Are Price and Quality Related?

We’ve been having a pretty fun discussion over in the Scale Modelers Critique Group over the past few days about the relation (or not) of price and quality. Driven to an extent by Revell’s 1/32 P-51 and how it compares to Tamiya’s far pricier kit.

Price is a Dumb Metric

I’ve been on record, many times, with the opinion that price should not be a factor in considering how well one kit will go together versus another.

In the broader retail world there absolutely is a correlation between price and quality, sure. A nice pair of jeans will generally last a lot longer than a cheap pair from Old Navy or something. A nicer cordless drill will use a better battery and a motor made out of higher quality materials than some bargain unit you buy after stomping a few heads on Black Friday.

But in modeling the correlation becomes a lot looser. Because there are so many factors impacting price. You have the number and complexity of parts, which directly impacts tooling costs. You have regional pricing differences that often see the cost of, say, a Revell and a Hasegawa kit of the same subject flip-flop in price depending on where you buy them.

You have brand power – where a Tamiya or Wingnut Wings or whoever can charge more because of the strength of their reputation.

You also have age. Older kits are cheaper. Generally. Not always.

And in some instances, you have market pressure. Usually somewhere like eBay. But market pressure can also be a factor of subject, of the existence of competition, of the availability of a kit, and other factors.

But at the end of the day, the cost to tool parts that fit, or parts that are shape-accurate, is negligible over ones that don’t and aren’t.

You want evidence that price is a shitty metric? Look at the 1/32 109s from Revell, Hasegawa, and Trumpeter. As kits, they’re all more or less equal. Each succeeds in some areas where the others disappoint, and each disappoints in other areas, with amazingly little overlap.

The Tedious Car Analogy

The real inspiration for this post, though, isn’t exactly the whole price/quality debate, but one small part of it. And that’s this analogy:

“You shouldn’t expect a [insert luxury car brand] for a [insert economy car brand} price”

It’s a bad analogy. And I wanted to break it down. And since it’s TL;DR for the format of a Facebook comment, hey, blog post!

What Really Separates Luxury Cars?

The reason that luxury cars cost more than mainstream or economy cars is almost entirely in the luxury aspect. It’s fancier seats wrapped in fancier materials. It’s nicer cabins and more amenities. It’s thicker glass and insulation that deadens sound and vibration. Sometimes – if we’re talking about performance luxury – it may extend to larger brakes or fancier suspension or a more complicated engine.

And for the most part…that’s it. An Audi is a Volkswagen in nice clothes. An Acura is a dudded up Honda. Same for Lexus:Toyota, Cadillac:Chevy, Infiniti:Nissan and you get the idea.

Here Comes the Fallacy!

Here’s the problem with the analogy.

A car’s job is to car. Through some means – usually by burning petrochemicals to create small, contained explosions – it harnesses energy. This energy is transferred to a transmission, and by driveshaft to one or two axles, and ultimately to the wheels. The wheels turn, and the car goes. There are brakes to stop them from turning. And complicated linkage (usually) connected ultimately to a steering wheel. The driver and passengers travel in comfort inside of a contained area that is typically climate controlled and, these days, doesn’t leak when it rains.

This is the basic function of every car, from the cheapest shitbox to whatever the fuck Bugatti is putting on the road.

Now let’s look at model kits. A model’s job is to go from a collection of pieces – usually polystyrene plastic arranged on a frame (sprue) – to a miniature representation of the real thing. It’s two reasons for existing are to 1) fit together and 2) look reasonably like the thing it is representing. Everything else – just like a fucking heated steering wheel – is icing on the cake. Because we need more metaphors.

Even the Cheapest Car…

Let’s say I go out and buy the cheapest new car I can find – which I believe is the Nissan Versa at around $13,000. Nobody is going to confuse it with a Jaguar or a Mercedes. It’s not going to have a heated steering wheel. Hell, it probably won’t even have power seats. It won’t be as fast or as flashy. It would probably lose in a slalom.

But.

I fully fucking expect that Nissan Versa to car. I expect the engine to fire up when I turn the ignition. I expect the doors to close (and not leak!). I expect it to go when I put it in gear, and to take me where I need to go in a reliable fashion.

