It’s My Model

Earlier today, a modeler posted a video to a Facebook group. A video of most of his completed builds making a trip into the trash can. He’s moving, see, and wants a fresh start with the new house.

If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet, you can guess where this went. Pearls were clutched. Virtues were signaled. Butts were hurt.

Look. Most museums don’t want your cast-offs.  Most hobby shops – if they’re still around – probably don’t have space to house them. Models are too fragile for kids to play with. Selling completed kits on eBay? I guess. But it’s a pain in the ass.

Look. I have a weird hang-up about giving away your cast-offs. If I’m going to give a kit to a museum, I want it to be the pride of my collection, not something I built years ago that I’ve long since progressed from.

Look. Ultimately, none of that matters. Because what you do with a model that you purchased is your business and yours alone. You don’t get to cast moral aspersions on someone else doing what they will with their own things. Fuck, how many kits never get built? How many only make it to the shelf of doom? At least a completed kit had its time in the sun.

But holding on to every one…for what? It’s like holding on to every picture you ever take, even the blurry ones or the ones that are poorly framed or the ones where you took five of the same damn shot to try to get the toddler to look at the camera at the same time as everyone else.

We cull the herd in almost every other aspect of our life. We even attach a kind of nobility to it. We call it “spring cleaning” or “decluttering”. But you toss a completed build, even one you’ve moved on from, or weren’t that proud of to begin with, and the knives of indignation come out.

Well fuck that. It’s my model and I can do what I want with it. And your model is your model, and you can do what you want with it.

Even if that means smashing the fuck out of them with a rock.

Does It Fit – 1/32 Academy F-16 Edition

Resin aftermarket often seems to exist in some weird fog, where you can’t find good, high-res photos or instructions online, much less actual thoughts from people who’ve used them. Even harder is finding a straight answer to the question central to many a resin purchase:

Does it fit?

This DIF series is my attempt to chip away at that fog, to the extent that I can. First up, I covered some goodies for Trumpeter’s 1/32 MiG-23s. This time out, let’s look at Academy’s 1/32 F-16s. Particularly the Sufa.

The Academy Sufa

For some reason, Israeli jets do nothing for me. It’s convenient, then, that the F-16I Sufa is basically the same aircraft as the F-16D Block 52+. This opens up some interesting possibilities for two-seater fun, including Polish and Hellenic Air Force schemes.

A few years ago, I had a solid go at Academy’s big Viper before just running out of steam. That run-out remains probably my biggest regret in modeling after buying Kitty Hawk kits thinking “this time it’ll be better”.

In the time since, two of my biggest gripes – the fit of the intake exterior and of the exhaust nozzle – have been addressed by aftermarket in the form of a one-piece NSI intake from Zactomodels, and a Pratt & Whitney exhaust courtesy of KASL.

But the resin that I did use on that first pass at the tandem F-16 gave me some

WOLFPACK #32030 1/32 Academy F-16I IDF ‘Sufa’ Cockpit Set

If you want an aftermarket cockpit for your Sufa (or Polish or Greek or whatever F-16D), Wolfpack is your only option. This is a bit odd, considering the sheer number of cockpit options out there for the single-seaters.

I originally turned to Wolfpack after ruining my kit’s cockpit. How did I do that? Simple. I sanded off the detail to (idiotically) use Eduard color PE. What looked gorgeous on the fret looked chintzy and flat once installed. So, off to pursue some resin!

To my surprise, the Wolfpack cockpit didn’t just fit. It fit perfectly. Without cleanup (though you do have to remove the pour stub on the bottom…and it’s mostrous).

Detail isn’t quite up to the standard of Aires on its best day, but it’s still a marked improvement over the kit plastic and includes plenty of detail to go to town on.

The sidewalls didn’t prove an issue, either, since they basically sit more on the main tub, and since the cockpit sills leave a nice overhand to work underneath. You can see the mounting locations in the pic below.


Another nifty feature? Those two holes at the very back of the cockpit. They fit exactly into locating post in the Academy kit. Imagine that – a resin cockpit that is straight-up designed to play nice with the kit.

Here’s the final, installed result.

Detail – Pretty good. A solid 7.5 or 8.

Does it Fit? – Yes. It’s a complete drop-fit. 

