Monday, November 29, 2010


SMN report
Seeing that beautifully produced Hobby Master Douglas Skyraider made us think that the diecast industry has one more ‘mission impossible’ to fulfill in the quality stakes - and that’s to fill those tiny cockpits with decent-looking humanoids.

Skyraider cockpit
As you can see from the superb pix and video of the real thing above, the pilot sits high and mighty in the Skyraider’s cockpit, the big bubble canopy giving him a terrific all-round combat view. Sad to say, the HM aircraft features a shrunken little man looking half asleep at the controls; in fact, the figure is pretty much on a par with the infamous and malnourished Airfix flight crews of long ago.

Hobby Master pilots
Part of the problem is to do with what’s actually possible. The limits of moulding technology simply don’t allow a canopy of scale thickness (yet!), so the pilot is bound to sit somewhat low in the cockpit. Even so, the average diecast pilot is pretty half-hearted, and in open cockpit machines, the issue shouldn’t arise at all. Now Hobby Master is at least addressing the issue, with several sets of figures now available, and they are better than the in-cockpit bods. But there’s a way to go yet, so that’s our next target for HM and other brands - pilots who look like they really have been to flight school!

Revell 1:40 scale Skyraider
The video in particular reminds us of that old Revell kit from 1960, made to a one-of-a-kind 1:40 scale. It was packed with must-have features of the time, including retractable undercarriage. In the Skyraider’s case this is particularly complex to model, because the wheels rotate 90 degrees to lay flat in the wings. In the kit I built some time ago, the wheels (and other features, such as the massive underbelly dive brake, sliding canopy, and folding wings) worked after a fashion - but only after a fashion. When extended, the landing legs were rather weak at the knees and, combined with the hefty weight of the finished item, made them go splay-legged the moment you tried to sit the plane on them!

You tried so hard Revell - but perhaps there are some things best left alone...

Spooky the Cat’s treasure trove
Incidentally, we chanced on this interesting clutch of kits, purchased at the IPMS Seattle Spring Show 2008. You can see the reissue of that original 1:40 scale Skyraider in the set, picked up for just $10 (fine value, even for a reissue) by model fan ‘Spooky the Cat’. Trust you enjoyed the build Spooky, and that you managed to fix that feeble undercart! Below it is the original box, painted with that early-Revell style and panache. The box subhead describes it as ‘frameable’ art, which just goes to show - never cut up a box at the suggestion of a copywriter!

Visit here for Skyraider kits and books.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  Kit selection from IPMS Seattle 2008.
2  Revell box from 1960.
3-4  Skyraider demos its barn-door speed brake, and flying in formation with a Grumman F4F, called the Martlet in Fleet Air Arm service.

Video courtesy ‘octane130’.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


David Jefferis reports
Hobby Master is a company that offers one thing in particular that makes someone like me extremely jealous - and that’s producing, at an affordable price, aircraft with beautiful rigging detail. As a keen-teen model maker I tried so many times to make biplanes with convincing interplane wires - and failed most of the time. It takes a particular skill, that’s for sure, and it’s not one of mine, nor do I possess the patience to hone those skills.

Fine detail from Hobby Master
So here comes a company that manages to design its products so well that such ultra-fine detailing is a production-line reality. And look at pix 3 and 4 - a 1:32 scale Dauntless dive bomber with a transparent nose to show off the neat interior!

Tweaking still allowed
It’s fair to say that buying such ready-made models is not as satisfying as making up a kit. Then again, such models appeal to the collector rather than the model maker. Even so, people like me who are time-poor (as they say in market-research circles) get the pleasure of owning a handsome product, and are still free to tweak the model with a spot of weathering, yet more super-detail, or even adding a diorama display to make it ‘ours’, rather than a straight buy that’s just a one-of-a-million production line unit.

Well, that’s my take anyway! Meantime, have a drool at these up-and-coming aircraft from Hobby Master.  

Ogle this tasty selection of HM models here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  1:48 scale Boeing P-26A Peashooter.
2  1:48 scale Boeing P-12E.
3-4  1:32 scale Douglas SBD Dauntless tail and nose views.
5  1:72 scale Douglas AD-1 Skyraider.
6  1:72 scale World War II US pilot set.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


SMN report
Revell’s annual scale-fest winners were announced this week. Model maker Joachim Balkenhol won the 2010 contest with his 1:96 scale clipper ship Thermopylae, which took him more than two years to build. The kit’s basis was another Revell ship, the Pedro Nunes, a vessel named after the Portuguese mathematician and pioneer of modern navigation methods. Joachim’s conversion mods included a full set of paper sails, and rigging that used up a staggering 160 m (525 ft) of fine twine. Amazing stuff.

