Introduction: The IPMS/USA Nationals is coming up soon. In 2019, the location is Chattanooga, TN. We’ve been to Nationals just about every year since 1995. This article was written for the IPMS/USA Journal way back in 2003. If you haven’t considered attending Nationals, either as a competitor or attendee, Dem Brudders heartily recommend that you try to get there. We still get that same enjoyment out of Nationals that we did during our early visits when it was a brand-new experience for us!
Dem Brudders: Join Us at the Nationals!
By Bill Engar
In my travels, I often run into IPMS club members who have never attended the fine convention and model contest sponsored every year by the IPMS/USA. I hear many reasons why some excellent modelers have never taken advantage of the annual opportunity, several of which kept me from “taking the plunge” into the world of National Competition!
Reason Number One: It’s too expensive!
There’s no denying that attending “The Nationals” can get expensive, but there are a few things that can be done to cut the costs dramatically. Traveling “Thelma and Louise” style can be an extremely economical way for the truly budget conscious. Conventional travel times would be greatly reduced and there would be plenty of excitement to keep you occupied during your drive.
For the more practical and sane modeler, some strategic planning can defray an otherwise substantial outlay of financial resources. Presently, the national contest moves around the country, and within a given five year period, the contest should appear at a location within a day’s drive distance for most modelers in the United States. A few tanks of gas will then constitute travel expenses. Lodging, then, becomes the next biggest financial bugaboo. Inviting one or more fellow enthusiasts along to share the bill will quickly cut lodging costs by big fractions. Recall what the “buddy” factor did for the “Thelma and Louise” movie. Movie producers know that traveling is more fun with a friend and it shows at the box office!
There is more money out there screaming to be saved. Convention hotels usually have superior accommodations and are adjacent to the contest, but they generally cost more than the usual budget digs. Alternate lodging besides the convention hotel can be easily arranged for most locales. The Internet can be a great resource here for the truly discerning cheapskate. When my brother Dick and I made our first trip to the Nationals, we stayed at a seedy, inexpensive hotel saving lots of money. We worked out a pretty good compromise with the bugs and balky air conditioner and all coexisted in peace. Since then, our respective financial situations have improved to the point where we can afford the rates that generally accompany the onsite convention lodging. In fact, most convention hotels negotiate pretty low rates on what would usually be considered a luxury hotel room. The big trick is getting a reservation before the room block fills up!
One way I’ve saved a lot of money on travel expenses for out-of-town contests is with “Frequent Guest” programs available from many hotels. I travel a lot with my job, and have racked up many free hotel stays. If you don’t travel routinely, some popular lodging chains have points programs with common credit card issuers. Many of them have no extra fees! Purchasing common items such as groceries and gas using these cards will yield points towards a free stay. It generally takes awhile to gather enough points for a free night, but if you pay the balance off in full every month, there are generally no interest charges (make sure you read the fine print). It takes discipline to use a charge card in this way, but it’s another option for free hotel nights—unless the credit bureaus have rated you in the “Thelma and Louise” category.
If the previous suggestions just aren’t right for you, another alternative is to impose on a relative that lives in the convention city to put you up for a few nights. In exchange, give them a cheap kit from the convention’s vendor area. You’ll save money and nurture those wonderful extended family relationships. See? This is getting cheaper all the time—and even more warm and fuzzy!
Budgeting for the event way in advance will be helpful. Buy a few less kits than you normally would and stash the difference. List a few kits you already have on EBay to raise funds. Eat from fast food restaurant dollar menus on your convention trip! You can always recover your health later.
With so many great model kits to build out there, who would consider such a thing? Now, I realize I just gave away the ending of “Thelma and Louise,” but please continue to restrain yourself from going to your torch and pitchfork closet to take out your frustrations on Dem Brudders.
At my first convention, no one said my models stunk, no one said I wasn’t a good enough modeler to be there, and my only frustration was that I had been missing out on years of fun. I took home three awards, which I didn’t expect. If you take a lot of decent quality models, I would say it is likely that you will win one or more awards. Decent quality simply means you’ve met the model building basics such as everything being put on straight, seams and sinkholes completely hidden, and your painting, decals, and weathering are squeaky-clean. Entering multiple categories multiplies your chances of winning awards, too.
At my first convention, I met some great modelers who weren’t at all stingy about sharing modeling secrets. I saw some fantastic models and learned many new tricks that have since become an integral part of making my own projects better—and more satisfying. Even if you think a model isn’t great and won’t win an award, bring it anyway! Give hundreds and maybe thousands of others a chance to see and enjoy it. Isn’t that better than having it sitting on a shelf catching dust particles? Even models need a vacation from all that effort!
Some of the models you’ll see at a national contest will undeniably be the best you’ll see anywhere. The “Wow” factor is perhaps the best reason in and of itself for coming to Nationals. You’ll also see models that will make you say (to yourself, preferably), “Wow! I can build better than that!” Don’t let intimidation of competition keep you away from the Nationals!
Tell your Significant Other that you would be happy to see them go on a trip of similar duration with one of their friends or a relative. It’s all the better if their trip centers around some pastime that you find really irritating. This way, everyone’s sanity benefits!
If your Spouse/Sig-Other just can’t bear to be without your presence for the few days in question, then simply take them to the Nationals with you! Many families include the convention as part of their summer vacation plans. The host IPMS chapters usually do a good job of planning special activities for family members who would like nothing more than to get as far away as possible from modeling! Some of these will likely interest the modeler as well, so your family doesn’t need to count you out as Missing in Action by dfault. If the kids don’t want to go, you can always tell them that they get to spend a few exciting white-knuckle days at Grandma’s house!
