Take a look at the pictures of this P47-D.
If you’re saying something like “That’s sweet” or “Man, I’d love to make one like that” or even “This guy is good”… then you are the person I have put this article together for. The intention is not to make myself look good, nor is it to showcase my “talent”. It is quite the opposite.
The message I want to convey throughout this article is; I am NOT an exceptionally talented model builder. When I first came to ARC I glued models together with the standard tube glue, glued everything together then brush painted the kits. They looked kind of crappy but I had fun building them. As I read through the ARC articles and watched builds, I picked up methods that helped me a great deal… no, let me make that a stronger statement. I went from building really crummy models to building models people wanted to buy from me.
See photos 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08 and 09
Click on images below to see larger images
The first time I displayed a 1/48 scale BF109 at my friends hobby store, he called me up after a few days to ask me if he could sell it to a guy willing to pay $200 for it. SELL, SELL, SELL!!!! After I thought about it for awhile I realized I was making about $5.00 an hour. I love this P47. I think it looks great. It has inaccuracies and mistakes as well as some just plain sloppy workmanship. Mostly because I didn’t have the patients to “do it right”, but that is my point… the only person that has to be happy with it is me.
Although I generally don’t take criticism well (unless of course I’ve asked for a critique), getting someone’s opinion can be important to me. Just don’t criticize for the sake of it - and try to get a nice comment in there somewhere will ‘ya? I think my attitude about this started when I use to have my car in custom autos shows and regardless of the amount of care, attention to detail, and hundreds of hours worth of work put into it; there is always the guy who walks up to it looks for 90 seconds and then says “there’s a scratch at the bottom of the wheel well on the driver’s side”. Gee, thanks for noticing that and nothing else. But I do take “suggestions” very well and that’s how I’ve grown and made myself better at this hobby. I did hesitate in sending this article into ARC. I wasn’t certain my effort would help anyone else, at least from a “How to” perspective. All you really have to do is start following builds in the “In Progress” forum and then have the desire to build a better kit. Then I thought about all the picture taking, editing and writing I’ve done. In fact this has taken me more than a year to put together, so you’re going to read it damn it.
What I’m offing you here are some suggestions and a glimpse of one man’s process, regardless of how good or bad it may be.
For me, building models is a surprisingly fulfilling and relaxing pastime. It has the remarkable ability to take my mind off troubles & aggravations that may be a part of my normal working day, but that wasn't the case when I started. It didn't take long to become discouraged when I saw the spectacular efforts posted on outstanding websites like this one. I was certain these people possessed a special talent and insight I could never hope to acquire… but it’s *NOT* true. For the most part it is not a special talent; it's really just a matter of someone showing us the tricks. I will try to show you some of them so I hope you have the patience to read through this entire article, and take it in the manner in which it is intended.
This question comes up often in model building, most predictably when my wife sees the bill from my last trip to the hobby store. In this case the “Why” was a result of my taking about 300 pictures of this build. I decided to document as best I can one of my builds. When I stared this hobby I wished I could find an article detailing a straight forward build start to finish. It’s difficult at first to fathom how people built such great models. Instead, I would find articles written by a person that spent 6 months building an amazing plane. It’s tough when I read an article and I get to the part where the guy says “I turned a new landing gear in 1/48th scale on my home lathe, using a copy of the original blueprints published by Boeing Aircraft”. Hmmm, that’s great, but it doesn’t help me that much considering the fact I’ve made a wheel out of clay, molding it with just my fingers, because I lost the original, not a good wheel either. That's not what I needed. I needed an out-of-the-box build using things I could relate to. I also should point out this one fact; for me almost all the enjoyment of this hobby, is in the building process.
See photos 11 and 12
I build models because I love building models; that’s first everything else is second. I like them to look realistic but they do not have to be realistic. What does that mean? It means if it looks good to me then it's ok. I’ve have made or tried to make exact replicas, getting the detail as accurate as I can. Usually these are commission builds and I feel an obligation to make them “right”. These are never (no really, NEVER) fun builds for me. They also tend to be the projects I work on for a week or so then put down for a month, then go back for a week or so, then put them down for a month… so on, and so on.