See Where I’m Going Yet?

Imagine this scenario. You buy a Nissan Versa. You go to drive to work and the door won’t stay shut, so you roll the window down and zip tie that fucker to the B pillar. Along the way, you realize that someone fucked up the wiring, so when you hit the brakes, instead of the brake lights lighting, the high beams flash. You can turn the wheel twice as far to the left as the right. And when you turn it right to full lock, the tire hits the fender. You try to take extra care when turning, but the passenger side mirror is thick and cloudy and you can’t see shit in it.

Would you then get out, shrug and say “well, I shouldn’t expect a Mercedes for Nissan Versa money”?

FUCK NO YOU WOULD NOT.

If you posted about your experience, would it be reasonable for someone else to reply “this guy in Germany drove his Versa to work so you can’t say it’s a shitty car”.

FUCK NO IT WOULD NOT.

But this shit passes for reasonable discourse in the modeling world every single day.

What Should We Expect (Demand?) From a Kit…Regardless of Price?

I get it, kind of. Revell’s pricing, at least with their new tool 1/32 kits, seems to defy certain laws of economics. I can’t imagine any other company releasing a 1/32 P-51 for anything less than, oh, $70. But they do. Or they have. And not just with the P-51. You’ve also got their Ju 88, He 111, Bf 109Gs, Fw 190, Ar 196 and Spitfire in recent years. It remains to be seen if the trend will continue under the new ownership, but at least as of this writing, the pricing seems very lowball for new tooled kits.

With a price that makes no damn sense, it’s certainly tempting to take sloppiness in stride. Especially because the modeling community as a whole seems to have very low standards – unless it has to do with some minute accuracy niggle.

Now…at $30, I certainly do not expect Tamiya levels of detail and engineering showmanship out of Revell’s Mustang. I expect a lower parts count and fewer posable or exposable details. I expect the overall detail level to be lower, and things like cockpit and gearbay and blast tube details to be more accurate-ish than accurate. I expect the decals and instructions to both be a bit…wanting.

And…I don’t expect the kind of engineering and fit that makes you sit back at your bench in amazement. Just like I wouldn’t expect a Nissan Versa to bring a big, shit-eating grin to my face bombing down some twisty country road the way a Jaguar XE would. But I do expect a dull, competent, workmanlike fit. Similar, in point of fact, to what Revell mostly pulled off with their Bf 109G-6.

Endnote

I don’t have Revell’s P-51, and so I can’t speak directly to its fit or lack thereof. Nor do I plan on buying the current boxing. If other variants are forthcoming, however – like a later D with the filleted tail or a P-51B/C, I will certainly pick one up and give it a go. As much as I love Tamiya’s big uberkits, I would certainly appreciate a more simplified option as well. If it fits.

 

 

 

 

 

A Reply, Because LSP Threads Keep Disappearing

Over the past few days, someone over on LSP has been making ad hominem attacks on me. Nothing new there. You create anything on the internet and you’re going to attract detractors, especially if they involve opinions, or, apparently, expletives.

But…I had a few minutes this morning while enjoying my coffee and figured I’d respond, only to turn around a minute later and find the thread gone.

This evening, I saw another thread asking where the first thread had gone, and again, the same attacks and assumptions, albeit in summarized form. By the time I found five minutes to respond and hit post, however, the thread had been locked.

As a Sisyphean farce in miniature, I find it pretty amusing. But since I already had one reply swallowed by the forum black hole today, I see no reason to let the other go to waste, so I’m posting it below.

——————————————

1 – I’m completely fine with opening the other thread up. It’s frankly rather annoying to reply and then turn around and the thread is gone.

2 – Offended? LOL nope. It’s entirely possible to object to things without being offended.

3 – The accusations (made again in this thread) of dishonesty and personal vendettas are pretty serious things to sling at someone. I’m not sure how a build review, with every single issue captured on video for all the world to see, can be dishonest. I’m not sure how subjective opinions drawn from said build experience can be dishonest. How can one even have a dishonest opinion? Don’t arrive at the same conclusions as I do? That’s fine. It’s a multi-faceted hobby, and in addition to everything that goes into a model build, we all have our own likes, dislikes and preferences to boot.