Reason Number Four: I don’t want to go by myself.
This is a valid reason, especially if you just can’t talk anyone in your family into going with you. Invite a member of your local modeling club to go! Invite a friend who may have shown an interest in modeling! If you just can’t get anyone to go with you to the Nationals, maybe a personality makeover is what you need! (Just kidding) Be careful who you invite, however. You don’t want to be tempted to go on a “Thelma and Louise” rampage.
Reason Number Five: I don’t think I want to go!
What? After all this, you’re not sure if you even want to go? Did my “Thelma and Louise” references scare you away? Let’s talk about what you’re missing! How about a huge concentration of the best models you will ever see anywhere? You will literally want to spend HOURS just gazing at the hundreds of models sitting on the tables. You’ll see the latest and greatest kits—the ones hyped on every other page of the most recent modeling magazines—rendered in perfection. You’ll also see old and obscure kits worked over by some sort of miracle into a gorgeous replica that will make you say, “How’d they do that?” There’s always an assortment of wonders built from scratch that will inspire awe in those who think they’ve seen everything.
When you’re finished salivating over the exhibition models, how about visiting The World’s Largest Traveling Hobby Shop? If you’ve never been to the national contest, the vendors area will BLOW YOU AWAY! Yeah, maybe you’ve seen some big hobby shops in your travels—but the lion’s share of their floor space is occupied by model trains, RC stuff, flying rockets, boring science sets, and those infernal pinewood derby accessories! Imagine a hobby shop the size of a supermarket that sells ONLY scale modeling kits, accessories, books, tools, etc—that’s the Nationals! They’ll call for a clean-up on aisle one when you’ve seen it for the first time. For content, the vendors area reflects the contest room. You’ll find the newest kits available alongside old, obscure stuff that you thought you would never be able to find anywhere, and the prices are very reasonable for the most part. You’ll also likely see bargains that you can’t pass up! It’s not hard to find kits you actually want at cents-on-the-dollar prices.
In addition to all the fun at the contest itself, the host chapters who plan the event always throw in some pretty cool activities unique to the contest locale. In 1998, my brother and I were treated to a visit to Travis Air Force Base, and we were allowed to tour a C-5B Galaxy aircraft. We got to climb all over and around this huge cargo behemoth, and blew through several rolls of film in the process. The Air Force guys among us may ho-hum, but for my brother and me, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity arranged through the generosity of Chris Bucholtz and his team who organized the excellent 1998 convention in Santa Clara, CA.
You’ll get to meet some pretty interesting people at the Nationals. Aside from great modelers, you have an opportunity to meet manufacturer’s reps and IPMS leadership folks. It’s always fun to chat with the editors of Finescale Modeler magazine. Maybe YOUR model will appear in an upcoming issue! The awards banquet has an intriguing tradition. IPMS officers Aris Pappas and Bill Devins preside over the “Aris and Bill Show”, an entertaining presentation of contest awards that has been a highlight of the convention for years. It’s definitely better than the ending to “Thelma and Louise.”
In conclusion, if you have never attended the IPMS/USA national convention and contest, make efforts to do so. Whether your previous vacation traditions have been elaborate or Spartan, a trip to the Nationals will be new, unique, and rewarding. We bet you’ll like it better than a one-shot Thelma and Louise deal. You’ll want to make it a tradition, guaranteed! Join us next time! We’ll see you there!
Ill-Advised Car Modeling in 1/3 Scale (no, it’s not a typo)
By Bill Engar
DEM BRUDDERS DISCLAIMER: Please don’t try this at home. We are not professionals and we have absolutely no clue what we’re doing.
The 50th anniversary of IPMS/USA forced me to think back to the 1960’s. I was just a wee lad. Brudder Dick wasn’t much older. They say that if you remember the 60’s, you probably weren’t building enough models.
In recent decades, two Batman movie series have been very popular. In 1966, the Batman TV show was a huge phenomenon. Even though I was very young at the time, I recall tuning in each week, first to see Batman and Robin get caught in some improbable trap. Same Bat Time and Same Bat Channel the next day, they would miraculously manage to escape as the villain ALWAYS stepped away from the scene for some inexplicable reason. Why do they do that?
The TV Batmobile, a George Barris creation, was supposedly thrown together from the also-ran Lincoln Futura concept car in a scant three weeks before filming began. The show and the car—in spite of its hasty design and creation—as quickly became a pop culture sensation. The TV Batmobile’s popularity continues to this day and it may have the distinction of being the best-known and loved TV car ever. Pretty amazing for being cobbled together in just three weeks. How many of us builders can finish a contest-quality model in that time?
Later in 1966, Aurora Models released a plastic kit of the Batmobile in 1/32 scale. As was status quo for Aurora, the kit had a few accuracy issues. Most apparent to this modeler is that the front end and hood are too short. Looking at it today makes my eyes cross.
Brudder Dick, who was barely a teenager at that time, HAD to have this 98-cent model. Unfortunately for him, the local hobby shops did not anticipate its popularity and it was sold out for months.
Long-time readers of our columns will recall that our mother was not a fan of our models or modeling activities. She was absolutely terrified of Dick’s “Bug” because of its grievous safety issues. Brakes and steering were questionable at best and of course there was no thought of seatbelts, safety helmets, roll bar, crash padding, or any other such gear, which was considered “wussy” at the time.
As if any of this wasn’t awesome enough, Dick devised a brilliant scheme to customize his Bug into a nearly 1/3-scale version of the Batmobile. His only prayer to get our mother to go along with his new obsession was to do it as part of the Model Design and Building Boy Scout merit badge! The requirement was to design some sort of vehicle and sculpt or carve it from a suitable medium. Dick noted that the requirements said nothing about creating the model in large-scale, nor did they prohibit the Boy Scout-designer from being able to drive in his own creation. Plus, there was just no other way that Dick would have obtained permission to build his own drivable Batmobile. If memory serves, the Bug was originally built behind our mother’s back and its days were numbered once she discovered it.
