Sunday, March 2, 2014
Stickies for Your Jug, and Some Special Invaders
A Waste of Money?
Or, Why in the World Do We Buy All That Aftermarket, a Conundrum in Various Parts. That's right, Aftermarket; all those photo-etch sheets, resin bits, vacuum-formed transparencies, and other doohickeys that we all just can't seem to live without. It's a thriving and often helpful market that caters to the more advanced (read Not an Absolute Novice) scale modeler. The whole concept feeds into a notion that our hobby likes to call AMS, which is short for Advanced Modeler Syndrome but which could just as easily be known as Additional Model Stuff, which could also morph into AHUMS, or Additional and Highly Unnecessary Model Stuff. I fully realize that I'm flying right in the face of conventional scale modeling wisdom here, but stay with me for a moment if you will and I'll explain why I'd advance such a heresy.
Ever since there's been plastic scale modeling there's been an ongoing quest for better, more accurate kits. It's been a constant struggle since, with each passing year, technology has allowed the cutting of finer and more accurate molds (presuming, of course, that the data used to cut said molds was correct in the first place), which in turn resulted in better, more accurate kits. Still, the kit manufacturers could only do so much in the way of what they offered because tooling costs had to be kept reasonable in order to allow the production of kits that you and I could actually afford to buy. There was, still is, and probably always will be room for improvement, and that's where the aftermarket guys come in.
There are three different ways aftermarket serves our hobby. One is that of the correction set which, in theory at least, fixes known problems with a specific kit so those of us who want the thing to actually look like what it's supposed to can get there without having to resort to scratchbuilding. Another is the conversion set which again, in theory if not always in fact, allows us to convert a given variant of whatever-it-is-we're-building into a different (and hopefully accurate) variation of same. The third kind of aftermarket, and the one we suspect most scale modelers use most often, is the simple detail set of either the resin or photo-etch variety. All have their place in our hobby but all have their pitfalls as well.
There are two essential problems that we confront when we use, or want to use, aftermarket. The first is simple accuracy---there are correction/conversion/detail sets out there that are no better than and, in many cases are actually worse than, the kit parts they're trying to correct. The second is modeler's greed caused by advertising---the siren call of those bagged chunks of detailed resin or color printed photo-etch that just sit on your local dealer's shelf calling out "Buy me, I'm cool!". That call is often hard to resist, even though the parts in question may not be all they should be.
Then there are another couple of issues that really sully the water. First, the modeler has to have skill sets that will allow proper use of said aftermarket but skill sets come with experience, and a lot of new modelers buy into the whole aftermarket thing a little earlier than they might really want to given their level of expertise. It's a learning experience and there's no better way to learn than to do, but doing that can sometimes be frustrating for the New Guy or Girl. The second thing is so obvious and basic that it's almost laughable, except that so many folks can't quite figure it out---it's quite often impossible to even see all that extra detail that went into the kit once the aftermarket has been added! You know it's there, and your friends will all shake their heads knowingly saying things like "that's really cool" while they're actually thinking "I can't see a darned thing in there!". It's a "what's the point" kind of deal.
I know people who actually buy every bit of aftermarket they can find for any given kit they may be working on and incorporate it into their model whether they need it or not (and, more importantly, whether it's actually accurate or not). It's a norm and it's automatic. I used to do that too, until I discovered that Aftermarket wasn't always the salvation it was cracked up to be. My first epiphany came when I was building a 1/48th Tamiya Bf109E-4, using an Eduard Zoom set to spruce up my cockpit, and discovered that they'd printed all the colored cockpit panels in what amounted to a shade of Baby Blue instead of the presumed RLM66 dark grey. The second epiphany came when I was working with another Eduard product, their 1/48th scale Bf109E-4 plastic kit, which came with an instrument panel decal that looked every bit as good as the optional photo-etch they'd provided for the same part. The final blow came from the folks over at QuickBoost, who's replacement cowling for Eduard's Fw190 family of kits theoretically simplified construction but didn't address the incorrect (read nonexistent) slope on the top of said cowling. Since the kit component is easy to construct in the first place and the new cowling didn't actually fix the problem, it was a piece of aftermarket that served little purpose.
So what's the Bottom Line? Is there a point to all of this? The simple answer is Yes, there is, but it's with a caveat. It's my firm belief that Aftermarket still has an important place in our hobby and I continue to buy it, but I try to take a long hard look at what I'm buying first. If it's not an actual improvement on a kit component, or doesn't improve the appearance of the finished model or isn't accurate, then it really isn't worth having. AMS isn't, in my world at least, a justification for throwing away money.
What Happened to the Blog a Couple of Weeks Ago?
If you're a regular here, and if you were on line at the right time a couple of weeks ago, you may have seen a blog installment briefly appear on your confuser, only to disappear again a few moments later. Here's what happened. I had written an opening editorial, but only that, and was in the process of saving it when I apparently (I don't think I did it but then again I must have) hit the "publish" button instead of the one that says "save". Once I realized what I'd done I went back into the blog to undo the mischief, which resulted in a false indication that something had been published---in truth something had been, but I deleted it almost immediately. My gratitude is extended to the several readers who contacted me to let me know there was a problem; it seems we're beginning to turn into a family of sorts and I appreciate that sort of feedback. Thanks, ya'll!
