If you’ve ever taken a photo of a model, you’ve almost certainly experienced it. A depth of field too shallow to show your entire build in sharp focus.

While it’s easy to mitigate on certain subjects, like figures and particularly squat tanks, it can be a real challenge to overcome on subjects with more splayed out geometries, such as long aircraft and ships. Even in the armor world, something like a T-72 with a ridiculously long barrel can be difficult to keep in focus.

Illustrative example. In this shot, the nose of the F-104 is nice and sharp, but nothing else is.

And if priority is placed on bringing the tail into focus, we lose the nose. Fuck.

What’s Happening?

Now, I’m not going to bother with an overly technical explanation of the way that optics work. To keep it simple, every optical system has a depth of field – a particular distance in front of and behind the focal point that is in focus. This depth of field varies based on a number of factors, such as aperture (the size of the lens opening) and distance to subject.

Our eyes have this feature, too, only we don’t notice it so much because we have a highly evolved, fast-switching autofocus capability. Still images don’t have that luxury, being, well, still images.

Aperture and depth of field (from here on, just DOF) have an inverse relationship. At a large aperture, such as f/2, a camera is letting in a ton of light, but outside of a specific focal point, that light is scattered over a much larger area, so it does not resolve sharply. At a smaller aperture, such as f/22, you’re essentially forcing light to travel through a much smaller opening, giving it less area to scatter. While this means less light, if you can hold the shutter open for a longer period of time, the smaller aperture and decreased scatter with yield a deeper DOF.

Subject distance matters because everything is relative. It’s easy to keep an entire mountain in focus because the thing is far away, so the distance between a face here and a crag there is nothing to the camera. Slap on a macro lens and try to shoot a picture of a bee or something, and the extremely close distance can give you shots where only a part of the bee is in focus.

How to Fix It

There are four ways to address DOF issues.

  1. Crank down your aperture. Pushing your aperture smaller and smaller will, because of the inverse relationship, give you an increasingly deep DOF. There’s a tradeoff, however. Past a certain point, you pretty much must have a tripod. And the required shutter speeds can make shooting tedious. I’ve been known to shoot 6 second exposures at f/36.
  2. Increase your distance-to-subject. Backing off from your subject will help keep more of it in focus, but this is not ideal because 1) you will then have to crop in and lose some resolution and 2) perspective shifts will limit your creative options. See my previous post of Focal Length for a more thorough rundown.
  3. Get a smaller image sensor. Just as a larger aperture yields a narrower DOF, so does a larger image sensor. At equivalent apertures, a full-frame DSLR will have a narrower DOF than a point-and-shoot. The downside to this option is trading all the other benefits of a larger sensor for this one upside.
  4. Stack multiple images. Thanks to computers, these days it is possible “stack” multiple images with multiple focus points so that they stitch together into a single image where your entire subject is in focus.

This last technique is the focus of this post.

Focus Stacking – What You Need

If you’re familiar with HDR photography, you might be aware that it is, essentially, exposure stacking. You take multiple shots of the same scene at different exposure settings, and then blend them together to pull more details out of both the highlights and the shadows.

I go through a more detailed explanation of HDR in my Tonal Crush post if you’re curious.

Focus stacking does the same thing, but with images using different focus points.

To pull this off you need a few things.

  • A camera that lets you control focus. Whether by manual focus or by selecting specific focus points. Some cameras are now set up to do this automatically, and there are devices, such as Arsenal, that can kinda-sorta do it on their own. But the focus of this post is a bit more hands-on.
  • A tripod. It’s almost impossible to shoot handheld and stay in the same position and select different focus points all at the same time.
  • Focus stacking software. There are several options available, but of the ones I’ve tried, the most straightforward and consistent (perhaps because I’m used to the ways of Adobe) is Photoshop.

Focusing Your Stack – Importing and Loading Up

First thing’s first. Take pictures. Set up your camera and move from focal points near to far. Using my Nikon D850, I prefer to do this by using the tap-to-focus capability on the Live View monitor. But how you choose to do it doesn’t really matter. Once you have your images, dump them to your computer.