I be as good as this guy?
See photo 13
not magic and it’s not something you have to be born with. You can learn the
tricks & skills that make a good builder. The funny thing is most of
what’s required is not really talent
by my definition but methods
if you will, that produce very good results. ARC is an endless, selfless source
of information and assistance regarding these…
use it. In this article I show how
to do some things, however, I restricted writing about
way to do something due to the fact - I don’t know every way. Even when I
start talking about cut things off the sprues, I just give you one or two
options on the common methods I use. I don’t mention sawing them off, melting
them off, and probably one or two others I’ve forgotten about. If you think of
a good way, then use it.
When I started building I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how someone accomplished the finished product. Reading their description of the process didn’t necessarily help me. I was mystified at how builders manage to paint and weather stuff already built. I also had no idea how they painted half the stuff. Their articles say “Then paint and weather the… ". Nice. But how the hell do you paint and weather it?! What do I use?!
I’m going to try to show you the build from beginning to end. I hope to take you through the process without skipping crucial elements, but let’s be reasonable about this; I can’t possibly document every conceivable step but I will try to provide more than enough to give you the idea. If you still can’t figure it out after reading this, well then… maybe you should consider gardening instead. It’s a good hobby too (another joke, No emails please). I did forget to take a few photos during the build but nothing critical was missed, I apologize for that. Also quite frankly, by the time I was ¾ of the way through this I was already sick of documenting it! I don’t know how some of you guys have the patience for documenting a build. In the end, I sort of gave up trying to keep everything in chronological order for this article so even though it may jump around a little bit I think you’ll be able to follow what I’ve done fairly easily.
See photo 14
Who am I and why should you listen to me?
Some builders are “professional” model builders. Me, I’m just a regular model builder guy (whatever that is), a family man, sincere, simple, trustworthy. Not at all like those evil “professional” guys. They worry about a lot of things during a build. I love to build and the last thing I really want is to fret over every detail. Worrying about detail can consume you if you let it and for me, really start to take away from the enjoyment of the hobby. My secret is to build for those that can’t or don’t. You’re not competing with anyone and all you ever hear is praise; “You’re amazing”, “This is incredible”, “How do you do it?”, “I could never do this”. You can say “Thank you, thank you. Yes it’s true; I am somewhat God-like”.
You see the secret is in knowing how easy it really is; although I don’t think I could ever build a kit as well as some of the other regulars on ARC regardless of how hard I try. Not because I don’t have the skills, but because I don’t have the desire to regularly put myself through the painstaking task of perfection every single time I try to build a kit. Desire is an important part of inspiration and if you lose the desire you lose the inspiration, and ultimately the enjoyment.
I’m not one of those that collect kits either. Of all the kits I’ve built I‘ve never kept one, I give them all away. There is not a single completed airplane model on display in my house. I have only one model on display. A 1/25th scale version of Tony Stewart’s NASCAR built for my wife, so it belongs to her (along with everything else in the house). Like I said earlier, for me all the satisfaction of this hobby is in the building process and in the joy on the recipients face. I must confess that the praise I receive from the person does tend to boost the ego as well, but that’s just me.
See photos 15 and 16
In essence there are two sets of eyes looking at a finished kit. The eyes of another builder (those can be very tough), and the eyes of admirers. Since my focus is on the later, factual realism is not my primary concern. The model has to look good and most of the ‘look good’ part comes from three things;
You could argue that ‘detail’ should be one of those factors. My experience has been if the kit has the look of realism (mostly accomplished through weathering) then detail is really secondary. No one I know outside of the hobby would notice if I used the wrong shade of Interior Green or made up a completely fictitious gun sight for a Mustang. Mostly because they’re too busy trying to figure out how I painted each of those little cockpit buttons and gauges different colours. What you learn are the techniques and those techniques can be used to build whatever you like. Some of the skills transfer nicely to other things; I learnt to airbrush so I could build models with the look I thought they should have. Consequently, I painted flames on my lawn tractor, the wife’s kitchen blender, and my kid’s catcher’s mask, all because I learnt how to airbrush. I figured out how to hide the seams on a model and used that skill to restore a traditional family Santa whose porcelain face got smashed.