Dick’s efforts to find Aurora’s Batmobile model locally were fruitless for months. The reader should recall that there were few if any mail-order suppliers for model kits in those days, but a possible solution presented itself in the form of our annual summer vacation in Newport Beach, California. Dick reasoned that since Batman was a creation of Hollywood, CA, there ought to be plenty of Batmobile models in the Los Angeles region.
Fast forward to our beach trip. For the first time, our parents decided that we ought to stay for two weeks. Unfortunately, this did not turn out well. Dick drove my dad nuts demanding to stop at every Sprouse-Reitz store between Anaheim and San Diego since he knew that they normally stocked Aurora’s Batmobile kit in their model section.
I likewise had my share of difficulties, going stir-crazy. Over-stimulated by the sun or too much sugar, I slammed the door of our overcrowded, rented beach cottage, which shattered its ornamental glass window. Not even the excuse of needing a Batmobile model for my future Boy Scout activities, which were years away, was going to score me an Aurora Batmobile, or any other model kit for that matter on this trip.
Finally, Dick was able to find a Sprouse that had the Batmobile kit. My souvenir that year was new glass for the window I broke.
Dick couldn’t wait to get home to start his Batmobile(s). The material of choice for the non-plastic version was leftover paneling from our basement, which was finished a few years previously. Dick could have had a soapbox racer resembling a Chris Craft boat, for the paneling was no less than real mahogany. Alas, black paint was destined to cover the beautiful wood.
I recall sawdust and black paint splatter flying as Dick cut and finished the pieces by hand, using the hastily-assembled Aurora Batmobile kit as his reference. The end result somewhat resembled the Caped Crusader’s ride circa 1966 in spite of a few off-angles. It handled like a mahogany coffin.
If memory serves, I may have gotten one or two harrowing rides down the street in this beast. Our mother was more terrified than ever that one of us was going to run over and kill one of the other kids on the street in this now-heavier mahogany menace, or die ourselves against one of our neighborhood hardwood trees. She came up with a lame excuse for its rapid decommissioning after Dick had it hastily inspected for credit for the aforementioned Boy Scout merit badge.
Instead of a careening ending that might have been similar to something that one might expect to see in a Batman TV show or movie, Dick’s spectacular Batmobile quietly rolled away to a fictional “parade.”
A model kit of the TV Batmobile was not available again for decades after this period. Licensing was the biggest challenge with DC Comics (owned by Time-Warner), 20th Century Fox (creators of the TV show), and George Barris not caring to negotiate terms together. Mattel Toys possessed the marketing savvy to cut a deal that satisfied all parties and once Mattel offered new diecast versions of the famous car in 2007, AMT/Round2 was able to follow suit not long afterwards with similar arrangements. Soon after, a re-pop of the Aurora Batmobile returned and new-tool kits showed up as well.
Alas, the vast majority of today’s kids will merely be content to play Batman video games instead of creating their own version of the Batmobile. Compared to the 1960’s, a scant few 21st century youngsters might endeavor to build a model kit of Batman’s famous ride. I wonder if kids today are capable of dreaming big enough to build a Batmobile themselves that they can ride in.
If not, it’s probably a good thing. The Power Wheels version is much safer. Don’t forget to wear your helmet.
By Dick Engar
Originally published as parts of two columns in July 2008 IPMS Journal
and in Jan. 2011 IPMS Journal
What are your favorite modeling subjects? 1/35 scale armor? 1/25 scale automobiles? 1/48 scale aircraft with detailing to boot? Many modelers are completely eclectic in their building and produce brilliant results no matter what the category of interest. Others stick to one basic subject or class.
My particular weakness is 1/72 scale aircraft and the 1,000-plus subjects hidden away in my crawl-space. Naturally, the vast majority of my nearly 150 built and displayed models are 1/72 scale, mostly military aircraft. Brudder Bill has a corner on the 1/144 scale market and has built several excellent military subjects and airliners in that scale. But he has also completed many contest-winning space and sci-fi subjects, too, and enjoys modeling outside the 1/44 scale box and not just out-of-the box.
Dick enjoys building large, multi-engine aircraft in 1/72 scale such as this Trumpeter Russian Bear bomber--most of the time
What do you have to gain by thinking and modeling outside the box? For starters, you'll avoid becoming stale and will enter new horizons and new worlds. Allow me to indulge in my own experience of model building since I finished Trumpeter’s 1/72 Tupolev Tu-95 Bear way back in 2004. The Bear was a gratifying project that is fun to show to other modelers because it is so big and because not many of those Trumpeter kits have actually been built (at least I have not seen any others and I am only one of two persons I am aware of that have ever brought one to compete at IPMS Nationals).
December 25 in his honor (although the honor was mine considering the subject). I had a fun time dealing with figure modeling, an area where I have had scant experience (the original Rat Fink kit was finished by me years previously.)
It was set aside due to frustration with a warped body. Far from Nameless National Luminary, Mark Gustavson himself came to the rescue by providing me with an alternative kit sans the warpage so I had no excuse but to continue on in earnest with that project.
Progress was made through early 2006 until Master Modeler John Tate of Albuquerque Scale Modelers had to provide a break in the eclectic action, though, when he sent me a brand new Airfix release, the coveted TSR-2.
