread. The rest is a string of “attaboys”.

In another thread…a sprawling reaction to my recent post on panel shading…my feedback on the F-4 was specifically called out. There was some “why I never!” about modelers denigrating other modelers based solely on their biases, and the frustratingly common refrain that feedback or opinions equal some kind of tyrannical modeling new world order.

The modeling illuminati command you to stop drybrushing! Mwahahaha!

The modeling illuminati command you to stop drybrushing! Mwahahaha!

Attaboy Culture and the Fear of Feedback


Painting in broad strokes, the modeling community is bizarrely averse to feedback of any kind. Touch that wire and you immediately get hit with accusations of trashing other modelers.

Why? Because “modeling is supposed to be fun”? Because “modeling is just a silly hobby”? It’s both of those things, but you know what? Fuck that. It can be both of those things and welcome feedback and constructive criticism.

Continue reading

The Problem with Panel Line Shading


So this is the post where I get to shit all over other people’s builds!

Not really. Or at least, that is not my intent.

My intent is to talk about shading panel lines (mainly pre-shading, but also post-shading), and why – if you’re pursuing a realistic or verisimilitudinous finish, it’s a terrible technique that should be shunned and mocked.

Since there as been some confusion since I first posted this, let me elaborate on a few things.

  • I’m not saying all shading is bad. Far from it. Just the kind that tunnel visions on panel lines.
  • I’m not even saying that panel line shading is bad. If you’re doing it for stylistic reasons, fine. To each his own. I’m talking about pursuing realism or verismilitude, and then shading the hell out of panel lines.
  • I’m also not saying that panel line washes are bad. I use washes on every aircraft that I build. To me the key here is subtlety.
  • Verisimilitude – “lifelikeness”, the appearance of being real

Because Reasons

First, let me say that pre-shading actually does some good. It gets modelers – including yours truly – thinking about paint in varying layers of opacity. For that reason alone, it’s often one of those game-changers that elevates people’s build quality, and I think that may be why so many stick with it so doggedly.

I mean, I get it. It’s contrast. And unrealistic, hyperbolic contrast is better than no contrast, right? Just look at the “house style”  Hasegawa uses to show off their new kits. It’s utterly lacking in contrast or tonal variation. It’s…awful.


Is it plastic, or die cast?

But for all the good panel line shading does, it’s bullshit. Here’s why.

It’s a ton of work. For any kit worth its salt, shading all those panel lines is an exercise in concentration and swearing.



It’s unforgiving. Get a bit too happy with the airbrush and all that work is gone. Play it too cautious and you may have difficulties covering the gray primer or managing the contrast.

Hey, where'd all that shading work go?

Hey, where’d all that shading work go?

Third, it’s just not representative. Yes, the panel lines on some aircraft certainly do get filthy. But look closely. It’s never just the panel lines. And it’s very rarely all of the panel lines. The paint itself gets battered and dirty. Panel line pre-shading (and post-shading) totally misses this, and creates something that looks exaggerated and fake – like one of those overdone HDR images.

Note: I feel I should restate it here: if you’re going after a stylized representation, then by all means go to town. Just don’t make claims to verisimilitude. A Facebook commenter mentioned Monet, and I think that’s a fitting example! Monet was a great painter! But if he made claims impressionism was “realistic”, there would be a lot of laughing.

Look at this Spanish EF-18, for example.


There are lots of visible panel lines…but they are not uniform. And the surfaces of the aircraft itself are filthy, especially around the wingroots.

Or consider this A-6 Intruder from Desert Storm. Plenty of visible panel lines, but they’re all fairly subtle, and there’s a lot else happening on the surface.

What I’m Talking About

Now, I hate to speak ill of others’ work. And that is in no way my intent. But…I have to show examples of what I’m talking about. I’m not commenting at all on the quality of the build or even the rest of the paintwork, which in many of these examples is quite high indeed. I am only showing them to illustrate this technique/style of shading panel lines. If you’re getting upset reading this and want to get all defensive and butthurt about it, that’s okay. One of the examples I’m going to show won at the IPMS Nationals this year, so clearly there is some subjectivity at work. Continue reading

Interview with Baris Tansoy of TANMODEL


Since returning to modeling in 2010, I’ve seen several new kitmakers come onto the scene. Quality has sometimes varied. Some manufacturers burst out of the gates while others took a few kits to find their footing. But they’re all injecting a steady stream of vitality into the hobby and keeping the established players on their toes. For all of those who like to gripe about the hobby dying out, these new manufacturers offer a powerful argument that that is just not the case.

And now we have another to keep an eye on –  TANMODEL.

Bucking the trend of new kitmakers emerging out of the Asia Pacific region, TANMODEL comes to us from Istanbul, Turkey. They’ve already released one kit – a 1/72 Hurkus trainer – but it’s their impending 1/48 RF-84F Thunderflash that first brought them to my attention.


