Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That

The Combat Workshop asks an interesting question this month:

do you bother with details that won’t necessarily be seen on the finished model?

The short answer? No.

The longer answer? Usually not. It really depends on what “won’t necessarily be seen” means.

Will it be completely and totally invisible even with one of those colonoscopy cameras?

Like, say, the actual bodies of jet engines? Then hell no, I won’t detail it. I’m sorry, but “I know it’s there” is just an excuse for some weird OCD thing. The engine will be encased in plastic. It will never be seen. Why the hell would you waste paint on that? Hell, when it comes to something like that, I assemble only the bare minimum needed structurally and call it a day.

“Detailing” on Trumpeter’s big A-6E engines

Will it be invisible unless a colonoscopy camera is used?

If something might be visible, but only through some weird, unnatural means, fuck it. Not happening. Case in point – the top runs of tracks on tanks with prominent side skirts. If we’re talking rubber bands, fine. But if we’re talking some of those meticulous maddening indy link getups, why would I bother assembling another three hundred tiny pieces that will never be seen and convey zero benefit?

But what about the top run that’s so lazy!?!?



Will it just be hard to see?

There are a lot of areas on models that might be hard to see but are still visible from various angles. On aircraft, areas like landing gear bays and bomb bays come to mind.

These I will detail as much as makes sense. Take the A-6 Intruder or the F-16 Viper. Their main gear bays are rather more visible “on the ground”, whereas something like the F-5B Freedom Fighter I’m working on now has its bays stuck up in the wings where you basically have to pick the damn thing up to inspect them.

For the former, I will make modest additions with wire and such to busy the place up. For the later, painting and weathering suffice.

The same holds for a lot of cockpit detail. On subjects with huge cockpit apertures – like the A-6 Intruder or P-47 Thunderbolt, I will go to town with detail. But when you’re looking at something like an F4F Wildcat, why bother? Focus on the seat, instrument panel and armored  bulkhead and call it a day.

The only real exception? Wingnut Wings kits. A lot of Great War aircraft have tiny little cockpit apertures, but the WNW kits are so stuffed with detail that it’s hard to draw a line. Though generally anything behind the seat or in front of the instrument panel gets half-assed treatment.

On Engines

Engines – particularly radial engines – may seem to be an exception here, since I do tend to go to lengths to make them look decent.

Exhibit A: Trumpeter P-47
Exhibit B: Hasegawa Ki-84
Exhibit C: Tamiya F4U-1 Corsair

But the thing with radials is that I only pay any real attention to the parts that will be visible – the crankcase, ignition ring and wiring and the forward faces of the cylinders. Unless I’m going to be displaying the engine opened up, I don’t bother with the rest aside from just being consistent with the paint and washes.

Because…why bother? Once the R-2800 is shoved into a cowl, all you’ll see is the front facing portions. So why get bent out of shape about detailing the tops of the cylinders, or all the exhaust snakework behind the cylinders?

So..back to the short answer…no…if it can’t be seen I don’t bother detailing it.

How about you?

16 Comments Add yours

  1. Howard Kilburn says:

    Brilliant Doogs….u echo my thoughts

  2. will2003 says:

    Same here ………………….. saves time to build more models! Not criticizing anyone who wishes to, but you can’t “explain” what it “looks like” to the viewer!

    1. Doogs says:

      To me…it’s like building sets and costumes and filming takes for a scene that you know for certain will not be in the final movie.

  3. tonyallen13 says:

    i think you are right, why spend ages detailing interiors only to hide all this work. i am building HK MOSQUITO where most detail is visible.

  4. “fuck it” is EXACTLY what i say.

  5. Ted Briscoe says:

    I agree also. Kits and accessories are expensive already….adding detail to something that is going to be encased in plastic from China is a waste of resources.

  6. atcDave says:

    Yeah I’m not going to spend much time on hard to see details.
    Although even as I say that, I know I’ve gotten carried away a time or two! And a couple times I’ve had an “oh shoot, I can see that” moment that required much more work than if I’d done it right the first time!
    But mostly I like getting things done. And I dislike wasting time.