I had promised fellow IPMS Journal author Paul Bradley to produce something British for the big show and the TSR would be an ideal project. Kit reviews vindicated the difficulty I encountered producing a contest-worthy subject. The model competed in the same category that produced the overall Best Aircraft winner, but I reached my goal, an OOB (Best Out-of Box) award for the project and was happy to see the model grace the contest tables with several amazing entrants from throughout the country. Try IPMS Nationals, you’ll like it!
Shortly after I finished off the Coffin, I finally completed another vintage Airfix kit, the 1/144 scale Russian Vostok Soviet A-Type Launch Vehicle. With paint drying, it accompanied us on a Dem Brudders road trip to Modelzona 2006 in Mesa, Arizona to the delight of IPMS Chief Space model judge Mike Mackowski, who is always happy to see more real-space models on the tables.
Remember Astro-Boy from the 1960s? That is one well-known example, and Dragon even produces a model of this character (called Atom Boy now), but that is the subject of a future post.
In any event, the subject Tom sent me was “Mew Zakuro,” a female character from a Japanese TV show and magazines called Tokyo Mew Mew that features girls of high school age that have their DNA combined with that of endangered species to endow them with super powers. Mew Zakuro (which is also the Japanese word for pomegranate) is endowed with the abilities of a grey wolf and is also a fashion model in her "real" life, which means a beautiful girl/wolf should be the result.
I tried a few practice runs on paper and then a piece of plastic, and decided that the eyes were molded such that I would have to do them like a real person would have and not as an animation drawing. I happened to have a calendar on hand featuring a beautiful Japanese model in amazing silk kimonos to use as a guide, etc. so I went for it. The technique will be featured in a future post for this website but I was able to pull it off.
If you have seen the movie Night at the Museum, you know that Mew Zakuro will need some company soon. So I finished Astro Boy, made a stand for him, and he now joins Mew Zakuro in resplendent glory in the same display case.
No, I had not given up aircraft as I started working on two small jet trainers after Astro Boy. But the moral to the story and this doctor’s prescription for our loyal readers is that all of you should model outside the box every so often, even if you build strictly out-of-box. Find new horizons and new worlds to enjoy, even if you don’t quite conquer!
Dick comes full circle back to airplane modeling with these 1/72 Fuji T-1A jet trainer aircraft. Both were built from Hasegawa kits.
Now, part 2 of this saga continues as I had told several people that I had never built any type of armor. This means I had never tried to build a main battle tank, soft-skin subject or even a Jeep! Why not? No one ever gave me a tank model as a youth, when I would still build anything, and I never felt the desire to build armor in my older age. That is not to say I did not admire well-executed tanks or artillery pieces built by others, but I just never tried to build one myself. Until Fall 2009!
One real advantage of IPMS membership is the opportunity to meet excellent modelers from all over the country and make some good friends. One of these friends is the always energetic and almost ebullient Mike Mummey, a former U.S. Marine (Semper Fi!) with the haircut and moxie to prove it. Mike is an IPMS Nationals award winning armor builder and I have always admired his excellent subjects.
Mike is from nearby New Mexico so Dem Brudders had the chance to visit with him at the Region X Convention in Fall 2009 in Colorado Springs. I was taking in his armor models and complimented him for his skill and attention to detail. I added that I have personally never built an armor piece.
“Why not?” he exclaimed.
“I don’t know, really. No good reason,” I answered.
“Well,” he countered, “I send you a kit will you build it in time for Phoenix?”
“Sure,” I said, somewhat incredulous that he would actually follow through and do it.
Well, less than a month later, I received a package in the mail from Mike Mummey. It contained a Hobby Boss Danish Leopard 2A5DK tank in 1/35 scale. Of course I knew nothing about the subject but was intrigued and even excited to learn that it is a contemporary tank and modern in appearance.
As it was, the kit came with photo-etch parts and acetate windows so it would not be totally mundane, but I was comfortable with each having used both in prior projects.
As you armor builders already know, I found out that tanks have a lot of parts, and if you do individual track links, the treads can really be a project. I decided as stated previously to simply use the vinyl continuous tread that came with the kit. I made fairly rapid progress until I bogged down a little bit dealing with very poor fitting storage access doors on the main turret. A bit of Acryl-Blue body putty and patience in scribing solved that problem.
The model was painted using Tamiya acrylic paint and masked with Parafilm.
I decided to be brave and for the first time used acrylic paint in lieu of my usual enamel paints and found that Tamiya acrylic paint used with their new lacquer thinner worked very well. For the first time I also used Parafilm I bought from Tom Grossman to mask the NATO camouflage scheme and liked that material as well. I found out that tanks have headlights and taillights and used silver paint, white paint, clear glue and Tamiya Clear red to handle these little details. I used some chrome Bare Metal Foil to go with the rear view mirrors. I did a little bit of weathering, although I was not quite sure how to go about it properly, but the tank was finished the night before Dem Brudders drove to Phoenix for the IPMS/USA 2010 Nationals.
As I looked at the several other models in the category I quickly noticed that I had left my Leopard looking a little bit too pristine and should have done a bit more weathering. I also noticed some shiny spots left by sloppy clean-up after enhancing the many windows with Future. The worst faux pas was leaving some masking tape over some major windows, something I did not even notice until I was putting the tank away Saturday night after the contest. Oops! Of course the tank won zippo awards, not even the Premier award for its category (back in the day when they had that award for rookies in a particular class), but in the end that really didn’t matter.
Was it worth it to step out of my comfort zone and try something totally different? Yes, for sure. Thanks to Mike! Will I build another tank some day? Maybe, if someone gives another one to me! Do I recommend that our Dem Brudders readers also try something new? By all means. And don’t be afraid to bring the finished subjects to your various club meetings and contests!