4 – The personal vendetta thing is nothing but personal assumption. Yes, I hold a very skeptical view of Kitty Hawk. One born from experience with a number of their kits. Sloppy, unforced errors happen to really annoy me. Because they could be fixed with another few days of QA.

Kitty Hawk has the ability to put out really good kits. The AH-1Z is an example of that. The wings of the Su-17 are an example of that. Probably about 50% of the Su-35 is an example of that. But then they go and kneecap themselves by forgetting to cut notches for the gear doors, putting sprue gates right on the junction of a connecting tab or whatever.

Calling them on those is not a vendetta. It’s a wish that they would do a better job. Because they show at times that they can, and because they put out rather interesting subjects that I would love to not have to avoid.

5 – Yes, my blog and youtube channel are safe zones for expletives. No, that does not make them x-rated. Nor is it clickbaity. It’s a release and a choice. Made by me, for me. It may rub some people the wrong way. But…tough.

6 – Come to think of it, I do take offense to one thing said about me in the original thread – that I swear at my compressor. I absolutely do not. I tell it to shut up.

Have a great weekend.

Su-35 Battle Royale, Part 1: Antebellum

It’s been a little over a  year since my last build review – of Kitty Hawk’s maddening Su-17 Fitter. Why haven’t I returned to the well sooner? A few reasons.

  • One. These reviews take a lot of time and effort – especially shooting and editing and publishing the videos.
  • Two. I wanted to use my bench time for actually building kits. Or, let’s be honest about 2017, starting and then abandoning builds.
  • Three. There honestly just haven’t been many kits that I’ve been interested in reviewing.
  • Four. While these reviews have stirred up some excellent discussions, they also stir up petty bullshit from a small minority. And as Neal Stephenson so wonderfully wrote in Cryptonomicon, “arguing with anonymous strangers on the internet is a sucker’s game because they almost always turn out to be – or to be indistinguisahble from – self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts free time.” It’s…a bit tiresome.

A Contender

Last year, Kitty Hawk released a 1/48 Su-35, and I was absolutely not interested in it, or in any other Kitty Hawk kit after the extremely sour taste the Fitter left in my mouth.

But then Great Wall Hobby announced that they, too, were going to be releasing an Su-35.

A plan began to form. A versus build, stacking two kits of the same subject against each other.

All I had to do was wait for the Great Wall kit to release. This week, the kit finally hit US shores. Orders were placed, and now here we are.  Continue reading

All About that Base

Bases have never really been my thing. In part, I think, because the focus of my modeling has typically leaned more toward aircraft, where bases are mostly an afterthought.

I’ve only ever put one aircraft on a base…and then only because the collapsed main gear would be too confusing without context.

But there are two other factors at play.

One, I’ve never felt like I have a head for picturing and executing bases. Whenever I’ve tried, I’ve rabbit-holed. I’ve gotten hung up on stupid shit. I’ve had trouble getting the drama I want out of them.

And two, I think probably 75-80% of bases look like shit. Instead of adding to a build, they detract from it.

I certainly haven’t been too happy with mine, historically. Too flat. Too single-element. Boring.

Meh.

 

When you do a base solely because the tires don’t sit level…

When you have a vision and can’t carry it off…

But then, I decided to add a base to my Takom AML-90. Three and a half years after my last attempts. Coming off a motivational collapse and housecleaning.

And even though I have only the slightest idea of what I’m doing, it came together rather well.

Perfect? Far from it. I should have played with the AML more before hitting it with mud. I should have made the shoulder stripe on the road narrower. I’m not entirely happy with the grass. I could have varied up the mud tones a bit more.

But it’s a start. And a hell of a lot more lively than my previous attempts.

It’s also awakened a desire to do even more bases.

The Patriot

The Patriot launcher and its M983 HEMTT, together, make for a rather long subject. Just about two feet. More than I trust a foam base to stand up to, so I’m stealing an old, unused 10×30 shelf.

