Whenever you put the majority of modelbuilders...or appreciative non-modelers...near a nicely done finished model, you're liable to hear them ask how long it took to build. Used to be that the answer would be "A couple of months", "A week", "Longer than I want to think about", "Darned if I know" or even "Until I finished it". Not the most precise answers in the world, but it gave you a very good idea of the effort that went into the model. But things have changed.
Today, we seem to have developed an obsession with letting everyone know how long it took to create our masterpiece by quoting a specific number of hours. You run into it everywhere, from full-fledged magazine articles and short reviews to being part of the information provided on contest entries. It's now reached the point that even the least experienced modeler will say, with all the pride he can muster, that he spent 37 hours on his last project. The implication is that the more hours you spend on a model, the better it is. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but tain't so! What you're really doing is trying to hit a moving target with a B-B gun!!
Now before someone busts a trace over what I just said, there are circumstances where quoting hours is justified. This generally occurs in a commercial situation where they're used as guidelines, based on years of cumulative experience, to quote prices for a new project. Even then, there's no guarantee that you'll stay out of trouble. I'm living proof of that statement. I quoted a price on a 1/24 exact scale ranch house, fully detailed inside and out, based on an estimated time of 200 hours. Well, up jumped the Devil everytime I turned around. 750 hours later, the model was finished, delivered and I spent the next year recovering from a most unwelcome financial bath!
Resin and plastic kits, however, have so many variables involved that it's downright pitiful. And most of the variables can usually be found in one location...the modelbuilder himself (or herself). Doubt me? Consider that you can take two identical kits (same manufacturer, kit #, etc.), identical choices of glue, paint, knives, clamps, putty, tape, etc., ad infinitum and place everything on identical workbenches in identical rooms and under identical conditions of light and temperature. Then add two modelers of comparable experience, background, age and skill. You'd think the result would be two virtually identical finished models that would require essentially the same amount of time to build. Right? Right! And you'd be wrong.
With everything else being equal, what you can't control is the unique way each modeler looks at things, their preference regarding assembly sequence and, most of all, how fast or slow each one works. One gallops along like a racehorse, throwing caution to the wind and solving problems as they rear their head. The result is frequently a contender for museum quality and yet has been cranked out in as little as 10 or 12 hours. Your other modeler plods like a turtle, is meticulous, precise, picky and worse. The mere act of cementing two pair of wings together can take 2 hours. Taken to it's ultimate conclusion, that model can easily have 80 or 90 hours in it and yet be virtually identical to the 10 or 12 hour effort produced by our racehorse modeler.
Bottom line? Thanks to all the variables embodied in modelbuilders, and no two having quite the same mix, anytime you run into articles specifying the number of hours it took to build a particular kit, take it with a grain of salt. Remember, if you're not getting any pleasure out of building the model in the first place, who cares how few or how many hours it took you. I build models as a business and I promise you that if I didn't enjoy it, I'd be in another line of work.
Think about it.
What do you get when you combine an interest in the B-1B Lancer, desktop models and and ability or willingness to build resin kits? The latest effort from WILCO! MODELS,
2826 Russell Avenue, Abilene, Texas 79605, (ph.915-677-7009), in the form of a 1/144 desktop resin kit of the B-1. It carries a price of $25 plus $5 shipping.
So what do you get for your thirty bucks? A sturdy box with a color photo of a finished model on the top, 11 model parts and a 2 piece stand, decals and instructions inside. There are no clear parts, but you wouldn't expect any on a desktop model. The boxtop also helpfully lists materials needed to complete assembly.
With the exception of the one-piece fuselage and two-piece stand, all parts are contained in a ziploc bag. If you've gotten this far and begun to think that things are looking a little familiar, you're right . It's basically a resin repop of the old Entex kit that has been corrected and cleaned up a bit.
Components are cast in a creamy beige urethane resin that is very close in color to Model Master Radome Tan. Surface detail, though limited to control surfaces, leading edge slats, bomb bay doors, gear doors and windscreen, is engraved. Parts are well cast, though you will have some flash and mold parting lines to work down. The display base is a little on the heavy side for my taste, but it won't be all that hard to thin down. Those of you with woodworking skills..or access to someone who does...can knock out a hardwood base replacement in nothing flat. Decals are printed on a solid sheet of clear, so you'll have to trim everything close to their outlines (It's not that hard. We used to do it all the time.).