So who is this for?
This article has been written with the beginner in mind. That could be the budding youth with no money as well as the mid-life crisis male with lots of it. (Just not a lot of female WW2 model builders. I know there are some, but few and far between). It’s also for those who have never had instruction other than those included in the kit box. You’ll see my standard methods used during this build and although others may not be the most giving of people… I on the other hand, am very giving. Willingly sharing knowledge to enable you to become… well, better than you currently are.
kind of model and what level of quality and detail?
counter! Rivet counter!
See photos 17 and 18
I really have nothing but praise for their knowledge of the subject matter, but I just build them so they look good to me. I can only think of a few reasons to agonize over such details. Every modeller at some point would like to build an exact replica just to say he’s done it or if you’re building to compete with other modellers. Try to not let detail consume you unless you want it to, and try not to take the comments RC’s may give you, the wrong way. Rarely in this hobby is advice or comment given, meant to be critical or sarcastic.
I built a Monogram 1/48 scale B29 and posted the article on ARC, It was my first “all foil" job. I built it for a friend of mine in Alberta, Wes. Wes loves WW2 aircraft and I have built several for him. This aircraft is huge in real life and in model form. I decided to throw a bunch of rivets on it with the help of a pounce wheel because no rivets were moulded into the kit. The rivets aren’t in the right spots, not uniformly applied and the wrong distance apart. Some people may have a fit at how ‘totally wrong’ it is. I think it looks pretty good and that’s the point I’m going to keep driving into you... this hobby is about your satisfaction.
Lingo, details, steps, and size does matter.
Scale: 1/72, 1/48, 1/32, 1/24, 1/16 and on, and on. Size does matter. The amount of time you spend on a kit can be directly proportional to the size of the kit. In regards to aircraft… 1/72 = small, less detail, less parts to worry about; 1/48 bigger and arguably the most popular size with a great level of detail possible. 1/32, be prepared for lots’ a parts.
Many times but not always, the larger the scale the more parts and detail you have. The more parts and detail you have, the longer it’s going to take to finish. If you get board easily give size some serious consideration. Another thing concerning size; most of the aftermarket products tend to be aimed at the 1/48 scale marketplace. If that’s not true then let me say that at least in my experience, most model stores carry a majority of 1/48 stuff. That works for me because I plug away mostly with 1/48 scale. That size doesn’t take long to build and usually has enough detail to get fiddly about, if you want to (“fiddly” is a technical modeling term).
Some of the words you’ll hear … sprues, flash, vacuum form or vac-form, photo etch, decals. Scribe, OOB, scratch built, BMF, pin vice, template, punch. I’ll try to remember to explain them as we go along. You’ll see the order in which I built this model. This is not necessarily the order I always use, and doesn’t have to be the order you use.
Tools and other things to hurt yourself with.
See photos 19, 20 and 21
This has got to be the most subjective part. What do you need to build a model? Makes me laugh when I read the side of the kit box and it usually says something like “Tools required: Glue, art knife, paint” Right! You’ll need some other things too. This picture shows just the glue I use.
See photo 22
The facts are; everything is a tool. My wife considers a can of peas to be an excellent hammer. My daughter considers me to be quite the tool as well. When with a look of pride on my face I show her the model I just spent 4 pain staking hours (accurately) riveting by hand, she comments that I had to have a drink to get through a half hour of teaching her how to drive because when I talk to her in the car, it “makes her crash”.
