Thoughts on Tamiya’s New 1/32 Mosquito FB.VI

Well, it’s official…ish. Recently, Brett Green spilled the beans all over the interwebs. Tamiya’s next 1/32 kit will be the De Havilland Mosquito FB.VI.

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Speculation regarding Tamiya’s next subject has been raging since the Corsair was announced two years ago. I heard it on “good authority” and “on the DL” from those with “an inside line” that the next kit would definitely be a Bf 109. Or a Hawker Hurricane. Or a P-40B Tomahawk. All of them, as it turned out, were wrong.

And so was I, with my fervent hope prediction of a 1/32 P-47 Thunderbolt.

Last time around, the months leading up to the announcement saw speculation solidify into rumors of a Corsair. This time around, the cat was let out of the bag much earlier when pictures of Tamiya’s engineers going over a Mossie were posted to Facebook. Even so, the confirmation still came as a mild surprise – probably given the impending release of HK’s Mosquito B.IV.

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So…the Mosquito FB.VI.

We’re still a few weeks away from seeing the kit in all its glory at Shizuoka Hobby Show, but a few CAD illustrations have found their way online already. Between those and some educated guesses, I figured I’d put together a few thoughts on the Mossie and, yes, start the speculation of the next big Tamiya release!

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Trumpeter 1/48 Su-9 Fishpot Quick Review

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With the 1/48 Sukhoi Su-9 Fishpot, Trumpeter adds to the growing list of new-tool Soviet aircraft that have been ignored for too long.

The Su-9 was a heavy, all-weather interceptor designed to counter U.S. and NATO bombers. The Fishpot bears a strong resemblance to the MiG-21 Fishbed, but the two should not be confused – the Su-9 is far larger.

Trumpeter’s Su-9 is a relatively simple kit, comprising just over 110 parts and straightforward engineering that recalls their earlier MiG-21F-13.

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Detail is restrained, perhaps too restrained. Panel lines and hatches are refined, with some minor rivet detail in places, although the prominent rivet lines around the nose are absent. Cockpit detail is a bit soft and not up to the standards seen with other recent Trumpeter releases like the A-37 Dragonfly. Aftermarket KM-3 ejection seats and AA-1 Alkali missiles are already available to enhance the kit’s detail, and cockpits, wheels and other items should be coming soon.

The kit decals are spartan, but so are the schemes they represent – both bare metal with red stars and numbers.

Fit is extremely good. Square plugs locate the shock cone and help align the fuselage. The wings and stabilators are push fit and should present no problems. The tail wobbles a bit, but should align nicely once glue is applied.

AH-1Z (2 of 2)

Overall, the Trumpeter Su-9 should be an easy, stress-free build. What it lacks in some detail it makes up for in simple, no-fuss engineering.

Lighten Up, Francis

Recently, I committed the apparently way over-the-line act of teasing someone who really, really cared quite a bit about the accuracy of a certain upcoming kit. By posting this…

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Well, it kicked off a good old internet argument with lots of huffing and puffing and butthurt.

Then, I went and committed an even bigger transgression. I suggested that, when you step back and look at it, this hobby is ridiculous.

My oldest dog, Sam, when he identifies something to bark at, stands up all straight and the fur on his back poofs up. That’s pretty much exactly the reaction I got.

“Harumph! Have you ever made a living from this hobby? Well I have…”

“I’ll have you know, this hobby has brought me forty years of enjoyment, it’s not ridiculous”

Sigh.

Here’s my take. I love this hobby. I derive a great deal of satisfaction from it. It’s a fantastic decompression tool, it lets me work with my hands, geek out about history, gives my mind something to spin on, and in general keeps me sane.

But it’s still ridiculous. Just like most hobbies. We glue pieces of plastic together, then slather them with pigment suspended in some sort of chemical brew you probably shouldn’t drink. When we’re done, we take a bunch of pictures of them to share with other people doing the same thing. Sometimes, we convene in a location and pay money to put our pigment-slathered plastic assemblages on a table with other plastic assemblages, or just to look at other people’s plastic assemblages. Entire companies make money by making different pieces of plastic, or putting together articles about how to put the pieces of plastic together.

It is ridiculous. It is frivolous. It is silly. And there is nothing wrong with admitting that.

If you can’t step back and look at this hobby and have a chuckle about that, odds are you’re probably not the kind of modeler I want to associate with.

Learning to Let Go

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I used to get pretty worked up about the way people would dismissively label different “types” within this hobby. Your rivet counters or box-shakers or builders vs. assemblers or paint nazis or whatever.

But over time, I realized two things.

