Closing Thoughts on the Tiger ERC-90 F1 Lynx

Back around the beginning of August, Patrick at MBK-USA asked if I’d be willing to take Tiger Model’s 1/35 ERC-90 F1 Lynx for a spin and share my thoughts. 

I typically don’t do the whole free-kit-build-review thing. I think it introduces, even subconsciously, a rose-colored filter that makes more favorably disposed toward the kit than you might otherwise be. But I was also just coming off the decal-induced Flankoff flameout, was in casting-about mode, and, well, Patrick knew just where to strike. I have a weakness for esoteric French armored cars. 

The Build – Reviewed

Tiger’s kit is…solid. Extravagantly decent. Radically middle-of-the-road. It doesn’t reach the top tier of Tamiya, or Meng, or Trumpeter and Hobby Boss. Maybe more in the universe of Takom. Better than the Academy armor kits I’ve experienced.

I won’t belabor the kit’s strengths and weaknesses here, and encourage you to have a gander at the in-box and build review videos if you want an in-depth look at the kit as it comes, and as it gets built up.  

Out the Other Side

Coming out the other side of the build, I moved into paint…which proved to be a shiftier target than I’d anticipated.

The kit features five scheme options. I originally had my sights set on one of the two digital camoflage schemes currently in use by the Mexican Army, but quickly noped away from that course when I started to appreciate the tedium that would be involved. Especially since Tiger gives you fuck all to pull the scheme off. No masks, no decals, not even a full view, just one side in profile. 

My next move was into the more traditional green/brown/black NATO scheme. 

While this was fine, something about it didn’t sit right with me. Hard to say what. Maybe it’s because I have plenty of other builds in mind that wear the same colors. Maybe it’s because image searches for the ERC-90 F1 invariably show a ton of ERC-90 F4s. And the F4 Sagaie gets all the cool camoflage, including that sweet, bright-green French take on the NATO scheme.

Anyway, with some more course corrections, I ended up doing a green-and-sand scheme that Mexico used in the 80s. 

Weathering?

Mexico tends to keep these ERC-90s quite clean. Which leaves…not a lot of fun to be had with weathering. Ultimately I went with some very gentle OPR work on the camoflage, some pigments and some enamels to represent dust, sand and so on. Even this seems to be far dirtier than reference photos suggest…which kinda sucks. But it got the job done.

What Works

Okay. So now that the ERC-90 is done and safely in the display cabinet, it’s time to look back and take stock and what works about the kit, and what doesn’t. Let’s start with the good.

  • Engineering, detail and fit are mostly good. It feels like fit and precision suffer a drop-off aft of the rear tires, but forward of them, all is well. 
  • The clear parts are exceptionally well done, particularly the searchlight lens.
  • Buildup is not overly fussy. This is not a kit that will take you into the weeds or overwhelm with parts count for the sake of parts count. 
  • It’s a cool French armored car and a nice break from all the Tigers everyone builds all the time. Or Panthers at the moment, I guess. 

What Doesn’t Work

This is going to be a longer list. That doesn’t mean that the bad outweighs the good on this kit…just…there are things you may want to be aware of in considering it, or building it, and these heads ups may come in handy. 

