2018 Retrospective

2018 Retrospective

Fish swim, birds fly, bears steal hubcaps (thanks Gary Larson!), and scale model bloggers write about what they built during the year.  So “bear” with me as I talk through the good, bad, and ugly of this year’s building.

2018 was the year it really came together for me.  Since picking up the hobby again back in 2009 (admittedly it was not a long break, from about 2002, but I grew up during that time, so it was quite significant), I had been looking at builds online and thinking, “I wish I could do that”.  But every time I tried to do a weathered finish, it would go horribly wrong.  Even this year, my first build on this site, the Su-35, was deliberately painted “clean” because I wanted to have just one nice jet model that I hadn’t ruined in the weathering.  Then it finally started to click for me as I took a more serious and experimental approach, learning new techniques and trying things out before applying them to a model.

 

Mikasa

The year started uneventfully, with my second 1/350 ship build: Hasegawa’s Mikasa.  For the most part, this was a straightforward and successful build, but a few things arose which showed growing changes in how I approached my builds.

First, I had learned from HMS Hood that a ship needs to be built in subassemblies.  So here I laid out my own build sequence which departed from the instructions.  This was partly successful: while it did give me an easier time painting and weathering, final assembly was tricky.  In places, the subassemblies didn’t fit together as neatly as hoped.  A slightly different approach would be needed in future.

Second, this build convinced me that wooden veneer decks are not the panacea that many believe them to be.  They complicate painting, confound fit, and are not easy to make look like real wood.  I know the veneer is real wood, bear with me.  If you’re building in 1/350, your wood deck needs to look like wood that is 1/350th the size of actual wood.  I know you can get some close-grained woods, but even in 1/35 a real wood propeller can look out of scale for the subject.  In 1/350, where the wood grain is trying to represent wooden planks?  Good luck.

Su-35

Next came the Kitty Hawk Su-35, the first kit I wrote about here.  I was expecting some surrealist nightmare of a kit, and instead found one that was disappointingly normal and full of basic, silly mistakes.  Still, the end result looks nice.

Front left view

Spitfires

I had been developing a desire to make kits look “right” for some time.  This had never manifested as more than filling a particularly significant gap, but here it caused me to decide that these were not worth continuing.

I had picked up a pair of ICM 1/48 Spitfires cheaply, having heard that these were really nice kits.  The examples I got were in poor condition, with wrecked boxes and missing parts.  From the beginning, I noticed that the fit was very bad indeed.  The engine covers didn’t fit the hole in the fuselage, and the wing root join was even worse.  On one, I couldn’t get a single edge to line up so as to have a base to start from, and the join would have needed more than 2mm depth of filler.  This was going to significantly change the shape of the model.  The final straw was the wing tip inserts, which were about half the thickness of the wings.

I’m sure someone could do a good job on these kits, but I lack the skills or inclination to fix them.  They became my first paint mules, and have been very useful as such.  Having previously scoffed at the idea of sacrificing a kit just to use it for experiments, I think that a lot of the improvements in my airbrushing results have come from trying things out on this pair.

DC-3

The year’s next frustrating disaster came with the Italeri’s 1/72 DC-3.  This was my first attempt at making a model match an original photo, in this case a postcard from the 1950’s, depicting a Swissair aircraft.  The kit may actually date from 1979, according to Scalemates.

The kit was very basic, with no interior and extremely deep panel lines which only represented a few of the lines found on the original aircraft.  For the first time, I filled the existing detail and attempted scribing and riveting.  This all seemed ok until I started painting.  I had a few paint issues: the fine detail I had added became lost, I had problems getting the metallic coat to look right, and then after masking and painting the distinctive red stripe, I found that the metallic coat was flaking off the surface in large quantities.  By this point it would clearly never be what I wanted, so this one also became a paint mule and I will return to the subject at a later time.

MiG-21

This year’s first real breakthrough came when I saw a group build advertised in one of the Facebook groups I’m in (Cold War Model Making and Photos) for vehicles which served in Africa during the period.  This was an excuse to try one of Eduard’s 1/48 MiG-21s, an Egyptian -MF variant.  Again I tried replicating a look I found in a reference photo, and this time it was successful.  This build added hairspray chipping and salt weathering to techniques that I was confident with.

Millennium Falcon

The year’s final disappointment came with the Fine Molds 1/72 Millennium Falcon.  I had this kit for years before finally attempting it.  It’s a long, involved build, with detail that is no longer as impressive as it seemed when new.  The detail pieces don’t really fit together as neatly as we expect these days, but the overall effect is nice.

Everything was going well until the weathering, where I didn’t yet understand how to achieve the look I wanted.  The underneath received a heavy coat of pigments, which didn’t really do what I liked, and then I tried oils for the first time on the top.  I overdid the oil application with the result that it became a mess.  It will get stripped back and entirely repainted at some point.

Comanche

A spur of the moment decision to get Italeri’s old 1/48 Comanche kit mostly for nostalgia’s sake led to a new thing for me: modifying a kit to recreate details on the original provided by someone who had been part of the project.  Along with a fairly challenging paint and weathering approach which led to a bit more confidence with oils this stood out as a landmark build for me.

Type 23 Frigate

Another group build subject, this time SMCG’s Small Scale Group Build.  I questioned whether 1/350 can really be considered small scale for ships, but took advantage of it anyway.  It’s a small ship.  I applied the lessons of the Mikasa to my build and paint approach, and it was successful although I think I could go even further.  One really interesting thing here was the use of oils to recreate the worn decks I saw in reference photos.  Very successful, and by the time I finished this one I felt confident to tackle the big subject of the year.  But first…

Front right

Viggen

Is there a pattern here?  Another spur of the moment group build, another really successful build.  Tarangus’ Viggen wasn’t as great a kit as I had hoped, but it was an opportunity to really stretch myself when it came to careful spraying and masking the splinter camo.  Another build where I was able to get great input from people who knew the original well, but also for the first time my own research had turned up some little gems of details that were able to surprise even the connoisseurs.

Viggen front view

Corsair

This was the big one.  I had purchased this kit a few months prior, having decided that I really wanted to attempt it.  At that point, I knew I lacked key skills that would be necessary, and each build from the MiG-21 onward attempted to add or develop one of these so that I could be successful.

It worked really well.  It took a lot of work and a few false starts, but I managed to create the look I wanted.  It really felt like a breakthrough, as I had finally managed to get a build to look like a weathered aircraft.

Bf-109K

After the Corsair, I wanted something nice and simple.  After the painting didn’t go to plan, it was a pleasant surprise to find that I was able to bring it ack to a really nice looking model in the end through oils.

Looking ahead

I have a few interesting builds lined up into 2019, and a few objectives for them.  First of all, I want to continue consolidating the skills I developed in 2018, and consistently complete models that are finished to the same degree as the Corsair.  Second, I want to refine the techniques I’m using, understand them better, and generally tighten up the builds.  Third, I want to revisit some areas where I feel I haven’t been successful in the past, and at least turn out nice looking builds.  A bare metal finish is absolutely top of that list, having previously failed to create a good one any time I’ve tried.

After that, I really don’t know where to go.  I’ve finally achieved the goal I set back in 2009 or so of being able to produce a weathered model.

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