For October’s Sprue Cutters Union, The Combat Workshop asks:
Whether it’s a part of the assembly process, a finishing technique, or a particular tool, what do you think are the essential aspects you cannot afford to cut corners on during a build?
Holy shit! I could go on and on about various imperatives and areas where I just won’t skimp. But then I’d be rambling on, and on, and on. Instead, I’m going to restrict my focus to one specific area that people may not expect.
The best kit, the most beautiful paintwork, the crispest details can be ruined by shitty decals.
Back a few years ago, I built Tamiya’s 1/48 Fw 190A-3. As kits go it’s good, if a bit simplistic compared to newer options. I took it on as a quick build to break in the then-new bench, as I’d just moved and gotten everything set up.
Everything was going more or less fine until the decals…
I got lazy and used Tamiya’s kit decals, and they were just awful. They refused to settle, and the carrier film was so thick that the borders are visible even under clear coats.
I mean, look at that. That’s after aggressive setting solution application, pushing the damn thing down with a q-tip, you name it. In my attempts to get it to lay down over that damn hinge detail, it tore. Which is why you only see finished photos of the starboard side.
That Fw 190 has long since become a paint mule.
At the Austin contest this past weekend, I saw a lot of builds mired by shitty decals or decal work. There was a helicopter that looked like it had the decals applied over a flat coat, and then the builder just called it a day. There were others where the decals stretched, tarp-like, across panel lines. Or where, like my 190, they were so thick that the edges were plainly visible.
So, how do you go about ensuring that you’re using good decals? Actual build reviews can count for a lot here, as can industry reputation. Yeah there’s always that one person who had no problems whatsoever with Tamiya’s decals, but the consensus opinion is that decals are Tamiya’s biggest weakness (though there are a few limited edition boxings that include Cartograf-printed sheets of fantastic quality).
Academy was known for terrible decals for a long time, and they’ve done something about it. Over the last two or so years, all of their new releases have been putting a lot of emphasis on decal quality, up to and including putting a big “Printed by Cartograf” on the box.
A good rule of thumb might be – don’t trust kit decals unless you have a reason to do so. But as decals become a point of competition, I expect this to become less of a factor. Hopefully one day, going aftermarket will strictly be a matter of choice, not quality.
Speaking of aftermarket decals, they are generally good…but quality varies and again it’s best to go off reputation and your own experiences. I’ve had, for example, fantastic experiences with Furball Aero-Design, KitsWorld and Barracuda.
So yeah. Good decals. They can make a world of difference.