In mid-2010, nearly a decade, two kids, two dogs, and six jobs ago, I was restless. With our daughter’s birth weeks away, I was casting about for something I could do at home, and that I could easily step away from to deal with newborn stuff. My wife suggested that I give modeling a shot. I’d done it as a kid, after all, and it seemed less of an investment than my idea of restoring an old Land Rover.
Looking back, maybe fixing up a Series III 109 would have been the cheaper route!
Modeling got its hooks into me fast. It proved an amazing decompression tool, and a great way to disengage my brain and let it chew away at other things in the background. It let me work with my hands. It kept me from going stir crazy. It led to stupid fights on the internet.
Everyone’s doing those decade challenge posts right now, but I thought it’d be interesting to do a retrospective on every single damn thing I’ve built since picking the hobby back up again, and see what’s changed along the way.
1- Tamiya 1/48 P-51B Mustang – “Shangri-La”
So, my first aborted attempt at modeling was with a 1/48 Revell SBD Dauntless. It’s a kit that dates back to 1960, and it’s just not very good at all. I quickly switched gears, relegated the Fail Dauntless to paint mule status, and had a go at Tamiya’s 1/48 P-51B. At the time it was already something like 15 years old, but it went together in true Tamiya fashion and gave me a strong springboard back into the hobby.
When people suggest newcomers get some garbage kit or another to cut their teeth on, I always wince. It seems to me that these mid-90s Tamiya kits are a far smoother introduction (or reintroduction) to gluing bits of plastic together and slathering them in pigments suspended in chemical solutions.
2- Accurate Miniatures SBD-3 Dauntless
Displeasure with the Revell kit aside, the Dauntless is one of my favorite aircraft. From a historical perspective, it might be the most significant aircraft the United States fielded, as it was a major workhose in the critical year of 1942. And from an aesthetic perspective, it’s got a certain functional ugliness to it that resonates with me.
The AccuMini kit is certainly far better than the Revell, but the engineering is frustrating, particularly the weird top/bottom way the cockpit builds. It makes test-fitting almost impossible, so you just have to hope it all works out.
This Dauntless also saw the beginning – and end – of my experiments using Vallejo Model Color for main paintwork. It can be done, but…
3 & 4 – Hobby Boss 1/48 F4F-3 Wildcats
After the Dauntless, I took on Hobby Boss’ Wildcat. Actually, two of them. Overall, a decent kit, with one glaring screaming flaw. The main canopy is too thick to be posed open, but doesn’t sit right with the windscreen, so can’t be posed shut, either. I had to resort to vacform canopies.
Since I was doing these for the kids, and didn’t really have much of an idea of what I was doing yet, I neglected to weather them in any way. The result is…not my favorite.
5 – Zvezda 1/48 La-5
Zvezda’s La-5 is weird. There’s a sense of…this isn’t going to work. Especially with the surprisingly busy cockpit and engine. But after a bit of finagling, everything fits into place with a suddenness that’s as satisfying as popping your neck after you’ve been trying for days.
The paint on this was White Ensign, and, well, NEVER AGAIN. This stuff wouldn’t stay in suspension with any enamel thinners, leaving just a dense paste of crap at the bottom of my airbrush.
Also, the La-5 is a gorgeous little plane, but it’s…little. It’s a crime that nobody has made a good one in 1/32.
6 – Eduard 1/48 Yak-3
This kit dates to Eduard before they got good. It’s simplistic and the detail is soft and blobby. I also made the mistake of trying to mask the camo with play-doh, which, never again. Lesson learned on that front.
7 – Tamiya 1/48 P-47D-25 Thunderbolt – “Hairless Joe”
Hands down my favorite 1/48 prop kit, Tamiya’s Jug is a masterpiece of engineering and a joy to build. This one was probably the first where I started to kick into a higher gear.
8 – Tamiya 1/35 M4 Sherman Early Production
A simple, quick-building kit. Looking at it now, I should have gone PE on the light guards and drilled out the driver’s machine gun. The weathering’s a bit simplistic, but for my first tank in a super long time, I was pretty happy with it.
9 – Eduard 1/32 Bf 109E-7 Trop
My first 1/32 build. At the time, with the display space I had, this was the upper bound of what I could do size-wise, but I really enjoyed the larger scale.
The kit itself? A mix of good and not good. The cowl is NOT designed to be installed closed, and I was about to give up and fling the damn thing into the trash when a last bit of effort caused it to seat just so.
10 – Tamiya 1/48 Mosquito NF.II
Kit was fine. Peddinghaus decals were garbage. So was my ability to paint something overall black and have it be interesting.
