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

Are Price and Quality Related?

We’ve been having a pretty fun discussion over in the Scale Modelers Critique Group over the past few days about the relation (or not) of price and quality. Driven to an extent by Revell’s 1/32 P-51 and how it compares to Tamiya’s far pricier kit.

Price is a Dumb Metric

I’ve been on record, many times, with the opinion that price should not be a factor in considering how well one kit will go together versus another.

In the broader retail world there absolutely is a correlation between price and quality, sure. A nice pair of jeans will generally last a lot longer than a cheap pair from Old Navy or something. A nicer cordless drill will use a better battery and a motor made out of higher quality materials than some bargain unit you buy after stomping a few heads on Black Friday.

But in modeling the correlation becomes a lot looser. Because there are so many factors impacting price. You have the number and complexity of parts, which directly impacts tooling costs. You have regional pricing differences that often see the cost of, say, a Revell and a Hasegawa kit of the same subject flip-flop in price depending on where you buy them.

You have brand power – where a Tamiya or Wingnut Wings or whoever can charge more because of the strength of their reputation.

You also have age. Older kits are cheaper. Generally. Not always.

And in some instances, you have market pressure. Usually somewhere like eBay. But market pressure can also be a factor of subject, of the existence of competition, of the availability of a kit, and other factors.

But at the end of the day, the cost to tool parts that fit, or parts that are shape-accurate, is negligible over ones that don’t and aren’t.

You want evidence that price is a shitty metric? Look at the 1/32 109s from Revell, Hasegawa, and Trumpeter. As kits, they’re all more or less equal. Each succeeds in some areas where the others disappoint, and each disappoints in other areas, with amazingly little overlap.

The Tedious Car Analogy

The real inspiration for this post, though, isn’t exactly the whole price/quality debate, but one small part of it. And that’s this analogy:

“You shouldn’t expect a [insert luxury car brand] for a [insert economy car brand} price”

It’s a bad analogy. And I wanted to break it down. And since it’s TL;DR for the format of a Facebook comment, hey, blog post!

What Really Separates Luxury Cars?

The reason that luxury cars cost more than mainstream or economy cars is almost entirely in the luxury aspect. It’s fancier seats wrapped in fancier materials. It’s nicer cabins and more amenities. It’s thicker glass and insulation that deadens sound and vibration. Sometimes – if we’re talking about performance luxury – it may extend to larger brakes or fancier suspension or a more complicated engine.

And for the most part…that’s it. An Audi is a Volkswagen in nice clothes. An Acura is a dudded up Honda. Same for Lexus:Toyota, Cadillac:Chevy, Infiniti:Nissan and you get the idea.

Here Comes the Fallacy!

Here’s the problem with the analogy.

A car’s job is to car. Through some means – usually by burning petrochemicals to create small, contained explosions – it harnesses energy. This energy is transferred to a transmission, and by driveshaft to one or two axles, and ultimately to the wheels. The wheels turn, and the car goes. There are brakes to stop them from turning. And complicated linkage (usually) connected ultimately to a steering wheel. The driver and passengers travel in comfort inside of a contained area that is typically climate controlled and, these days, doesn’t leak when it rains.

This is the basic function of every car, from the cheapest shitbox to whatever the fuck Bugatti is putting on the road.

Now let’s look at model kits. A model’s job is to go from a collection of pieces – usually polystyrene plastic arranged on a frame (sprue) – to a miniature representation of the real thing. It’s two reasons for existing are to 1) fit together and 2) look reasonably like the thing it is representing. Everything else – just like a fucking heated steering wheel – is icing on the cake. Because we need more metaphors.

Even the Cheapest Car…

Let’s say I go out and buy the cheapest new car I can find – which I believe is the Nissan Versa at around $13,000. Nobody is going to confuse it with a Jaguar or a Mercedes. It’s not going to have a heated steering wheel. Hell, it probably won’t even have power seats. It won’t be as fast or as flashy. It would probably lose in a slalom.

But.

I fully fucking expect that Nissan Versa to car. I expect the engine to fire up when I turn the ignition. I expect the doors to close (and not leak!). I expect it to go when I put it in gear, and to take me where I need to go in a reliable fashion.

See Where I’m Going Yet?

Imagine this scenario. You buy a Nissan Versa. You go to drive to work and the door won’t stay shut, so you roll the window down and zip tie that fucker to the B pillar. Along the way, you realize that someone fucked up the wiring, so when you hit the brakes, instead of the brake lights lighting, the high beams flash. You can turn the wheel twice as far to the left as the right. And when you turn it right to full lock, the tire hits the fender. You try to take extra care when turning, but the passenger side mirror is thick and cloudy and you can’t see shit in it.

