As much as I hate to say this, it's time to do some more housecleaning where four websites I'm involved with are concerned. Specifically, The Modeler's Weapons Shop, Modelbuilding Services By Richard Marmo, Scale Publications and B-36:Saving The Last Peacemaker. As of April 1, 2001, the only valid URLs for those four sites are:
THE MODELER'S WEAPONS SHOP
The Modeler's Weapons Shop has also been completely revised to include photos of most of the kit parts, along with some photos of finished models using those parts.
MODELBUILDING SERVICES BY RICHARD MARMO
B-36:SAVING THE LAST PEACEMAKER
Any bookmarks you have that link to tricky.com or homepage.com servers will no longer work. Please make the appropriate corrections.
Now to the business at hand. Over the last few years in particular, computers have insinuated themselves into our lives to the point that we literally can't get along without them. We use them for everything. It's no different with modelbuilding. In fact, the last issue of FineScale Modeler (April 2001) had an article describing how to merge a digital photo of a recently built model with a background photo. By the time the author had digitally antiqued the result and added a hand-written note in the corner, the casual observer would have sworn they were looking at an old photo shot during WW-II.
Needless to say, this raises an interesting group of contradictory feelings. On one level, the fact that you can use your model to produce such a realistic photo (or photo-montage) is fascinating. Conversely, it stands as an example of just how easy it has become to revise history through photographs. The potential for mischief is limitless. If you doubt me, who among us would be able to resist altering an old photograph in a way that would alter our entire perception of history. Even if we just did it for fun, what happens if it winds up in the hands of someone who didn't know it's background and took it seriously.
The only barrier we currently have to prevent this kind of misuse is individual ethics. Considering the history of human ethics, that's a faint hope. Particularly since a recent announcement was made that a human clone will probably be created within two years.
Despite the above commentary, computers are here to stay…along with all the programs and accessories that pour forth in an endless stream. And many of them are extremely useful to the model builder.
The Wacom Graphire Graphics Tablet (http://www.wacom.com/) is one of those useful items. In simplest terms, a Graphics Tablet is a sophisticated touchpad. Combined with various design and image programs, you can do things directly on your computer that were heretofore impossible or impractical.
Depending on the program you're using and limited, for all practical purposes, only by your imagination, the Graphire will do things most of us only dream of. Photo enhancement and manipulation taken to the next level, creation of drawings for model plans, expanding the parameters of computer art and on and on and on.
This little jewel will set you back $99.95. For that C-note, you get the Tablet with an active area of 4" x 5". Sounds small when you start thinking about drawing lines with a straight edge, but it's not. Keep in mind that the active area is the part you actually draw on. The overall dimensions of the Tablet is 8.2" x 8.4". And it's less than 1/2" thick.
A detachable pen stand also comes with the Tablet. Pen stand?
That's right. The reason is that you also get a cordless and batteryless pen, along with a simiarly featured ambidextrous, three-button, no-ball mouse with a rubberized scrolling wheel. Two CDs finish out the package. One disc provides the operating program, setup, help files, manual and so on. The other one is labled Graphire Power Suite and it lives up to it's name. On the disc are programs for: Adobe Photoshop LE, Painter Classic, Pen Office SE, Sensiva, Adobe ActiveShare and PenTools.
If that's not enough, the Graphire also works beautifully with PhotoMax Pro, iGrafx Designer & Image, Adobe 5.0, Paintbrush, PaintPro 4 and PaintPro 7. In short, the majority of image and design programs.
I could spend the next 5,000 words (but I won't) describing the experiences that I and Tony Weddel have had with this gem. Instead, I'll touch on a few things we've learned and allow you to have the excitement of making your own discoveries.
One of the most impressive aspects of the Grafire is the extraordinarily fine detail that is possible with the pen. Particularly where photoediting and cleanup is concerned. You can make the most delicate adjustments you've ever seen. Changing over to the mouse, you find that you have far more control when cropping photos than the image programs themselves normally allow. If you're interested in experimenting with creating photo-montages that combine your models with historic photos, the Graphire will expand the possibilities by orders of magnitude. And simultaneously make the project far easier.
Don't overlook the ability you've acquired to create and/or modify drawings for conversions, draw masks for exotic camouflage patterns, scan in existing plans and experiment with various changes and more. We've been using this Graphire for the last several months and have barely chipped the tip of the iceberg.
For those of you who have sufficient artistic ability, the Graphire Pen will also allow you to do freehand art. After you get used to it, and learn how to change the settings, it's possible to create true freehand art that looks like it was done with pencil, charcoal, pen and ink, watercolor and even oils.
Whether you have a PC or Mac, USB or serial port, there's a Graphire for you. If you have a PC running Windows 95, then the serial port's what you'll need. USB versions require Windows 98.