  • Tiger picked the wrong variant. The ERC-90 F4 Sagaie is a far more interesting specimen than the F1 Lynx. Why? Well, the Lynx was not picked up by France, and was export sold to Mexico and Argentina and…that’s it. The F4 Sagaie, on the other hand, has been sold all over the damn place, and has seen extensive service, including with France. It gets dirty. It gets interesting camo schemes. It has a crazy-long barrel that adds to the inherent silliness of these armored cars. Think of it like how Trumpeter had 1/32 MiG-29s for years…but the silly naval variants that nobody bought. 
  • Certain options are pointless. The metal springs are pointless on a non-workable suspension. The styrene tires are interesting in concept but fail in execution. I would have rather seen a resin muzzle brake, or masks or decals for the digital camo as value adds. 
  • The fender mirrors are annoying and fragile. I ended up replacing the arms with wire. 
  • Vinyl tires are bullshit because vinyl tires are bullshit. They don’t take paint or weathering well at all. They have annoying flash inside the wheels that interferes with the fit of the hubs. 
  • The wheel/axle fit is bullshit. Only two of the six tires (the front two) have a positive fit sturdy enough for test-fitting. The mid and aft tires flop about and will fall out if you look at them funny. I really like to be able to test-fit the running gear, particularly on wheeled vehicles. 
  • Wheel design = tire wobble. The wheels have what seems like a pretty slick arrangement where the back press-fits into the hub and allows it to spin. Unfortunately, with that spin comes some slop and play that allows the tires to lean. This happens even after gluing the wheels to the axles and can cause headaches, especially if you install the middle tires in the stowed position and the flop out at an angle. 
  • Holy shit does this kit need resin tires. Seriously. 
  • The fit of the aft parts leaves much to be desired. I don’t know what the deal is, but the water turbines, the articulated exhausts/air filters/whatever, the muffler and so on all exhibit far sloppier fit than the rest of the kit. Not a dealbreaker, but something to be on guard for. 
  • The main gun could really benefit from a resin muzzle brake. This is my second French armored thing with this gun, and both attempts at it in styrene have disappointed. The Takom AML-90 uses a complicated arrangement of top and bottom plates and two vertical plates that draw their assembly inspiration from a house of cards. The Tiger kit uses top and bottom halves, with the vertical plates bisected horizontally. This is a lot easier to build, but has the distinct drawback of leaving very obvious join lines across prominent but hard to access parts. 

Highly Recommended?

Nope. I’m not going to highly recommend this kit. It’s solid, and if you have a thing for goofy French armored cars or an affinity for Mexican or Argentinian military vehicles, consider it right up your alley. 

With some aftermarket support – particularly for the tires and the muzzle brake – I’d put this one up a few notches. But ultimately, my personal call would be to wait for Tiger to drop an ERC-90 F4 Sagaie that they’d be crazy to not release. 

Mind Games

I am a mess.

It’s tempting to say that it’s just something that happens this time of year. Or to blame it on the heat (even though that’s abating now).

But, I know better.

The thing that’s fucking up my bench time, that has me turning in circles, second guessing myself, and generally not making headway?

It’s me.

This post is an attempt to get to the bottom of it.

What the fuck is going on?

So far, in 2018, I’ve finished two whole builds. Takom’s AML-90, which I’m marginally proud of, and Eduard’s tiny little 1/144 MiG-15UTI, which I’m not. I mean, it was a nice quick diversion, and it let me test out Tamiya’s new Lacquer Painto line in the form of LP-11 Silver, but it’s chock full of lazy mistakes, and I don’t feel like the scale or the scheme really left me much of anywhere to go in finishing it out.

This, on top of last year, when I only finished three builds…

Now. If we go back through 2018 and 2017 and the number of builds I’ve STARTED…the problem starts to emerge.