The B-1 is a swing-wing aircraft. As you would expect, the wings on this kit can be swept. However, the wings are not geared, so you'll have to position each one separately.
Not that big a problem, really. Besides, I suspect that if we modelers apply a little of that creativity we're supposed to have such an abundance of, it won't be that hard to link them.
Instructions are quite thorough and take the form of a single sheet of text. There are no drawings but they really aren't needed. WILCO! MODELS makes every effort to keep you out of trouble.
All in all, this B-1B is a very creditable effort. While you're not going to be able to simply shake the box a couple of times and have a finished model fall out, neither will it take 35 tools and 10 years experience. If you've never tried resin, this isn't a bad kit to cut your teeth on.
CRETACEOUS CREATIONS, 8420 Craig Hill Drive, St. Louis, Missouri 63123, has released an absolutely georgous 1/18 scale resin kit of a Baryonyx Walkeri (that's a dinosaur for the uninitiated). Beautifully sculpted by Shane Foulkes, if your interest in prehistoric creatures extends beyond the occasional styrene plastic kit, this one is a must.
A carnivorous predator, it's name comes from the large, scimitar shaped thumb claws. They were probably used to capture large fish or dig into carrion. Rather than the usual type of head seen on Velociraptors or T-Rexs, the Baryonyx head appears to have been a close cousin to modern day alligators......complete with a mouthful of long, sharp and vicious looking teeth.
The kit is comprised of 9 parts, including 2 glass eyes. Everything (except for the eyes) is cast from a flaw-free creamy yellow resin. Instructions, with one notable exception, are quite thorough. That exception is a failure to tell you how to mount your finished Baryonyx. However, even as you read this, instructions are being revised to correct this flaw. Other portions are being expanded as well.
Just opening the box is an experience. Packaging is so well done that, short of running a bulldozer over it, I doubt that it would be possible to damage the kit in transit. Legs, lower jaw and tail are packaged in two heavy duty plastic pouches and the glass eyes in another. Foam rubber is wrapped around both the upper and lower jaws and taped in order to protect the teeth. The main body is then swathed in bubble wrap, as are all three of the parts pouches. Everything is then submerged in a generously sized boxful of foam nuggets.
While I haven't had time to build the little beastie yet (but I will), it's obvious from dryfitting that there will be no problems at all. Male/female joints are used throughout to obtain seams requiring an absolute minimum of effort to render invisible. Surface detail, which stretches some 21 1/2 inches from nose to tail is exquisite. From those incredible teeth to heavy folds of flesh, musculature, pebbled, wrinkled skin....this, folks, is more than just a model. It's a natural history replica. Priced at a most reasonable $95, including shipping in the U.S. And if you lack the nerve to try building one but would still like to add it to your shelf, a completely finished kit mounted on a wood base is available for $200, again including shipping in the U.S.
Whichever route you choose, try to give Shane a call first at 314-849-9754 so he can discuss specifics of your order.
More than a few times, classic movies (and some not so classic) have inspired figure kits of one kind or another. JANUS COMPANY, P.O. Box 710928, Houston, Texas 77271, (phone 713-271-5570, email: email@example.com) continues this influence with a dandy 1/6 scale vinyl kit of Lon Chaney's Hunchback of Notre Dame. Priced at $79.95 plus $5 shipping for the vinyl kit, it's also available in a limited edition resin version for $175 and $7 shipping.
Sculpted by Jeff Yegher, what makes this kit particularly appealing is that it's designed to function as a wall plaque. No worry about whether or not the finished figure is going to fit in your display case.
The kit comes packed in a large, sturdy top flap box with locking tabs on one side. A full color slipcover top fits over that. Once you get the box open, you'll find the kit's 10 high qulity vinyl parts contained within a bag . Incidentally, you'll find that this is a little different vinyl from what you usually see. It's a lot stiffer at room temperature and will absolutely have to be warmed before trimming. Instructions are very thorough and take the form of an 11 x 17 sheet, printed on both sides and folded in thirds. Besides keeping you out of trouble during construction, the instructions also include an excellent plot synopsis of the story for benefit of modelers who have neither read the book or seen the movie.
