The Academy Curse

There are plenty of modelers out there who will start a project and, no matter how shitty or dispiriting it proves to be, will see it through to the bitter end.

I have a healthy respect for those who do…but it’s not something I particularly excel at. For me, modeling is a hobby. And while I like challenges, there comes a point where the enjoyment slips away and the bench sessions become drudgery.

And for some reason, Academy kits always seem to drag me into that drudgery.

I’d hoped that the F-4C Phantom would be a way to break the curse, but alas, here I am, teetering at the edge.

Why? Not because of anything big. Not because the kit has “defeated” me. But rather, because compounding annoyances have worn me down, and because of swirlings in the larger market.

Let’s go through those annoyances first…

The Cockpit is Bullshit

My first annoyance with the Academy F-4C was the laughably spartan cockpit. After reading the horror stories of the Aires cockpit set for this kit,  I stayed well away, but maybe I should have taken the plunge, or at the very least used the resin to create a hybrid cockpit of sorts. I mean…the kit pit has no sidewall detail. At all.

Aside from the absent sidewall detail, the side consoles and IPs are no great shakes, either.

Seriously – the old Hasegawa and even Revellogram F-4s put it to shame.

Strike one.

The Surface Texture

The entire surface of the Academy F-4 is covered in a slightly gritty texture that has to be sanded away. And I thought I had, but well into the painting process, it keeps popping up in places. UGH.  Continue reading

WIP – 1/48 Academy F-4C Phantom II, Pt 1

It’s weird how ideas can snowball. That’s exactly what happened when Jimmy D proposed an informal F-4 buddy build over in SMCG. What started as “huh” quickly gathered steam, and suddenly the start date for this informal affair was bumped up to July 4th.

I was just coming off Bandai’s A-Wing and a rather epic bench cleaning and reorganization, and uncommitted to any particular project.

So I decided “fuck it, I’m game”.

My kit of choice? Academy’s 1/48 F-4C Phantom II. With some goodies.

Continue reading

6 reasons 1/16 scale is just the worst

For years, I’ve lamented that we’re pretty much stuck with 1/35 scale when it comes to armor. No, not because of cross-display issues with 1/32 or anything like that. Rather, because 1/35 is kinda small. Even modern MBTs like the Abrams lack a strong sense of presence. In many ways, 1/35 is kinda like 1/48 in the aircraft world (and 1/48 armor is like 1/72 aircraft and so on).

So with 1/16 scale being all over the place lately, thanks to Trumpeter’s new M1A1 and Tamiya’s incoming M1A2 Abrams, you’d think I’d be rather excited. Armor with presence, and all that.

But I’m not.

1/16 can go screw itself.

Let’s explore why.

1 – It’s Fucking Huge

This is Panda’s 1/16 Pz.Kpfw 38t. It’s a marginal kit, but hey, it’s big. About the size of a shoe box. Here it is next to a 1/35 Sherman.

If 1/16 meant a ready availability of tank kits about this size, I’d be excited.

Thing is, though, the 38t is a tiny tank. Like the Renault FT, it’s miniscule in 1/35. Blowing it up by 100+% makes it big, but not too big.

The same cannot be said for most other tanks. When you move into Tigers and T-72s and M1s, you quickly progress into the realm of the ludicrous. Just consider this.

That’s Trumpeter’s new 1/16 M1A1. That MiG-29 next to it? That’s not 1/48. That’s 1/32. Just to give you a sense of how massive the Abrams is in 1/16. If you run the numbers, it’s over 24″ long. That’s longer than a 1/32 F-15.

Here’s Tamiya’s. Jesus. The turret is bigger than the 1/35 kit.

If we want to make an aircraft analogy, 1/16 is like jumping from 1/48 straight to 1/24.

2 – It exceeds the 100% step

Look at the way aircraft scales work. 1/72 scale is exactly twice the size of 1/144, or 100% larger. But once you get past that, 1/48 is 50% larger than 1/72. And 1/32 is 50% larger than 1/48. And 1/24 is 33% larger than 1/32 (and 100% larger than 1/48).

That’s a nice progression of scales and sizes.

