Making Time – Sprue Cutters Union #25

maketime

The Combat Workshop‘s “Sprue Cutters Union” is akin to a group build, only with blog posts instead of builds. 

This week’s topic:

How do you find time for the hobby?

For me, it’s not a matter of finding time. Time isn’t exactly lying around the house to be found. Hell, if I had to find time to get out to the bench, I’d never get out to the bench.

Instead, I make time. Or steal it. Or hold it hostage. Pick your metaphor.

Here’s the deal. I’ve got a full-time job that has a bad habit of bleeding into weekends and holidays. And three small kids. And a wife. And four dogs. On any given day, from the moment I wake up, I’m staring down a 15-hour stretch of responsibility. Work or watching the kids or feeding the dogs or running errands. The only times I can really think about hitting the bench while the sun is up are those rare weekends when Mrs. Doogs takes the kids to see her parents.

Most of the time, though, my bench time comes with the end of the day, once the kids are in bed, their lunches for the next day made, and the dogs put in their kennels for the night.

Like vampires, the rebels from the Terminator movies and the aliens from Aliens, I mostly come out at night. Mostly.

Typically, I’ll get a start around 10PM and go until around 1AM or so. Yes, it costs me a bit of sleep. But I’m a night owl by nature (if nearly six years of fatherhood haven’t beaten that out of me, nothing will!), and I find if I skip the bench for a few more hours of shuteye, I wake up more tired and grumpy than if I’d stayed up. The way I interpret that is that modeling is my decompression time. It helps me spin down so when I do go to sleep,  I sleep soundly, if not for the recommended eight hours.

 

1/35 Tamiya Challenger 1, Part 2

Challenger1_Log2

I can count the number of bases I’ve built with one hand. Hell, with one finger. When I was a kit, I made a very poor water base for Monogram’s OS2U Kingfisher. It was my first and last foray into placing a build into its natural habitat.

For 2014, I aim to change that, beginning with the Challenger.

My inspiration? This one maddeningly low-res photo. I’m not intending to recreate it exactly, but kinda get somewhere in the vicinity. More snow, more mud, more elevation… 

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Hunting the Good Kits

HuntingGoodKits

When Jon Bybee of the Combat Workshop ran into rough ground with his 1/48 Revellogram Mi-24 recently, he took the bitter experience and turned it into a reevaluation of his stash and of what goes into it. I highly recommend giving his post (and the rest of his blog) a read.

And I’d also like to welcome Jon to the “Life’s Too Short to Build Crappy Kits” club. There’s a special subset out there that thrills at tackling those archaic, sloppy-fitting, flash-ridden, detail-lacking kits and scratchbuilding them into wonders. There’s also a guy who built tons of model ships out of matches and matchbooks.

Personally, I love detailing (within reason) and painting and weathering. Construction is a means to an end, and so I tend to put a lot of stock in thoughtful engineering and buildability. Typically the remit of higher quality, more expensive kits.

Since I’ve been building and selling off and rebuilding and refining my stash for more than three years now, I’ve picked up a few methods of “kit-hunting” that tend to serve me pretty well when it comes to finding those high-quality kits at more reasonable pricepoints. Jon, I hope these serve you well, and of course anyone else out there with an interest in scoring deals.

1 – Making a Hunting List

The key to acquiring quality kits without getting hosed is to be extremely deliberate. Your best option is to start with a hunting list. This list should include:

  • The kit you want
  • The going street price
  • The “Shut Up and Take My Money” price

The “Shut Up and Take My Money” price is the price that’s so good that you literally cannot pass it up. One of the kits on my hunting list is Trumpeter’s 1/48 MiG-23. Either the M or MF, doesn’t really matter. Both kits street for around $40-50, and my shut up price is $30. So far the lowest I’ve seen is $32 or so, with one of those outrageous “from Asia” shipping prices. $30 and reasonable shipping? It’d be a done deal.

To my mind, the hunting list does three things. 1 – It organizes what you want so you can more easily resist impulse buys at Hobby Lobby or the like. 2 – It makes you aware of how much kits go for so you can more readily recognize good deals. 3 – It forces you to evaluate how badly you want each kit on your list.

2 – Cast a Wide Net

Don’t limit your search to a handful of sites or retailers. Go wide. Hell, go global. You never know where you’re going to find that screaming deal.

Two recent examples.

First, I was really looking forward to Meng’s new 1A3/4 Leopard, and resolved to snag it for anything less than $45. Sprue Brothers is currently selling it for $55. But I found it on Hobby-Space for $30. No-brainer.

Second, I was hunting down Trumpeter’s 1/32 MiG-23. These large-scale Floggers usually street around $110-130, and everywhere I looked was in that range. Except for, or all places, Amazon, which was selling the MiG-23MLD for $76 with free Prime shipping.