If you've begun integrating your computer and modelbuilding, this Graphire Graphics Tablet deserves serious consideration.
Looking for a small, lightweight, silent compressor? One that can be shoved in an overnight bag, allowing you to do some model building while you're stuck in a hotel room? Then take a look at a little item called the Automist 2000 (http://www.automist2000.com).
Available from A-1 Hobby Tools, Box 1496, Rockwall, Texas 75087, the Automist 2000 is a neat little light duty compressor. Weighing in at 6 pounds, it's ancestry can be traced to the medical industry. This also explains it's quietness. It's under 50 decibels, so you won't have to worry about waking anyone up. Completely self-contained, it'll drive one airbrush and produce around 25-30 psi in the process. The exact working pressure you get will depend on the specific airbrush, but you'll have plenty of air in any case. There's no regulator/water trap, but that's not a problem in my view. You can always add an in-line water trap. It does have a built-in filter. If there's a down side, it’s the fact that there is no pressure relief valve. What this means is that you can't set your airbrush down and leave the compressor running for five minutes while getting ready to spray again. Instead, you'll have to turn it off and then back on. All I've got to say about that is if that's a problem, we're really getting soft. Finally, it has a thermal limiter, which will shut the whole thing down if it overheats.
All in all, a very nice little compressor. While it won't replace your heavier duty versions, it fills a specific niche. And the price is also quite reasonable at $129.95.
Because it is a niche item, be aware that it may take a week or so after they receive your order before one is shipped to you. But considering that the postal regulations allow up to six weeks, that's almost an overnight turnaround. Check one of these out. I think you'll like it.
One of the more recent 1/72 scale releases from ITALERI (http://www.testors.com/Italeri/) is a nifty little trainer/light attack aircraft built by British Aerospace (BAe) called the Hawk Series MK. 100. If you know anything about modern aircraft, you're familiar with the Hawk. At the present time it's flown by 15 different countries, from Australia to Zimbabwe, is license built by McDonnell-Douglas and serves with the U S Navy as the T-45A Goshawk. Despite the fact that it was first flown in 1974 and is also used by the RAF's Red Arrows aerobatic team, I'd venture to say a lot of modelers still aren't familiar with it.
Anyway, the kit is a typical ITALERI example. Box is the usual endflap design. As for the parts, they're crisp, clean, molded in gray styrene, possessing very light, delicate, recessed surface detail. The two-seat cockpit interior is nicely done and is covered with a two-piece canopy. A pair of Sidewinder missiles are included, along with two underwing tanks and an optional centerline gun pod. Decals are very nice, in register and give you a choice between British and Australian aircraft.
Instructions are the familiar ITALERI international style, but are also very thorough. The 7" x 9" page size unfolds to a rather surprising 35" x 9" with illustrations and 3-view drawings on both sides. MSRP is a very small $8.50.
All in all, an excellent effort. If you lean towards trainers/light attack aircraft, keep this one in mind.
Also from ITALERI is a companion kit to their earlier Boeing X-32. This time around it's the Lockheed X-35. Now X-planes afficianados can have both players in the Joint Strike Fighter competition in their collection. Assuming the entire JSF program survives the latest political review. Rather than a 200 Billion Dollar, 40-year production program, it could wind up as just one more could've been, should've been political victim. Remember the General Dynamics A-12?
But back to the model. Despite repeating myself, it's a typical ITALERI effort…along with a couple of unfathomable errors. Based on what few references I have on hand, including an 8" x 10" handout from Lockheed, the kit looks like the X-35. So far, so good.
There's the normal endflap box, lightly recessed surface detail, international style instructions and a very nice sheet of decals…which are wrong. You won't find an open/detailed weapons bay, which isn't all that surprising when you consider that it's still at the flyoff stage. And if you want to build it in the conventional configuration (meaning a normal-length runway take-off), you can't do it. The vectored-thrust tailpipe can only be installed in the vertical position.
Decals are definitely wrong, but consider that markings are going to vary all over the scale. The only way you're going to get the markings right is to match them to a specific photo. For example, when the prototype made it's maiden flight, it carried no national insignia, a white X-35 on the verticals and a yellow-edged red band on the vertical tips. Overlaying the red band were six yellow Xs.
Also, the nose gear door configuration is wrong and the one-piece canopy doesn't have a rather prominent brace engraved on it. Quite frankly, you could nitpick this kit to death if you had a mind to…but why? In the final analysis, it certainly looks like an X-35. The design is still in a state of flux and God knows what kinds of changes will be made before it goes into service. If it goes into service.
For the moment, it's an excellent representation of the newest major military aircraft design on the planet. Where else are you going to get your own JSF for $14.00?
See y'all next month.