Worth it? – Absolutely

AIRES #2129 – 1/32 F-16I Sufa Wheel Bay Set (Academy)

I’m typically not a fan of aftermarket wheelbays. I just don’t feel there’s enough benefit for the level of effort many of them demand. But with the F-16, there are two considerations in play. First, it’s main gear bays are pretty visible. Second, the barrel shape of the fuselage means a lot of the grinding and sanding and thinning to fit wing-located bays wouldn’t be an issue. So I decided to take a change for all that delicious detail.

And wouldn’t you know it? Another drop fit.

Literally nothing to remove. The part just drops right into place. And painting it was a blast.

When I have a second go at Academy’s big two-seater Viper, I will be using the main gear bay again for sure.

Detail – Perfection in resin

Does it Fit? – Yes. It’s a drop fit. 

Worth it? – Oh god yes. 

Does It Fit – 1/32 MiG-23 Edition

Last night, I was scouring the interwebs investigating my aftermarket options for a potential project, and I kept coming up against the same basic image, repeated over and over again, probably associated with the item’s presence in a few dozen online storefronts. And…that’s it.

No deeper looks. No in-depth reviews. No advisories on what needs to be cut or filed away.

A few times, I was lucky enough to find a mention of a certain item in a forum thread. But the Photobucketpocalypse has basically crippled the utility of forums as project archives. Unless you like looking at dozens of images of an extortion message cuted up by a kitten.

Go fuck yourself, Photobucket

It’s amazing that, in 2017, it’s basically impossible to find detailed photos or a good look at the instructions, even, for most resin aftermarket items. Much less photos and confirmation of whether or not a thing fits.

NOTE 1: If you’re a resin manufacturer who is not Eduard (or a vanishingly few others like KASL and Zactomodels), do everyone a favor and pull your head out of your ass. Take high-res, detailed photos of your wares (imagine that!). Post instructions online. Maybe even include an idea of what work will need to be done to make a thing fit.

NOTE 2: If you’re one of those who likes to bray about modelers vs assemblers and basic modeling skills and who cares you’ll make it fit anyway, go fuck yourself. I personally would like to know what I’m in for before dropping $45 for an engine set. It all goes into my cost/effort/benefit analysis. And I know I’m not alone in that.

NOTE 3: If you are Eduard, for the love of god please stop shipping your really nice resin seats with those shit-ass color PE belts. Give us unpainted, malleable ones or take a note from the Aires/Quickboost division and sell an option with belts molded in.

The more you know

Anyway, as something of a public service and to hopefully help spare others from fruitless searching, I thought I’d start posting my experiences with various resin contrivances, detailing how they fit and whether I think they were worth the effort. So hopefully you can make a more informed decision where to spend your hobby dollars. Or not.

Up today – accessories for Trumpeter’s 1/32 MiG-23 Flogger series.

AIRES #2133 – MiG-23 Flogger Wheel Bay

Trumpeter’s big MiG-23 kits have a lot going for them. But their gear bays leave a lot to be desired. In addition to being rather spartan, they require assembly. The HORROR, I know. But if you could just drop in a one-piece replacement, that’s a step up in my book.

Aires’ gear bays are far, far more detailed than the kit pieces. And while my comparison to the actual gear bays shows some discrepancies in wiring, I wouldn’t really be surprised if that varied from Flogger to Flogger as they were wrenched on during their lifetimes.

To fit, the main think  you have to do is remove this little bit of plastic around the kit’s bay openings.

After those areas are cleared away (I found the back of a #11 blade the cleanest way to do this) and a very little bit of sanding along the bottom of the fuselage where the bay sits, the fit was almost drop-in. The bays are just ever so slightly short. Not enough to bother me much, but to each their own.

You will also have to remove the pour block on top, and a few square things on the wing part that drops down over the fuselage there. This is pretty easy and since they won’t be seen, doesn’t have to be pretty.

When you do commit to glue, I recommending doing so with the upper fuselage taped firmly in place. This will help with making sure things are aligned, since the mounting post for the main gear supports is past the resin in the upper fuselage/wing glove assembly.

Ultimately, the slight gaps on the sides got on my nerves, so they got filled with putty.

As for the nosebay? It’s a complete drop-fit.