Also, don’t forget to pay attention to sales and specials. The other day on Sprue Brothers I found a 1/48 Hasegawa F-16C Block 52 in Greek markings for $29.99. And they had a “take an additional 15% off” sale going on. Squadron’s Mystery Deal and Black Friday activities are often worth paying attention to.

3 – Don’t Fear eBay. Use it.

You know what really grinds my gears?

People who avoid eBay because 1) they’re afraid it’s not secure or 2) they’re afraid they’ll get ripped off.

I’ve got news for you. As many as 40 million people had their card information stolen in a massive breach of Target’s point-of-sale systems a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, eBay more or less exclusively uses Paypal these days. Paypal is far more secure than a credit card and comes with a lot of baked-in buyer protections. I feel safer using Paypal for online purchases than I do using plastic.

As for getting ripped off, that’s what Paypal Buyer Protection is for. Most of the time, if you get ripped off buying a model on eBay, it’s due to an honest mistake. Someone selling off an estate and assuming all the kits were 100% complete, etc. And most of the time, a refund is issued swiftly. If it’s not, just turn it over to Paypal and they’ll settle it for you. I’d love to see Chase or whoever do that for their online customers.

Okay, so once you’re comfortable with eBay, get a sense for how much a certain kit usually goes for. I’ve found that creating saved searches can help. Then…keep an eye out for a bargain. Sometimes it’s as simple as buying a very reasonably-priced offering. Other times it’s finding an auction that’s flying way under the radar. At this point, I move to my favorite tool, Snipeswipe.

Snipeswipe is a bit underhanded, sure, but it also helps me stay out of the psychological mess that is an eBay bidding war. That’s the way it works (and the way eBay wants it to work). When you place a bid, and get outbid, damnit, you just lost. You need to bid again. At least make that other bastard pay more. And so it goes and suddenly you’re paying $50 for a $30 kit.

Snipeswipe lets you place a bid, which it will then submit on your behalf with like six seconds remaining in the auction. This avoids the bidding war so, for those things flying under the radar, it’s a set-it-and-forget it tool that can net some big wins. Here are a few that I’ve racked up:

  • 1/48 Hasegawa F/A-18D Hornet – $39.50
  • 1/35 Tamiya Challenger 1 – $11.50
  • 1/32 Hobby Boss Il-2 on Skis – $20.50
  • 1/32 Revell Bf 109K-4 (Hasegawa plastic) – $32.00
  • 1/16 Trumpeter T-34/76 – $74.60

All of these are substantially cheaper than if I’d just gone out and bought them. That Hobby Boss Il-2 goes for something like $130.

That’s it for now…and really those are the major tips. Know what you want. Know what you’re willing to pay.

Have You Liked Doogs’ Models on Facebook Yet?

I don’t really make much hay about it over here, but Doogs’ Models has its own dedicated Facebook page, which as of today just crossed 3,000 likes!

3000Likes

Now, that’s a drop in the bucket next to the nearly 285,000 views this blog has received in 2013, and the deeper posts and build logs aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But in you’re already on Facebook, I’m posting there regularly with works in progress as well as highlighting items of interests, new kits and products, and awe-inspiring builds from around the world. Check it out!

1/35 Tamiya Challenger 1, Part 1

Challenger1_Log1

The last few months have been tough ones. After finishing off the Hasegawa Ki-84 toward the end of October, I hit a rocky patch marked by an ultimately losing battle with Academy’s 1/32 F-16I Sufa kit. The Trumpeter Me 262 lives on, but I’m currently stuck waiting for some materials before I can move it into the painting stage, so I’ve opted to go for a nice, simple build in the interim.

And there is nothing more simple and straightforward than a 1980s-vintage Tamiya armor kit.

I’m not a huge fan of modern armor – the M1 Abrams bores me to tears, and the Leopard 2 and Challenger 2…meh. But for some reason I absolutely adore the original Challenger 1. Like all proper British designs, it manages to look at once both sleek and rough around the edges. And it has (had) more going for it than just its looks. Despite a generally poor reputation, the Challenger kicked all kinds of ass in Desert Storm, where it matched and even exceeded the US Army’s vaunted Abrams.

While it’s greatest exploits took place in the desert, I’ve chosen to go with the traditional European camoflage, and to attempt something I’ve thus far shied away from – setting this tank on a base. My inspiration comes from the picture below, of a Challenger cruising down a muddy track through a snowy field.

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Scaling Back…

Smaller

Earlier this year, I abandoned 1/48 scale in favor of the larger 1/32 scale. For the most part, I’ve had no regrets. Among World War I and World War II subjects, 1/32 feels like the scale that’s seeing the most innovation.

