Is It a Model or a Replica?
That's a pretty silly question on the face of things, but I recently had the pleasure of listening to another modeler discussing, at a considerable length, substantial volume, and replete with profane expression, all the reasons none of us should be pre or post-shading our models. The performance was on the high side of entertainment and the low side of profundity but it was, at the end of the day, an honest opinion that had more than a little merit to it, albeit with reservations.
The basics are pretty, well; basic! We're taking kits of one medium or another (it ain't just polystyrene anymore!) and assembling them in a manner that results in a scale model that is, we hope, an accurate rendition of The Real Thing. Most of us work pretty hard at it too, because we want our finished model to present itself as a reduced scale version of that afore-mentioned Real Thing. That's the game, that's the goal, and that's what we're all about as modelers. We want realism and accuracy, and we want an attractive model that everyone will ooh and ah over when they see it.
There's a catch, though: Simply building a model usually won't get us to that desired ooh and ah stage very often, so we all learn pretty early in the game to throw in a few bells and whistles to enhance the appearance of things as we build and paint. We enhance detail and accuracy through scratch-building or the use of resin and photo-etched aftermarket components, and we spend a fortune on decals and masks for markings so our latest creation can be a model unique to us in addition to being of a quality worthy of inclusion in any museum's collection. And we buy paint.
Not just any paint, either, but scale paint, with super-fine pigment for a scale appearance on our creations and carefully blended so we've got the exact, very same color that was used on The Real Thing. We want, no; we demand, scale accuracy in our paint. It has to be accurate, and it has to be right! Yep; it has to be both of those things, but that's where it all goes south, a sad truth once we decide to start messing around with color shade, tonal values, and so on. Shading is part of that painting thing too, and it significantly impacts the way the finished model looks regardless of how accurate the colors may have been while still in their bottle,so what about pre and post-shading? Are the techniques useful to us at all? Should we use them all the time, some of the time, or never? Like so many things in our hobby, that depends.
Real airplanes (and that's what we're going to talk about, but you AFV and ship guys can listen in too, if you'd like) are not pre-shaded, nor are they post-shaded. They're painted, period, initially by a factory someplace and subsequently by someone's corrosion control facility or maybe some junior enlisted person on a ramp or in a hangar deck. That paint also gets touched up in-between times if it gets scabby enough to need it and the next visit to an overhaul facility or NARF is far enough away.
In The Old Days we didn't worry very much about that sort of thing. We built the models, we painted them, and the more adventurous of us scribed in panel lines and filled them with with India ink or similar. Tonal variation weren't in anybody's play book until late in the 1970s, give or take, when people began to shade things, and the technique was new, exciting, and perceived to be more than a little bit difficult to accomplish, even though it really wasn't. One thing logically followed another, which eventually took us to the shading we all know and love (or hate) so well today and that, in turn, took us to The Problem and the reason for that guy's rant against such things, because real airplanes almost never look like they've been pre or post-shaded. They look dirty sometimes, especially if they happen to be naval aircraft or are aircraft actively involved in a conflict and therefore having little opportunity for proper paint maintenance, but they never ever ever look like somebody painted all the panel lines with black paint and then lightly misted an appropriate color coat on top of that. They don't. It doesn't work that way for the most part and real airplanes almost never look that way, even though we'll grudgingly admit there are exceptions sometimes.
There are a couple of things I think bear mentioning here. The first thing is that I personally don't think there's anything wrong with shading as long as it's done in moderation. Your eye is a good test of that: If the first thing people notice when they view your model is the way it's been shaded, then you've probably overdone it a bit. Your paintwork should be part of your model. It should never come across that it IS the model. That's one thing.
The other thing, and our point today, is intent. Are you building a replica of the real thing, and doing it as accurately as you can possibly can, or are you building a model? At first read that sounds contradictory, I know, but it really isn't. If your intent is to create a replica of something, your goal should be to re-create that thing in miniature, and it should ultimately look like the real thing you're replicating, just a little smaller. That approach will usually negate the need for excessive shading of any kind---if you can't see it on a photograph of the real thing, then you probably shouldn't see it on your model, either. If, on the other hand, your intention is to produce an attractive scale model that's got a lot of eye appeal, then light or even moderately heavy shading can very definitely be your friend. In many ways it's the difference between a real bird and a piece of Hummel pottery of that same bird, if you catch my drift. Look on it as real life versus art.