Here are the other winners:

Patrick Simon (Bucket Wheel).

Ingo Hartmann (USS United States).

Karsten Schmidt (Ford Cabrio).

Fabian Schulz (Ford Rat Rod).

Andreas Dyck (P-51D).

Michael Sabusch (Kanonenjagdpanzer).

Thomas Plösser (Canadair CL-13B Sabre).

Peter Hofstetter (Diesel locomotive).

Thorsten Hofmann (Junkers Ju-88 A-1).

There was a mixed jury, consisting of:

Helge Schling, Berthold Tack (Modell Fan magazine). 

Volker Helms (DPMV and IPMS, Germany).

Karl-Heinz Dué, Franz-Josef Heckmann (German model building club).

Ullrich Taubert, Volker Vahle, Holger Eidberger (Revell-Germany).

Visit the Revell competition page here.

Pictures courtesy Revell, showing the entries, in winning order.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Here's a reminder for UK model fans that HAMEX 2 - the second Hanslope Model Expo - is being held this coming Sunday November 28. Mat Irvine will be showing many of the Special Effects models from his days at the BBC, and doubtless the Doctor Who robot dog K-9 will be there on demo as well.

Food supplies in excellent hands
The bacon butties ran out last year, which was a bit of a shame, but unsurprising really as the bacon was really something special. This year the catering crew assures the HAMEX 2 team that extra supplies have been laid in especially for the show.

Kit swap
If you make the show, then it's a good idea to bring along some spare cash, as there will be kits aplenty on sale - and as those winter nights are with us (and Christmas is coming) what better time to lay in 'a little something' for the work bench?!

For details visit the HAMEX 2 site here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


SMN report
We inspected the two-piece solid wheels sported by Revell’s Lincoln Futura, and mentioned that the tyre elements were not made of rubber, like most kits these days. Well, that's not quite right and here’s a correction from the acknowledged expert of scale auto models, Mat Irvine, who reminded us that almost all model tyres are not rubber at all, they’re usually made of vinyl, a soft plastic compound.

The styrene killer strikes
Apparently, the composition of some early vinyls could attack styrene and literally melt it, and Mat has a few examples of this. In Mat’s words: “I recall AMT for one went to styrene for many of its tyres in the 1970s for this very reason and only returned to vinyl in later years, when the formula had been changed. Airfix had the same trouble with the tyres in its James Bond DB5 kit, and with the tracks for many of its tank kits.”

Austin-Healey model kit
Mat continued: “This could have applied to the most recent reissue of the Revell Germany Austin-Healey 100-Six, though thankfully this reverts to the original styrene wheel-tyres combo for the latest release. Incidentally, I supplied an original box for Revell to photograph as artwork for the update.”

“Apart from the fact that this was the original format, the replacement vinyl tyres and chromed wheels used on later issues (as of course they were the 'in thing') were awful (and I don't mean 'full of awe...'). The originals were far, far better, having very finely moulded wire wheels, which with appropriate paint, look absolutely the part.”

“So... all-styrene isn't all bad!”

More on the Lincoln Futura
Back to the Lincoln Futura, the pix above are a couple of nice finds we thought you’d like to see. The 280 mm (11 in) long tin toy was made by Yonezawa of Japan, and dates back to the mid-late 1950s. Present value is around $800.00 USD (£500.00 GBP) for a tip-top example, and worth every note we’d say. Somewhat cheaper is the neat Johnny Lightning 1:64 scale model, which was issued as a Limited Edition. Even so, with careful shopping around, you can pick one up for just $15.00 USD (£9.40 GBP).

Visit Fast Autos with the tinplate Futura here.

Here’s a range of tasty tinplate items, though we suggest you ignore the cake tins, unless you like baking of course here.

Friday, November 12, 2010


David Jefferis reports
Here we have 100 colour pages of the new and revived Airfix Magazine - well, it's now retitled Airfix Model World for 2010 - and a pretty good effort it is too. I’ve been involved with several magazine launches over the years, and know a little of the sweat and toil that goes into the first one. It’s always a steep learning curve and I doubt this launch AFW is an exception. So well done to the team involved.