There are so many things you can use in the model building process it would be impossible to list them all. The reality is; all you really need to build a model is an art knife, paint, glue, brush, and a place to build it. It’s probably going to look like crap, but it will be built. So maybe the question should be “To build a model really well, what do I need?” This is difficult to answer in less than 100 pages. I decided the easiest way to cover these items was to take photos of my workbench and explain some of the things seen in the photos. I’ll try to give you an expanded explanation about some of the tools so you have clearer ideas on its use, of course as you get more and more involved (dragged into the Dark Side may be another way of describing it), you will never go to the hardware, electrical, art, or tool stores again without saying “Hey, I think I can use that...”
There are no limits to the amount of tools you can utilize. You will collect things by the dozen. Some you’ll use, some you think you’ll use. I’m going to limit it to what I believe are really the essential things, and since you’re still reading this, I assume you are serious about building a better kit and you intend to build many of them. Therefore, get the tools that make the job easier.
See photos 23, 24 and 25
Just to give you a little taste, here is a paragraph I borrowed from something else I wrote awhile back. I thought I’d include it here so you know at what point you can call yourself “committed”. Keep in mind that this just scratches the surface. After dozens maybe hundreds, of models and hundreds if not thousands of dollars later, here is some of the stuff on my bench:
60 bottles of paint, 4 kinds of thinners, 7 different types of glue, 3 lamps (one with the magnifier built in), 6 or 7 kinds of tape, 6 art knives with 3 different kinds of blades. 2 airbrushes, 1 compressor, 4 types of finishes - flat, semi-gloss, gloss and metalizer, 8 grades of sandpaper, several version of nail files and buffers, clamps, vices, pencils, markers, enough small metal tools for do-it-yourself Dentistry. Enough pastel chalk to sketch a wall size mural, 2 mixing trays (one for paint, one for chalk), about 15 distinctly different paint brushes, small rubber hoses, wire, 3 different shades of thread, two kinds of toothpicks - the flat ones and the round ones, pipe cleaners, jars, two contraptions to hold pieces of models. 3 kinds of putty, Blue Tac, plastercine, cutting board, scissors, lazy Susan (invaluable for painting by the way), 5 - ¼ ounce paint cups, a dozen books ranging from "How to Airbrush" to "Rare Squadron Markings of the Luftwaffe"
photos 26, 27 and 28
Let’s start with a controversial item; the airbrush.
No, you don’t need an airbrush to paint a model. You just need an airbrush to make it look the best it can. You can if you like, hand paint it and get a pretty good looking kit. It will never look as good as an airbrushed one does (more angry emails coming my way now), but I understand your apprehension. Maybe it will help if I point out a few things.
The most important thing to come to grips with is; you do not need to be an artist or possess artist talent to use an airbrush successfully. It is just another tool in your toolbox, sitting there with your hammer and screwdriver or in this case your art knife and glue. I am not an artist but this doesn’t hinder my ability to airbrush a model.
If you have made the commitment to build then make the commitment to buy an airbrush. I recommend gravity fed dual action. There are going to be a lot of different opinions on this and you can make your own choice. Mine is dual action, gravity fed and I say that’s what you should get because I know more than you do. You can get a decent one for $100 or less of course now you need to buy a compressor. This is another story, cheap one $50 - $100. Good one, around $250-$300. Save, save, save. They are worth it in the long run. If you plan on buying canned propellant to power your airbrush for the first few uses - well that I can understand. After that, if you are not saving for a compressor then you are a foolish. Canned propellant is outrageously expensive, provides no control, and will run out at exactly the worst possible time. Compressor… FREE AIR, on-going, unrestricted, adjustable FREE air. FREE air means cleaning your airbrush in 2 minutes.
If you’re a kid and $100 may as well be a million, tell your parents that by purchasing an airbrush for you they are encouraging the growth of your artistic abilities and giving a forum to express your innermost feelings (baby-boomer parents love that stuff), and you will spend more time quietly working away on your kits all the time building dexterity, the ability to read and follow instructions, learning about history and developing skills that will in the future, help you fabricate things that may save them money. Not only that... you can spray abs or a tan on mom and dad.