Would you then get out, shrug and say “well, I shouldn’t expect a Mercedes for Nissan Versa money”?

FUCK NO YOU WOULD NOT.

If you posted about your experience, would it be reasonable for someone else to reply “this guy in Germany drove his Versa to work so you can’t say it’s a shitty car”.

FUCK NO IT WOULD NOT.

But this shit passes for reasonable discourse in the modeling world every single day.

What Should We Expect (Demand?) From a Kit…Regardless of Price?

I get it, kind of. Revell’s pricing, at least with their new tool 1/32 kits, seems to defy certain laws of economics. I can’t imagine any other company releasing a 1/32 P-51 for anything less than, oh, $70. But they do. Or they have. And not just with the P-51. You’ve also got their Ju 88, He 111, Bf 109Gs, Fw 190, Ar 196 and Spitfire in recent years. It remains to be seen if the trend will continue under the new ownership, but at least as of this writing, the pricing seems very lowball for new tooled kits.

With a price that makes no damn sense, it’s certainly tempting to take sloppiness in stride. Especially because the modeling community as a whole seems to have very low standards – unless it has to do with some minute accuracy niggle.

Now…at $30, I certainly do not expect Tamiya levels of detail and engineering showmanship out of Revell’s Mustang. I expect a lower parts count and fewer posable or exposable details. I expect the overall detail level to be lower, and things like cockpit and gearbay and blast tube details to be more accurate-ish than accurate. I expect the decals and instructions to both be a bit…wanting.

And…I don’t expect the kind of engineering and fit that makes you sit back at your bench in amazement. Just like I wouldn’t expect a Nissan Versa to bring a big, shit-eating grin to my face bombing down some twisty country road the way a Jaguar XE would. But I do expect a dull, competent, workmanlike fit. Similar, in point of fact, to what Revell mostly pulled off with their Bf 109G-6.

Endnote

I don’t have Revell’s P-51, and so I can’t speak directly to its fit or lack thereof. Nor do I plan on buying the current boxing. If other variants are forthcoming, however – like a later D with the filleted tail or a P-51B/C, I will certainly pick one up and give it a go. As much as I love Tamiya’s big uberkits, I would certainly appreciate a more simplified option as well. If it fits.

 

 

 

 

 

A Reply, Because LSP Threads Keep Disappearing

Over the past few days, someone over on LSP has been making ad hominem attacks on me. Nothing new there. You create anything on the internet and you’re going to attract detractors, especially if they involve opinions, or, apparently, expletives.

But…I had a few minutes this morning while enjoying my coffee and figured I’d respond, only to turn around a minute later and find the thread gone.

This evening, I saw another thread asking where the first thread had gone, and again, the same attacks and assumptions, albeit in summarized form. By the time I found five minutes to respond and hit post, however, the thread had been locked.

As a Sisyphean farce in miniature, I find it pretty amusing. But since I already had one reply swallowed by the forum black hole today, I see no reason to let the other go to waste, so I’m posting it below.

——————————————

1 – I’m completely fine with opening the other thread up. It’s frankly rather annoying to reply and then turn around and the thread is gone.

2 – Offended? LOL nope. It’s entirely possible to object to things without being offended.

3 – The accusations (made again in this thread) of dishonesty and personal vendettas are pretty serious things to sling at someone. I’m not sure how a build review, with every single issue captured on video for all the world to see, can be dishonest. I’m not sure how subjective opinions drawn from said build experience can be dishonest. How can one even have a dishonest opinion? Don’t arrive at the same conclusions as I do? That’s fine. It’s a multi-faceted hobby, and in addition to everything that goes into a model build, we all have our own likes, dislikes and preferences to boot.

4 – The personal vendetta thing is nothing but personal assumption. Yes, I hold a very skeptical view of Kitty Hawk. One born from experience with a number of their kits. Sloppy, unforced errors happen to really annoy me. Because they could be fixed with another few days of QA.

Kitty Hawk has the ability to put out really good kits. The AH-1Z is an example of that. The wings of the Su-17 are an example of that. Probably about 50% of the Su-35 is an example of that. But then they go and kneecap themselves by forgetting to cut notches for the gear doors, putting sprue gates right on the junction of a connecting tab or whatever.

Calling them on those is not a vendetta. It’s a wish that they would do a better job. Because they show at times that they can, and because they put out rather interesting subjects that I would love to not have to avoid.