11 – AFV Club 1/35 Achilles Mk.IIc
A janky kit in many ways (SOOO many ejector pin marks, soft detail inside the turret, garbage tracks), but a fun one to paint and weather.
12 – Wingnut Wings 1/32 Sopwith Pup RNAS
My first experience with Wingnut. My first biplane. My first experience with rigging. And painting wood grain. A fantastic kit that I can’t recommend enough. Don’t let rigging scare you – it’s tedious, but there’s a certain zen-like thing to it, especially with these Wingnut kits.
13 – Dragon 1/35 Panzer IV Ausf G
Decent. My first experience with metal track links. I fucked up the snow effects. This build also started my discomfort with building anything SS-related.
14 – Tamiya 1/32 Spitfire Mk.VIII – “Fargo Express”
Superlative kit. Not a fan of my gun staining, the too-clean rest of the aircraft, or the chipping. But I still dig the exhaust staining I got out of this one. Believe it or not, this is actually when I started playing with varying the surface finish.
15 – Tamiya 1/48 P-51D Mustang – “Petie 2nd”
The build that got me through a layoff.
16 – Cyber-Hobby 1/35 Panzer III Ausf L “Vorpanzer”
A fun little kit where I started getting more sophisticated with my armor weathering.
17 – Tamiya 1/48 Fw-190A-3
I honestly wish I could forget this one. Not my finest hour by a long shot. I rushed to finish it before a move, for one, and the thick Tamiya decals didn’t do it any favors.
18 – Dragon 1/35 T-34/85
Another relatively quick build amid move craziness. I keep waiting for the T-34 to become the next “it tank” from Meng and Takom to tackle another one.
19 – Tamiya 1/48 P-47D-20 Thunderbolt – “Magic Carpet”
Magic Carpet is, in my opinion, one of the most striking Razorback schemes you can find, and it participated in the famous furball at airfield Y-29 during Operation Bodenplatte.
This is one where…I like the scheme, but feel that I didn’t really capture it. The metallics don’t look like bare metal. They look like silver paint.
20 – Revellogram 1/48 P-47D-20 – “The Bug”
Look. Tamiya’s Jug is superlative. But if I were to recommend a second, it would be the old Revellogram kit. It builds well and can be found cheap. Others – Hasegawa, Academy, etc – are just half-measures between the two ends of the spectrum.
21 – Pacific Coast Models 1/32 Fiat G.55 Centauro
Not a great kit, but I had a blast building it. Including scratchbuilding the flaps and certain scoops and things. This kit taught me the power of tonal crush, with the vibrant, contrasty splinter camo completely hiding small variations in the paintwork.
22- Hasegawa 1/48 N1K1 George
Bad attempts at salt chipping and salt weathering.
23 – Revell 1/48 PV-1 Ventura
Adventures in weathering tricolor camo! My first painted markings (octopus courtesy of Maketar). Weathering isn’t that hot, but it’s the out of register stars and bars that drive this one off a cliff for me.
24 – Tamiya 1/48 Dewoitine D.520
Quite possibly the last of my pre-shaded builds, and even on this one I was pushing into adding additional depth and variation. Still love the D.520 – one day I’ll go after that 1/32 Azur kit.
25 – Tamiya 1/48 P-51B Mustang – “The Hun Hunter ~ Texas”
Tamiya’s P-51B remains one of my favorite kits, and Henry Brown is a fascinating figure with some borderline ridiculous war stories. His Mustang also has a fairly rare scheme of RAF Dark Green over bare metal – it was one I knew I had to do. I think I could have done it better. One day.
26 – HK Models 1/32 B-25J Mitchell – “Bottoms-Up II”
Can’t believe it’s been 7 years since I wrapped this thing up – it’s a solid kit on its own, but also ripe for going detail crazy. When I finished mine, aftermarket wasn’t really available save for machine gun barrels and some corrected props. I’ve got two more of these – a gun-nosed J and a gunship H – that I really want to get to.
This was also the kit where I got started with black-basing in a kind of accidental discovery fashion.
27 – Hasegawa 1/32 Bf 109G-6 in Swiss service
Neutrality stripes are visually very striking, but they also trick the eye. Subtle tonal shifts in the brown and green camo get crushed together, unnoticeable. A good lesson for future builds.
28 & 29 – Eduard 1/144 MiG-21MF Fishbeds – Czech and Polish
Final quick-turn builds for 2012. These are great kits considering they can literally both fit on a business card.
