Sunday, October 25, 2015

Worst Box Art

They say you only have one chance to make a good first impression. Model kits make their first impressions with their box art. While I've never based my decision to purchase a kit solely on what is essentially the hobby's version of a profile picture, a well done work of art does go a long way to inspire me. 
Here is a short list of box art that I consider some of the worst, and least inspiring. 

Hasegawa Real Thing

Hasegawa has been known to make some pretty attractive box art, but their trend toward using photographs of the real thing are just boring.

Revell's MiG-21PF

Revell's box art is typically OK. This one makes the list, however, because I'm not sure why this Fishbed would have it's air brakes open while in afterburner. 

All of Testor's Box Art

Basically the modeling equivalent of still life, it's just objects arranged in a some what photogenic manner that aren't even marginally better than the WIP photos I produce at my workbench. And what's with that paint brush? As if you could produce a finish like that with a Testor's brush that has bristles as thick as guitar strings...

This AMT Viper

This is more fitting for the cover of an early 90's computer game than scale model box art. It's also a bit of a mess - the proportions are off especially up front and the lettering on the tail is skewed. 

Trumpeter's Flagon-A

This is really just atrocious. Looks like they just copied their final CAD drawing and pasted it to a Windows 98 desktop background...hideous. 

You have any you'd like to add? Comment below or on Facebook!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

All About That Kit

What Is Imperative? 

This month the Sprue Cutters Union is discussing what we consider the most important aspect of modeling; areas that we refuse to cut corners or skimp on. The answers so far have been varied and quite relevant, from decals to the paint finish to even showing a little patience (gasp!) These are all important factors that can truly make or break a model if it's builder refuses to address them properly. Originally, I had intended to follow the same line. I was going to rattle off a few things in one post and call it good until I wrote the article last night on growing my stash, and it hit me. 

It's Obvious! 

It's the kit. The kit I'm building is the single most important aspect of the build. Well, duh, you say. I wouldn't blame you for rolling your eyes at this point because, after all, you can't model without a kit in the first place. But take a seat and let me explain.

The project you are working on right now had it beginnings a long time ago, well before you started cutting sprue and gluing plastic. You don't remember? It all started the day the kit caught your eye. Maybe it was at a local model contest, or a flea market, the hobby shop down the street, or an enticing online sale. Regardless of its origin, your build, and all the effort you will pour into it, began the day you bought it.

Spending money on models is hard to resist. There is something about buying a kit, getting it in the door and opening it up for the first time, rifling through it's contents and considering the possibilities and really gets the dopamine pumping. It's reward motivated behavior.
Buying kits is unavoidable. Like we agreed on earlier, we can't hobby without em. However, just like every other aspect of this intricate hobby, you have a say in how you manipulate a model. That includes making the decision to actually buy it.

Once a kit becomes yours, so too do you own whatever issues come with it.

My Stance

Early in my modeling life I spent waaaay too much money on sub-par kits and filled my stash with older kits from Monogram, ESCI, Fujimi and Heller, to name a few. As a result, I often found myself languishing in a pit of despair having to correct all the impending problems or settling for crappy detail or no detail. I have no time to screw around with what some old heads consider "modeling skills". I get, at best, six hours of solid modeling time a week. A week. That is a short amount of time
Waste of time...
which I do not want to squander on deciphering complex engineering or lathering the model in putty.
It isn't worth saving a few dollars by obtaining Monogram's Avenger, or ESCI's Jaguar Gr.1 just to lose time and sanity mired in fixes. The money is best spent elsewhere.
Once I realized I have the ability to control my own destiny at the bench, my enjoyment of the hobby really soared. Whatever kits I still owned that I knew were going to be an issue, I offloaded and used that money to get new kits. Did you know I had never to this point built a Tamiya kit? I own two now but you can see just how lacking my stash was at the time. Back then my kit selection had been based on availability, and not on anything that mattered. I saw a model in my budget and bought it. I was modeling for modeling sake, not my sake. 

Now I do my research and pay a little extra for a kit that will provide an enjoyable experience while also maximizing the time I have at the bench to do the things I prefer, like detail, paint, weather, and so on. I no longer buy kits on a whim, but I decide the subject matter I want to build then buy the kit. This means I am not left staring at my stash struggling to find motivation to build a model I was not personally invested in. Each purchase was well thought out before hand, its strengths and weaknesses weighed against my desire to build the subject.

The Caveat

I understand that no kit is perfect, though some come close. Totally avoiding gaps and seams or troublesome engineering may not always be possible depending on the kit you want to build. There also may be those few times when the subject you absolutely want to model is not represented in a kit that isn't a rudimentary re-pop of a mold that first hit the shelves in the 1980's. But that is OK. If you really want a particular subject on your shelf sometimes you have to take the bumps of being a modeler. Approaching a kit with the desire to build it makes tackling the obstacles a bit easier.

