I’m Having…Fun?

Modeling is a hobby. And for me, it’s primarily a form of decompression. Years ago, I came across the idea of “western meditation”. Whereas eastern meditation is all about clearing the mind through intense focus on something internal, like breathing, western meditation uses intense focus on a task. When I’m “meditating” at the bench, focused on the kit in front of me, the rest of my mind is free to chew on stuff in the background. It’s so good for that purpose that I find myself feeling somewhat lost if I skip out on my nightly bench time.

But it’s not always…fun.

Satisfying? Rewarding? Frustrating? Tedious? Sure. But over the past several years, I don’t think I can say it’s always been fun. There have been stretches where I’ve had to drag myself into the chair. Slog through some bullshit on some kit. Get stuck down some rabbit hole I have to back out of. Shitty kits, phenomenal kits, building, painting, weathering, didn’t matter.

My recent decision to give 1/48 props another go was inspired – perhaps subconsciously – by a desire to recapture that sense of fun that seemed to have gone missing.

And it’s working. I’ve had more fun at the bench in the past few weeks than I’ve had in the last few years. But here’s the thing.

I don’t know why.

I know several things about my modeling preferences. I like good kits. I like detail and things that fit. I like clever engineering. I thrive on kits where it’s obvious someone gave a shit what they were doing when they designed it. I like painting and weathering. I don’t like scratchbuilding. I don’t like having to do shit that the kit should have done in the first place.

So. I’m working on two kits right now. HK’s 1/48 B-17G Flying Fortress, and Tamiya’s P-47M Thunderbolt. The Jug is going great, if slower than it should, just because the -17 takes so much more work. With the Jug, there’s a level of comfort. I’ve build some version of the kit twice before, and I’m rather familiar with P-47s. It’s fun bringing additional years of experience and tricks back to this kit.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to be having fun with the P-47. I love Jugs and the Tamiya kit is one of the all-time greats.

What’s surprising me is that I’m having fun with the B-17, too.

The HK B-17 is a curious beast. The exterior detail is absolutely gorgeous (there are some shape errors but those don’t bother me because I’m part of the 99.9% who would never notice them if they weren’t pointed out). The engineering is simple and (mostly) elegant. The wings fit wonderfully. The clear parts fit without weird gaps. It’s festooned with rivets.

But the interior isn’t even half-assed. It’s quarter-assed at best. The detail is soft, much of it in annoying relief, just molded to bulkheads and sidewalls like some 70s-era Monogram kit. The seats are atrocious. The control yokes are the worst I’ve ever seen on any kit that has control yokes.


The center console is a joke. The O2 tanks are molded into the cockpit sidewalls, turning into a masking nightmare.

The gun mounts? Laughable. When they exist. Somewhere along the way, HK forgot to provide any kind of mount for the cheek guns. So I had to fashion my own.

The chin and tail guns are these weird affairs where you have to install gun bodies onto these little stumps, and then they flop around. Alignment is nearly impossible. And then you have to thread the barrels through some distantly-positioned canvas cover, get them into the gun bodies, AND get them all to align. I noped out of that business and used magnets instead.

I spent quite a bit of time bringing things up to some level of snuff…

Only for it to be almost completely invisible.

Based on my proclivities, I should hate this kit by now. I should hate the laziness and the need to scratch things that should have been covered. I should hate the tedium and the flaws. They certainly piss me off. I can’t even say it’s the subject that’s driving me forward – the B-17 has never really blown my skirt up.

But curiously…I’m having fun. Like…a lot of fun.

I don’t know why. I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe it’s some changed circumstances at work that have me more invigorated? Maybe it’s the return to 1/48 scale? The less exhaustive builds mean I’m more willing to suffer through shit, or to scratchbuild something or whatnot, because I can keep moving pretty easily and not get bogged down for a month fixing something?

I really don’t know for certain. But I’m going to keep trying to put my finger on it – because if I can figure out what makes modeling not only a good decompression tool, but legit fun, I can be sure to keep working that in.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Ian says:

    I’d love to know your secret! I too see modelling as a form of meditation… but I can’t seem to finish a model. I’ve got tons of really nice and expensive Tamiya kits to build, but I just can’t finish anything!
    I think it’s because the 1/32 scale kits require a lot of commitment and the progress is so slow… maybe I need to look to a smaller scale

  2. Mike Arnold says:

    Thanhaks for the blog. I never thought of bench time as a form of meditation, but looking back, I can recall the same feeling of being focused and letting my mind wander, and being sort of refreshed at the end of it all. And all this while working on Trumpeter Armor!

  3. John Stambaugh says:

    Well sir, I can certainly see your point. I suspect that the 1/48 kits give enough satisfaction when weighed against the amount of work required. I think that the large scale kits of today simply demand or at least allow the opportunity to become absorbed in details. As for me , I am addicted to the adage that bigger is better. Maybe one day I will back off to a less demanding (smaller) scale. I must say though that you Matt have put in a level of near perfection that I have heretofore not come evan close to. I do hope you enjoy your sovereign to 1/48 but I also hope that you will eventually return to large scale . Good day sir.

  4. Hubert says:

    I don’t think a particular scale is a key factor.
    A few years ago I decided to move to at least 1:48th scale, sold out all my smaller scales stash.
    It was just choosing an easy way, as with the years going by the eyes don’t get better. Did I get more efficient? Well, not exactly.