  • 1/32 Trumpeter F-117 – Abandoned after the seventh or eighth go at filling the sink troughs in the wings and the realization that holding the beast of a kit while attacking those troughs was messing up my wrist.
  • 1/48 Academy F-4C – Abandoned after just getting sick of it.
  • 1/32 Trumpeter MiG-23MLD Flogger – Jacked up landing gear stance, due to too-tall nosegear and poor attempt by Trumpeter to compensate by leveling the stance, but leaving the Flogger looking like it was on it its tiptoes. Abandoned and limestoned.
  • 1/48 Trumpeter MiG-21UM – Abandoned after frustrations with overall quality of the kit, particularly the cockpit and canopy
  • 1/48 Kinetic Mirage IIIDE – Abandoned after discovering wing aileron and tip were catastrophically short-shot.
  • 1/144 Bandai A-Wings – Abandoned after they just look too toylike to keep going forward with.
  • 1/35 Trumpeter MIM-104 Patriot – WIP. This one got fully built and painted, and the trailer got into decals, and the AFV boxing proved to have terrible decals. With no aftermarket options, I picked up the Trumpeter boxing of the current-gen PAC-3 launcher, and it’s built, just waiting for paint, but I haven’t gotten back to it.
  • 1/35 Meng T-72B3 – WIP. Top is painted. Bottom is painted. I burned a lot of energy having a go at multiple bases for this one, and haven’t been happy with any of them. Now that I’ve reached a “fuck it” point and am going baseless, weathering is proceeding.
  • 1/35 Trumpeter M270 MLRS – WIP. Main assembly completed. Still need to do the tracks, paint the cab interior, and close everything up to start painting. I actually really love this kit – just haven’t gotten back to it yet. Too much ground stuff at once, I think.
  • 1/35 Trumpeter URAL-4320 – WIP. It’s mostly built, partially primed, but I’m not really sure what I want to do with it, so it sits.
  • 1/48 Kitty Hawk Su-35 – Left behind after the #Flankoff build stage.
  • 1/48 Great Wall Hobby Su-35 – Set aside after thick-ass decals derailed a build that had been in-progress for months. It’s not gone, but…let’s be honest. It pretty much is.
  • 1/35 Tiger Model ERC-90 F1 Lynx – WIP. I recently wrapped up the build review, and now it’s in weathering…after passing through three paint schemes. Another case of second-guessing (or third-guessing I suppose).
  • 1/72 Flyhawk FT-17 (x2) – WIP. These lovely little things are painted and decaled and just waiting on the bases to get a bit further along so I can make sure I’m unified in my weathering.

All in all, that’s…quite a trail of bodies, and quite a stack of WIPs to wade through.

Now, unless things go totally off the rails, I anticipate finishing the ERC-90, T-72, and the two FT-17s in the near future. So that’ll put me at six completed builds so far this year, far outpacing the last several years.

But…three of them will be tiny little things.

What’s really going on here?

So far as I can tell, there are multiple factors at play that have been tripping me up. With each, I’m trying to identify solutions to get me around them.

A Fuck Imbalance – For any given build, I have a certain number of fucks to give. Kind of like the health meter in a video game. And some kits demand that more fucks be given. Could I have pushed through the Academy F-4C? Certainly. Ran out of fucks. Could I have ripped apart the landing gear on the MiG-23 or scratchbuilt my own? If I had the fucks to give. I didn’t have that many fucks to give about the Kinetic Mirage III…but if the kit hadn’t been short-shot, that probably would have been sufficient to get me through. As it turned out…not the case.

Solution: Fix the fuck imbalance. Find subjects that I give more of a fuck about, find kits that demand fewer fucks, or both.

Unsatisfied Base – One thing I’ve been tinkering with a lot since last year has been bases. I’ve managed exactly one effective base in the past, and think I pulled off a pretty solid one early this year with the AML-90. But…I keep trying and I keep feeling like I’m groping in the dark. It’s an area where I really want to improve, but I don’t yet feel like I have a sense of which levers to pull to get to what I want.

Solution: Experiment and learn with smaller, less ambitious bases using smaller-scale subjects. The FT-17s and their bases are a start.

Decal Sabotage – Decals have never really been a thing to fuck my builds in the past, but then it happened twice this year. Once with the Patriot and the shoddy AFV Club decals (plus AK Real Colors not reacting well to decal solvents), and the second time with the thick GWH Su-35 decals. It sucks getting so deep into a build and having something bring the whole thing down.

Solution: Test decals early. Do not just keep going if decals seem problematic. Do not trust/hope in a clear coat to fix the problem. Secure aftermarket decals as appropriate. Or, find more builds that don’t require any decals (though those are rare).

Not Having a Vision – This one is a bit squishy, since there doesn’t seem to be a correlation between having a vision for a build and completions. I knew exactly what I wanted for the MiG-23 and the MiG-21 and the F-4C and they all fell to the wayside. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with the AML-90, and it got done. But my current ERC-90 project is kind of emblematic of the whole lack of vision sending me in circles. It’s now in its third scheme option.