Detail – Absolutely exquisite

Does it Fit? – Yes

Worth it? – Yes

AIRES #2134 – MiG-23ML Cockpit Set

As with a number of 1/32 Trumpeter offerings, the kit’s cockpit isn’t bad, per se. It’s just not that great. The instrument panel is done, annoyingly, as a clear part. This is by no means a dealbreaker, and with careful masking of the gauge faces these types of panels can look stellar. But the Trumpeter one has no gauge surrounds, and the rest of the cockpit is just so-so. Whereas the Aires cockpit is just gorgeous.

The question though – does it fit?

The kit helpfully has some location ridges, but Aires isn’t exactly known for being accommodating.

But a quick test-fit revealed that things weren’t so far off the mark.

The main sticking point is in the aft bulkhead’s “shoulders”, right around where it clears the cockpit sills. Fit was also a bit snug on the sides. Between scraping with a #10 blade and a microchisel, I managed to knock these areas down sufficiently.

Another thing that has to go is the interior portions of the cockpit sills. Fortunately, you don’t need to sand anything down to paper-thin translucency.

With everything cut and abraded, the fit was snug, but solid. A few comments told me to keep sanding, but with the way the sidewalls curve, I have a feeling that would have just caused more of a gap in the sills.

Those gaps in the sills? They don’t matter, because the MiG-23 has weatherstripping running around the entire cockpit, and that line is exactly where it’ll need to go.


Installing the cockpit was pretty straightforward. The starboard sidewall kind of plugs into the main cockpit tub so there’s no alignment fuckery on that side. The port sidewall is more free-spirited. So, using epoxy, I got installed the starboard sidewall (with the cockpit tub attached), then added the port side, slammed everything shut, and clamped it for the night to cure.

After that I was able to crack it back open and remove the cockpit tub for painting.

Painting is kinda outside the scope here, so…here’s how it came out.

NOTE: There are other elements that install into the canopy that are well-detailed and fit nicely. But let’s face it, it’s always how the *main* cockpit fits that drives concerns with resin. 

Detail – Absolutely exquisite

Does it Fit? – Mostly yes. You will have to do some scraping, and remove a portion of the cockpit sills (as well as open up space for the instrument panel/coaming), but at best a moderate amount. There is no sanding down to micron thickness or cutting away vast, important sections of the kit. 

Worth it? – Yes

HAD Models #132002 KM-1 Ejection Seat

Why in the seven hells would I buy a resin seat when one already came with the Aires set?

Because laziness. The Aires seat is exquisite. One of the prettiest ejection seats I’ve seen. But the PE belts are a nightmare. In 1/32, I love me some fabric belts for older aircraft. But when it comes to ejection seats, I much prefer my harness detail molded on. The HAD seat was insurance in case the Aires didn’t work out. Worst case, I thought, it’d give me justification to buy a MiG-21 or something.

As it turns out, the PE belts on the Aires seat soon had me pondering things like how “movie” probably sounded as stupid to people 100 years ago as “selfie” does to us today. Before I chucked my sanity into the abyss, I decided to go with the HAD seat instead.

So creamy…

The seat isn’t as slick as the Aires, but it’s still pretty nice. The headrest and footbox things are a bit clunky to install, but not in any way that is noticeable once it’s painted.

The cream-colored resin makes it really tough to get a sense of the seat, so here’s a shot if it after painting and weathering. The stencils are pulled from a Linden Hill decal sheet.

Detail – A solid 8, but not crisp enough to earn a 10 in my book. 

Does it Fit? – Yep

Worth it? – This is up to you. I feel that life is too short to go mad threading PE belts for a modern ejection seat. Your mileage may vary. 

The Academy Curse

There are plenty of modelers out there who will start a project and, no matter how shitty or dispiriting it proves to be, will see it through to the bitter end.

I have a healthy respect for those who do…but it’s not something I particularly excel at. For me, modeling is a hobby. And while I like challenges, there comes a point where the enjoyment slips away and the bench sessions become drudgery.

And for some reason, Academy kits always seem to drag me into that drudgery.

I’d hoped that the F-4C Phantom would be a way to break the curse, but alas, here I am, teetering at the edge.

Why? Not because of anything big. Not because the kit has “defeated” me. But rather, because compounding annoyances have worn me down, and because of swirlings in the larger market.