First, all (or at least most) of us are all of these things and none of these things and often skate somewhere in between. I’m no rivet counter, but I will get all bent out of shape when certain details are completely flubbed – like the tread pattern on HK’s B-25 tires or the lack of clear seeker heads for the Hellfires in Kitty Hawk’s AH-1Z Viper. I’m no paint nazi – but I will obsess about my paint mix for a certain color until I get it where I want it. I don’t like scratchbuilding, but I don’t know if I’ve built a single aircraft kit without modifying something.

Second, the people who take these to absolutes or use them to disparage others who aren’t like them generally turn out to be assholes. Or at least on the asshole spectrum. Just because somebody doesn’t place as high an importance on accuracy as you do doesn’t mean they don’t care about it at all. Just because somebody doesn’t want to scratchbuild their way out of a shitty old Revell kit doesn’t make them an assembler. Just because somebody really, really cares about getting RLM 02 right doesn’t mean they give two flicks about getting a perfect match for Dark Sea Blue or CARC Green.

These two realizations led me to a third.

The Problem is People Who Take This Too Seriously

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Honestly, this is probably a larger societal problem, but let’s not go there, shall we?

The thing is, when you take something so seriously that you can’t laugh about it, you quickly enter righteousness territory. Because you’re right, damnit, and that other guy is just a dipshit because he won’t realize how right you are.

There are some things that are worth being righteous about. Modeling is not one of them. People aren’t being crucified in Syria because they picked the wrong olive drab or didn’t correct the cowl bulges on their Bf 109G-6.

So the next time you see someone getting all high and might about some aspect of modeling, laugh at them, and encourage them to laugh at themselves as well. Because ultimately, as ridiculous as modeling is, getting all bent out of shape about what someone else thinks about modeling is even moreso.

Happy Place

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Modeling is supposed to be a hobby, right? A way to have some fun and relax. But let’s face it, there’s a whole spectrum of fun and relaxing. At one end, there’s swearing horrible seams in prominent-but-hard-to-reach places, swearing at terrible decals, swearing at that tiny piece that just pinged out of your tweezers, bound for parts unknown, swearing at bad instructions, and so on. At the other end is that sort of Platonic ideal of the perfect build. The one that is pure stress relief.

For this month’s Sprue Cutters’ Union topic, The Combat Workshop wants to know:

What subject relaxes you the most?

I find this kind of question maddening. It’s like trying to pare down your favorite movie. I mean, how do you pick between Aliens or Ghostbusters? Citizen Kane or Ben-Hur? I have a ton of movies that I love, often for different reasons. Picking a single favorite just isn’t happening.

Instead of giving a single, straight answer, I’m going to give two.

Subject

In terms of subject, I think the answer is fairly obvious.

World War II single-engine aircraft.

Here’s the thing. When it comes to WWII aircraft, I have the beats of the build down cold.

With jets or helicopters or tanks, I don’t. I feel like there’s a lot more that has to be taken into account during the build. Intakes! Tracks! There’s also a lot more that has to be taken into account after you come out of main painting. With jets, it’s the amount of stores slung off the wings. With tanks, it’s when and how to mount all the damn tools, how to deal with clear parts, when and how to weather. And with helicopters, you’ve not only got weapons, but the rotors.

All of these slow me up and stress me out – and it’s little wonder that the two modern jets I’ve been able to finish didn’t force me to deal overmuch with intakes.

So subject-wise, definitely WWII props.

Build Experience

I count the build experience as a whole different thing entirely. My ideal, stress-free build is one that doesn’t fight me and that was obviously engineered with care and passion. One that goes together and doesn’t force me to “improve” it or fight seams-a-million.

For me, the build is a means to an end. My love is in bringing assemblages of plastic to life through painting and weathering. The most stress-free builds get me to that point and beyond without tripping me up with lazy bullshit.

For the most stress-free builds, I just have to go with Tamiya’s 1/32 props and pretty much anything Wingnut Wings puts in a box. But I try not to build them too often, lest I become spoiled and unable to build anything else!

What about you? What’s your idea of a stress-free build?

Not Dead Yet

This month’s Sprue Cutters’ Union question pokes the perennial hornets’ nest:

“Is scale modeling a dying hobby?”

Groan. It’s one of the most common – and most tiresome – rants one encounters in this hobby. It seems true, therefore is is true, right?

Wrong.

“Modeling is dying” is a fallacy borne out of a tangle of self-reinforcing cognitive biases. It seems true, so therefore it must be true. But it’s just as off-base as “kids these days…” rants. Scale modeling is alive and well, and I would argue, doing better than it ever has before.

I’m not going to muster a full defense of the hobby here – Jon has already done a brilliant job of that and I’m lazy. Instead, I’m going to aim at a few of the main misconceptions…

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My local hobby shop closed. Clearly modeling is dying.