You'll find that the largest piece in the kit is the crenelated section of the Cathedral wall, compete with a ledge, gargoyle and integral nameplate that's positioned on the wall above the gargoyle. Quasimodo (the Hunchback's name) is designed to sit on the ledge with one arm around the gargoyle's neck in order to steady himself. Officially licensed by Chaney Enterprises, the completed figure is instantly recognizable as Quasimodo portrayed by Lon Chaney, Sr. You can't ask for better than that.
Though I haven't built the kit yet (Deadlines! Deadlines!!), I'm looking forward to it. In part because the kit has been designed to allow it to be painted before final assembly. Unlike so many kits where, if you do this, you wind up with seams or even damaged paint, all final assembly joints are hidden. Can't wait to try it out.
If you have a fondness for figures of movie characters, this one's for you. Go get it!
Prefer science fiction critters? Then take a look at Rancor, one of the latest vinyl kit releases from AMT/ERTL. Big (a solid foot tall), detailed to the nines, ugly as sin and carrying a price tag of $33.50, few Star Wars enthusiasts will be able to resist this one.
It's comprised of 19 gray vinyl parts, 5 of which make up the Gamorrean Guard. The pose (which has Rancor leaning over and grasping a Guard in one taloned hand) is a sneaky way of getting the finished model to stand upright. It's necessary because with Rancor standing on two feet, leaning forward and being as big as he is, the only other way to keep him upright would be to nail his feet to a base. By replicating a scene from Return Of The Jedi where Rancor has just grabbed the Gamorrean Guard (shortly after, the Guard became a between meal snack), the Guard's foot forms the third leg of a tripod. This allows you to move the finished model around as you wish without mounting him to a base.
Instructions are the usual drawings/symbol style, accompanied by a text insert that gives descriptive instructions in nine languages. They are: English, Spanish, French, Italian, Danish, Portuguese, Swedish, German and Japanese.
If you've got the room for him, thisun'l be a real attention getter.
Build Star Trek starships and you run into a major problem right quick. Namely, how the heck do you reproduce that subtle Aztec paint pattern that's so visible on many of the ships? If you're a glutton for punishment, you spend a lot of time laboriously masking, spraying, masking, spraying, masking and spraying. And you keep your fingers crossed the whole time, hoping against hope that you don't make a mistake. Well, miracle of miracles (and depending on the specific starship you're building), now there's and easier and better way.
WALKER ENTERPRISES, P.O. Box 18275, Corpus Christi, Texas 78480 (phone 512-949-8054) solves your problem with four different sets of Aztec Pattern photo etched painting templates. Made from .008 brass, they're thin enough to be flexible but heavy enough to be durable. Obviously intended to be reuseable, they'll last you a long time if you use a little care and common sense.
Since I have a Reliant conversion in the works for a client, I ordered the Reliant templates. May not use them on my current project (depending on final paint decisions), but they'll be close at hand when I do need them.
You will have to remove the templates from their frets (the Reliant set has 8 templates on 4 frets), but that's quickly done. Spend a little time reading the very thorough instructions and you're off to the races.
Templates are available for Enterprise A ($39.95), Enterprise B ($24.95), Reliant ($39.95) and Excelsior ($24.95). Add $3.50 to each order for postage & handling. The order form states that they're designed for use with AMT/ERTL kits or similar.
A very specialized product that's intended for a specific purpose and nothing else (although I do wonder how many of you are going to find a way to adapt it to other purposes). If you build Star Trek starships, I really don't know how you could get along without these templates.
Aside from the obvious problem of near-microscopic size of many parts, the thing that keeps a lot of modelers from trying photo-etch offerings is the need to make many types of bends. Whether it's a 90 degree bend on a buckle, bends of various angles or creating a very small box by making 5 right angle bends on a piece of brass that's less than 1/2" long, we tend to look at the problem as our worst nightmare come to life. Well, our nightmare is over, thanks to a dandy little bending jig from THE SMALL SHOP, 2502 NW 269th Street, Ridgefield, WA 98642 (phone 360-887-8367).
Called THE HOLD AND FOLD PHOTOETCHED PARTS WORKSTATION and selling for $39.95 including shipping, this is as ingenious a tool design as I've seen in some time. The angles and cutouts on the main toolhead (the one with the large knob in the photo) allow you to handle all manner of folds, while the long bar toolhead handles larger parts and is also reversible.