Some Decals You Might Want
If you've been in the hobby for very long you know Nor Graser, even if you don't think you do. Back in what we might call The Day he was the guy who created the artwork and instructions for our friends over at MicroScale, making it a better than even shot that you've got some of his artwork residing on several models in your collection right now this very minute.
That was then. Nowadays Nor is manufacturing his own line of decals called Thundercals and dedicated to, what else; the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt in WW2. They're done in 1/48th, they're printed by Cartograph, and they're exquisite. Let's take a look.
Accuracy is a high point of all of these decals. Nor is a P-47 scholar of sorts and holds extensive photo files on the type, which means that all of the aircraft covered are well documented in pictures; there are no conjectural schemes presented here. The schemes presented are all colorful and desirable from a modeler's point of view, and their production by Cartograph ensures that they're thin and well-printed. It helps to have your own references for the markings you choose to use, since some of the smaller decals don't have placement instructions (and placement instructions are important because you can actually read those decals---put a glass on them if you don't believe us!)
As a final note, I liked the decals enough to start a P-47 of my own, Kearby's "Fiery Ginger IV" (one of several "Fiery Ginger IV"s and the one he met his death in). It's presently far enough along to have its paint and decals applied and it's turning out quite nicely, thank you---I'm very happy with the results and am now a fan of Thundercals! (One thing you ought to know about "Fiery Ginger IV" that's covered on the decal sheet but bears repeating anyway: The real airplane was a P-47D-4-RA, which means she had the original "square" cowl flaps all the way down both sides of the cowling. The Tamiya kit only provides the later style of cowl flaps so you'll have to do a little bit of scratch-building (not all that hard) or turn to aftermarket for the correct pieces. If you go the aftermarket route you have two choices; QuickBoost and Loon. Of the two, the QuickBoost component is marginally too short when installed on the model and is tricky to fit, while the Loon offering is a simple and accurate drop-fit with no issues. You pays your money...)
We don't know what's next from Thundercals, but we really hope it's more PTO "Jugs". Whatever it is, we anticipate the product to be well worth your while. These sheets certainly are.
A Few More Invaders
Last time around we ran a batch of A-26 shots from reader John Horne, who's Invader collection just may be unmatched in terms of content. Coincidental to that, Doug Barbier sent along a group of A-26 images he'd recently uncovered and that nicely complimented the shots John had provided. We're going to feature those A-26 images today. They were all taken by Robert Lubic, a gunner in the 13th BS's "Miss Chadwick", and provide us with an interesting look into a bygone era.
We've got more A-26s yet to come, so stay with us if you're interested in the type. (And somebody make sure to tell Maddog John Kerr that we're featuring his favorite airplane for the next couple of issues. We promise he'll thank you!)
Under the Radar
Or in this case not really, but we're going to look at a couple of long out-of-print titles you really ought to have in your collection if you happen to be a student of the SWPAC, or if your interests run to the JNAF or IJAAF. The younger members of our audience will be excused for the inevitable comments they'll have regarding these titles but both were seminal in their day and raised the bar considerably in terms of Japanese aircraft camouflage and markings of the Second World War.
First, let's talk about what these books aren't. They were both considered definitive studies when they were first released, with the JAAF title achieving almost mystical status from the moment of its release, but both are lacking by today's standards. There are a lot of omissions and a fair amount of accurate information that's incomplete because of the amount of information that's available to the contemporary researcher. For a brief time both were considered to be the standard references for their particular topics, but a single visit to the J-Aircraft website will show even the most casual of readers how dated the books have become. That's the bad news.
As for the good news, there's plenty of it. Don Thorpe was interested in Things Japanese long before most western aviation enthusiasts caught the bug, and he was methodical. We actually read where somebody on one of those I-know-everything-there-is-to-know-and-I'm-going-to-tell-you-about-it modeling boards commented that the books were worthless because they didn't include the latest iteration of whatever it was that individual was interested in. That person obviously didn't have a clue, because before The Thorpe Books there was virtually nothing on Japanese aircraft camouflage and markings in the English-speaking world. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Don Thorpe put it all together, the best he could, using the resources that were available to him at the time. Those paper-bound volumes literally contained all there was to know about Japanese colors and markings at the time of their publication, and they set the tone (and the bar) for all that was to follow.
So what's our point? It's a simple and basic one; by researching, writing, and publishing these two volumes, Don Thorpe surpassed all that had come before and set the standard for all that was yet to come regarding the topic. The world has changed significantly since 1977, when the second book in this set first saw publication, and it's true that neither title would be considered a go-to reference nowadays. Their influence cannot be underestimated, however; nor can the contribution to the scholarship of Things Japanese. The photographs published in both tomes have become old hat, but they were mostly exciting and new way back then. The color profiles included in both volumes are crude by today's airbrushed standards, but they set the standard when the books were published.
There are some books you need to have in your collection just because you need to have them. These books fall into that category. They don't show up all that often any more, but if you can find a set you might want to consider getting them. Once you've done that, get yourself a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy what was once the Best of the Best. Somewhere in there you might consider tipping your hat to Don Thorpe too. He set the pace for a lot of what we now take for granted, and he set a pretty high standard in the process.
Last time around we ran a photo of a really spiffy F/A-18F courtesy of Kolin Campbell.That Super Hornet was one of several shots Kolin shared with us. Here's another:
The Relief Tube
Of which we aren't doing one this time around. I know, I know...
Thanks for dropping in, and we'll see you again soon. In the meantime, be good to your neighbor. It's the right thing to do.