If you look at deployed Patriots, sometimes they are set up on slopes – makes sense considering the advantages of the high ground and all that. And they often have some kind of blast barricade arrayed behind them. Here’s a handy example showing both.

My aim isn’t this exactly…but certainly inspired by this. Inclined slope, stabilizer legs up on risers, gravel, with blast walls behind. But perhaps a different climate, and perhaps some blast marks, like so…

I’ve got some ideas on how to pull this off, but it’s going to be awhile in the offing, given the scale of the build and how far I have to go.

The T-72B3

Another base I’m actively playing with is for Meng’s T-72B3. In this case, I’m taking inspiration from the Tank Biathlon, and this shot of a T-72 ramping over a small hill.

As with the Patriot, I’ve got many more miles to go, but I did some proof-of-concept testing a few nights ago to see if I could even pull this off. And with some fishing weights added where the engine would typically reside, well…

I can’t wait to play with pulling this one off, from the garish scheme and the varied terrain, the snow in places, to the icicles under the unditching log.

Way more planned…

I have to say, it feels great to be at a point where I’m feeling highly motivated again, and if anything held back by too many things I eagerly want to work on. In addition to the Patriot and T-72, I’ve got longer-term plans for doing fun things with a URAL-4320, M270 MLRS, AMX-13, and a few others that are mostly at the concept stage.

Stay tuned for more, and for I guess learning along with me as I slog through these attempts.

Priorities and Shit

The last year at the bench has been a real struggle for me. And if I’m being honest, it was a continuing, and worsening, of trends that have been creeping up on me for a while. But they really landed hard in 2017.

There was the constant rearguard action against flagging motivation. Against my own perfectionist streak getting in the way. Annoyances I would have usually looked past festered and poisoned my goodwill toward more than a few kits.

Throughout the entire year, I only managed to finish three builds. Two were dinky little Bandai Star Wars kits, and the third, Tamiya’s F-14, was largely done in 2016. Aside from that, many works in progress fell by the wayside…

And I was always chasing the cure for this malaise. If I could just find the right kit, or the right subject, or…

You know what? None of that shit worked. My old standby – just getting the fucker into the painting stages – didn’t work.  I was at wit’s end. Hours at the bench with jack all to show for it except for frustration and fatigue.

Anagnorisis

There’s a term in classical Greek literature – anagnorisis – that marks the point where a character recognizes something essential, usually about their nature, and passes from ignorance to knowledge. A “scales from the eyes” moment.

That’s what I had right around the new year.

Modeling, and all the struggles I’d been having, weren’t the problem. They were a symptom. 

So what was the problem then? In a word, me.

For the last year (at least), I’ve been coasting, for lack of a better word. Going along and getting along, but in a pretty disconnected way. From my family, from work, from life in general. It was, I guess, easier to just disengage than to face down various and sundry concerns, anxieties and challenges. And it’s been horrible for me. In terms of my physical, mental and emotional well-being. And, as a spinoff of all of that, in terms of my modeling, too.

#FixThatShit

For 2018, my goal is both simple and incredibly difficult. Work on myself. Re-engage with my family, with work, with life in general. Get back to the point where modeling is a hobby and a way of decompressing and processing the day, not the weird addiction that occupies a good deal of my waking thoughts.

It’s been that way before…and when I look back on it…my favorite builds all coincide with moments where I was most engaged in life. I want to get back to that.

But…that’s going to mean a few changes around here and on the Facebook page.

I’m intending to pull away, for the most part, from the stream of WIP updates and the social media dopamine hits involved with them. I’ll still be posting tips and kit news and the occasional rant, and of course performing admin duties over at the Scale Modelers’ Critique Group, but I’m planning on doing something different with how I share builds. Something that gets back to the original mission of this blog; giving back as I can and helping those who are maybe just coming back into the hobby, or looking to change things up.

I’m not sure yet what that will look like…so stay tuned.

 

 

Let’s Talk About The Last Jedi

Image result for last jedi

I know, I know. This is a modeling blog. But for this one post, it’s not going to be. Because I have to talk about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. And I have to talk about it in more depth than a Facebook post allows.

Don’t like it? Don’t care? Don’t want to be spoiled if you haven’t seen it yet? Simple – don’t read.