Ours is a highly subjective hobby that is based largely on illusion. We're working with things that are tiny when compared with the Real Thing, and we're trying our best to make those tiny things look like they were once big but were somehow shrunk down. Our completed edifices can look awfully plain and even quite lifeless if we don't do anything more than assemble and paint them, no matter how well done they may be, but they can also appear as more than a little comical if we overdo things in the spray booth. Moderation is a usually a very good thing in this case, no matter whether you build replicas or models, but there's another factor to consider as well---who are you building for? At the end of the day it's your handiwork that's on display, and if you're pleased with what you've done then nothing else really matters and that guy we mentioned up there at the top can rant all he wants. Then again, less really can be more. It's all in the eye of the beholder.
A Neat Movie
There's just no end to the magic you can find on YouTube. We were whiling away some time a couple of days ago looking at airplanes there and discovered this little jewel on The Silver Air Force doing weapons delivery in 1964. It's 22+ minutes of Tactical Air Command goodness you almost can't afford to miss, and even includes footage of an F-105D accidentally bagging both itself and its F-100F chase plane in a low-level weapons delivery sequence gone horribly wrong. (Everyone got out safely so it's humorous rather than tragic!) Enjoy!
Hey Claude, What Took You So Long?
Mitsubishi's A5M family of fighters, known to the west (and the modeling fraternity at large) by it's WW2 SWPAC identification moniker of "Claude", has been one of those seminal airplanes for which we never really had a decent kit in any scale---for years, the Nichimo offering of a 1/70th scale A5M-something-or-other was it as far as available polystyrene was concerned. Things started getting better around the turn of the last century (and Boy; does it sound funny saying that!) when we got decent kits in 1/72nd and 1/48th scales, with a 1/32nd scale offering showing up from Special Hobby four or five years ago. While it's true that none of those kits were anything that would qualify as kit of anybody's year, they were all decent starting places, even though the primo 1/48th scale offering, from FineMolds, wasn't quite as good as it could have been (it was one of their earlier efforts) and was also of a lesser-known variant.
Time moved on, as it usually does, and that very same FineMolds saw fit to give us not one but two new A5M kits late last year, one of the more obscure variants, the A5M2b, and another of the classic A5M4. (There's yet another new kit available in 1/48th as well, from a company called Wingsy, but that one is even more expensive than the astronomically priced FineMolds kits and we're not going to go rattling off on the tangent of distributor greed today.)
Anyway, those FineMolds kits both looked as though they'd be extremely easy to get together, creating an itch that desperately needed to be scratched. One thing led to another, with the result you see before you today.
Some Old-Timers From Way Up Yonder
We were looking through past issues of this project the other day and discovered that it's been quite a while since we've run anything from Doug Barbier's collection. You may not be aware of it but that constitutes a very bad thing for you, because he's got so much neat photography tucked away in his files. At any rate, a quick phone call to Michigan's frozen Upper Peninsula resulted in the images you're about to view, all unique and all very much worth the wait!
An Unexpected Surprise
Way back when, a very long time ago before the internet was even a dream, there were slide collectors. We were numbered among them, and our acquisition of images came in one of three different flavors: We either took them ourselves, we traded for them with other collector/photographers, or we purchased them from one of the several collectors who made their images available to the rest of us for a small fee. One the the guys who fell into the latter category was Ron Picciani. His collection of 1950s and 60s US military aviation was, and we presume still is, unrivaled, and a great many of us have a fair amount of his photography still nestled away in our collections. So many of us have obtained his photos, in fact, that it's now fairly common for them to show up without attribution on the internet. We've inadvertantly fallen into that trap ourselves a couple of times, and Ron has been kind enough to point it out to us when it's happened so we could correct things.
A couple of weeks ago, Ron dropped us an e-mail and mentioned that he'd found two of his P-47 images on our pages, incorrectly attributed to the late Dave Menard's collection. We're more than a little bit sensitive to that sort of thing around here, so the corrections were made immediately---Ron responded with his thanks, and with a little surprise we'd like to share with you today:
Many thanks to Ron for correcting our original error in attribution, and for providing us with this gorgeous image!