But I can’t say the same about more modern aircraft.

After much deliberation, I’ve made the decision to go back to 1/48 scale – for modern aircraft only.

There are several factors that, taken together, make too powerful an argument for 1/48 over 1/32 when it comes to lawn darts and boring gray triangles.

Size

Modern jets are big. Even the diminutive F-16 dwarfs basically every single-engine prop job. Larger twin-farters like the F-4 or F-15? They’re positively monstrous. Thanks to relatively manageable wingspans, my display cabinets could accommodate them, but only a few, since the sheer size would quickly eat up available room.

Consider the F-15. It’s 64 feet long with a 43-foot wingspan. In 1/32, that works out to 24 x 16 inches – longer than a 1/32 B-25, and wider than a 1/32 P-47. In 1/48, the Eagle works out to 16 x 10.75 inches. In other words, more or less similar in terms of footprint to a 1/32 Jug. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but it’s way more manageable.

Ultimately, 1/48 jets fall into my sweet spot of kits that fall between 10×10 and 18×18. Just like 1/32 props.

Kit Quality and Selection

Let’s face it. Once you get past 1945, kit selection drops. Fast. For anything flying after 1960, it’s extremely rare to be able to choose between even two manufacturers. Want to build a MiG-21? Get ready to suffer Trumpeter’s kit. An F-4? Congrats, you get to pay way too much for an old Tamiya kit. F-16? There’s an exquisite Tamiya, a selection of dated Hasegawas (raised panel lines) and a line of Academy Falcons that look far nicer in the box than they actually go together. Want to build a MiG-29? There’s Revell’s sad effort. Or there’s Trumpeter’s MiG-29K and MiG-29M, only one of which is even in operational service.

Drop down to 1/48, and the options explode outward…and are continuing to expand. Great Wall’s MiG-29s are exquisite. Kitty Hawk is surprising left and right with interesting subjects. Hobby Boss is releasing a new F-84F and A-6A Intruder. For $20, you can get into the very good Revell F-15E Strike Eagle or F/A-18E Superbug. If you want to go with a MiG-21, there’s Eduard’s huge lineup to wade into.

Aftermarket Options

Aftermarket for 1/32 jets is improving, but it still pretty much sucks compared to what’s available for 1/32 props or 1/48 jets.

Marking Options

The state of play for 1/32 jet markings – in the form of decals and masks – is abysmal. Props are golden…there’s more decal support, plus the steady trickle of books + decals from Kagero and the like. And…props tend to sport larger and simpler markings that can be reproduced with custom paint masks. That’s just not the case for modern jets, which more or less require decals for many of their markings. Decal support is critical, but really lacking. I would say, from a completely subjective, non-scientific poll that consisted of me clicking around various websites, that the decal selection in 1/48 is at least four times greater than what’s to be had in 1/32.

*****

So. When it comes to jets, I’m planning a general shift back to 1/48. Because reasons. Agree? Disagree? Sound off below.

 

So Many Choices…

With the F-16 transitioning to the Shelf of Doom, I’ve got some slack space on the bench.

So what should I tackle next? I’m torn between a stupid number of possibilities…so I’m opening it up to public opinion to help me narrow my focus.

Meng Leopard 1A3/4

I very much prefer the lines of the older Leopard 1 to the new, super-slopey Leopard 2. And this new kit from Meng is definitely hot off the presses.

Trumpeter MiG-23MLD Flogger-K

The Flogger isn’t my favorite aircraft, but it’s said to be a very good kit, and would be a great canvas for camoflage and weathering.

Wingnut Wings AMC DH.9

Wingnut’s Christmas surprise! I’m absolutely smitten by the Lobster and Hellenic schemes.

Trumpeter AD-4 Skyraider

The Sea Blue Able Dog! This one would be built with the wings folded and packing a ton of HVAR rockets.

Trumpeter A-1H Skyraider

The later-model A-1H Skyraider. Like the AD-4, it’s a gorgeous looking kit, with a MUCH better decal sheet. I normally avoid kit markings, but the sharkmouthed USAF “Sandy” is a must-do. This one would be built wings out, loaded down with ordnance.

Meng T-90A

This kit looks like a piece of art, and I dig the T-90 for not looking like some variant of the Abrams.

Meng FT Light Tank

One of the most influential tanks in history, the FT more or less informed all future tank design with the turret-mounted main armament. When I build this one, it will be as a US FT in Patton’s 304th Light Tank Brigade.

Wingnut Wings Sopwith Pup

I’ve already built Wingnut’s wonderful little Pup. This time around, I’d be fitting one out as a night trainer.

So, which one wins out? Vote above!