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.

Not the first time

Wingnut’s Lancaster isn’t the first example of stressed skin. An argument could be made that Kinetic’s 1/32 F-86 was the first to show this in injection plastic, and Airfix’s 1/24 Typhoon certainly carried off the effect.

Not the last time, either

If you think the Wingnut Lancaster is going to be an aberration, guess again. If you think they didn’t take some inspiration from the Airfix Typhoon, guess again. As in any competitive industry, innovations get copied and spread far and wide. Look at the profusion of slide molding, of one-piece barrels for tanks, of one-piece missiles in more and more modern aircraft kits.

When I was a kid, raised panel lines were the norm. Though that was also in part due to what was available at the Michaels where I bought most of my kits growing up. Monogram and Testors, oh my. 

Still. Recessed panel lines had been around for some time, even then, and in the late 80s and 90s they pretty much completely displaced raised panel lines. Today, you can’t really find a new-tool aircraft kit that doesn’t use recessed panel lines. If there is raised detail, it’s saved for rivets and other fasteners. 

I can’t say for certain what the adoption curve is going to look like, but I’m going to say it now – the Wingnut Lancaster is a watershed moment. It is the arrival of full-on, slap-you-in-the-face stressed skin effects represented in plastic. In a scale that’s not a novelty (even if the size of this particular subject makes it one).

Nobody cares about Airfix doing whatever the fuck on their 1/24 aircraft, because they don’t play in 1/32 and haven’t been carrying the effect down to 1/48 scale. So the Typhoon is an aberration.

With the Lancaster, though, all bets are off. Now that they’ve busted out of the Great War, who knows what they’ll pull out next. A 1/32 Bf 109G-6? A Spitfire Mk.XIV? A Beaufighter to make all three people who love those hideous things happy? Whatever it is, you can bet it’ll have stressed skin.

For Tamiya, who’s used to rolling up and dropping a definitive version of a subject in 1/32, the threat of something on the level of that Lancaster is one they can’t take lightly. Anybody making WWII-era aircraft in 1/32 scale especially will be dipping their toes into this new water. 

A decade from now, we might well be shunning some new 1/32 kit because they couldn’t even be bothered to add even a hint of surface variation. 

8 thoughts on “Welcome to the Stressed Skin Era

  1. Stressed Metal – Nice! Always thought that many models miss that look and models just don’t have that same realism without it.

  2. I love how our hobby is changing – I was ‘happy’ with my Academy Su-27 5 years ago with a bit of PE etc, this year the GWH Su blew that away (well the plastic)… I have the HKM B-17, and was thinking of starting it soon, now more so, as my wife says ‘finish what you’ve got’… If anything, this is a good example of why having a large stash is bad – I have Fw190/BE109s in 1/48 I can’t be bothered with now… and kits like the B-17 1/32 that are going to take months (years) to build, meanwhile, every month a wonderful new kit is launched… so I need to get on with it… build build or sell sell…

  3. Actually, Airfix have carried the effect across to 1/48 with their recent Walrus. Its interesting to wonder whether this is the start of non WW1 kits, or just a one off due to Peter Jackson’s Dambuster film

  4. There has been some discussion about this over at the ww1aircraftmodels forum, and the impression I got is that this is a one-off because of Peter Jackson’s upcoming Dam Busters film and that the emphasis will continue to be on WWI models. I doubt we’ll see a BF-109 or Spitfire, but I certainly don’t claim to know.

    https://forum.ww1aircraftmodels.com/index.php?topic=9840.0

    On page 7 of the above link, there is this quote from the site admin: “Dave Johnson of Wingnut Wings reassures members the main focus of Wingnuts is WW1 aircraft. That’s official folks. I prescribe two Halberstadts as a remedy to the upset dispositions.”

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