1/16 is 119% larger than 1/35. Again, it’s the equivalent of jumping from 1/48 to 1/24. It can work nicely with something like the 38t, just as it would work nicely with a Sopwith Camel. But with an F-14?

There should be an interim scale – say 1/24 – that would act like an armor equivalent of aircraft’s 1/32.

In 1/24, an M1A1 Abrams would be around 16″ long – about the same length as a 1/32 Skyraider.

3 – 1/16 kits are shitballs expensive

The cheapest price I’ve seen for Trumpy’s new Abrams is around $185, and most places are listing it well over $200. Their Jagdtiger is going for $300 on Sprue Brothers.

With prices like that, it’s going to be a challenge, I think, to build a viable, sustainable scale over time. I don’t see it becoming an alternative with a broad ecosystem of kits in the vein of 1/48 armor, or 1/32 aircraft.

Without that ecosystem, it’s going to be a challenge to gain adoption, and without adoption, it’s going to be a challenge to create that ecosystem.

4 – Aftermarket wasteland

Have you ever heard of the Tiger I? It’s a somewhat obscure tank from a lesser combatant in World War II.

A quick search on Sprue Brothers for “1/35 Tiger” pulls up 268 results, and about 260 of those are Tiger or King Tiger-related. Kits, dry transfers, tracks, grilles, barrels, decals, you name it.

It’s an aftermarket wonderland.

But when I searched for “1/16 Tiger”, I only got 39 results, and most of them were not 1/16 Tiger related. Of those that were, there were some Archer dry transfers, and some shitty Peddinghaus decals. No barrels, no grilles, no tracks, no figures.

If the fucking Tiger can’t pull any aftermarket tail, what do you think is going to befall every other tank that comes out in 1/16?

5 – Back to this interim scale thing

Seriously. The armor world doesn’t need 1/16 – it needs a scale between 1/16 and 1/35.

It’s been tried. I know that Tasca came out with a 1/24 Panzer II, and it bombed because no shit. I mean…a Panzer II? Fucking really? That’d be like Marvel trying to kick off their cinematic universe with Squirrel Girl. Except not, because Squirrel Girl is awesome. But just imagine where we might be if instead of a Panzeryawnwagen II, Tasca had dropped a 1/24 Sherman or four on us.

6 – It reeks of inertia

Kitmakers rarely seem to think outside the box. I mean, we live in a world where it’s possible to buy 3D printed workable tracks…that come that way, with no need to endure the tedium of building them up link by link. And just below that we have some really great workable tracksets, be they metal or resin or injection plastic. But how many kits still come with glue-together indy links or link-and-length or rubber bands? How many wheeled subjects still torture us with bullshit vinyl tires?

To quote one of my favorite books, “show some fucking adaptability”.

Just because Trumpeter made a 1/16 T-34 a long time ago is no reason to keep pushing this bullshit scale. The market for it is tiny.

Most of the opinions I’ve seen regarding the wave of giant Abrams kits amounts to “huh, neat, too big”. I’ve seen more interest in Tamiya’s announcement of a 1/48 M1A2.

I’m convinced there’s a 1/24 scale lane that’s wide open, if only a manufacturer or two would have the guts to take it.

And besides, it’d set up cross-display possibilities with the scale auto world, making dioramas like this possible:

1/72 Bandai A-Wing – The “Jakku Bandit”

If it seems like I’ve been somewhat quiet of late, well, I have been. In part thanks to a combination of work, travel, work travel, and being glued to the twists and turns in the Trump-Russia scandal. But also in part to behind the scenes work on a project for an upcoming issue of Weathering Aircraft magazine.

The theme of desert weathering happened to line up nicely with the release of the final novel in the Star Wars: Aftermath trilogy. While not a particularly good book, it’s notion of a protracted Battle of Jakku gave me the idea of Rebel fighters forward-deployed planetside to cover ground forces. And Bandai’s A-Wing seemed like a fun subject to mess around with.

And, well, here it is:

The mental narrative I worked from is that a forward-deployed A-Wing squadron found it necessary to paint over the deeper red markings with something more suited to desert operations, inspired by the photo recon Spitfires the RAF flew in North Africa. At some point, a hit from a TIE fighter took out the starboard engine, necessitating a cobbled-together field replacement. And of course, grinding service in a hostile desert environment means sand, dust, and all that good, delicious weathering.