Let’s go through those annoyances first…

The Cockpit is Bullshit

My first annoyance with the Academy F-4C was the laughably spartan cockpit. After reading the horror stories of the Aires cockpit set for this kit,  I stayed well away, but maybe I should have taken the plunge, or at the very least used the resin to create a hybrid cockpit of sorts. I mean…the kit pit has no sidewall detail. At all.

Aside from the absent sidewall detail, the side consoles and IPs are no great shakes, either.

Seriously – the old Hasegawa and even Revellogram F-4s put it to shame.

Strike one.

The Surface Texture

The entire surface of the Academy F-4 is covered in a slightly gritty texture that has to be sanded away. And I thought I had, but well into the painting process, it keeps popping up in places. UGH.  Continue reading

WIP – 1/48 Academy F-4C Phantom II, Pt 1

It’s weird how ideas can snowball. That’s exactly what happened when Jimmy D proposed an informal F-4 buddy build over in SMCG. What started as “huh” quickly gathered steam, and suddenly the start date for this informal affair was bumped up to July 4th.

I was just coming off Bandai’s A-Wing and a rather epic bench cleaning and reorganization, and uncommitted to any particular project.

So I decided “fuck it, I’m game”.

My kit of choice? Academy’s 1/48 F-4C Phantom II. With some goodies.

Continue reading

6 reasons 1/16 scale is just the worst

For years, I’ve lamented that we’re pretty much stuck with 1/35 scale when it comes to armor. No, not because of cross-display issues with 1/32 or anything like that. Rather, because 1/35 is kinda small. Even modern MBTs like the Abrams lack a strong sense of presence. In many ways, 1/35 is kinda like 1/48 in the aircraft world (and 1/48 armor is like 1/72 aircraft and so on).

So with 1/16 scale being all over the place lately, thanks to Trumpeter’s new M1A1 and Tamiya’s incoming M1A2 Abrams, you’d think I’d be rather excited. Armor with presence, and all that.

But I’m not.

1/16 can go screw itself.

Let’s explore why.

1 – It’s Fucking Huge

This is Panda’s 1/16 Pz.Kpfw 38t. It’s a marginal kit, but hey, it’s big. About the size of a shoe box. Here it is next to a 1/35 Sherman.

If 1/16 meant a ready availability of tank kits about this size, I’d be excited.

Thing is, though, the 38t is a tiny tank. Like the Renault FT, it’s miniscule in 1/35. Blowing it up by 100+% makes it big, but not too big.

The same cannot be said for most other tanks. When you move into Tigers and T-72s and M1s, you quickly progress into the realm of the ludicrous. Just consider this.

That’s Trumpeter’s new 1/16 M1A1. That MiG-29 next to it? That’s not 1/48. That’s 1/32. Just to give you a sense of how massive the Abrams is in 1/16. If you run the numbers, it’s over 24″ long. That’s longer than a 1/32 F-15.

Here’s Tamiya’s. Jesus. The turret is bigger than the 1/35 kit.

If we want to make an aircraft analogy, 1/16 is like jumping from 1/48 straight to 1/24.

2 – It exceeds the 100% step

Look at the way aircraft scales work. 1/72 scale is exactly twice the size of 1/144, or 100% larger. But once you get past that, 1/48 is 50% larger than 1/72. And 1/32 is 50% larger than 1/48. And 1/24 is 33% larger than 1/32 (and 100% larger than 1/48).

That’s a nice progression of scales and sizes.

1/16 is 119% larger than 1/35. Again, it’s the equivalent of jumping from 1/48 to 1/24. It can work nicely with something like the 38t, just as it would work nicely with a Sopwith Camel. But with an F-14?

There should be an interim scale – say 1/24 – that would act like an armor equivalent of aircraft’s 1/32.

In 1/24, an M1A1 Abrams would be around 16″ long – about the same length as a 1/32 Skyraider.

3 – 1/16 kits are shitballs expensive

The cheapest price I’ve seen for Trumpy’s new Abrams is around $185, and most places are listing it well over $200. Their Jagdtiger is going for $300 on Sprue Brothers.

With prices like that, it’s going to be a challenge, I think, to build a viable, sustainable scale over time. I don’t see it becoming an alternative with a broad ecosystem of kits in the vein of 1/48 armor, or 1/32 aircraft.