What’s it like?
First off is the cover - and centre-spread - both of which feature the work of the Airfix ‘wunderkind’ box-artist, Adam Tooby. He’s already up there in the pantheon of the best - Roy Cross, at last you have a decent successor. Tooby manages to combine the precision of computer generated imagery with an artist’s touch for the finished work. I reckon we’ll see a few of his box-tops appearing as art prints before too long.

See inside
Editorial is wide-ranging, with a strong feature on the 1:48 Sea Vixen kit from Airfix, which has some very nice detail photographs, including closeups of the neatly-modelled observer’s cockpit and radarscope. Elsewhere we have articles on the 1:32 Aston Martin DBR9 racer, and a Hasegawa 1:48 F-4J Phantom II. There are also the expected extras, including news, skills, books, kits and decals. All in all, the mag makes a good read, with a flavour that’s not overly ‘Airfix’. In fact, I might want a bit more of this - there is lots of background detail to the company that I would be fascinated to learn about.
Space with Mat Irvine
I couldn’t finish without a mention of SMN’s own Mat Irvine, with his ‘Space Build’ feature. This one takes you through the Airfix 1:144 scale Saturn V, pulling no punches with its faults and features. Interesting article - nice one, Mat!

Visit Airfix here.

Visit Mat Irvine here.

Airfix Model World here.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


SMN report
Seeing that Shigeo Koike P-51 Mustang painting coincided with the pic above arriving at SMN Towers. It came unannounced, so if you're the owner or the photographer, do let us know so we can give you a credit. The aircraft - a P-51D Mustang - just has to be the shiniest 'Stang we've ever seen. Click the pic to enlarge and you'll be blown away by the sheer lustrous beauty of shiny metal, which makes my Sunday afternoon cutlery-cleaning sessions with Silvo look somewhat pathetic. The gleaming Mustang is also a reminder that the type has to be just about the most-modelled aviation subject ever, even if the Supermarine Spitfire takes the podium in some markets.

Museum grade replica
The Mustang is not a just popular subject with serious IPMS types and more casual model makers - the folks at P51 Mustang Models will make you a museum-grade replica for a fee. On the kit front, which one is best? Well, that's an argument that could run and run, with pros and cons for every entrant in the market. Still, it's fair to say that there is not a real rip-yer-hair-out dud out there.

A big one from Airfix
Our own favourite is the old 1:24 scale Airfix model, not so much for its overall accurancy, but for the boldness of Airfix in bringing out a mammoth kit at a time when even 1:48 was considered on the big side. Ah, nostalgia!

Visit P51 Mustang Models here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


SMN report
For UK and European model enthusiasts, the IPMS (UK) Scale ModelWorld 2010 Show is ‘The Modelling Event of the Year’. Well, that’s the poster’s description, but it’s pretty accurate, for the show - in Telford, Shropshire - is certainly a mega-event. You’ll have a choice of 100-plus trade stands and 100-plus IPMS Branch and SIG (Special Interest Group) displays to look at, surely enough to keep any model fan drooling over the entire weekend of 13-14 November.

Model competition
A big draw at the IPMS event - over and above all those display stands - will be the model competition, in which entries are all-new - or at least, cannot have been entered in an IPMS event before. Note that all entries except Juniors should be pre-registered by November 6 - that’s this coming Saturday. The standard of modelmaking at IPMS events is simply superb, and doubtless this event will be well up to previous levels of excellence.

Mat Irvine
SMN’s Mat Irvine will be judging the Space, Science-Fiction and Fantasy competition entries, and will have his own stand at the show, where his excellent model books will be on sale. Mat is also aiming to display some of the car models that will appear in his new book Scale Car Modelling, scheduled for publication in mid-2011.

Visitor from the Far East
Also present at the IPMS show will be HobbyLink Japan. HLJ is eager to give UK enthusiasts a taste of their vast range of interesting and exotic stuff. A real draw for aerospace fans will be HLJ’s guest, the revered Japanese artist Shigeo Koike, who has  painted so many superbly-drafted kit box-tops. Shigeo will be signing prints and other artwork. 

Visit the IPMS here.

Visit HobbyLink Japan here.

Visit Mat Irvine here.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1  IPMS poster.
2  A blast from the past - two very early Airfix kits.
3  Shigeo Koike Mustang art.