Who Said Making Little Model Aeroplanes is Easy?

Modellers like to write about their successes and the great models they have made. But a modeller’s life is not always easy and fun. Here’s a tale of woe I wrote for my local model club to show the other side of model making.


October 2010

            There’s something wrong with me, I’m sure of it.  There are hobby shops full to overflowing with kits of Spitfires, Mustangs, Bf109s and Tigers in every mark and variation, but they hold no interest for me.  With these kits you can knock our a more than respectable model with little effort, just cut the parts off the sprues, glue them together and do a bit of a paint job and the model is completed and looks lovely.  Most modellers seem quite happy with this and it fills their modelling hearts with glee.  But not mine.  Sure, Spitfires and Mustangs are beautiful enough and I’ve made more than my share, but my affliction leads me off into fields of flagellation and self abuse that seem to have no power over other modellers.

            Let me demonstrate by having a brief look at a couple of the items on my modelling bench at the moment.

            First is a relatively harmless little bit of fun, a Boeing 717.  Nobody sensible makes a kit of this, I have a Sasquatch kit in my Treasure but it makes a Dujin kit look like a Sunday picnic.  Instead, the end result is achieved by hacking away at a kit of a MD-83 because, as we all know, the 717 has a shorter fuselage than a MD-83.  It is not difficult to find out how much shorter on the internet, but working out which part of that length comes before and which from aft of the wings is the trick.  In the end I resolved this problem by counting windows and allowing for the fact that the windows from the MD-83 kit and the Hawkeye 717 decals I planned to use are not quite the same size.  I would give you the solution to this puzzle but I’ve lost the piece of paper that I carefully wrote the figures on.  Then I had to replace the tail with a conversion part acquired from a mob in Australia and new engine pods acquired from Brazil.  Neither are flash and need a great deal of work to fair them into the rest of the airframe, but that’s about the limit of this folly.

            If you want to inflict a lot more hurt on yourself the VLE Models vacform 1/144 LeO 213 is what you have been waiting for.  I’m making this because nobody else makes a kit of this, although I can hope.  No sooner had I completed the VLE Wibault 283 than F-Rsin released a lovely little resin kit of it and not long after I completed the Welsh Models vacform Breguet 762 F-Rsin released a good injection molded kit.  So I have hopes…

            If I were to go into the details of trying to turn this kit into a model your eyes would fill with tears, and not of joy.  Most notable among the challenges was that the fuselage halves were nicely rounded but the real LeO is slab sided – lots of filler went into that.  Yet to come is the business of affixing the upper wing to this little monster.  I can’t wait!

            You will also notice that both kits involve the colours red and white, silver and gold.  Lots of fun there too.  The thumb-screws would be more pleasant, if I could only find them again. 


November 2010

            Keen readers will recall that in our previous issue I made mention of a couple of projects I was working on.  One, the LeO 231 has made no progress since then, perhaps because I’ve found something even more challenging, to use a well worn phrase.  But before that, let me finish off the business of the Boeing 717 I also talked about.

            Having all the component parts that I thought necessary to make a Boeing 717 out of a Minicraft MD-80 something, I went to the Wikipedia entry on the 717 to use as my guide.  This entry is rather long and complicated and follows the history of the development of the MD-95 which became the 717.  This history goes back a couple of decades and goes through a number of iterations as the wings were redesigned and fuselage stretched and shortened depending on the thinking about what capacity airliner was most likely to sell well at that time.  So I followed this story meticulously, noting when design changes took place and expecting to be able to create an accurate 717 by following all the changes in the design down the years.  ‘Ah, so, if the wingspan was x in 1987 then the additional span they settled on in 1989 was now x + y.’  ‘And when they decided to reduce the wingspan in 1992 that means the new wingspan was x + y – z’.  And on I went until the design seemed settled, and that was the dimensions I settled on.  So I went ahead and made the model based on these calculations.  This is why this little segment is called ‘Masochist Corner’.

            What I didn’t notice was a short paragraph over the page where they said something like, ‘Then they threw out  all that planning and settled on an airliner that was basically a DC-9-30 with new engines and tail.’  After all the effort I went to with the intention of making the perfect Boeing 717, what I ended up with was what they planned to build before they decided to go back to basics again.  Arrrgh?  Fortunately I have a spare DC-9-30 in my Treasure so, one of these days, I’ll cut the tail off the pretend 717 and stick it on the back of the DC-9 to make a real 717.  When I can work up the enthusiasm, that is.

It looks nice, but it’s the creation of a fevered imagination

            All this, however, is but a prelude to true masochism.  Those of you at the most recent meeting will have noticed that I was starting on a new kit, from the same maker as the LeO 213, a 1/144 Farman Goliath.  I did this because I was headed off to spend the following nine nights in motels in Perth and Canberra to finish off the Tax Office project, and the evenings can get very tedious without something kit-like to play with.  I also took along a resin Hawker Siddeley Nimrod and a couple of Viscounts to last the distance.  The wings are reasonable but the fuselage is problematic (as we say in postmodern discourse).  Let me demonstrate with photos:

Here is the fuselage of a Farman Goliath from a 1/72 kit, yet to be made
Here is the basic fuselage of the VLE kit after it had been liberated from its plastic sheet
Here is the fuselage after copious application of plasticard and filler

            As you can see, turning the parts supplied in the kit into something approximating a real Goliath is, as they say these days, an ‘issue’.

