Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Start drooling sci-fi addicts: Hasegawa releases tasty stuff

There are plenty of Terminator, Robocop, Star Wars and Star Trek kits out there, enough to satisfy all but the most rabid fans. But when it comes to original designs, or models representing lesser-known works of science fiction, there’s a dearth of material.

Well, here comes Hasegawa to help the situation, with the first of several new releases slated for 2009. The 1:20 scale Falke anti-gravity raider was shown off at the Nuremberg Toy Fair a few weeks ago, and it looks terrific, with nicely modelled figures, standing in off-duty shorts or sitting in a flight suit.

The Falke is part of the Ma. K (Maschinen Krieger) sci-fi universe, originally created back in the 1980s, by Japanese artist Kow Yokoyama. There have been various legal disputes over ownership, but now Hasegawa has started new development. For kit-bashers the Falke is a blessing, as it’s packed with interesting detail bits you could use on other projects. Or if you build as-is, then you’re free to choose any colour scheme you like – I think a satin-black night-attack version would look the biz.

No complaints about the big scale chosen, but let’s hope that Hasegawa also release versions in smaller standard scales, such as 1:35, 1:48, and 1:72. The Falke would look terrific lined up with a squadron of present-generation stealth fighters. When built, it will measure some 286 mm long, and should be available through retail stores, or online outfits such as Hobbylink Japan.

ps. Talking of science fiction, there's a tasty ‘alternative’ Millennium Falcon coming up next month...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Making money: Is there gold in your garage?

If you’re anything like me, collecting model kits seems to go at a rather faster rate than actually building them. So far as available time is concerned, many people are at a serious disadvantage, and actually complete no more than half a dozen items a year.

What that means is that storage space for all those boxes can become a problem sooner or later. This happened to me a while ago, when I went into the garage, looked at the floor-to-ceiling ranks of kits stacked at the back and thought, “There’s no way I’m ever going to build that lot”.

So, what to do? Well, like many others have done, I decided to give eBay a whirl. I have to say that there was lot more to it than meets the eye – descriptions, pricing, photos, postal rates and more. And all have to be tackled and mastered. It’s quite a steep learning curve.

But the upside is that once you get going, you find that there really is a world-wide market for your cast-offs and, better still, most people are interesting to meet, even if it’s only by email. In the six months of trading it took to empty that garage, I got to know people as far apart as Slovenia and South Africa.

The best discovery of all was that those unbuilt kits had a value (albeit fairly unpredictable!) and that they went to keen model makers, who had the time and interest to do better things than leave them mouldering away in a garage.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Video inspiration: Planes you've never seen before!

YouTube has some wonderful things, and this is one of them. Reminds me of the dinky little models I used to make using surplus aircraft stands as fuselages!

Anyone remember Hasegawa's egg-craft? Time to bring 'em back in your spare time, maybe using these Photoshopped cuties as inspiration!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Must-go factor: Magnificent model shows

Most model makers are specialists, at least to some degree. Whether you prefer to make aircraft, cars, sci-fi or militaria, it’s easy to stay within your zone and ignore what’s happening outside.

The best way to get a “helicopter view” of the wider model world out there is to go and visit a few model shows – even better, to enter your own works, and see if you can take home a medal or two.

Apart from the sheer range of entries at a big show – the pictures here were taken at Britain’s National Exhibition Centre – there is also the inspiration factor.

Seeing how others go about tackling problems (weathering and metal finishes are just two examples that spring to mind) can be a tremendous helping hand to improve your own stuff.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

IPMS favourite: SAM magazine review

It’s time for a look at the hardcopy mags, and SAM – Scale Aircraft Modelling – had a style update recently, so it’s a good one to choose. The cover says it’s voted “the modeller’s favourite magazine” by the UK IPMS (International Plastic Modeller’s Society), so let’s open one up.

The issue featured here is the latest copy, dated April 2009, and features an Airfix TSR-2 on the cover. Oddly, the image seems to be in mono: the 1:48 scale model is shown in colour inside, so maybe the designer thought it was a good Photoshop effect or something.

Still, that’s comment rather than criticism, and the rest of SAM makes up for it, with a total of 70 colour pages, printed on very good quality paper. The TSR-2 article includes a full build step-by-step, a useful how-to Tech Guide, and a 21-pic walkaround the two full-size aircraft, presently on display at the Duxford and Cosford air museums.

A nice SAM feature is the centre-spread, which folds out to show a really attractive set of scale drawings of the de Havilland Sea Vixen, by technical artist Mark Rolfe.

The back end of the mag is packed with new kit releases, accessories and other interesting stuff. You can visit SAM’s website here, where you can also find a FREE pdf download of a specimen issue, with the old-style front cover. SAM, we like the new one so much more! Available monthly, UK price £3.95GBP.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Frustration? The models you can’t buy

Big trade shows are fascinating places, especially ones like the biennial air shows at Paris and Farnborough in the UK, which rotate on a year-on year-off basis. The air displays are among the best, but for many visitors (including me) the enormous trade halls are the really fascinating destinations to head for.