WRONG. The collapse of brick-and-mortar retail is not unique to modeling. The number of small retailers laid waste by Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, Lowes, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble and other big boxes over the last two decades has to stretch into the tens of thousands. The rise of the internet and ecommerce has only made the situation more dire. It’s not just the mom-and-pops, either. National chains are getting taken out left and right. Borders. Circuit City. Linens-n-Things.

Hobby shops are just in a crummy position. Think about it. Modeling (even if you roll in RC stuff and trains and rockets) has always been and will always be a niche hobby. For a given geographic area, there just aren’t going to be that many modelers. Most cities I’m aware of – if they have any left – have one or maybe two decent hobby shops. The market literally cannot bear any more.

Hobby shops also suffer from high inventory demands. There is so much stuff in this hobby. Glues, brushes, so many paints. Kits, decals, masks, PE sets, resin sets. Books. All of that stuff costs money, but may not move for months (if ever). I’m pretty sure there are still kits on the shelves at my LHS that have been there since I first walked in the door nearly five years ago. That’s a crushing burden for a brick-and-mortar retailer. Meanwhile, the online operations can house everything in a warehouse, and negate the market density problem by drawing on a national or even global customer base.

Modeling isn’t dying. It has moved online.

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Modelers are old. And we’re all going to die. Clearly modeling is dying, too.

As Genghis Khan once said, “bullshit”.

The way some people grouse, you’d think everyone who put glue to plastic was doing so with one foot in the grave. But that’s simply not the case. Jon at The Combat Workshop conducted an informal poll, and the average age of those who responded was 40. Hardly at death’s door.

What does exist, as evidenced by countless introduction posts on forums, is a modeling gap. A lot of us wander off in our teenage or early adult years and only come back to modeling once we’re well and settled. Which makes total sense. Modeling is a hobby for the settled. It takes a certain amount of space, and a certain amount of routine. Those two things often vanish as we discover girls (or boys), cars, go to college, get careers up and running, get married and start families. I know they did for me.

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Kids these days don’t build models because (insert old man gripe).

One common refrain I hear is that kids don’t build models because they’re too busy playing video games. Well, what if I told you it’s possible to do both? I grew up just as video games really hit the mainstream. I had a Nintendo and a Sega Genesis and played Doom on my parents’ PC. And I built models. Hell, I’d say that video games actually got me more interested in models. The best flight sim of all time, Aces of the Pacific, is literally what got me into building World War II aircraft. Today I imagine the same is probably true for kids playing World of Tanks or War Thunder or the countless Battlefield games.

Kids these days do build models…it’s just that modeling is a solitary, secluded and niche hobby.

not-sure-if-kids-cereal-box-game-is-too-hard-or-kids-these-daysToday’s model kits are too complicated for kids.

The hell you say. Look at video games from 1990 and from today. Modern games are exponentially more complicated, and kids take to them like water. Lego sets are infinitely more complicated, and kids figure them out. If you think today’s models are too complicated for kids, you’re seriously underestimating said kids.

Today’s model kits are too expensive for kids. When I was a kid I could buy (insert some old shitty kit) for fifty cents!

Today’s kits are more expensive, but a lot of them aren’t. Revell’s 1/32 Bf 109G-6 can be had for like $25. Plenty of 1/48 and 1/72 kits fall well under that.

Work No. 203: EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT 1999 by Martin Creed born 1968The Hobby is Alright

I honestly don’t get where the doomsaying comes from. It feels like a combination of cognitive biases that screw with our rational thinking.

So, in addition to the refutations above, here are some thoughts on why the hobby is doing better than ever.

The Internet Community – Modeling is a solitary hobby. When I was a kid, I only knew one other kid who build models with any kind of effort. I knew no adults who did. My only regular connection to the larger modeling world was the occasional issue of Fine Scale Modeler. When I came back to modeling in 2010, holy crap. The internet community around this hobby is amazing. The knowledge gained and shared has brought me further, faster, than I’d have ever thought possible. And not just in terms of building techniques, but overall subject knowledge and even purchasing knowledge. This is huge. The modeling community is more connected and engaged now than it ever has been before.

Ecommerce – Hand in hand with community is the ability to buy modeling things online. I love my local hobby shop and they do their damndest, but you can only stock so much product, so the vast bulk of my purchases come from the internet. And the selection is amazing…I can order kits and paints and decals and microtextile seatbelts and god-knows-what from all over the world. I’m no longer constrained by what a few distributors happen to stock, or what my local retail options have room for.

The Knowledge Worker Conundrum – More and more of us do more and more of our work behind desks, at computers. With that comes a well-documented desire for physical, creative hobbies. The desire to do something with our hands. That could be gardening or playing music or woodworking. I have colleagues who restore old guitars or run laser-engraving businesses on the side, or who count wrenching on their motorcycles as a relaxing weekend. Modeling is as much a beneficiary of this innate desire as anything else.