Some MO ANG Huns
In our last issue we ran some civilian P-2 Neptune images from Mark Nankivil's collection for your edification and enjoyment. This time around we'd like to share a few of his F-100 Super Sabre photos, all from the Missouri ANG's 110th TFS/131st TFW.
The 110th has been around for quite a while, and flew P-39s, P-40s, and P-51s in the Pacific during The Big One. They converted to the Jet Age with F-80Cs during 1957, almost immediately afterwards making the transition to the F-84F. They subsequently kept the Thunderstreak in their inventory until the Fall of 1962, deploying to Europe with them during 1961's Berlin Crisis, and then transitioned to the F-100, a type they flew from 1962 until 1978. Sixteen years is a long time to fly any sort of jet fighter, but the 110th's "Huns" only operated the type with two paint schemes during that period. Let's take a look:
Thanks as always to Mark Nankivil for his generosity and for taking the time to scan these images for us!
Those of you have been around this project for a while are familiar with the contributions made to us by Bobby Rocker. Today's photo from Bobby is a little bit different---it's not from the Second World War, and the airplane doesn't wear a propeller. It does, however, provide us with a definition of purpose.
Under the Radar
Today's book is another one you've probably never heard of before, but you'll want it for your library if your interests run towards American military aviation:
This book is one that's easy to ignore at first glance---many potential readers will be turned off by the subject matter covered---but the simple fact that the US Army possesses several thousand aircraft at any given time and operates them extensively makes the volume worth the price of admission. The title is an honest one and defines what you get; the book is an encyclopedic coverage of American Army aircraft, both fixed and rotary wing, from 1947 until the 1990 date of publication. The coverage of each type is brief but concise, includes both text and at least one photograph of each aircraft, and is more than sufficient for the intended purpose. It's an older work so a great many contemporary types used by the Army are missing from its coverage but the Korean War and Vietnam years are included, making the book well worth its cost; we found our copy in a used book store, in brand-new condition, for $4.95 USD. It's not a book to read for recreation but can quickly become an essential part of the enthusiast's reference library and is worth seeking out. Recommended.
The Relief Tube
Let's start off with a trip in the old Replica in Scale Wayback Machine! Reader Mike Sumrell saw one of our older photo essays that included a VIP B-17G being used in the late Korean fracas and sent this:
Mike, many thanks for sending this photo. The B-17 served in the post-War USAF well into the 1950s, and I suspect it was somewhat more common than we have been led to belief, particularly in the FEAF. It's a topic that has been virtually undocumented, which naturally leads to a request of our readers: Do any of you hold photography on post-War B-17s, B-25s, F-61s, F-51s, etc, that you'd be willing to share? If you do, could you please scan and e-mail them to us at replicainscaleatyahoodotcom? Maybe we can collectively shed some light on the twilight years of some of our more famous aircraft! Need we say that it's the right thing to do!
In a similar vein, reader S. Brouillette sent along this comment regarding another of our older pieces, "A Couple of Early Phantoms":
Phillip, Ref the early Phantoms. We have one of those first two AF airframes a 2-3 blocks down from my office. Definitely NOT typical RF-4C. The provenance of these two started on the McDonald Douglas line as RF-4Bs (thin, un-slatted wings). Charlie models that started on the line as Cs were called Cs. Pulled off and reconfigured to AF specs. Initially designated RF-110A off the line. LATER designated as RF-4C.
Thanks very much for the additional information! I don't suppose you'd be interested in sending a photo or two of that airframe...
Last issue we ran a photo of a ramp full of 82nd FG F-51Ds and Hs, and were musing about the paucity/near total lack of decent kits of the Hotel variant of the Mustang in any scale. Adam Maas had this comment to add:
There actually is a recent kit of the P-51H in 1/72, from RS Models It's a nice short-run kit with a mix of injection plastic and resin detail parts. As RS is dabbling in 1/48 now, it's quite possible they could scale up this little gem! Adam
Could we be so lucky? Come on, RS Models, and give us that F-51H! Please!
And that's it for this time. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!