Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Dilemma of a Terrible Kit

Bill Watterson, the genius behind the ageless comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, seemed know full well the frustrating experiences inherent in the hobby that we so love. While I can't say for sure that he is a fellow modeler, the theme appears time and again in his work on that classic strip. He captured the image of a frustrated modeler brilliantly in just four small frames. Whether Mr. Watterson was himself a builder of model airplanes or not, we can all agree that we have at least experienced the same exasperation of an uncooperative kit as Calvin has encountered here. I know I have.

Of course, Calvin is younger and less refined than most of us, but that doesn't mean we haven't at least thought of taking a hammer to an obstinate kit. We have all reached this crossroads at some point, and the question becomes, do we carry on, pouring more time and energy into a terrible kit? Or do we reach for the hammer and trash bin? I have built some crappy kits in my day considering the majority of my stash had been made up of older Revell and Monogram boxes so I can tell you first hand about the urge to grab the hammer. But, as a recovering cheap-kit addict, I can also give you some advice on how to address those urges...

Carry On!
Hey, sometimes you need to stop crying, shut up, and ruck up! Put the hammer down!
Yeah, a kit may be difficult to get through but most issues are solvable with a little extra effort. Just imagine how much sweeter the finish will taste once you reach it. And remember, there will be peace when you are done...

Wreck it!
There may be occasions where the model is not going to be that show piece you were hoping for and continuing is just not in the cards. While you may not want to literally take a hammer to your kit, maybe it is time to adjust the way you finish it. Calvin was on the right track his snarky anti-aircraft comment. Modeling your subject as a deplorable wreck gives you the opportunity to still finish the project and create an eye catching scene.
They say in sports, "winning covers a multitude of sins", so too may a troublesome model can be rectified through creative placement in a scene. You'd be surprised how much you can cover up this way...

This is true even of armor...

Scrap it!
Every modeler should have a scrap bin or two. Or ten. They are usually well stocked with the unused pieces from previous kits, and other sundry items acquired over years of building and taking apart models. If you just can't be buggered to finish your model and dioramas aren't your thing, just strip it for the parts you may find useful later on, and start something new. Heck, even the US Air Force does that...

Shelf it!
Say hello to your new queen. Shelf queen that is.
If you're unwilling to continue but would rather not take it apart in hopes of somehow finding the proper motivation to tackle the kit at a later date (yeah, right) then you can always put it on the shelf. You know the one...its usually out of sight, perhaps in another room some where, like the basement and the only time you remember they are there are on occasions when a post like this jogs your memory or when you need to fetch a light bulb from the cellar. You've probably got five or six of them sitting there, neglected, no longer a part of the stash but neither are they completed models. Its in limbo. But one day, it will earn its right to be finished. That's what I keep telling myself any way...

Practice Makes Perfect!
There are some of these shelf queens that are fortunate enough to get a little bit more attention. While likely never to be finished, they at least get to serve a purpose. If you've run out of real estate on your shelf of doom, try putting one of those disagreeable models to good use. They are a great platform to practice all sorts of techniques, from airbrushing to rust to zimmerit...

Kid's New Toy!
I have kids who show a rather intense appreciation for my hobby. Not in the sense that I would prefer, but rather they would be more than willing to take a few of my aircraft and fly them around the house for several hours.  Rather than letting them get their grubby little hands on one of my better models, I have taken to giving them a shelf queen or two if I feel I can part with them. This appeases them, however briefly...

So there are at least several alternatives to dealing with your model using Calvin's method. No matter what you decide to do, your goal should be to use as few of these remedies as possible throughout the course of the year. This could mean striving to perfect techniques such as filling and sanding seams, or you could take my route and change your buying habits - you can't build a bad kit if you don't have one to build.
How do YOU combat a terrible kit? Sound off in the comments! Thanks for reading!


  1. I could never take a hammer to a kit, no matter HOW bad.
    I have let models sit in a closet for 10+ years, only to start finishing them now, so I guess I'm going for option 4 : Shelf it!
    Experimenting with new techniques, option 3 (Wreck it) starts to sound like something I'd give a try.

  2. I'm with Jeroen on this - can't apply the hammer however tempting it seems at the time. At least the shelf option allows time to reflect. Another great post Jon!

  3. I tend to shelf them!

    I always have two or three projects on the limbo. But they eventually get finished.

    The only one that still lurks on my conscience is an Airfix Short Stirling. I was 17 or 18.
    It went out the window. Literally!