30 – Hobby Boss 1/48 Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a/U4
Hobby Boss does a pretty solid job with this kit – I wish I’d done a better job with the decals. The massive nose cannon was also a bit of a mess since I was adapting a metal cannon intended for (I believe) an He 219 or Me 410 or something. This ended up being my last 1/48 WWII subject.
31 – Trumpeter 1/32 P-47D-27 Thunderbolt in French service
My first – and not my last – tangle with Trumpeter’s great-and-troubled Jug lineup. While it has its annoyances (ammo doors, leading edge gun fairings, overboard engine and turbosupercharger detail that’s invisible and complicates everything, shoddy gear struts, poor wingroot fit along the underside), I much prefer it as a kit to Hasegawa’s effort. That four-piece cowl of theirs is just awful, and I have yet to see one built that manages to hide it.
32 – Wingnut Wings 1/32 Sopwith Snipe (Late)
Second Wingnut kit. If anything, the Snipe is a better kit than the Pup.
33 – Panda 1/16 Pz.Kpfw 38(t)
Is Panda’s big 38(t) a great kit? Not really. It’d be passable in 1/35, but in 1/16 several details seem chunky. Fortunately for it, most aspects of the actual tank are pretty chunky and crude, too. 1/16 is a great size for this tiny tank though – gives it a lot of presence, but doesn’t overwhelm the way later/larger tanks do.
34 – Hasegawa `1/32 Messerschmitt Bf 109G-4/R6
When Revell released their 1/32 109G-6, I opted to do a double build alongside a Hasegawa for direct comparison. The Hasegawa got built up as a Regia Aeronautica example.
35 – Revell 1/32 Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6
Revell’s G-6 is frustrating. Like all 1/32 G-6 kits. They all get some stuff really right, and drop the ball elsewhere. And annoyingly, there’s like zero overlap in their failures.
36 – Hasegawa 1/32 Ki-84 Hayate
Good kit. Bullshit lack of aftermarket support. Happy with many parts of it, but I wince at the chipping.
37 – Trumpeter 1/32 Messerschmitt Me 262A-2a
Probably still one of my favorite builds – Trumpeter’s kit is solid, and this one reflects a real-life example abandoned off the runways at an airbase outside Innsbruck. Recreating the bare panels with puttied joins, the collapsed landing gear, the hazed canopy, all presented a fun challenge and the opportunity for an interesting, unusual presentation.
38 – Tamiya 1/35 Challenger 1 MBT
Britain’s Challenger 1 is possibly my favorite modern-ish tank. And while the Tamiya kit is solid in many respects, it pains me that we don’t have a good, modern take on the kit from Takom, Meng, RFM or the other upstarts. I thought we were heading that way after the Chieftain kits, but everyone’s fallen into a WWII-shaped hole.
39 – Trumpeter 1/48 MiG-21F-13
This abandoned F-13 didn’t come out quite the way I’d hoped, but it was a great lesson in paint fading, chipping, streaking, and masking markings.
40 – Trumpeter 1/35 T-80BV
Over the years, Trumpeter has become perhaps my favorite 35th scale manufacturer. Their kits may be a bit fussy, but the detail and engineering have gotten very good in the past few years.
41 – Hobby Boss 1/35 T-26 Mod. 1933
Better snow effects than my Panzer IV, but still something off.
42 – Trumpeter 1/35 LAV-AT
Not my finest hour. This is an older Trumpeter kit, and it shows, with a lot of what should be transparencies made up of just solid plastic. I also struggled with the weathering. Bah.
43 – Hasegawa 1/48 A-4F Skyhawk
Shiny fucking tires aside, this is one that I’m fairly happy with. Furball Aero-Design’s decals are world class.
44 – Trumpeter 1/32 Messerschmitt Bf 109G-10/U4/R2
This striking recce 109 was flown into a US airbase near the end of the war, and as such it has a handful of really good reference photos showing the interesting camoflage, missing gear doors, heavy exhaust staining, and more. Of the various late 109 kits on the market, I have to say I’ve had the most fun building Trumpeter’s offering, even if it’s not perfect.
45 – Tamiya 1/32 Vought F4U-1 “Birdcage” Corsair
Speaking of perfect kits, Tamiya’s Corsairs come damn close. Had an absolute blast on this one, though the mismatched tires – very evident in the one reference this particular aircraft has – require constant explanation.
46 – Kitty Hawk 1/48 AH-1Z Zulu Viper
Not all Kitty Hawk kits are garbage – the Zulu actually fits together quite well, and its failings are more in minor aspects of detail, such as the lack of clear seeker heads for the Hellfires, the inaccurate sensor ball, etc.