Machined from heavy aluminum stock, the base is 4" square, main toolhead is 2" square and the bar toolhead is 4" long. This is obviously a tool that'll be around as long as you build models. You also get a ziploc bag containing a piece of brass shim stock, allen wrench (for the screws on the bar toolbar) and dull, heavy duty knife blade (to lever up the photoetch part to the appropriate angle). Instructions tell you everything you need to know. If you do much photoetch work, this little jewel belongs in your tool collection.
From GT PRODUCTS, INC., 501 Industrial Blvd., Grapevine, Texas 76051 (phone 800-221-0866, email: firstname.lastname@example.org), comes three items that will be of particular interest to anyone wanting to do any resin casting. First up are a couple of aerosol products.
In order to cast resin, you have to have a mold...RTV. Strictly speaking, RTV doesn't need mold release to get your casting out of the mold...but it can't hurt. If all you want to do is turn out a half dozen or so copies and then toss the mold, don't worry about it. On the other hand, if you're attempting to produce garage kits or aftermarket parts, that's another story. With urethane resins having virtually no shrinkage, it takes more effort to break the surface tension between the part and the mold. And the more you stress the mold, the shorter it's life. Which means that the more castings you want from a single mold, the more important mold release becomes. But what kind of mold release, that's the trick.
Many, if not most, releases on the market contain silicone. Fairly obvious, you'd think, since nothing sticks to silicone (except itself). But if you're producing castings that are intended to be painted, that's exactly what you don't want. Use a silicone based mold release and you can wash the parts til the cows come home. Paint still won't stick.
The answer is simplicity itself...paintable mold release. Exactly what the name implies, it's a dry lubricant that can be painted over, even if you don't bother to wash the parts.
GT PRODUCTS, INC. carries a 14 oz can of MANN EASE RELEASE 500 MOLD RELEASE AND DRY LUBRICANT paintable mold release.
Urethane resin absorbs water from the atmosphere everytime you open the can. The water, in turn, degrades the resin and shortens it's effective life. In short, once you open a can of resin you need to do a lot of casting in a fairly short period of time or throw out quite a bit of it. Considering that resin ain't the cheapest stuff in the world, that's something you need to avoid. Commercial operations use a nitrogen blanket, but it's a bit difficult for us to keep a six-foot tank of nitrogen on the premises. GT PRODUCTS, INC to the rescue again.
This time it's in the form of a 7 oz can of MANN POLY-DRY DRY GAS BLANKET. It features a trigger cap design and includes an extension tube so you can put the stuff exactly where you want it. Heavier than air, all you do when you're finished casting for the moment is to lift one side of the lid or cap of your resin, stick the tube in and give it a second or two squirt. Then put the lid or cap in place. Any air that isn't forced out by the POLY-DRY will be displaced to the top of the container as the POLY-DRY settles down on top of the resin. End result? Longer life for your resin and a lot less money spent.
Both of these products sell for $8.50 per can. Sounds steep, but a little goes a long, long way. You're gonna have to work hard to exhaust either one of'em.
All the RTV and resin in the world isn't going to do you a lick of good without an original pattern. If you're developing an original component rather than copying a pre-existing shape, then you have to make a pattern. Faced with that requirement, most of us take the traditional approach...basswood or pattern pine (sugar pine). Smooth and tight grained as they are, it still takes extra effort to seal the surface. You're still dealing with a porous, organic material. Now consider that alternative.
GT PRODUCTS, INC carries a fascinating (especially if you've never heard of it) material called MODEL PLANK. What it is is solid, grainless urethane board that cuts, sands, paints and carves just like basswood. It can also be machined. Large companies use it to create production tools and more. Available in 16 x 60 inch planks and thicknesses of 1 to 4 inches.
Unfortunately, it's anything but inexpensive. For example, a 2 inch thick plank carries a price tag of $14.48 a board foot. A 2 x 16 x 60 board contains 13.3 board feet, which works out to a rather intimidating $193.
On the other hand, a quick call to the 800 number listed above will get you a free copy of the GT PRODUCTS, INC catalog. If you have even an occasional need for RTV and urethane resins, this belongs on your bookshelf.
Til next month. Bye.