Solution: Have what I want to pull off mapped out better ahead of time.

Too Much Going On – This year has been a bit weird in that I was working from home for the first several weeks of the year, and had the opportunity to fart around with kits while on various calls or while trying to think something through. It was amazingly beneficial and something I wish I could do at the office as well, but alas. Anyway, that led to the build of several kits that then created a backlog on the painting side. A backlog that still exists. And while I’ve kinda-sorta done a good job of not starting a bunch of massive projects, since the Su-35 collapsed, I’ve started up four new kits. Granted, three of them have been small, intended as diversions and quick wins, but still.

Solution: Be more focused on one or two kits at a time. Work through the backlog. Load balance between big projects like 1/32 aircraft, and small, light affairs like 1/72 armor or Star Wars kits (which I’ve got some plans for).

What I think it really comes down to

Now, all of the issues listed above are very real issues. But are they causes, or just symptoms? Or excuses?

Talking with my fellow SMCG admins Will and Jim, I realized something.

Every single one of my favorite builds has started with a strong vision.

The Corsair, Me 262, Spitfire, French P-47, Tamiya F-14, Trumpeter Bf 109G-10…all of them got their start with one photo that set my imagination running. Not just for that type of aircraft…but for that one specific vision of that aircraft.

I don’t think there’s quite the same connection with armor…but with aircraft it certainly seems to be a thing.

With that in mind, I think my next build will be a return to that mold of powerful inspiration. And I might have just the subject.

Stay tuned. First I have to push a few kits over the line.

 

Some Slapdash Market Research

In the early days of my career, I specialized in secondary research and analysis. A lot of this involved combing through massive reams of established research – the Census, Forrester, RL Polk and so on – to answer questions, find stats, and make connections. In some industries, it’s amazing what you can draw out.

Modeling is not one of those industries. At least not with freely available materials. I haven’t looked, but an old joke we used to make about tricky research questions was that there’s always a report, and it’s always $5000. I’m sure someone, somewhere, has done some deep market study on modeling.

But I digress. Modeling, for most of us involved in it, is a bit of a black box of an industry. Manufacturers of kits and paints and aftermarket are either small, privately owned businesses, or subsidiaries of larger holding companies. We get occasional peeks behind the curtain, which we can expand on with our own relevant expertise, but there’s a lot of straight-up assumption and guessing and talking out of one’s ass that happens, too.

Recently, a prominent modeler got called out for such an instance of ass-talking, and instead of a simple mea culpa, instead went on a rambling justification that ended up borderline slandering a rather popular online retailer.

Out of some discussions in the aftermath, I decided to throw together a little survey, some market research, to maybe discover some nuances of at least a corner of this hobby. And…some nuances were found.

Now…I’m NOT a market researcher. And it’s been a decade and more since I’ve spent most of my work week elbow-deep in spreadsheets and pivot tables. And…I’ve been using the free version of Survey Monkey, which sucks ass for an kind of multivariate question. And the sampling is limited to a voluntary set from SMCG and followers of my Facebook page. As such, I wouldn’t put ultimate stock in this data. But it can still be worth some consideration.

Unsurprisingly, most respondents build aircraft and armor

Given the option to choose multiple subjects, this is hardly surprising. It’s been pointed out that I left out ships, and I totally did. But I’d guess, based on frequency, they’d be hovering around 10% or so.

The most popular scales are the most popular scales

Again, there is nothing particularly surprising here.

Purchases are made all over the damn place

Now…this is a ranked and weighted list, so if a particularly retailer showed higher in a ranking, they got a higher score. And this is one where SurveyMonkey’s clunky tools perhaps polluted some data, since it was forcing rankings of all stores until I could tell it to not force that.

Still, it’s interesting, given all the wailing about the death of local hobby shops, that the main purchase location seems to be…local hobby shops. Though eBay and Amazon are not far behind.