Dem Brudders Encounter The Model Haters
Here's more content that appeared in the IPMS/USA Journal circa 2006. The IPMS (International Plastic Modellers' Society) started in the U.K. in 1963 and has been going strong worldwide ever since. There is probably a chapter near you.
When “Dem Brudders” were just youngsters, we had major problems with an anti-modeling mom. An interesting tension existed in our household. The more our mother hated models, the more Dick and I loved building them. Our mom was not the type of person that you would expect could dislike something as simple as a plastic model, but she did. In fact, she detested them!
Our basement was a quiet, out-of-the-way place perfect for model building, but she had a thing against spending too much time down there. A comment we heard often was “Shouldn’t you go outside in the sunshine and play with a ball? Can’t you call up some of your friends and organize a game? Why don’t you go out and ride your bike around the block?” This debate always seemed to commence when we were in the middle of some activity where concentration was crucial like gluing a canopy or positioning a decal.
Now it should be pointed out that both Dick and I spent plenty of time playing sports etc. outside with our friends, but our mother was more tolerant of us burning out our brains watching after-school TV reruns than building models. She went to great lengths to dissuade us from modeling, but we persisted. My brother and I are eight years apart, not a small gap for two boys. Never mind that building models brought us closer together even though we had little else in common. He was in high school when I attended elementary, so we didn’t exactly run in the same social circles. The fact that we were spending time together modeling made no difference to our mother. Perhaps sibling bonding was a foreign concept to her since she was an only child. There are many worse things that we could have easily been into. Sometimes I wonder if she would have been any more upset had Dick and I been smoking pot together in his room instead of building models.
One year, Dick built a fully rigged Airfix Mayflower ship model. He justified the gratuitous time spent on it as “homework.” Actually, he did in fact plan on using the model for a big report on early American history in his junior high school class. When he took the model to school, it was stolen. You would expect a mother to be quite upset at the theft of such an item, but according to Dick, our mom just shrugged it off. In today’s “enlightened” world, some mothers would probably call the school board, their attorney, the news media, and a specialized grief counselor in response to such a crime being perpetuated upon their dear child. In today’s world, our mother probably would have just shrugged in the same fashion that she did so long ago. She disliked our models just that much! I normally wouldn’t characterize Dick as a slow learner, but a year later, he built Revell’s 1/196 scale Constitution ship kit for another report. It was the same deal, with the model carefully painted and rigged. Again, it was stolen. Our mom shrugged it off just like before, maybe adding some when-will-you-ever-learn comment which only added insult to the injury. I don’t think Dick took models to school for any reason after that. Dem Brudders still wonder what became of pilfered Old Ironsides. To our mom, it was one less model in the house.
I remember well the day that our mom had finally had enough of modeling. She put her foot down and told Dick he could no longer build models in the house. It was a long time ago, but I can still remember vividly the image of Dick—sitting at a card table building his Revell Queen Mary ocean liner kit in the middle of the back yard. She later relented when she saw that he persisted, and he was allowed to work back in his own room. A few years later when I was building several models with friends, though, she again made that same mandate to cease and desist all household modeling activity. I moved my work area to the dusty garage and spent one whole summer building models there. The scent of freshly applied Testors paint lingering with stale lawn mower exhaust and lawn clipping odors still lingers in my mind.
Models would break inexplicably on cleaning day. When we left home during the higher education years, several models mysteriously vanished. I didn’t save many models during that period, but one in particular still bothers me. AMT’s first version of the Star Trek movie Enterprise is a highly desirable collectible since AMT retooled the kit, meticulously adding inaccurate panel scribing and an awful, pebbly finish. For some reason, the secondary hull and warp engines from my first-issue smooth-surface model disappeared, probably donated to charity or the local landfill by our mother. I still have the primary saucer hull. If anyone out there picked up a secondary hull with warp engines a few decades ago at a thrift shop, I’d love to buy it back! Likewise, a 1/32 scale Hasegawa/Minicraft F-5 kit in its box fell missing without explanation. I know Dick is short a few items as well, most notably a complete Renwal Visible Head kit that would have greatly benefited him during his studies for his dentistry career.
It is no small irony that our mother is largely responsible for getting me started up modeling after a break of several years. Providing a pair of fairly large space models for a demonstration in one of her school class projects got me back into it, but that’s another story. Dick and I began attending our local model club together many years ago. Our mother didn’t seem to care that we were fostering family relationships spending time together, seeming instead to be somewhat irritated that we were both still participating in an “immature” activity.
Others in the family seemed to share our Mom’s disregard for modeling. One of our sisters learned how to really irritate Dick. She resided in a bedroom right above his, and she discovered that a strategically placed, heavy thump on the floor would dislodge some of the model planes hanging from Dick’s acoustical tile ceiling and they would come crashing down in pieces. I vividly recall hearing language certainly not fit to print here as Dick discovered the results of her hijinks. If her technique could somehow be scaled up to full size, it would make a powerful anti-aircraft defensive weapon. It sure was effective in 1/72 scale.
Dick and I made preparations for months to attend our first local contest in the late 1980’s. A beloved uncle passed away with timing perfectly in accordance with Murphy’s Law, and his funeral was hastily placed smack-dab over the contest. We didn’t even dare contemplate beseeching those in charge to change the date of the funeral or try to bow out gracefully to attend the contest instead. It may be hard to believe for a fully addicted modeler, but there are some things that just plain transcend model contests.