    Now, having built several dozen larger scale kits since then, mostly aircraft, I find it really pleasant to make something smaller, like 1:72 FineMolds Kayaba autogiro or IBG’s Type 1 tank. So much fun with painting it. So many new decent kits appear.
    I don’t call it a return to the small scale – it is rather a discovery that diversity is the key. So now my usual practice is to have several kits started, smaller and bigger, aircraft and vehicles, and not worry if or when they get finished (unless it is a scale modeling forum competition or other reason, as an anniversary). Is it decompressing me? Sure thing. Is it fun? Sure it is.
    All the best, Hubert

  5. José Pedro Mota says:

    It’s great that you’re having fun again! Maybe don’t dwell on a reason for it and enjoy it! Maybe it’s something you used to hate and now gives you satisfaction. Either way I’m glad you’re having fun, I look forward to bench nights returning for me so I can get away from life for a bit! Thanks for the posts, and videos, and everything!

    Best regards to you and everyone here!


    I completely understand. Last year I spent a couple of months on a 1/48 Monogram Gun Nosed B-25J. Completely rescribed after addressing the fit issues inherent with any kit that age. I polished it up and gave it an Alclad finish. I had an absolute ball working on it. If faced with that project now, I’d rather slam my head in a door. I can barely work through my Tamiya birdcage corsair for lack of general interest.
    Over the years I have found that my enjoyment of modeling shifts from 1/35 armor on the rare occasion, 1/48 WWII subjects and 1/48 modern. I seem to hit my stride in one of these areas for a stretch of 6 months to a year, and then need to change it up. Like most, i enjoy reading and researching. For me, looking back, i see that the modeling follows what I am reading. If i get a really nice issue of Combat Aircraft Journal, off I go in that direction. If i start a good book such as Rick Atkinson’s WWII trilogy, I start back in on WWII aircraft or 1/35 armor.
    I’ve also been inspired by new weathering techniques. The whole point of starting the corsair is to try a combo of hairspray shipping, salt weathering and water color pencils.
    This article has me pondering another thought though. If viewed as a form of meditation and escape, perhaps those times in our lives where we are less stressed and in need of these things make the need to seek that time less important?

  7. Robb Watson says:

    Thanx for the plywood technique.
    Good to see some new vids.

  8. Torbjörn Hanö says:

    It’s called flow: the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. (Wikipedia) When you do something that is within your skills, or just above but reachable, you can experience flow. When I don’t get flow with a kit I just move on to another one.

  9. Whitey says:

    I have to say that building models must be the most teeth-grindingly, profanity-inspiringly frustrating things I’ve ever enjoyed doing. I’ve recently tried my hand at kitbashing “what if” stuff, which is far beyond my skill level, but I’ve managed to stumble through so far. Currently doing a 1/35 “Red Dawn” (the Swayze original, not the shitty new one) dio scene. In my attempts to cobble together a semi-believable militia fighting vehicle, I took an M3 halftrack, added some sheet styrene as DIY spaced armor, then added a VRC-47 radio, an infantry tripod TOW launcher on a ghetto-rig vehicle mount, and its fire control unit.

    I figured the whole thing would probably look like complete bullshit to anybody who knows what they’re looking at. Then I showed it to a coworker who’s a Marine vet, who said, “Yeah, if you were to do something like that, that’s pretty much how it would look!” So I got it right completely by accident, which is pretty damn cool.

    Of course, the halftrack quickly proved to be the smoothest sailing of the whole project. The Italeri M60A1 parked next to it comes with individual track links that have to be pieced together and don’t fit for shit, which in turn led to days of vocally wishing plague, pestilence, and assrape on the Italian bastards who designed that kit. And when it was finally all together, it actually looked fairly cool.

    So that’s how model building goes for me. Hours of choking on F-bombs (or letting them fly freely if the kids are at school) as I put things together via trial and (lots of) error, followed by “Hey, that’s cool! Let’s do some more!” Rinse, repeat. Don’t get me started on the damn figures.

  10. dmachado2019 says:

    I follow your posts and like your WTF approach on many subjects, as much as your attention to detail and your great quality models.
    Well, you are in the “pro” game, and also caring (too much?) about detail and accuracy can be a source for all kinds of problems. I am far from your detail and build quality, but for the last 3 years back into the hobby, with much time limitation, my build quality is improving.
    I do know I have a lot more fun while building a 1/48 Heller kit (say a Mirage IV oldie) and beating some of its many issues into submission, accepting others, and adding a few modest, many times scratchbuilt details (http://forum.modelismo-na.net/viewtopic.php?f=264&t=27530), than building a 1/48 Tamiya with PE and resin upgrades.
    I just finished a $4 1:144 Revell Black Bunny and loved it, had the same feeling as with the 1:48 hulks:
    I have three rules when building a model:
    1. Aim to correct one or two, maybe three things that may be annoying in the future when looking at the finished model;
    2. Add a bit of detail and “scale thickness” here and there, so I can enjoy it in the future when looking at the finished model;
    3. Always clearly draw the “I don’t Give a F…” line, you need to know when enough is enough.
    Expect less, do less, enjoy more. I always admire the work done, but many times I do not envy the road taken.
    And your blog does NOT help, those models are waaaaaay too good! 😀
    Keep up this great blog!

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