Maybe not the best kit, but I had to have it!
I am trying not to sound like I am knocking particular manufacturers or older kits. Well, maybe I am. Truthfully, there are a number of modern kits that are absolute dogs as well. For instance, the Kinetic F-16 that I am working on. But odds are, the older kits are going to require a great deal more effort to get right. Maybe you are OK with that. Perhaps filling and sanding gets you in the zone. Maybe you like the feeling of accomplishment you get after completing a kit that did nothing but fight you the whole time. Well, not me. Say what you will, but I like my "shake and bake" kits (whatever those are).

In the End...

Make an informed decision. If you're willing to accept the pitfalls for the sake of the finished model, then good on you. But I have found that there is no reason to suffer through a kit, especially when there is a better kit on the market. Sure it may cost a little bit more, but I'll make that money back in time spent at the bench. This hobby is for my pleasure, my relaxation. When that stupid hunk of inanimate plastic starts to get on my nerves, its no fun any more. As one person just told me, "life is too short for Lindberg". He's darn right. Figure out what you want to build, then find a kit that meets your expectations in terms of budget and in terms of suffering to be endured. Then there is only one thing left to do.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What Influences Your Stash?

About two years ago, spurned by an uncooperative Revell kit, I made up my mind to approach the models I buy a different way. Prior to this decision, I had just been throwing my money at various kits simply because they were available for a low price at my local hobby shop, or worse, the arts and craft store.
My stash was soon filled with an assortment of inexpensive, ubiquitous Revell kits and even cheaper and more primitive ESCI and Heller boxes purchased for next to nothing at nearby model shows. 
The collection of models I had amassed was substantial but lacking in quality. The majority of my model sessions were bogged down by lengthy periods of having to correct issues such as poor fit, filling gaps, sanding seams, and apologizing to the wife for my bouts of fitful screaming. Something had to change. 
I reached the tipping point while building Revell's Mi-24 Hind. The struggle to fit the canopy, among other things, was more than I could stand. I looked at my stash and realized there was only more pain to come. There were no kits that I absolutely wanted to build but they had found their way into my stash because I am a modeler and cheap kits are very persuasive. 
But I wasn't going to fall for that any more. I gathered up my kits and listed them on eBay. Of course they sold quickly, like I said, cheap kits are chum for modelers. Now I had room on my shelves and money in my pocket (or PayPal account as the case may be). As any good modeler would, I wanted to start buying kits again. The problem was, I didn't know what I wanted.
Up to this point, I had built my stash on a whim, hoarding kits because they were just that, kits. I had no vested interest in the subject matter besides they were aircraft, they were affordable, and they were models. I didn't just want to buy stuff because it was a cool looking plane. I needed a plan. How do I spend this money and recharge my stash?

To answer that question, I developed two goals. First, I decided each kit I spent hard earned coin on had to be a subject that I connected with on a personal level. Since I'm in the Air Force, this wouldn't be difficult. I maintain F-16's for the NJ ANG so naturally getting as many Vipers in New Jersey markings became my primary objective. But I'm not stopping with F-16's. I'm trying to gather as many aircraft kits as I can to represent aircraft flown by the 177th FW and the 108th, which include jets like the F-106 and F-105 as well as the P-51.

It's also opened my mind to aircraft I likely would not have considered previously, like the T-33A. I even consider aircraft that I've crossed paths with, like the Super Bugs from the Black Lions or Tomcatters that I loaded alongside this summer or the T-28 Trojan at a local museum. Since the model represents history that is intertwined now with my own, it makes for an interesting build. It also helps narrow down my selection.

My second goal was to make sure I bought kits that I knew were decent. That meant educating myself. I poured over reviews of models that I was interested in to see if it was worth my time and money. Decals won't be a worry as most of my markings will be purchased aftermarket. My biggest concern is avoiding kits that will get me bogged down performing plastic surgery. Ain't nobody got time for that!

It's adhering to these two goals that have seen my stash grow. The majority of my stash, which was once made up of Revell, is now a balanced mix of Hasegawa and Tamiya, complimented by Trumpeter and Kinetic. All of them are of decent quality and are subjects that mean something to me. Spending time to invest in the right kits for my stash has become just as much fun and just as much a part of my hobby as putting the actual model together.

Of course not everyone can have a personal connection to aircraft like I do. But something out there must motivate your purchases. So how about you? Is there a method to your stash building madness? Sound off!