47 – Kinetic 1/48 F-5B Freedom Fighter
This kit has some serious fit issues between the forward and aft fuselages, but it was a pleasure to do the Greek camo thing. I feel like I failed capturing the filth on the aft fuselage sides though.
48 – Takom 1/35 Leopard C2
I’ve got a real weak spot for late Cold War armor. Probably because that’s when I was growing up, collecting Desert Storm trading cards, and going to airshows. Canada’s Leopard 1 “remix” is a great example, and this one was mostly fun to build, but a bit clunky compared with Takom’s newer kits.
49 – Italeri 1/32 F-104S ASA Starfighter
Italeri’s big 104 is frustration. It goes together decently, but really falls apart toward the end of the build, where attaching things like gear doors and (on the S ASA variant) antennae becomes a rolling caravan of suck. Still…I don’t even like the 104, and I’ve already built two of these.
50 – Revell 1/72 Royal Navy Sea King Hu.5
This kit was mostly decent, but the stupid landing gear and their pontoon housings were straight trash.
51 – Trumpeter 1/32 SBD-5 Dauntless
Fun with tricolor camo. Next time I build one of these, though, I will NOT be replacing the center dive flap bay. It took easily half of this thing’s total build time and added nothing to it.
52 – Tamiya 1/48 F-14A Tomcat
As usual, Tamiya turns in a great kit. It may be lacking in some small areas (gear bay detail, cockpit detail), but the fit and engineering must be experienced to be believed. Weathering TPS schemes is fun.
53 – Bandai 1/72* A-Wing
I had a picture in my head that I didn’t come all that close to pulling off with this one.
54 – Bandai 1/144 T-65 X-Wing
This tiny little starfighter was a fun, quick job to at least get something done.
55 – Takom 1/35 Panhard AML-90
This little guy was a lot of fun to work on. I will be building more in the future.
56 – Eduard 1/144 MiG-15 UTI
A silver lacquered aircraft doesn’t leave you many places to go in 1/144. Unsatisfying finish was unsatisfying.
57 – Tiger Model 1/35 Panhard ERC-90 F1 Lynx
This kit should have been the more widely-serving F4 Sagaie. Overall, the kit is solid, with a few weak spots out back. The lack of resin tires (they may exist now for all I know) also annoyed significantly. And I wish so much that someone would provide mirror decals for the mirrors, the way Tamiya does for their car kits.
58 – Meng 1/35 T-72B3
This striking blue/white/black scheme is part of Tank Biathlon livery, and was a lot of fun to paint and weather. Meng’s T-72 is a wonderful kit, which helps quite a bit.
59 & 60 – Flyhawk 1/72 Renault FT-17s
Oh wow, these kits are tiny, but very well engineered and a blast to build. If I go after them again, I’ll definitely be using the PE replacements for certain handles and brackets, though.
61 – Italeri F-104G Starfighter – Danish service
Hello, I’m a glutton for punishment. Tackling the Italeri 104 again, this time going for the extremely faded, beaten look that many Danish 104s managed to get over time.
62 – Zoukei-Mura 1/48 F-4D Phantom II
A mostly good kit with a few small foibles (thick slime light frames, shoddy control surfaces). Looking forward to building many more ZM Phantoms in time.
63 – Trumpeter 1/32 P-47D-20 Thunderbolt – “Little Rock-ette”
This striking 318th Fighter Group scheme, with blue striping and bare metal cowl and tail, has been calling out to me for some time, so I finally went for it. The Razorback kit lacks the dorsal fuselage bullshit of the bubbletops, but it makes up for it with an absolute shitshow of a windscreen installation. Again – good but troubled kit.
64 – Tamiya 1/32 Goodyear FG-1D Corsair
Weathering over gloss sea blue has always scared the shit out of me, but I finally sucked it up for this Okinawa-based VMF-323 Corsair.
65 – Hobby Boss 1/35 DANA 152mm SPG
Not gonna lie. I built this one entirely because it looks cool and has a striking camo scheme. The kit itself is not as good as Hobby Boss/Trumpeter’s newer kits, but you can see how this was an evolutionary step on the way to, say, the HEMTT or the HIMARS.
66 – Wave “1/35th-ish” Tomahawk / Warhammer / Blowy Boi
I have fond memories of the Warhammer and other mechs from childhood, but I never got into the actual RPG. So I give precisely zero fucks about various clans and whatnot. While it’s supposed to be 1/72, I built it as a 1/35 robot thing, stuck with the shit job of cleaning up some leaf-covered streets.