The more I looked into TANMODEL, the more interested I became. From their commitment to working from 3D scans of actual 1:1 aircraft to the quote on their website of “thinking like a modeler, not despite the modeler”, to their rather ambitious roadmap, which includes a 1/32 F-4E Phantom, 1/32 F-111 Aardvark, 1/32 F-5A and F-5B Freedom Fighters, and a new-tool 1/48 SR-71 Blackbird.


Who is this company? To find out, I reached out to TANMODEL’s founder, Baris Tansoy, to see if he’d be willing to answer a few questions. Graciously, he accepted, and his answers follow below. Enjoy! Continue reading

On Scales

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.

Out with the Old


Labor Day weekend. The family out of town. The house to myself. The heat of summer starting to (kind of) relinquish its grip.

The perfect time, in other words, to give the bench a good, deep cleaning. Because over the past few months, it’s become an absolute mess.


In the process of my cleaning, in between extracting spiderwebs and june bug carcasses, I started coming across what I can only call relics from my modeling past. Paints and tools and materials that I haven’t even touched in a year, two years, maybe more. Alclad’s nice but never-curing enamel-based clears. Anything made by Testors. White tack putty dried as hard as bone. Many different varieties of CA glue.

I was able to chuck a ton of it away, and as a result gained a lot of space for the stuff that I do rely on.


This got me thinking about how much my modeling has changed in the last five years. How many techniques and scales and paints and tools and such I have moved on from. So for kicks, a by no means exhaustive list:

Enamel paints – Staple of my childhood modeling, I now reach for enamel paints for exactly two reasons – I need to drybrush something, or I need to use Model Master Chrome Silver. That’s it. They take too long to cure, don’t spray as well as what Gunze and Tamiya have on offer, and don’t brush as well as Vallejo.

1/48 World War II aircraft – These got me back into the hobby, and sustained me…for a while. But prop jobs just have so much more presence in 1/32 – and aftermarket is there to support them in ways it’s just not for jets.

German armor – I’m sure it will rebound at some point, but I’ve gone completely off German armor. Zero desire to build it or even follow builds of others tackling it.

Superglue – I still love my Loctite ultra control gel CA, but the days of medium and ultra thin CA are behind me. Too much mess. I’ll probably sing a different tune next time I rig a biplane, but for all other work, I no longer see the need.

Water-based putties – They just don’t work. They don’t grip the plastic well enough to withstand sanding. Back to my trusty neverending tube of 3M Acryl Red.

My ancient magnifier lamp – A lamp I’d had since childhood. A lamp that today I realized I haven’t used in years, that was basically just acting as high ground for spiders. Amazing what fluorescent shop lights can do for lighting.

Mixing bottles – I still need a few of these around. Every now and then I need to mix up a specific color and keep it with me for the length of a build. Usually, though, I’ll just mix that one color as a base, then drop it into smaller mixing cups to lighten it, darken it, change up the tone slightly or so on. For everything else, small disposable cups or tattoo ink cups do the trick.

Three-layer blending – Once one of my favorite techniques, it’s fallen by the wayside in favor of black basing, which in my opinion yields better results with less work.

5,387 different clear glosses – My search for good gloss clears has at times felt futile, until I discovered the trick of misting a layer of Gunze lacquer thinner on top of Tamiya X-22 Clear. Oh my. Gloss problems solved. So why is that Gaia clear bottle still taking up space? Next to the Testors clear gloss?

Getting rid of the old (and the spiders and june bugs) I now once again have a nice, clean bench.



What old things have you gotten rid of in your modeling journey?

Gluing Shit Together 101

3443120112_a057975df2When I came back to modeling in 2010, I initially had a lot of questions about glue. After all, my last experience had been building models as a kid, and the glue situation was pretty much as follows:

  • Testors tube cement, which was gooey and didn’t work very well
  • Testors liquid cement, which just didn’t work very well
  • Superglue with accelerator, which worked really well but fogged the hell out of everything
  • White glue, which was for wusses

My questioning period lasted about two weeks, until I discovered the awesome power of modern solvents. But across various forums and groups, I still see glue questions pop up all the time. So here’s a quick primer.

Do you want to glue plastic to plastic?

Use a liquid cement, also known as solvent cement, liquid welder, or other variations and combinations of these words.

This stuff works by literally melting plastic, so that it fuses together and cures as a single piece. It is stunningly effective, and if you choose the right welder and have a good join to work with, the entire process from application to cured takes maybe a minute, tops. Continue reading

A Rocky Year…

Man. Somehow, it’s already late August. 2015 is just about two-thirds of the way done. And what do I have to show for it so far?

Two completed builds. Just two. And one of them was mostly done in 2014…

Granted. I’m rather happy with both..but still…two stinkin’ completions is pretty weak.

WTF Happened?

So. What’s happened to this year? Continue reading