Without that ecosystem, it’s going to be a challenge to gain adoption, and without adoption, it’s going to be a challenge to create that ecosystem.

4 – Aftermarket wasteland

Have you ever heard of the Tiger I? It’s a somewhat obscure tank from a lesser combatant in World War II.

A quick search on Sprue Brothers for “1/35 Tiger” pulls up 268 results, and about 260 of those are Tiger or King Tiger-related. Kits, dry transfers, tracks, grilles, barrels, decals, you name it.

It’s an aftermarket wonderland.

But when I searched for “1/16 Tiger”, I only got 39 results, and most of them were not 1/16 Tiger related. Of those that were, there were some Archer dry transfers, and some shitty Peddinghaus decals. No barrels, no grilles, no tracks, no figures.

If the fucking Tiger can’t pull any aftermarket tail, what do you think is going to befall every other tank that comes out in 1/16?

5 – Back to this interim scale thing

Seriously. The armor world doesn’t need 1/16 – it needs a scale between 1/16 and 1/35.

It’s been tried. I know that Tasca came out with a 1/24 Panzer II, and it bombed because no shit. I mean…a Panzer II? Fucking really? That’d be like Marvel trying to kick off their cinematic universe with Squirrel Girl. Except not, because Squirrel Girl is awesome. But just imagine where we might be if instead of a Panzeryawnwagen II, Tasca had dropped a 1/24 Sherman or four on us.

6 – It reeks of inertia

Kitmakers rarely seem to think outside the box. I mean, we live in a world where it’s possible to buy 3D printed workable tracks…that come that way, with no need to endure the tedium of building them up link by link. And just below that we have some really great workable tracksets, be they metal or resin or injection plastic. But how many kits still come with glue-together indy links or link-and-length or rubber bands? How many wheeled subjects still torture us with bullshit vinyl tires?

To quote one of my favorite books, “show some fucking adaptability”.

Just because Trumpeter made a 1/16 T-34 a long time ago is no reason to keep pushing this bullshit scale. The market for it is tiny.

Most of the opinions I’ve seen regarding the wave of giant Abrams kits amounts to “huh, neat, too big”. I’ve seen more interest in Tamiya’s announcement of a 1/48 M1A2.

I’m convinced there’s a 1/24 scale lane that’s wide open, if only a manufacturer or two would have the guts to take it.

And besides, it’d set up cross-display possibilities with the scale auto world, making dioramas like this possible:

1/72 Bandai A-Wing – The “Jakku Bandit”

If it seems like I’ve been somewhat quiet of late, well, I have been. In part thanks to a combination of work, travel, work travel, and being glued to the twists and turns in the Trump-Russia scandal. But also in part to behind the scenes work on a project for an upcoming issue of Weathering Aircraft magazine.

The theme of desert weathering happened to line up nicely with the release of the final novel in the Star Wars: Aftermath trilogy. While not a particularly good book, it’s notion of a protracted Battle of Jakku gave me the idea of Rebel fighters forward-deployed planetside to cover ground forces. And Bandai’s A-Wing seemed like a fun subject to mess around with.

And, well, here it is:

The mental narrative I worked from is that a forward-deployed A-Wing squadron found it necessary to paint over the deeper red markings with something more suited to desert operations, inspired by the photo recon Spitfires the RAF flew in North Africa. At some point, a hit from a TIE fighter took out the starboard engine, necessitating a cobbled-together field replacement. And of course, grinding service in a hostile desert environment means sand, dust, and all that good, delicious weathering.

The blow-by-blow will have to wait until the article drops, but I will say two things.

First, I used plenty of enamel weathering products on the A-Wing and it did not explode.

Second, there are some tricks to building these Bandai kits that I frustratingly discovered too late in the game. While overall the A-Wing is an excellent kit, the press-fit nature of the assembly is problematic. It makes it very difficult to test fit. In several areas, like the central fuselage, the parts went in and there was just no going back. Toward the end, I started cutting off various lugs and found that this made test-fitting and removability of parts significantly easier. And the fit is still damn good. For example – the engine assemblies and rear bulkhead fit snug, but can be teased off with a small amount of wiggling. Next time I tackle a Bandai kit, I’ll be better prepared for sure.