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.

The Internet

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.

Mr Paint

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.

Fresh Blood

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.


13 Comments Add yours

  1. jonsteed47 says:

    no th’nk you for everything but I just wish there w’s ‘ figure modeler who did the s’me thing if you know of one ple’se tell me & ‘g’in th’nk you .

  2. Jeremy says:

    Well said Matt!!! Thank you for pointing out the true highlights and positives that CAN be found in this hobby. I’m sure there are those of us who will be banned, kicked, ridiculed, booted…(do I need to contintue?) for siding with you and others; however, I have said it many times and I’ll say it again, just for the sake of doing so. I like the matter-of-fact approach. Don’t sugar coat it, tell them whats good and what flat out sucks!

  3. Gus says:

    Nice piece again Matt. Please keep telling it like you see it – I’d rather have an honest appraisal of a kit before I fork out some serious cash. As you say so many great options around now. Can’t wait for some of the Tanmodels stuff to hit the shelves. Even looking forward to the new Trumpeter Mig-29A despite it, no doubt, getting canned by the ‘experts’.

    1. Doogs says:

      I’m waiting to see the MiG-29’s sprues. I can totally live with some minor accuracy goofs (though the little 1/72 kits are pretty well regarded I believe), but curious as to the engineering.

  4. Ben says:

    Thanks for a positive start to my day. Yesterday ended with a kitten jumping on a half finished 1/48 f-22 and snapping all the landing gear off.

    Anyway, it’s about time I contributed. How do I contribute to the review fund/upkeep/whatever?

  5. mickel63 says:

    Well said Matt. we have not always seen eye to eye but there has away been respect for my opinion, and for yours. On this I’m with you 1000%. KH needs to pay attention to us. we need to stay with the Model makers that want to be great, and help them get there. I, you, many others can build anything, but for $80.00 it better be sweet !! DONT back off from them. storms come and go, OUR hobby will be better when this one is over.

  6. pmoosh says:

    You nailed it!!

  7. Mike says:

    Thanks Matt. You’re a breath of fresh air with your lighthearted and amusingly irreverent insights into the world of modelling. You’re also a great source of inspiration and a go-to for technique. Thanks too for the dedication with which you keep providing us with your thoughts on the hobby we share.

  8. Steve Jantscher says:

    Hang in there Matt. I’m mostly a silent “lurker”, but you’ve motivated me into trying my first effort at black-basing my RyeField M1 Abrams, and so far so good.
    I started up my “adult phase” of modeling after the first Gulf War, and was lucky to be where there was an active IPMS club scene. Nothing improved my modeling ability like being near and seeing what the better modelers could do. Now with the Internet, motivation (and techniques) are just a click away. For me, you’re that “click”!

  9. Valkyrie013 says:

    Good article! Lots to be grateful for in the hobby, but a question.. May be worth a whole article to explain.
    Fresh blood, and I’m not talking about new kit makers.
    I go to most of the IPMS contests in the Florida area, and formerly Lousiana/Texas. And I have to say, the US model builder Age is becoming a problem.. most people at the contest are all over 50 usually. ( some under 40’s but there a minority), so I guess the question is.. How do we as a model builder socity, get younger people to join the hobby?? With young adult attention spans the size of a nat.. how does one get them to sit down?
    I’m not worried for the hobby in a world wide sense, most of the rest of the world reguards model building as a sort of “Art” or atleast its respected, plenty of new builders in Japan, Europe etc. However, in the US its treated as playing with toys by the public at large, not taken seriously, With some people not even knowing it exists.
    So just wondering your take on this subject! Thanks! Learning alot from this site!

    1. Jeremy Elliott says:

      Valkyrie, I remember as a kid, several kids my age, at the time, were building models. Now, like you, it is very rare that we see kids doing models. One thing that contributes to the lack of younger people is sadly to say, video games. Myself, I build with my son, who is 11. He has different likes when it comes to models than I do, but that is what is so fun about it. He prefers armor and boats, I prefer aircraft. When we visit a model shop, I let him pick out what HE wants to make sure its interesting to him. I think if more people would or could figure out how to get kids involved would help. This past year, I took several of my kits to my sons school for Science Night. They do a couple of these nights a year and this specific one related to flight. I had more people than I expected stop by and look at my builds. A majority of the fathers who came by, made the comment that they built models as a kid and didnt even realize you could still get models.
      I think the lack of interest is a correlation to the lack of marketing. I remember, it was easy to go to any department store or hobby store and pick up a kit for very little money. Granted, these kits were mostly the old Revell, Monogram, Lindberg or AMT/Ertl kits; but, you could find them almost anywhere. Now, they are harder to find. Yes, Hobby Lobby and Michael’s sells them here in the states, and the local hobby shops are a thing of the past. But you dont see them advertised as much anywhere. And the cost of many kits has skyrocketed out of the budget of a lot of people.

    2. Doogs says:

      I’ve written about this before, but basically, looks can be deceiving. There are plenty of younger modelers out there. There are plenty of returnees in their late 20s, 30s, 40s.

      But who has time to make it to club meetings? Who has time for (or even awareness of) local shows/contests?

      Guys in their 50s.

      I have three kids. I have work. I can’t skip out on either to drive the wrong way across town to go to club meetings. I make it to one or two shows a year. And I’m pretty into it. It’s just that the “go out in public” aspect of the hobby is very definitely the least part of it for me – and likely for many others as well.

      As for kid-aged modelers…I’m a firm believer that you can’t really force anyone into modeling. It’s a self-selecting thing. But things like World of Tanks and War Thunder and hell, Gundams and so on are a great entry vehicle into modeling. A lot of the surge in “weird” or “esoteric” armor of the last few years (Soviet T-26 anyone?) is directly attributable to World of Tanks and a surging interest in lesser-known armor subjects. Back in my day, the WWII flight sim Aces of the Pacific is what got me into WWII subjects. Video games aren’t competition…they’re gateways.

  10. Marc D. says:

    As with what I read here, I enjoy a good review that is not afraid to point out that something is going to be “crap” , as long as it’s an honest critique, not a hatin’ on something just because it isn’t a shake and bake build or it’s not from the current favorite company of the moment.
    If given the chance, I would build the SU-17, a least it’s at my own peril. 🙂 Same with the F-35 from KH. Then again, I also enjoy the build just for the sake of building and learning, ecspecially since I’ve gotten back into building.
    Keep up the honest work Doogs, very much appreciated.

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