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.