Other is a catch-all, a mix of retailers not listed here, purchases made at contest vendor tables, in buy-sell-trade groups and the like.

The one that really stands out here, in my opinion, is Hobbyworld-USA. It’s not surprise that Sprue Brothers is way up top, but Hobbyworld-USA is something of an upstart next to, say, Squadron, which is several places lower on the list. I have my suspicions for why they place where they place.

A lot of factors determine where purchases are made, but one matters more than the others

This is a set of data that I could spend hours digging into, if I wanted to (I don’t). But even just glancing at the charts, basically, everything matters. Every single factor pings over 50% as either somewhat or critically important. Price, selection, fast shipping and customer support are all valued more highly.

But the one item that seems make-or-break is a store having the item you’re looking for in stock.

This seems like a no-brainer for sure, but it’s got interesting implications for an inventory-intensive category. It makes it a real challenge to draw purchases with a lean model. But holding so much inventory is a challenge all its own, so there’s a clear opening for some sophisticated demand modeling to optimize inventory and selection.

Different retailers dominate in different aspects of the hobby

From this eyechart, it’s possible to see that there’s a lot more nuance hiding behind that ranking order a few questions up. Different retailers are used for different things. Scale Hobbyist is a popular destination for kits, but much less so for supplies, decals and aftermarket. Local shops don’t seem to be a great source for decals and aftermarket, but they trade well in paint. Hannants and eBay are popular for decals and aftermarket.

And one of the things that has endeared Hobbyworld-USA to many of us is their stocking of Mr. Paint as well as a host of other innovative paints and supplies – Kcolors and Mission Model Paints, Aizu tape, Infini cutting boards, Gunze GX paints. This shows up in neon lights in the Hobbyworld responses, and marks what to me is a clear differentiator.

Depending on interest, I may or may not wade into the actual data to look for some more interesting insights, but these topline ones still provide some good fodder to think over.

Decals – Clear Coats, Insurance, and Thick Carrier Film

A few years ago, I wrote about how Decals are Magic, and I still stand by that sentiment. Due to the variety of printers and substances and setting solutions, there is something in the way of alchemy about them. Some setting solutions work great on some decals, but not on others, and so on.

But revisiting that post in light of the #Flankoff disaster (a disaster of my own making for seeing early warning signs and pressing ahead anyway), I think there are a few additional points worth making…

You don’t need a gloss coat to apply decals…

It’s taken as gospel by a wide swath of the modeling community that you absolutely need a gloss coat to apply decals. That otherwise you will get the dreaded silvering. This is not true at all. It’s entirely possible to lay decals down over flat paint, and it’s entirely possible to get silvering even when a gloss coat is in place.

The key isn’t a gloss coat, it’s a smooth surface. With the lacquers that are increasingly in use today – Mr. Paint, Gunze Mr. Color and so on, if you’re doing it right, you should have a nice, smooth, semi-gloss surface to work with anyway. So a clear gloss coat is not necessary.

…but a clear coat may be good for preventing other complications

The thing about insurance is that you don’t need it until you need it. And by then it’s generally too late.

While a clear coat is not in any way mandatory for applying decals, going without opens you up to some interesting potential problems.

I’ve gone without clear coats on two different jets, and both times I’ve regretted doing so. Not because of silvering, but because of other shit that happened, that probably wouldn’t have happened if I’d had a clear in place beforehand.

First up, my Tamiya F-14A Tomcat.

My issues with this kit where minimal. The combination of Furball and Afterburner decals performed wonderfully for the most part.

But I ran into problems in a few places with my decal setting solution degrading the paint. Making the whole area a bit “sloshy”. This didn’t happen everywhere, though, and my best guess, based on comparing what was different about the areas, is that the solution wasn’t degrading the Mr. Paint, but the Badger Stynylrez I’d used as a primer on some areas of the airframe.

After a quick coat of Tamiya X-22, the issue went away entirely.