Personally, I use Adobe Lightroom to keep everything organized and do a good amount of my photo optimizing. Here, you can see the six exposures we’re going to be playing with for this example:

Now, Lightroom doesn’t support Focus Stacking (yet), so we have to move these images into Photoshop. It’s best to do so as layers, rather than a bunch of individual files. To do so, just right click, then select Edit In > Open as Layers in Photoshop.

Depending on the size of your files (D850 RAW files are…large) it might take a few moments to load everything up. When it’s done, you’ll see something like this. Note the different images are represented as different layers in the lower right panel.

Next, Auto-Align the Layers

Why? Because if you don’t, there’s a chance that you’ll get weird distortions in your final output. Aligning the layers is a quick step that erases that possibility.

First, select all the layers…

And then head to the main navbar and select Edit > Auto-Align Layers.

You’ll probably want to let Photoshop figure it out, so leave it on Auto.

Then hit OK and let it do its thing.

Will it Blend?

Once you’ve aligned the layers, it’s time to blend them. Go back to Edit, but this time select Auto-Blend Layers.

Be sure to select Stack Images as your blend method, then click OK and let Photoshop do it’s thing.

After a few minutes, you’ll get your output, all nice and in focus. Save it and head back to Lightroom to do any tweaks.

That’s…pretty much it. Is it a tedious process? Certainly. But it gets you to images that are nice and crisp from nose to tail and everywhere in between. Maybe overboard for something as simple as a “hey I glued the damn fuselage together” shot, but something to have in the toolkit for those final glamor shots.

How to Focus Stack Your Images

Welcome to the Stressed Skin Era

Over this past weekend, news broke wide open that Wingnut Wings, prolific maker of excellent World War I kits that aren’t Nieuports or SPADs, is developing a 1/32 Avro Lancaster.

Somewhere across the Pacific, the HK Models Team is currently banging their foreheads into their keyboards repeatedly. After all, they were supposed to release their own Lancaster years ago, but went back to revise it and, among other things, it was said they were going to incorporate a stressed skin effect into the surface detail. Then, when it broke cover…no stressed skin.

I’ve seen a few apologist comments about how the size of the CAD files made adding stressed skin prohibitive. 

Wingnut Wings clearly has a different take.

Continue reading

1/32 Italeri F-104G Part 1 – The Pre-Build

Two and a half years ago, I put the finishing touches on Italeri’s big F-104, which I’d built as an Italian F-104S ASA.

At the time, I was not particularly kind to the kit.

The kit has just enough charm to pull you through the early stages of the build, and once you’re closing the fuselage, you’re kind of committed. There’s a lot of grumbling about the trench-like panel lines and all…honestly those didn’t bother me that much. What did bother me was the sloppy molding, which left separation lines on every damn thing, the sloppy fit, which is easy enough to hide with massive pieces like wings, but becomes apparent late in the build when antennas and such are 1) tiny, 2) in need of cleanup and 3) too big to fit in their damn holes.

Now, for whatever reason, I’m in the initial stages of building another.

Oh, right…

Does this mean that I’ve revised my opinion of the kit? Not really. If anything, it means I get to go into the build with my eyes wide open to the various issues that will have to be faced and challenges overcome.

With that in mind, I thought it might be productive to do a rundown of considerations and plans of attack. Not only to organize them for myself, but for others who may be tackling this kit in the future. Continue reading

The Vision Thing…

In my recent post digging into the various mental hangups and obstructions that have been screwing with my ability to get kits off the bench in a completed state, I touched on the idea of vision:

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.

It’s perhaps fitting that, a few days after throwing this post up, I finished my fourth build of the year, and one that was driving entirely by a strong vision.

In the afterglow of what I think might be my favorite armor build to date, at least in terms of the end result, I’ve decided to put “The Vision Thing” to the test in two upcoming builds.

Both of these builds are inspired by really strong references photos that just burrowed into my brain and insisted on being realized. Continue reading

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.