5 – Yes, my blog and youtube channel are safe zones for expletives. No, that does not make them x-rated. Nor is it clickbaity. It’s a release and a choice. Made by me, for me. It may rub some people the wrong way. But…tough.

6 – Come to think of it, I do take offense to one thing said about me in the original thread – that I swear at my compressor. I absolutely do not. I tell it to shut up.

Have a great weekend.

Su-35 Battle Royale, Part 1: Antebellum

It’s been a little over a  year since my last build review – of Kitty Hawk’s maddening Su-17 Fitter. Why haven’t I returned to the well sooner? A few reasons.

  • One. These reviews take a lot of time and effort – especially shooting and editing and publishing the videos.
  • Two. I wanted to use my bench time for actually building kits. Or, let’s be honest about 2017, starting and then abandoning builds.
  • Three. There honestly just haven’t been many kits that I’ve been interested in reviewing.
  • Four. While these reviews have stirred up some excellent discussions, they also stir up petty bullshit from a small minority. And as Neal Stephenson so wonderfully wrote in Cryptonomicon, “arguing with anonymous strangers on the internet is a sucker’s game because they almost always turn out to be – or to be indistinguisahble from – self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts free time.” It’s…a bit tiresome.

A Contender

Last year, Kitty Hawk released a 1/48 Su-35, and I was absolutely not interested in it, or in any other Kitty Hawk kit after the extremely sour taste the Fitter left in my mouth.

But then Great Wall Hobby announced that they, too, were going to be releasing an Su-35.

A plan began to form. A versus build, stacking two kits of the same subject against each other.

All I had to do was wait for the Great Wall kit to release. This week, the kit finally hit US shores. Orders were placed, and now here we are.  Continue reading

All About that Base

Bases have never really been my thing. In part, I think, because the focus of my modeling has typically leaned more toward aircraft, where bases are mostly an afterthought.

I’ve only ever put one aircraft on a base…and then only because the collapsed main gear would be too confusing without context.

But there are two other factors at play.

One, I’ve never felt like I have a head for picturing and executing bases. Whenever I’ve tried, I’ve rabbit-holed. I’ve gotten hung up on stupid shit. I’ve had trouble getting the drama I want out of them.

And two, I think probably 75-80% of bases look like shit. Instead of adding to a build, they detract from it.

I certainly haven’t been too happy with mine, historically. Too flat. Too single-element. Boring.

Meh.

 

When you do a base solely because the tires don’t sit level…

When you have a vision and can’t carry it off…

But then, I decided to add a base to my Takom AML-90. Three and a half years after my last attempts. Coming off a motivational collapse and housecleaning.

And even though I have only the slightest idea of what I’m doing, it came together rather well.

Perfect? Far from it. I should have played with the AML more before hitting it with mud. I should have made the shoulder stripe on the road narrower. I’m not entirely happy with the grass. I could have varied up the mud tones a bit more.

But it’s a start. And a hell of a lot more lively than my previous attempts.

It’s also awakened a desire to do even more bases.

The Patriot

The Patriot launcher and its M983 HEMTT, together, make for a rather long subject. Just about two feet. More than I trust a foam base to stand up to, so I’m stealing an old, unused 10×30 shelf.

If you look at deployed Patriots, sometimes they are set up on slopes – makes sense considering the advantages of the high ground and all that. And they often have some kind of blast barricade arrayed behind them. Here’s a handy example showing both.

My aim isn’t this exactly…but certainly inspired by this. Inclined slope, stabilizer legs up on risers, gravel, with blast walls behind. But perhaps a different climate, and perhaps some blast marks, like so…

I’ve got some ideas on how to pull this off, but it’s going to be awhile in the offing, given the scale of the build and how far I have to go.

The T-72B3

Another base I’m actively playing with is for Meng’s T-72B3. In this case, I’m taking inspiration from the Tank Biathlon, and this shot of a T-72 ramping over a small hill.

As with the Patriot, I’ve got many more miles to go, but I did some proof-of-concept testing a few nights ago to see if I could even pull this off. And with some fishing weights added where the engine would typically reside, well…

I can’t wait to play with pulling this one off, from the garish scheme and the varied terrain, the snow in places, to the icicles under the unditching log.

Way more planned…

I have to say, it feels great to be at a point where I’m feeling highly motivated again, and if anything held back by too many things I eagerly want to work on. In addition to the Patriot and T-72, I’ve got longer-term plans for doing fun things with a URAL-4320, M270 MLRS, AMX-13, and a few others that are mostly at the concept stage.

Stay tuned for more, and for I guess learning along with me as I slog through these attempts.