LIDAR and 3D Design – The manufacturers are getting better at designing kits as well. In the past, kits might be designed from photos and best guesses, or maybe from measurements taken of an actual, physical specimen. But nowadays they’re straight-up scanning the things. Airfix recently showed off how their using LIDAR to scan whole aircraft and using those scans to design kits. This is a big deal as it ensures far better accuracy with less room for error. 3D CAD design and improvements in the precision of injection molding also make it possible to design kits with massively improved tolerances, resulting in the near-magical detail and fit of kits from Wingnut Wings, Tamiya and others.

3D Printing – Last but certainly not least is 3D printing. Personally, I don’t think we’ll really ever get to the point where we’re just downloading kit plans and printing them at home. There will probably be a few manufacturers who pursue a “print on demand” type of strategy, but 3D printing remains significantly more expensive than injection molding. Where 3D printing is revolutionizing things, however, is in the design phase. Nowadays, test shots can come off the 3D printer to correct errors before molds are cut. And small aftermarket operators can work off CAD files to create staggeringly accurate masters that can then be reproduced in resin versus having to be carved and sculpted.

3D printing also may well have a niche in providing items that can’t be produced any other way. A great example is this amazing set of 3D-printed, workable Hotchkiss tank tracks. I’m still getting my head around how such a thing is even possible, but one could easily imagine this kind of tech replacing cumbersome indy links on future tank kits.

Eight Dream Kits

It’s a great time to be a modeler. It seems like every other week, some amazing new kit is announced. But there’s still plenty of ground to cover…so here’s a list of eight dream kits that, if produced, I would buy immediately, no questions asked.

1/32 Eduard MiG-21MF

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Eduard’s 1/48 MiG-21 lineup is not only the best treatment of the Fishbed in any scale, but quite possibly the finest series of 1/48 jet kits ever produced. And while I’ve settled on 1/48 as my scale of choice for jets, I’d gladly make an exception in this case.

1/32 HK Models PBY Catalina

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The PBY is one of my favorite aircraft of World War II, and yes, I know that HPH makes a stellar resin kit of everyone’s beloved seaplane, but 1) I’m not a fan of resin kits and 2) as much as I love the Cat, I’m not paying $800 for one. HK could do a real bang-up job here, and it’d be interesting to see what their imaginative engineering could bring to the table.

1/35 Meng British Challenger 1

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Yes, there’s the old Tamiya kit, which I’m quite fond of for what it is, but this old girl is due for a revisit. Meng already has a proven track record with other late Cold War tanks – see the Leopard 1A3/4 and the AMX-30 – and I’d love to see what they could do with the Chally.

1/35 Meng M270 MLRS

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Meng has already produced what has to be the definitive M2 Bradley, and they’ve already shown the capacity to produce derivative vehicles from their tank kits – including the Panzerhaubitze 2000 (from the Leopard) and AUF-1 (from the AMX-30). Seeing as the MLRS is based on the Bradley chassis, at least a few bits could be reused. Besides, there’s an MLRS-shaped hole out there, with the existing attempts out of production and rather poorly-regarded.

1/48 Kitty Hawk AH-1W Supercobra

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I’m currently enjoying Kitty Hawk’s AH-1Z Viper kit, and the design has a modularity to it that could easily allow for an AH-1W tooling. I know, I know, my “grew up during Desert Storm” is showing.

1/48 Academy F-4G Wild Weasel

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Another Desert Storm-era want. The Hasegawa kit is somewhat lacking, and markings even moreso. If you want to do a Desert Storm F-4G, your only options are to track down a long out-of-print AirDocs decal sheet, or to cobble things together on your own. Whereas a new-tool Wild Weasel would almost certainly result in a new decal sheet or two.

1/32 [Anybody] OS2U Kingfisher

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I have fond memories of the old Monogram kit I built when I was growing up. It was one of the first kits where I actually gave a shit about the finish. Nowadays I find that kit sorely lacking in just about every respect…but I still love the Kingfisher. I’m sure someone will do it justice in 1/32 one day, I just wish that day was known!

1/32 Tamiya P-47 Thunderbolt

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The Jug is my favorite aircraft, and Tamiya’s 1/48 P-47 lineup is far and away the best treatment the big lummox of a fighter has ever received. The Trumpeter and Hasegawa 1/32 kits wish they could be half as good as the Tamiya quarter scales. And given how good Tamiya’s Spitfire, Mustang and Corsair have been in 1/32, I can only imagine what they’d do with the Jug. Another bonus – some of the best scheme options of any aircraft that’s ever flown.