It wasn’t until we returned from our first trip to the IPMS Nationals a few years later that our mom finally acknowledged that our hobby may have some redeeming worth. Dick, his son Tom, and I, brought home a sheaf of awards giving us some recognition in a national competition, and my mother said she was proud of us, and thought that it was great that we could enjoy an activity together. It was a surprise to Dick and me to hear her speak of plastic modeling with anything but contempt. She passed away not long after. We still laugh about her aversion to our models, but we feel a lot better knowing that she had softened her disdain for our hobby prior to her death.
As expected, our spouses have had their own observations, some negative, about our modeling activities. Let’s just say that we’ll never receive a hero’s welcome after a triumphant return from a successful showing at any model contest. There’s probably enough to say about that in another post of Dem Brudders.
If you have someone in your household that dislikes your hobby, how can you deal with it? Well, we have no easy answers, but it might help to ask yourself if there may be a perception, realistic or otherwise, that you are spending too much time with the hobby. While preparing for a big contest a few years ago, I devised a good strategy to take the edge off our occasional household anti-modeling tension. By waking up a couple hours earlier than my wife, I was able to make great progress on my contest models. I had fresh energy, the house and the telephone were perfectly quiet, and the enjoyable activity invigorated me for the rest of the day. My wife didn’t care what I was doing while she was still asleep. The plan worked great until she saw how much I was benefiting and so she decided to get up early too.
If your spouse engages in some activity you detest, perhaps the both of you can find some common ground that will provide amnesty for a reasonable dedication to modeling. For example, let’s suppose your spouse spends what you may consider an inordinate amount of time on the phone with family members talking about their various comings and goings. Perhaps you could come to an agreement that your spouse could be more amicable about your modeling if you are more supportive when she gets so involved in extended family happenings. You could also tactfully remind her that your models never demand immediate attention by randomly interrupting your current activity with a ringing bell several times during a given evening. This is a perfectly theoretical scenario I’m mentioning, of course!
Well, that’s enough random mumblings. Keep those models coming, but don’t forget to be sensitive to the other loved ones in your life. Maybe Santa will bring you a model or two this year instead of another pair of sunglasses.
By Brudder Bill
This is content from another of our Dem Brudders articles that appeared in the IPMS/USA Journal a long time ago. It was published WAY before Moebius Models released their rebooted Moonbus kit from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Prior to this, the original Aurora Moonbus kit was a high-priced collectible kit. Keep reading and you'll know why I mention this.
It’s the Late 1970’s-ish and I’ve just started college. I also have a steady girlfriend, and am working over twenty hours a week. In my spare time, I build models. My time has become quite fully utilized, and something has got to go. My girlfriend (whom I later will marry) supports me in my work and school activities but shares no enthusiasm whatsoever for my model building. Neither does my mother who informs me that it’s high time I outgrow such a “childish activity.” The women in my life prevail and the modeling hobby gets the deep-six treatment. Revell and Monogram get the raw end of the deal. You can tell from their earnings the following year.
I briefly ponder what to do with the run-of-the-mill models, and call up one of my friends. This guy is in the same boat as me since we are the same age. He’s started school at the local university too and also has a girlfriend who occupies his limited spare time, but we set aside an afternoon for the disposition of a dozen or so built models of various types and sizes.
Ever since we were very young, my friend Pete had always been a great source for things like matches, fireworks, and gunpowder; items that were either non-existent or closely inventoried in my household. His older brothers are quite enthralled with firearms, and Pete seems to have available for his pleasure a virtually unlimited supply of gunpowder and a dizzying choice of weapon types ranging from homemade muzzle-loaders to some I shouldn’t mention here. His folks have attitudes about such devices that could only be described as somewhat relaxed compared to my own parents. After carefully considering our options, we decide to stick with the classics and so procure some .22 caliber rifles and an unmodified twelve-gauge shotgun. We reload a healthy assortment of shells with diverse combinations of powder and shot to observe their varying effects on the models. Some large bottle rockets had also been obtaining dust in his basement, so we secure those as well, and head for the hills.
I don’t need to go into great detail about how our afternoon Way Back When was actually spent, but you can probably well imagine at this point. At the time, the phrase “rare kit” was not a part of my vocabulary, and today, I regret my choice. Yes, we exercised sound judgment with the firearms. We carefully selected a safe spot in a remote area and practiced range safety and gun handling techniques that facilitated our general continued well being. On the other hand, however, the shaky duct-tape marriage of models and large bottle rockets represented a temporary but serious lapse of common sense, and we were probably fortunate to escape injury in spite of the dynamic results. What I regret most about that day, though, was the assumption I made that model building was an activity that needed to be abandoned. The concept of “hiatus” simply had not occurred to me.
I was a bit vexed since she had been quite insistent years previously that I dispose of those offending spacecraft models that I then possessed. She surprised me by agreeing to pay for new ones, so I went to a hobby shop and bought Monogram’s 1/144 Saturn V moon rocket and 1/72 Space Shuttle orbiter kits for the noble cause of educating children. Amazingly, I was able to locate my old airbrush and compressor in my folks’ basement, and I dusted off the venerable project table and went to work. The models were built with relative haste and the presentation was given. The kids were quite enthralled by the large model of the Space Shuttle. The modular Saturn V model was a powerful visual aid, helping a group of kids born after the last moon landing to better understand the mechanics of how this miracle was performed. It was quite amazing to see their collective attention solidly riveted on this model and its inner workings. What impressed me the most, however, was the fact that I enjoyed building these models just as much as I did when I was a kid myself. I had to have more...
This, and other such subjects that had become available since I had left the hobby, made the lure of plastic modeling just too much to resist. I made a list of about a dozen aircraft subjects that would make a desirable, definitive and reasonable collection. My plans were to complete those, satisfy my modeling nostalgia fix, and perhaps move on to some other activity like photography or model trains. Yeah, right!