See photos 29, 30 and 31
Since we’re talking about it, I may as well show you my airbrush cleaning process. This is fast and works well. I still give it a more thorough clean every month or so but this is a good daily process. Please don’t give me grief about this. Someone is going to say “the fumes...”, “the danger of spraying it the garbage” etc. etc. You can do it anyway you want, this is just how I tend to do it. If it’s going to be a quick clean, I don’t even put on my mask.
First thing is the Q-Tip. My suggestion is stick with this brand. The cheap ones are going to cause you grief in the end.
See photos 32, 33 and 34
I fill the cup of the airbrush with thinner while spraying into my garbage can. Use a Q-Tip soaked in thinner to wipe in and around the bowl. Use your thinner and spray it through again. Take another and wipe around the bowl again. Spray thinner through again. Pull the needle wipe with Q-Tip, wipe the end of the airbrush… done. Put the airbrush back together and run some nail polish remover through. Cleans it out and leaves a very nice scent!
See photos 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43 and 44
I use three types, enamels, acrylics and water colours. My problem with acrylics is they tend to be much more difficult to use, no wait… they ARE much more difficult to use (more email for Larry). They start drying on the end of your airbrush while spraying, creating a wonderful yogurt concoction. Also once dry they can be very hard to remove. That’s ok on a model but not so good for the inside of an airbrush. Folks will write in to say “just add a few drops of alcohol, distilled water, thinner, stabilizer, enhancer, cleaner, etc. etc.” and “you’ll have no problems”. I’ve been on the ARC website for a long time and I can tell you with confidence that if you search for all the articles about “How do I solve my acrylics and airbrushing problem” you’d be reading for a week straight, and still not really know the answer. What I do like about acrylics is the fact they tend to cover much better especially if you are using a brush to paint by hand, much more opaque. I find the prep work has to be much better as well with acrylics or the possibility of the paint coming off with your masking, is pretty real.
With enamels the cleanup is easy and they dry quickly on the model even though I can sit with a cup of paint in my airbrush, re-mask an area for 5 minutes then pick up the airbrush and continue, very difficult to do with most acrylics. Sure, enamels smell a bit but the fumes aren’t that bad as far as I’m concerned. I’ve been breathing them in for years and it’s no effect it no had mind me. You will lessen your grief factor substantially if you just start out with enamels. I haven’t given up on acrylics though; I just have to figure them out when I have time.
One more thing, I don't like to mix paint. There are 10 shades of any colour you want. If the kit calls for a green you have to mix, I guarantee M&M has a green so close I defy anyone to tell the difference. I never mix paint, period. There is no practical reason to do that other than to mix a color you don’t have. If you have black paint and white paint, but you need some grey, or blue and yellow paint but you need green… well then mix away, outside of that just buy the colour.
Water colours come in very handy for dirty-ing up and weathering, also very forgiving if you make a mistake.
See photos 45 and 46
Clearly, a pristine work environment is a sign of mental illness.
See photos 47 and 48
Some of the fun of making models is saying “Where the hell did I put the …” then rummaging through piles of stuff scattered about the workspace and room all the while muttering “I just saw it the other day” or the famous “I just had it in my hand!”...I’m kidding, but just a little.
I want my work area somewhat clean and organized but I still want it to look like stuff gets accomplished there. Also, it’s very annoying to have to worry about every mark or spill that takes place. It’s a WORK area where glue, putty, cleaners, paints, sanding, and many other messy things are used and accomplished. You can fight the mess or… you can embrace it! Don’t get me wrong organized is good, clean is good. Just don’t drive yourself crazy over it. If you don’t want to work on a model because you don’t feel like having to clean it all up when you’re done” then this takes away from the joy of the hobby.
Don’t skimp on the lighting:
Basically, unless you’re experiencing retina damage or parts are melting from the heat, the more light the better. If you don’t already think I’m crazy you will after this… here is a list of my light sources:
Let there be light! Trust me on this one.
See photos 49, 50 and 51
Click on images below to see larger images
Photos and text © by Larry Shred