  7. Ian says:

    I agree in principle, but at my skill level ( beginner) I use interior detail and colour to gain experience where it won’t necessarily be seen. check final colours for the exterior coats and basically “warm up”. Also with limited old models to check reactions with paints and washes the runners and excess parts are great to experiment with.
    Hope this different perspective helps

  8. Andrew says:

    My thoughts are a little different. If a kit manufacturer eg Tamiya, Trumpeter etc have gone to the effort to research and take the time to reproduce particular areas of a subject, then surely those areas areas deserve to be built and represented like the original, visible or not on the completed kit. I’m not a stickler for absolute accuracy unless it’s a subject that I specialise in, however some kits are worth the extra money to boost their appearance and accuracy. The one kit that does spring to mind for me would be something like the Airfix 1/48 BAe Hawk T.Mk.1 and 100 series. These kits are easy to build and are of a nice size however the cockpits are sparse and what detail is there, isn’t particularly inspiring. As the kit is relatively cheap, I’d be tempted to and have done this myself, throw a Neomega resin cockpit and a set of Eduard PE at it and possibly some aftermarket decals from Xtradecal or Model Alliance if you choose to go with different scheme. Extra details such as the internal crew boarding steps can be easily scratch built and if building a Red Arrow, the smoke dye dispersal tubes above the exhaust can also be added using some wire or something. At the end of the day, it’s all down to personal choice and whether or not you can be bothered to spend that little bit of extra time to work on area that may not be seen until that 0.01% chance that someone might look or ask the question “Have you done….”

    1. Doogs says:

      But I would submit that all of the things you mention are visible details – the cockpit is totally fair game for going to town, especially with one that has a huge view in like the Hawk. The smoke tubes are a specific (and I’m assuming visible) detail.

      What I’m talking about is something like…the engine itself. I don’t know if (and don’t think) the Airfix Hawk includes the full trunk Adour engine, but consider something like the Great Wall MiG-29 with full-trunk Klimov RD-33s. They are not visible in the final build at all (there’s not even a provision to show them with open panels). When I get to mine, they will only be built if it’s structurally necessary to show the front and rear fan faces (and I think only the rear considering the Fulcrum’s weird intake setup).

      Good case in point is the Kitty Hawk AH-1Z I built earlier this year. The kit includes engines and the ability to show panels opened up to access them. But since I was building them closed I didn’t even bother putting the engine parts in.

  9. I will take shortcuts if I am 100% certain the detail will not be seen. Spare time is hard to come by. I will say that I have never considered not doing a full run of track on a model. My OCD may over rule me on that.

    Great post though…definitely stirs some though.

  10. Ted Upcott says:

    First my disclosure. I don’t have your talent nor do I go to the level of detail that you do. But if the kit has the part I’ll glue it on. Take the picture then close it up. I’m like Ian (in previous comments), I need the practice and use it to test new ideas.

  11. Noel Smith says:

    Posts made interesting reading. A point worth making? Manufacturers who make kits with pointless detail that will be rendered totally invisible when the kit is built built are simply adding unnecessary cost to the kit. I personally cannot see the point in wasting valuable model making time on unseen detail when the time could be better spent getting on with something else.

  12. Aidan says:

    I always detail my interior pieces because I never really know what is going to be shown. Its kinda like better safe then sorry.

  13. smithbrandon0 says:

    Great article. I agree – bare minimum on stuff that won’t be seen, but I’ll still assemble it.

    I build models as a hobby, an engineer and a history geek. Modeling is where you get to combine them all. So I’ll assemble engines and other internals to see how they were designed and how they interacted with the whole design…but no sanding, filling and certainly no paint.

    Also, most of my aircraft builds are flying – they hang from the ceiling because shelf space is at a premium. I find that if you close the cockpit, say good-bye to detail. And there’s certainly no reason to go through the hell of a resin cockpit for a shut canopy, no matter how transparent you can get it.

    If you ever need material for a rant, you can go on about how almost all aircraft builds were never intended to shut the gear doors.

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