Second, the Great Wall Hobby Su-35 of #Flankoff fame.

Now. These decals had a whole other problem – thickness – that we’ll get to in a minute.

But. After the decals were down, I sprayed a coat of Gunze C181 semi-gloss clear. And then went to work trying (in vain) to sand the decal film back. And…what already stood out, stood out more.

This one is a bit of a mystery. But at a guess…lacquer clears can very, very subtly fuck with the colors they’re applied over. I’ve had it go completely bad a time or two, with clear coats almost eating away at the top layers of paint, but it’s been years. Still, a bit of, I don’t know, shifting seems to happen. And that shifting isn’t going to occur UNDER A DECAL. When you take that, and add some sanding effort over what’s ultimately some very thin layers of paint, I’m not totally surprised in retrospect.

Would applying a clear before the decals have prevented this shift? Maybe. It’s hard to be sure without a 1:1 control of these decals, this paint, etc.

But I did run into a similar conundrum with the Trumpeter Dauntless I built a while back. Trumpeter’s representation of the Hamilton Standard prop logos was laughable, so I stole some from one of Tamiya’s Corsairs. Knowing that Tamiya has a penchant for thick decals, and that I’d likely have to sand, I gave the prop a very durable gloss coat, applied the decals, gave it another heavy gloss coat, and got to sanding. With no discoloring of the carrier film.

Another example I’ve faced recently…on my Patriot. Where the decal setting solutions fucked with the paint.

Taken together…while yeah, a clear coat isn’t required for decals…I’ve had enough complications pop up around the decals that I’m going to go back to clear coating as a measure of insurance.

Thick decals vex the shit out of me

There are decals that are good and decals that are…less good. But as long as they’re thin, I can usually work with them.

With the Great Wall Su-35, though, I encountered something I haven’t faced in years. Thick decals. The last time I faced anything like it was with a Tamiya Fw 190A-3, where successive layers of clear coat did nothing to hide the visible ridges of the carrier film.

Well, that’s not quite true. There were the decals I printed for the F-14 using Testors decal paper.

Despite taking care to keep the top sealing layer of decal film thin, I didn’t realize that the backing film on the Testors shit was so thick. Fortunately I found another sheet with the right VF-24 markings and was able to rip and replace these without too much trouble.

With the Su-35, though, it wasn’t a case of a decal or two. It was dozens of them. All over the airframe. All of them thick.

Now…two of the three things that fucked the Su-35 are my fault. After cocking my head at the decals, I KEPT APPLYING MORE OF THEM. And after I hoped a clear coat would fix what might be just a sheen difference, and it didn’t, I KEPT SPRAYING.

If I hadn’t done those two things, removing the decals would have been easy enough with X-20A and elbow grease. Then I could have gone aftermarket and carried on.

But those two moments of stupid don’t change the face that the Great Wall decals are thick.

I’m quite confident in my ability to work with decals, to get them sucked into surface detail and have them not silver and all that jazz. Even understanding that there’s some alchemy in which setting solutions work with which decals.

But I have yet to find a safe method of dealing with thick carrier film. There’s the flood it with clear, sand it back option, but that’s only really doable on flat expanses like a prop face, and not what I’d consider a good solution for an aircraft with dozens of little stencils that would need that treatment all over it.

I guess for now the best solution is…if you find the decals are thick, STOP USING THEM and grab some alternates.

It’s Called a Flightpose. Jesus.

When you run a Facebook page with more than 13,000 followers, you get some…tedious questions.

I generally try to be understanding. Facebook’s algorithm can mean that only a few thousand people see any given post, and maybe they missed the paints being used, or what effect I’m after or whatever. Fair enough.

But there’s one question that pops up endlessly. Well, variations on the question, but yeah.

“What stand is that?”

“Where do you get that stand?”

“Is that a stand I can buy?”

I can get why people are interested. It’s a (mostly) cool stand. It’s one of the most commonly used items on my bench.

But here’s the thing. I’ve been using this stand for at least five years. This is not a thing that I just picked up a few weeks ago.

