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).
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.
When I was building models as a kid, my only connection to the larger modeling world was the rare trip to a hobby shop and the occasional purchase of an issue of FSM. I had no idea there were clubs, or contests, or anything of the kind. I didn’t know any other kids who modeled anything like seriously. Adults either.
When I came back to the hobby, I came back to a fully formed online community (and marketplace) and it was staggering to behold. For all the pettiness that goes on, the internet has transformed this hobby for the better in terms of information exchange and access to products.
I went through a lot of different paint brands before landing in a happy place with Tamiya and Gunze Mr. Color. Then I tried Mr Paint (MRP). Holy shitsnacks. The spray performance is second-to-none, and coverage builds in a wonderfully linear fashion, so you can easily hover in near-transparency, or get solid coverage with even yellows and reds.
If you haven’t given it a shot, and you have the ventilation to spray lacquers, it’s worth checking out.
Online retail has broken open a literal world of kits, decals, paint and aftermarket goodies. And while I still partake of Sprue Brothers, Hannants and the occasional eBay purchase, Matthew Bole’s Hobbyworld-USA has become my go-to, especially for many of the excellent products that are difficult to source from elsewhere. The aforementioned Mr Paint, Aizu masking tape, KASL resin goodies…it’s always a pleasure when a #bolebox shows up on my doorstep.
When I was a kid, the dominant players in my hobby world were Monogram, Revell, Testors, and I guess AMT/ERTL. Tamiya and Hasegawa existed, but the Michaels where I got most of my kits didn’t carry them. Accurate Miniatures came onto the scene toward the end of my childhood modeling “career”.
These days, a lot of those players are either gone or more-or-less irrelevant. Tamiya still makes substantial waves in the hobby, and Hasegawa can when they decide to drop new-tools. But even since I’ve returned to the hobby, the entry of new kit and aftermarket players is staggering to behold. HK Models, Great Wall Hobby, Meng, Takom, AMK, Rye Field, and Tanmodel, among others, are redefining our expectations of what a modern, non-Tamiya kit can deliver. Eduard has moved into resin accessories. DEF Model is offering some truly awesome wheels. KASL, still difficult to source over here, is churning out resin goodies that should make everyone else wake up and pay attention. Gaspatch out of Greece is doing metal turnbuckles and some rather nice WWI machine guns.
There’s a lot of awesome out there and – increasingly – less of a reason to settle for poorly-detailed, poorly-engineered trash if you don’t want to.
Maketar and DIY Paint Masks
We’ll always need decals for things like stencil data. But for insignias and major markings, paint masks are the shit, especially as you go up in scale.
Unfortunately, paint masks can be a dicey proposition due to the bespoke nature of the category. Having to go through – and depend on – one person for masks presents a staggering bottleneck. My favorite supplier just went dark one day. Others go through this cycle of announcing they are no longer taking on custom work, but can’t seem to get a simple ecommerce site up to scale their effort. Then there’s Maketar. In addition to actually having a website where you can buy things, Maketar wisely focuses on a mix of both subject markings (say for Tamiya’s F4U-1 Corsair) and more general sets – things like national insignia. You can even specify the exact sizing you need. Crazy!
For even more bespoke needs, I’ve recently picked up a Silhouette Cameo. I’m still learning the damn thing and getting it dialed in, but it offers a compelling new tool in the toolbox.
Such a great way to pass time at the bench, and free, unlike audiobooks. My two current obsessions are Star Wars Oxygen and History Matters.
Kitmakers Pushing the Envelope
There’s a set out there that seems to take some kind of perverse pride in forking over premium kit money for decidedly not premium kits. If that’s your thing…
For me, though, it’s the ones pushing the envelope that get my attention (and money). Wingnut’s superlative surface detail and engineering. Tamiya’s 1/32 mic drops. HK Models swinging for the fences with a one-piece Mosquito wing. Tanmodel employing 3D laser scanning to develop kits so accurate that they’ve even proven the experts wrong. Great Wall Hobby and AMK for their one-piece missiles. Tanmodel, AMK and others for actively engaging with the community on social channels. Meng, for trying to bring Bandai-style construction to WWII aircraft.
There’s a lot more I could roll through here…but amid all the hullabaloo over Kitty Hawk’s serial disappointments, it’s important to remember that there are far, far more manufacturers pushing this hobby forward in interesting and exciting ways.
The People (most of them)
Modeling is by its nature a solitary hobby. I know its possible to build in the same room as someone else, but it’s still a solitary hobby. Which makes the community interesting. We’re all coming together to geek out over something we do in our garages and basements and utility rooms and sometimes, kitchen tables.
I’ve met some great people through this hobby – some literally down the road, and others across the world. The diversity of opinion and experience and taste, all gathered around a common hobby, is simply awesome. Mostly.