Wandering around inside is like a trip to a seemingly endless Aladdin’s Cave, where you can see 1001 technoid delights, from ejection-seat demos to mega-screen multimedia presentations.

And of course, there are models. Only these are not offerings from Airfix, Academy or Tamiya. Instead, they are mostly limited-run or one-off miniatures, built to show off the latest wares from manufacturers, or even more temptingly, blue-sky future projects.

You might not be able to buy them from a model store, but they can usually be photographed, and with luck you can make such a project the subject of a kit-bashing exercise. Try it and see!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Big bomber: Airfix TSR-2 unboxed

It’s amazing what a hold the fabled BAC TSR-2 still has for aviation fans and modellers. Conceived at a time when British governments seemed obsessed with destroying much of British industry with ill-judged mergers and cancellations, TSR-2 sums up how even the finest project can die through official incompetence. Suffice to say that the powers that be waited until the aircraft was proving itself in the air – THEN they killed it. May they rot.

Which brings us 45 years up to date with the "Limited Edition" Airfix 1:48 TSR-2. The box is impressively large, though kinda empty looking... the art is OK, but there’s not a lot going on with the typography!

Still, a look inside reveals that at least the box has lots inside, as you can see from the pix. The instruction book is a rather plain-Jane multi-language affair, and I’ll put in a plea here for Tamiya-style presentation, where the appearance of these supporting elements is considered an important part of the whole package.

As for accuracy and build quality, you can view a very detailed review at the Unofficial Airfix Modellers' Forum here.

TSR-2 Walkround: Fascinating vid from Testors

Testors, the model paints people, have this fascinating video of the TSR-2. It's essential viewing for anyone planning to build a model of this world-beating attack aircraft that first flew in 1964. Just three were built, only one flew and then... it was cancelled.

You can visit Testors here

Incoming: Airfix 1:48 TSR-2 unboxing!

The Airfix TSR-2 box is BIG, but what's inside?

Find out when the unboxing edit's done!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Amazing: Model trains in Germany

Wow! The Miniatur Wunderland model railway in Hamburg claims to be the largest of its kind in the world, with some 10km (6.8 miles) of HO scale track and eight HUNDRED trains!

Building the display started in 2000, and it's still under construction, with a model airport due to be finished by the end of 2009.

The vid gives you a good feel for the full-on amazingness of the project, which has so far taken more than half a million person-hours to build and had more than 5 million visitors.

Feel like a visit? Full details are available at the Miniatur Wonderland site here.

Rowland Emett: homage to genius

Rowland Emett was the master behind one of the most famous movie cars, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which starred in the movie of the same name. It's just over 40 years ago that the movie was released (in December 1968) and the extending-wing automobile has been a star ever since.

Of course, Emett (1906-1990) had been creating stuff long before Chitty. He did cartoons for magazines like Punch, dreamt up cartoon-like trains (see pictures above) and worked for US companies, such as Honeywell Computers.

The various Corgi versions have achieved collectible status. There's a 1991 25th Anniversary edition on eBay at an asking price of £125.00GBP ($182.00USD), though you could make an offer on that price.

There's a nice blogsite detailing Chitty and other models from the movies here

The eBay auction for the Chitty shown above is here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hello Hamburg!

Forget to mention, the vid on the previous post came from BaronKrolok's Channel. It's by Andreas, a graphic designer. Good stuff and thanks Andreas. You can visit the site here.

Video: World War 2 aircraft collection

Here's a fun vid from YouTube, especially if you like glamrock. When Mat Irvine joins the SMN team, we'll have some of our own to add!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Drag Racing: Noisy heaven for superdetail fans

Details, details! Making sure your model is packed with detail – accurate detail – is a sure-fire way to get your model really noticed, and maybe winning a few competition prizes.

For truck and dragster fans, few things beat a day out at a dragmeet. The great thing about drag racing, compared to (say) Formula 1, is that you can usually walk right up to the vehicles, and also to the guys and gals fettling them.

For modellers, this means that you can snap away with your digicam to get accurate reference shots pretty much as close as you like. And this means that you have the information needed for those show winners. Plus of course, it’s a great day out! The shots here were taken at the UK’s Santa Pod raceway, which is an ace venue. You can visit Santa Pod’s website here.

A word of warning though – drag racing is LOUD, and it’s not difficult to damage your ears. You’ll get reminders of this over the PA system, so please don’t ignore the warnings to use ear defenders. These are always on sale, but in fact, I’ve found that for me, the neatest ear defenders are a pair of iPod headphones. That’s the in-ear sort, that go right into your ear canals and cut out most ambient noise. Mine are the German Sennheiser brand, which also give brain-meltingly good audio quality when you use 'em for music.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Air cushion attacker: Trumpeter USMC LCAC

The great thing about this Trumpeter kit is that it’s in 1:72 scale, which makes it a biggie – at 372mm long, a little larger than my MacBook Pro laptop. It’s just great to see a new air cushion vehicle in kit form; the biggest made so far was the old Airfix SRN4.

The LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion) is a high-speed, onto-the-beach amphibious landing craft, used by the US Marine Corps. It can carry up to a 75-ton payload – weapons, an M-1 tank, equipment, cargo and troops – directly onto the beach.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Essential reading: Auto Modelling Masterclass by Mat Irvine

This is such a terrific read that even if you don’t make car models, you’re still guaranteed to pick up some useful tips. However, here's a warning: set aside a few hours for relaxed droolworthy page-turning.

Mat Irvine is a renowned modeler, and currently maintains K-9, the robot dog from the BBC Doctor Who TV series, in fine fettle. In this book, Mat has gathered together decades of experience to give readers fact-packed text and hundreds of colour pictures, from his model collection.

Lovers of kit history are well catered for, as Mat has included photos of subjects going back half a century and more. My own favourites include some early Batmobile models, as well as many dioramas and conversions.

You can order through a bookshop, or buy direct from our publishing partner Amazon

Korean War jet: Republic F-84G from Revell

Good news for larger-scale jet fans: the Revell 1:48 Thunderjet is now coming into the stores. It's a nice addition to models of the early jet-age era.

The real thing became a great success in the Korean War, though early F-84s had been less successful. The jet only came really 'right' with the 1951 'G' version, featured in this Revell kit. The F-84 notched up a string of 'firsts' for a strike fighter: in-flight refuelling, nuclear weapons capability, and being the first aircraft used by the USAF Thunderbirds display team.

Should you build the Revell or Tamiya F-84G? Either or both, as each of them makes up into a handsome scale model. They are crying out for a diorama though: a miniature arming-up scene would look terrific.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Coming soon: Armour Collection F-35

Reckoned to be on the runway for release in Summer 2009 is the Armour Collection’s 1:48 scale Lockheed Martin F-35. The big diecast is already on pre-order from several online stores, including Trains and Planes. You can visit TAC here:


Blast from the past: Airfix Magazine

Today's model world is well supplied with monthly hardcopy magazines. Whether it’s Fine Scale Modeler, Tamiya Model Magazine, Model Collector, Model Rail or Scale Aircraft Modelling, they are all packed from cover to cover with top quality colour pages. But it wasn’t always that way....

Airfix Magazine was a leader for many years, being published from June 1960 to October 1993. For anyone making kits in the 1960s, it was required monthly reading. And without the internet to keep you posted instantly on hot news, Airfix Magazine was one of the best ways to keep up to date with new kit releases.

Airfix Magazine was definitely non-specialist, rather like the SMU you’re reading now, in fact. Every issue had a nugget or two for just about anyone, although aircraft featured strongly, especially on the covers. But trains, cars, ships and military were all squeezed in as well. And editor Alan W. Hall also included many tips and tricks for better model-making, as well as scale drawings for conversions.

However, the big surprise looking through a copy today is the sheer lack of colour. Of the 48 pages in the October 1969 issue featured here, only three pages have any at all – all the rest are black-and-white!

Editions Mirontaine: Card-building delights from France

Editions Mirontaine is a French publisher that produces a wide range of stuff – postcards, engravings and much more. Of particular interest to SMU are their nicely engineered press-out card kits.

The little street scene shown here (rail fans please note: it’s roughly HO scale) is named after the small hotel tucked into a corner – Au Cochon Qui Dort or “with the pig that sleeps”. A fine way of labelling your male guests! I do know of a restaurant called that in Rouen, but not a hotel...

The Mirontaine card-model was bought in Angers, in the Loire region of France, and assembled back home with no problems at all, in an hour or so. If others in the range are as good, then they should be winners, though you do have to like the slightly whimsical art style (I do) which is quite unlike the hyper-realism most common in the model world.

Card models are quite delicate and prone to damage from dust and dirt. But a trip to the now sadly defunct Woolworths chain resulted in a tidy solution – a teenager’s beauty kit box, repurposed for a higher calling – and it even came with a dinky little set of keys!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Science and transport museums: reference treasure troves

For the precision scale modeler, having decent reference material to add the final touches to your masterpiece can easily make the difference between a ‘very good’ model and a ‘wow!’ show-winner.

So tracking down original source material can be vital to the discerning modeler, as well as making for an interesting day out. Luckily, many of the world’s museums are waiting for you to step right in and take as many photos as you need. Remember though that while museums are usually happy for you to take photos for personal use, they are not so keen if they are for commercial gain, unless there’s a prior agreement in place.

The US has many such museums, though my favourite has to be the mammoth Smithsonian National Air and Space in Washington DC. I spent three days there on my first trip! London’s Science Museum is much smaller, but also has its share of treasures, including the original Vickers Vimy, beautifully preserved since Alcock and Brown flew it across the Atlantic Ocean in June, 1919.

There are also some fine models in this museum, including some nice dioramas like the V-2 mobile launch site, shown here. It could be time to check out your local museums – whether you like cars, trains, boats, planes or spacecraft, you’ll likely find something interesting not too far away.