Questions about it with every post officially got old around four and a half years ago. And so over time I just…stopped answering.

So just like that other near-constant question, I’ve decided to do a quick post as an answer.

The stand is made by Flightpose. And you can buy them HERE.

Double Trouble

Image result for doublemint twins

Recently, SMCGer Jon Bryon shared an interesting post about increasing his productivity at the bench. It’s a thought-provoking read, but one part in particular has stuck with me:

Build in batches

Now, that doesn’t mean just have multiple WIPs going on at once. I means building the same subject, and frequently the same kit, in multiple.

I would scoff at the notion, but I’ve done it before, and the two times that come to mind, I’ve not only finished, but very much enjoyed the journey.

The first time around, it was P-47s. The Tamiya and Revellogram 1/48 Razorbacks, to be precise. Long enough ago that I wince a bit at them now, but they were a lot of fun at the time.

The second time was with a pair of 1/32 Bf 109s. This was back when Revell first dropped their 109G-6, and I tackled it together with a Revell ProModeller (Hasegawa mold) 109G-4.

Thinking ahead to what I want to tackle next, after the Su-35 is further along, I’m finding a lot of appeal in taking on another batch build.

The thing is…I’m not sure of the subject. I’m spoiled for choice.

Twin Mustangs

Back in 2011, Tamiya released their superlative 1/32 P-51D. It’s been seven years…and I still have yet to build one. But what about two of them?

One of them I’d build as a Swiss P-51. Most of these were done up in bare metal with dark blue anti-glare panels, but I also have markings for one that was apparently done in a drab green over light blue, with the same dark blue anti-glare, and the fun addition of red and silver neutrality stripes on the wings. Hmm.

The other I’d do as some sort of PTO Mustang. Perhaps a P-51K…

Or a photo-recon F-6D:

Super Bugs

On vacation recently, I happened to catch two EA-18G Growlers landing at NAS North Island in San Diego. This led to me throwing down for some big Trumpeter Super Bugs – the EA-18 and a two-seater F/A-18F.

At first, the Growler especially seems to be one of those aircraft that stays clean. But if you dig a bit deeper, you can find some really interesting examples:

The F/A-18F is very similar – lots of visual interest once you start digging.

Double Eagle

Another contender – Great Wall’s F-15 – particularly the F-15C and the D-Mold F-15K boxing.

For the C, I have a certain unexplainable affinity for the 44th Fighter Squadron based out of Okinawa.

For the K, well, I’d planned to build it as an E, but it appears that GWH is finally getting off their Mudhen ass, so there’s a decent chance I’d opt to do the K as a ROKAF Slam Eagle.

Choices, Choices

There are a few others floating around – like Trumpeter Skyraiders and Tamiya Corsairs…but they aren’t grabbing me the same way.

Of course, that may well change by the time I’m ready to dive in…

 

 

 

 

Refreshing the Bench

A modeler’s bench is constantly shifting and evolving, almost like a living thing. Or at least that’s the case with mine. From the time I came back to the hobby with a cheap folding table from Costco, I’ve been tinkering and rejiggering.

For the past few years, though, my bench has been *fairly* static. I’ve made a few organizational tweaks – moved some paints here, some supplies there. Swapped out the fluorescent shop lights for LEDs. But the big stuff, I’ve left mostly alone.

November 2011

June 2018 (man smartphone cameras have come a LONG way)

With a sabbatical from work, however, I’ve had the opportunity to undertake some significant adjustments. A mid-life upgrade (MLU), if you will.

What wasn’t working?

Overall, I quite like my two-bench setup. Two big 66×24 shop benches arranged in an L shape around a weird corner of the garage. A large tool cabinet that holds tools, works in progress, and my selection of “pot” paints – Tamiya, Gunze and AK Real Color. Two bright shop lights. Even a monitor to help me keep tabs of framing issues while shooting videos.

But nothing is perfect, and I wanted to address four main annoyances. Continue reading