My story is certainly not unique. It seems that most adults who profess to be model builders gave up the hobby for a period of time and then returned to it, amazed by the advances and new kits that appeared during their “time off.” I’m sure there are many thousands of people out there that haven’t yet returned to the hobby but might do so if properly reintroduced. Perhaps those of us who consider ourselves addicted modeling enthusiasts can get the word out that the hobby is alive and well. I don’t think we need to use aggressive recruiting techniques or a hard-sell approach. These tactics tend to turn people off, especially in our current age of Internet spam advertising and aggressive telemarketing. Something simple like displaying a built model or vintage kit box art on your desk at work will create a conversation piece that will certainly produce interest by coworkers in your modeling activities. Then, a simple invitation to a club meeting or even a stop at the local hobby shop on your mutual lunch break may spark an interest that can only help our hobby when another prodigal modeler returns to the fold. Many of them will put down serious bucks to replace models they destroyed as kids, sometimes paying hundreds of times the original cost. One crazy act often begets another. At least the sellers don’t mind.
As for my desire to keep modeling…well, I won’t be quitting any time soon. While my dear, sweet wife doesn’t enjoy the activity, she acknowledges that it helps me blow off steam from a demanding mad-scientist career. It also helps me to be more amicable about certain things she does with her time that could otherwise drive me nuts. Also, it seems that there’s always just one more new kit out there that I’ve just gotta have. When will I quit modeling again? The day I quit modeling will be the day they’re screaming for snowplows in Hell. Or they’ll be prying my last kit from my cold, dead fingers as the old firearms cliché goes. But not for a while, I hope.
Do You Model, Or Are You A Modeler?
This post by Bill Engar has content from an article originally published a long time ago in the IPMS/USA Journal. Dem Brudders heartily recommend participation in this fine organization. Sign up today! Tell them Dem Brudders sent you!
Well, another neighbor talked to this neighbor, and somehow, the mistaken notion was born that my brother and I were MALE MODELS, and people wanted to know if we modeled clothing for catalogs, department stores, or what? Now, if anybody asks, my brother and I BUILD MODEL AIRPLANES! You figure modelers out there may have to put forth extra efforts to help the uninitiated understand exactly what it is that you do.
How many people go into a museum and ask if a finely crafted and finished replica was built by a kid? How many kids buy those 1/350 battleship and aircraft carrier subjects? Do they fork out a couple hundred bucks-plus for the large-scale kits from Trumpeter? How about the legions of resin kits that price in the several-hundred dollar range? Hey, mom! Can I have a raise in my allowance?
WHY DO YOU HAVE ALL THOSE UNBUILT KITS?
We all get this one, and do I really need to explain? Even within our own community, some modelers who have a stash of kits deny that they’re collectors. Face it! If you have more than one kit that hasn’t been started, you’re a collector! We all have plans to build new projects. We all know that some kits are not going to sit on store shelves forever just waiting for the year that we’re ready to finally start them. How many of us put more time and effort into our models than we used to? It takes longer to finish them, and projects stack up! I enjoy my large collection of unbuilt kits. I've sold some over the years on eBay, and made a return on my investment that would make any stockbroker green with envy. My wife took notice, and I don’t even need to smuggle my new models into the house any more!
WHY DO YOU HAVE MORE THAN ONE OF THE SAME KIT?
I have a close relative that just can’t seem to get over this one (it’s NOT my brother in case you are asking)! If I have more than one of the same model, that supposedly makes me some kind of compulsive freak or something. Of course, I don’t mind being called a compulsive freak. I do love to point out how two completely different models can be created from a pair of identical kits. My best example at present is a 1/144 scale U-2 aircraft model that closely resembles that flown by Gary Powers, and a “Ferrari Red” F-104 in the same scale. Most people are quite surprised to learn that both models started out as two identical Crown F-104 kits. The U-2 did require more work to produce a good model, but not much. Those of you who’ve tried to build the F-104 will know what I’m talking about.
AREN'T THEY JUST TOYS?
After fielding the previous questions, if you get this one, you’re really dealing with an enlightened individual! First of all, if anyone produces toys detailed to the same level and quality that most experienced modelers put into their projects, then where can I buy some at a toy-like price? The same logic could be used to question anyone who buys any work of art such as a painting or a sculpture. It’s not the real thing; therefore, it must be a toy, right? Even if we follow the instructions to the letter, use kit decals and recommended paints, the skill and craftsmanship we put into our models makes them works of art in one sense. The kit is merely our medium. Now, I hope I don’t reignite that whole “fine art” vs. “it’s only a hobby” thing, but I want to make my point clear that both art and hobbies entail talent, innate or developed. To be a good ambassador for the scale modeling hobby, perhaps it is best to tell the uninitiated that it has evolved over the last few decades into a pastime that anyone and everyone can enjoy.
I KNEW YOU BUILT MODELS SO I BOUGHT YOU THIS KIT AS A GIFT! I HOPE YOU LIKE IT...
How often have you received models as gifts? Now, I’m not talking about gifts from fellow modelers. I always like those. I’m talking about the models as gifts from the truly uninitiated. One of our biggest challenges as modelers can be feigning excitement over a kit received as a gift when it is nowhere near our subject matter of interest or preferred scale. Perhaps you could reciprocate by giving the well intentioned person a new piece of clothing with no thought to appropriate size, color, or style. For example, let’s suppose you have a passion for ship modeling and Grandma buys you a slot-car kit for Christmas. For her birthday, why not pick up a black leather item for her from one of those “apparel and accessories” shops in the shady part of town? Actually, in an instance like this when someone gives you something you consider a modeling oddity at best, maybe you ought to bite the bullet and build the kit anyway. Venturing outside your normal modeling routine may just turn out to be a refreshing diversion and your skills range might be broadened as well. And you could hint that a gift certificate to your favorite hobby shop might be a unique surprise next time.