            You may be asking why I do this to myself.  It’s not a question I ask myself, often anyhow.  Why does Mark indulge in his Kraut Projects, we don’t need to ask that question either.  If we did ask the question we would be forced to the conclusion that there is something wrong with us.  But we already knew that.

            The other projects on the go at the moment include an Anigrand Hawker Siddeley Nimrod and two S & M Viscounts.  Some time back I started making these models using Welsh Models vacform kits, but even I have limits.  The Anigrand Nimrod is not bad, apart from the squashed engine nacelles, but they’ve recently given employment to the dread Matchbox trench digger so that model is currently smothered in filler.

            I started work on the Viscounts during another Tax Office trip earlier in the year that ended up with the completed Bristol Britannia.  There are two Viscounts, a 700 series in MMA colours and a 800 series in TAA colours.  But vacform kits do not do round engine nacelles very well – did I tell you about how I fixed that with the Britannia – do you really need to know?  I doubted that I could get away with that two more times hence the injection molded S & M kits instead.  But, oh, those cockpits!  Something had to be done about them, involving some drastic surgery to stick the Welsh Model cockpits onto the S & M fuselages.

            One pauses to ponder on the mentality of a kit manufacturer with the name that features S and M.  Could they be saying something?


December 2010

            It occurs to me that this is becoming something of a running column of modelling disasters, one after the other.  I wonder if other modellers have so many problems in pursuing their personal form of torment, or am I just going through a rough patch.  Perhaps you all have the same troubles that I do but refrain from writing about them – we all know of the problems that Mark has had with bits falling off his He162, but he only touched on them in his write up his most recent Karut Projet.

            Oh well, they say confession is good for the soul (or this column may be a form or self counselling therapy).

            Let’s begin with the equipment.  Many decades ago I bought an airbrush and a little compressor that served me well for many years.  Then, one day, the compressor chugged its last and refused to puff any more air.  After that I had a couple of compressors of dubious worth that drove me nuts.  On one occasion I took the offending compressor back to Stanbridges (I was living in Perth at the time) and they charged me a fortune to return it to a semi-working condition.  It was a problem with the compressor diaphragm they told me, and even told me how to unbolt the top of the contraption so I could fix it myself in the future.  So, when it stopped working again I took the top off again and found the ruptured diaphragm.  By that time, however, I was back in Victoria and when I took the diaphragm around the various modelling shops of Melbourne everyone just looked at me blankly and suggested that I go somewhere else.

            By then, fortunately, I has joined the MoB and Wayne suggested to me that I would get more satisfaction out of buying bottled compressed air.  He was right, but MoBsters might have noticed that I make a few more models in the year than Wayne and I therefore went through more air.  This meant that visits to the compressed air shop were becoming fairly frequent and expensive and, on one trip I noticed that they were selling a nice, business like compressor for under $100 so I bought one.  In truth, it worked well.  It has a simple control that had probably been designed for some emergency purpose – pull the red button up and it goes, push the button down and it stops.  There was a nicely sized tank that held enough air to paint a small aeroplane without having to get going again, and this was advantage because when the motor was running it sounded like a Kenworth going up a hill and I would have missed hearing the beginning of World War III when it was running.

            Recently, however, the poor thing has taken to wheezing and groaning when the motor is turned on, a sure sign of old age in the wrinkly set and in air compressors too, I supposed.  I began turning my mind to what I might do when it finally expired, but the end came sooner than I had expected.  A week or so back when I pulled up the red button to turn it on the whole control contraption came away in my hand.  This meant that the compressor didn’t stop pumping air into the tank, which did not seem to be a good or safe thing.  The solution?  We had seen the Runway 13 stall at Expo and Dominic had bought a little compressor there which, he told me, worked fine.  So I found the Runway 13 website and ordered one. It arrived after only a couple of days and costing only minimal postage, so I did not suffer withdrawal symptoms too badly.

The old codger and the new baby

            So far so good, it sits there and chuggs away just like my first compressor did, a most reassuring little sound.  And it only cost me what my first compressor had cost, but in 2011 dollars rather than 1976 dollars.  I might think about buying a larger one with a bigger tank at some time in the future, but our relationship so far has been excellent.  I hope it is not just a honeymoon period.

            There’s more, but why go on?  The decals that blow up, the decals that turn to ugly black smudges when varnish is applied, thin resin parts that refuse to straighten out no matter how much hot water torture is applied, and shades of paint that are never the same from bottle to bottle.  Oh woe !