The blow-by-blow will have to wait until the article drops, but I will say two things.

First, I used plenty of enamel weathering products on the A-Wing and it did not explode.

Second, there are some tricks to building these Bandai kits that I frustratingly discovered too late in the game. While overall the A-Wing is an excellent kit, the press-fit nature of the assembly is problematic. It makes it very difficult to test fit. In several areas, like the central fuselage, the parts went in and there was just no going back. Toward the end, I started cutting off various lugs and found that this made test-fitting and removability of parts significantly easier. And the fit is still damn good. For example – the engine assemblies and rear bulkhead fit snug, but can be teased off with a small amount of wiggling. Next time I tackle a Bandai kit, I’ll be better prepared for sure.

Tamiya’s New 1/32 F4U-1D Corsair – Quick Thoughts

UPDATE: Additional photos, some formatting fixes, one or two additional thoughts

Tamiya’s next 1/32 kit has broken cover, and I believe Marcus Nicholls deserves credit for sharing the first photos of the new F4U-1D Corsair chilling at the Tamiya booth at the Shizuoka Hobby Show.

While the -1D is hilariously being greeted with yawns of disappointment, I find it fascinating in a number of regards. And so, as I’ve done in the past, I wanted to share some quick thoughts and speculation about Tamiya’s latest.

One Precedent Holds

Tamiya has a now well-established history of releasing new 1/32 scale kits at the Shizuoka Hobby Show in odd-numbered years. In 2009 it was the Spitfire, followed by the Mustang in 2011, Corsair in 2013, and Mosquito in 2015.

Less than a week ago, I was wondering whether this precedent would hold. The new Shizuoka kits typically make themselves known a couple of weeks before the show, but this year April came and went with no news.

But it did hold. Kind of. We do have a new 1/32 kit debuting at Shizuoka in an odd-numbered year. We do not, however, have a new 1/32 subject. Continue reading

No New 1/32 Tamiya Kit for Shizuoka?

It’s no secret that I love to analyze Tamiya’s releases and release patterns and speculate what they may mean for the future. I’ve done it HEREHERE, HERE, and most recently HERE.

There’s a lot to wade through in those links, but the TL;DR version is pretty simple. Going back to 2009 and the Spitfire IXc, Tamiya has established a pattern of releasing a new 1/32 subject in odd-numbered years (Spitfire in 2009, P-51 in 2011, Corsair in 2013, Mossie in 2015), and of debuting those new subjects at the Shizuoka Hobby Show in early/mid May.

By all accounts, we should currently be losing our collective shit over Tamiya’s next 1/32 subject. But we’re not.

Why?

Continue reading

Gratitude

There seems to be an awful lot of negativity swirling around the modeling community at the moment. And I certainly bear at least some of the responsibility. Kitty Hawk, it seems, has become a lightning rod for a fissure that has riven the hobby since I came back to it, and doubtless long before then.

So taking on a build review of the Su-17 was bound to cause a stir. And straight-up anti-recommending it, even moreso.

I probably could have predicted the way things would go. There are plenty of people in this hobby who can’t seem to understand that kit quality and user ability are two completely separate things. It’s not like scratchbuilding intuition and airbrush experience come in the box, bagged up nicely next to the decals.

Call out a kit for being bad? They attack your ability. That’s the way it goes. And I’ve written about it before.

Ultimately, it’s the same shit in a new dress. It all comes back to the same “modeler vs. assembler” broken record. God forbid we acknowledge, respect and even celebrate the spectrum of preferences and talents that are encompassed by this hobby. Instead by all means let’s reduce it to some meaningless binary bullshit. Let’s deflect any critique of kits, of paints, of decals, and throw it all back on the modeler (exception: bashing Trumpeter for accuracy issues).

Anyway…

As fun as wading through sludge can be sometimes, and as hilarious and pathetic as Facebook protest groups can be, I thought I’d swim upstream a bit and talk about the things I’m grateful for in this hobby. Or a few of them at least. Continue reading