Marketers and media tend to gravitate to more brash and sensational activities nowadays. They know that bright, flashy colors and lots of action are needed to snag channel surfers. Perhaps if we build models inside a live volcano or while skydiving, the media will pay attention and give the hobby some exposure beyond the “boys and their toys” stereotypes that we sometimes get saddled with.
The model kit companies seem to be hesitant to expend the revenue that would be necessary to advertise their wares on national TV and into mainstream culture. One notable exception is Bandai. This company has marketed their vast Gundam robot model line to a young audience with great success. Until the other companies can do the same thing, it’s up to us individual modelers to get the word out. And how do we do that? First, let your friends and family view your collection. Endure and answer any of the aforementioned questions in a positive, diplomatic manner. Invite them to your club contests and meetings. Let them know where your local hobby shop is and encourage them to stop in. Give a non-modeler one of your kits as a gift! And you know where to get those! Give them the model that keeps on giving!
In conclusion, get a kick out of your hobby—and the unique questions others ask about it!
Our Odyssey: Life Before the I.P.M.S. By Bill Engar
I bored easily with my indestructible toys from Playskool and Fisher Price that had safely rounded edges, non-toxic paint, and parts that couldn’t easily be swallowed. Dick’s room was full of irresistible gadgets with all kinds of jagged edges, hazardous chemicals, dangerous voltages, and legions of tiny parts just begging to be inhaled. I felt like a tomb raider when I had the opportunity to sneak into his room and rifle through his treasures!
Everyone else also seems to recollect that one of the first words I learned to say was “Shock.”
Later, Dick’s growing assortment of plastic models garnered the gun sights of my fleeting but determined attention span. My unauthorized, early hands-on encounters with modeling emphasized more unintentional disassembly than anything else, and the net result was a sturdy new doorknob on Dick’s room with an expensive lock that simply could not be picked. Perhaps my fascination with his modeling was also part of the inspiration behind Dick’s hanging of his aircraft models way out of my reach from the acoustical-tile ceiling. By the time I attained conscious thought, his collection contained dozens of mostly 1/72 scale aircraft from World War II to (then) modern 1960’s era. First-run subjects from Airfix, Revell, Monogram, Lindberg, Hawk, and Aurora plied the skies and jockeyed for diminishing airspace in his basement stratosphere.
I shared a bedroom upstairs with my sister who was a few years older than me. One weekend when I was about five years old, she invited some friends for a sleepover, which displaced me at bedtime. It made me excited but a little nervous when informed that I would be sleeping downstairs for the first time in the extra twin bed in Dick’s room.
Our basement was dark and scary! The old furnace made weird noises! There were hairy spiders and, I was certain, bigger monsters unseen that lurked in the shadows of the closets and under the beds. Only Super-Humans like Dick ever slept down there and lived to tell about it. I don’t remember specifically what I said, but Dick understood my anxiety. He thought for a moment, and then hopped on a chair underneath his brand-new Revell YF-12A Interceptor model. The kit of the then-cutting edge jet must have just been released, and was the pride of his fleet. He removed the radome and pointed to the radar dish underneath. He informed me that it was a death ray that would shoot any monsters dead that came into the room, and that it always helped him sleep a lot better since it worked so well.
His explanation was sufficient, for I slept soundly, knowing that a 1/72 scale Revell YF-12A model was keeping vigil, or that at least a big brother who was maybe a just a little less than a giant or a god would protect me from any evils real or imagined that night.
It was a great day when I finally received a model of my own—a 1/48 scale plank-wing F-84. I think it was a Hawk kit. Dick helped me for a while until he became a little frustrated with my fumbling fingers, and then finished the model for me. Just a few of the other joint projects we worked on in subsequent years included a 1/25 scale 1969 Corvette, a Revell set of 1/72 WWII fighters, and Revell’s big 1/48 scale Apollo spacecraft.
I dragged Dick to a meeting, and he has been a permanent club fixture ever since. He jumped right into competition, and gave me the encouragement I needed to take that sometimes intimidating first step into the competitive world of local model contests.
I had known about IPMS/USA for a long time, and hoped that some day I could feel that I was a good enough modeler to actually participate in the national contest, and maybe even win an award. About a month before the 1995 Nationals in Albuquerque, Dick asked me if I wanted to go with him! Agreeing to do so was another big leap of faith for me, so I quickly joined up and finished a couple models for that contest. Both of us were surprised and pleased to bring home some awards, and had an enjoyable road trip together in the process. Since then, we have made it a yearly tradition to visit the Nationals or a nearby regional contest, and have formed many new friendships with some great modelers around the country.
My reason for mentioning all this is that by ourselves, neither of us could have progressed to our present skill level and enjoyment of the hobby of scale modeling. It is said that scale modeling is a solitary activity, but that’s certainly not a requirement. Whether it’s a brother, sister, parent, or child, or a good friend—scale modeling is always better when experienced with somebody else who shares a love for the hobby.
Once in awhile as Dick and I travel around to various contests, people marvel that two brothers from the same family could be so infected with the scale modeling bug. I’ve never given it much thought, and we’re not unique by any means. Perhaps I might have had the same love for aviation and modeling without the influence of a brother with the same passions. I guess there’s no way to know for sure. One thing is certain—I am a better modeler because of my big brother. I am proud to say that when we compete together in the same category at model contests, I can beat him about half the time! Perhaps I don’t view him in quite the same terms as I did when I was a toddler. Maybe he is just a little less than a giant, or some kind of god. But not much less.