It's Nearly Always a Win
I am, of course, referring to our hobby and, more specifically, to the building of a kit, any kit, to a reasonably high standard of finish. In many respects I'm the wrong guy to be talking about that sort of thing since I'm a middle-of-the-road sort of modeler at best, but we can learn lessons even in mediocrity and the recent eating of my lunch by a relatively new and high-end kit provided the reflection required to cause pontification regarding the subject---that means let's talk about it for a minute or two.
That most recent obstruction in the perfidious path to polystyrene perfection (yes; I actually did say that and no; I don't know what prompted me to do it either) wasn't the only challenge I've ever faced while modeling. Nope; there have been many such excursions into failure, perhaps too many to count if truth be told, but there's been an up side to each and every one of those near disasters.
Take, for example, that 1/72nd scale Lindberg He.162 I attempted to build back in 1976. It was a simple kit with few components, most of which fit properly, so there was no undue challenge to building the thing. Inspiration was at hand and the kit was cooperating, which meant it was ready to paint in a mere day or two. The airbrush was actually in hand when The Discovery was made; that kit utilizes a one-piece wing that slides through slots in the fuselage halves and I'd put it in backwards, a fact noticed only when the largish leading-edge slats in that newly swept wing were discovered. There honestly wasn't much saving that one so it landed in the trash can, leaving in its wake a perpetual note to self regarding the wisdom of checking things prior to the application of glue. That was actually the Up Side to the adventure even though the model was trashed. Now we sing it all together: PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU'RE DOING! Yes indeedy, a life lesson if ever there was one.
Proceed forward a few years, to the early 2000s and my discovery of Classic Airframes. Any one of them was a stretch for my abilities at the time but the kit subjects made the gamble worthwhile. They even offered the Curtiss P-6E, a favorite of mine since childhood, and in two different boxings to boot! It was reputed to be a difficult kit but biplanes had never previously been any sort of challenge to my ever-limited skills so the game was on. Said game lasted right up to the part where the upper wing needed to be installed, which was when Folly entered the picture. That darned wing just wouldn't mount properly no matter how it was attached. In desperation I finally consulted Mr Internet (this was the early 2000s, remember) and read where everybody was trimming the struts because they didn't fit properly. That seemed to make sense so I trimmed mine too, thus ensuring there was no way the upper wing could ever be properly attached to the rest of the airplane, but that one didn't get thrown away. It went back into its box and sat for fifteen years or so until I acquired another kit at a good price thanks to the kindness of an old friend; Richard Ng. I could describe the revelation that resulted in the successful completion of that model but I'd rather not, referring anyone interested to scroll instead to the bottom of this page and type "P-6E" into the search function to find the article published in these very pages. The adventure will pop up complete with photographs. The lesson there was another ode to simplicity: LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES AND DON'T REPEAT THEM.
Finally, there was that Grand Phoenix FJ-4B Fury. The kit comes with a reputation for being challenging at best, and that can certainly be true if you allow it to be. The major offenders are the resin main landing gear bays, which are too thick to fit inside the wings, and the components we'll agree to refer to as Anything Inside the Front of the Airplane, all of which compete for the same limited amount of space in there. Those things are a challenge, to be sure, but the kit is more accurate than either the primordial Matchbox or the more recent HobbyBoss offerings, which means learning a bit of patience and fortitude. That particular kit was removed and put back into its box more often that most people change their socks and underwear but at the end of the day a pretty good model resulted---I have both the HobbyBoss and Grand Phoenix models on the shelf, sitting side by side, and the Grand Phoenix kit is far and away the better of the two, although the path to get there was a bit more difficult. That adventure eventually resulted in quite a bit of preplanning and measuring, which resulted in the fitting of the apparently unfittable. The experience led to perhaps my most important lesson of all: FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO IT BEFORE YOU TRY TO DO IT.
And finally we come to the point, which is this: You're going to mess up sometimes, and there will be times when your failure could be described as Epic. You're also going to mess up more than once, and that's okay too, or at least it is as long as you learn from the adventure. The kit, whatever it is, provides us with an opportunity and nothing more. What we do with it results directly from our abilities, both to figure things out and to perform the physical task of modeling, and to learn from our mistakes. Let's call that Growth.
Better Than Nothing
That sobriquet could handily describe Northrop's F-89 Scorpion family of jet interceptors. They certainly looked the part of a dedicated defender of the skies, particularly after the introduction of the D-model with those massive fuel tanks/rocket pods hanging off the wingtips, and they lasted for several decades in both the regular Air Force and in the Air National Guard, but they honestly weren't very much as such things go. A classic product of the 1940s, the F-89 family were cutting edge technology when designed and close to obsolete the day they first entered service. They had marginal radars (but so did everything else at the time), and they were slow. Like so many military airplanes of the '50s they were blessed by never having to serve in combat---a very good thing---but they did hold the line while the United States was ramping up the Century Series of jet fighters which, coincidentally, managed to include a pair of interceptors that truly were up to the task.
Maddog John Kerr was a slide collector par excellence and a friend as well. He shared a great many images with me, a couple of which we're going to look at today.