Two quick notes before we dive in.

  • First, this post will contain spoilers. Fair warning.
  • Second, this post will probably be long. Because I have a lot of thoughts.

*****SPOILERS AND RAMBLING FROM THIS POINT ON*****

On the Divisiveness

The Last Jedi is more divisive than any Star Wars film – and perhaps any major franchise film – I can recall. And yes, I say that in the wake of the prequels. Continue reading

The MiG-23 Landing Gear Pickle

Last week, I finally got to the point of installing the gear struts on my 1/32 Trumpeter MiG-23MLA (the kit is technically the MLD, but being built as a Bulgarian MLA). And…fuck. The thing looks like it’s standing on its tip-toes.

Since I’m currently about 1700 miles away from my bench, I’ve been thinking about it from afar, and thought it’d be useful – at least to me – to do a little exploration into what the fuck is going on.

First, A Lesson in Floggers

“But Floggers sit really nose high!”

This is a piercing insight I’ve read multiple times since I put the -23 on its feet. But here’s the thing. It’s wrong.

The early Floggers, like the MiG-23MF, sat nose high. Like so.

Later Floggers, like the MiG-23ML, MLA, and MLD, had a rather different stance.

That last one seems to have the nose gear at full extension…but other late -23s look like they’re sitting on almost collapsed nose struts.

As you can see from all of these images, the late model MiG-23s sit a lot more level than the early ones. And that level has some variability to it depending on the height of the nosegear and I’d guess hydraulic pressure/weight of fuel impacting the rear struts.

TL;DR? Floggers have quite variable stances and it’s the early ones that were ass-draggers.

Trumpeter’s MiG-23…What the Fuck?

Late MiG-23s have varying stances, but none of them look quite so high as where I ended up.

And judging by other builds of the 1/32 Flogger, I’m not the only one who’s ended up here.

Though I should add that the light table can be deceiving. When shot in profile, it doesn’t look that far off of some of the reference photos (pardon the shitty shot – the phone decided to focus on the background, but it’s what I’ve got to work with at the moment).

But still, something seems amiss.

Maybe I built the gear legs wrong? That might be a possibility, except that there’s quite simply no way to do that. Putting the lower legs on backwards or upside down or whatever would mean that other linkages simply would not fit. And they fit quite nicely.

There is Another

Here’s a thing. Trumpeter has made three different 1/32 MiG-23s. An early MF, and then the ML and MLD.

To account for the difference in stance, Trumpeter uses two different lower leg parts. The MF (top) has a compressed damper, and a very shallow angle. The parts intended for the ML and MLD (bottom) extend the damper, and in so doing create a steeper angle coming off the lateral arms.

My Theory

Here’s what I think happened. Trumpeter designed the MF variant first. MFs, again, typically have a very tall nose strut, and an ass-dragging stance.

To support the weight of the kit, Trumpeter uses metal cores for its nose strut and the main gear lateral arms. While the outer parts of the ML/MLD nose gear are different, the metal core is the same, necessitating a fully extended nose gear at an angle you don’t see on the late Floggers very often.

When they changed the stance for the late MiG-23s, then, they raised the main gears by adding angle to the lower gear arms and extending the dampers. But they did so against the very tall nose gear. Resulting in a too-tall Flogger.

Other Factors

Could other things be at work?

Sure. Perhaps Trumpeter has the angle right on the lower legs, but just made them too long.

Perhaps the resin gear bays sit in slightly different locations, with millimeter differences that snowball.

Perhaps the resin tires are too big.

Perhaps I’m missing something.

Am I Going to Fix It?

No. I’m already fighting to overlook the MiG-23’s numerous small accuracy foibles. One of the reasons I chose it as a subject is that I don’t (or didn’t) know all that much about it, and wasn’t particularly interested in doing so. The more I’ve had to research and learn, the more glaring the accuracy goofs have become. And if I let myself get sucked into them, it’ll never get done.

Maybe if I’d kept the MF lower legs I’d consider giving them a go – but I set those aside early in the build and ultimately tossed them.

Of course, I say all this now. When I get back to the bench it may be a different decision. Fuck.