All of my models are built from kits. The kits are created by somebody else, probably in another country, and I, basically, finish a job started by somebody else. That’s what this is, and the people who do this understand the role that they play in the process.
It creates a little “weirdness” from time to time because most people want to imagine that building a model is kind of a magic act. You take an old sewing needle, an apple core and a blown-out football and SHAZAM! You get a fine scale model of the latest hardware from Boeing or Lockheed. Yeah, and I’m the president of France.
We don’t require a NASCAR driver to build the car. We don’t require the famous photographer to build the camera from scratch. We slacken up on those guys. But a scale model builder gets no slack in this regard. It’s a bit of puzzle, since nowhere else in the entire history of humanity do we have such a gonad-crushing level of tightness, requiring that all good boys build models from scratch if they want to go to heaven.
Actually, the requirement that a “real” model be built from scratch doesn’t really exist. But it does exist in the imagination of anybody who has ever felt “put down” because of their hobby. Your imagination will provide the justification, and all you need is a magazine like the old Fine Scale Modeler to plunge the stake into your heart. “Not that it’s a big deal or anything, but out in my car I have a scratchbuilt one of those.” Oh shuddup.
I suppose in the imaginary Kingdom of Good everybody would do everything for themselves, and require nothing from nobody else. But I live on Earth, and on my planet we build models from kits. But this also provides an opening for the guys who buy radio-controlled models that are ready to fly, and model railroad fans who assemble layouts with store-bought parts to say that plastic model kits are missing something. If they aren’t demonstrations of magical “turn a potato into an F-104” then what are they? They don’t move or anything.
We’ll leave our mechanically minded friends to ponder that while we consider the idea of working together instead of drawing apart. I’ve been dissed by hobby shop goons on more than one occasion because I brought a plastic kit up to the register. It’s not (usually) overt disrespect, but I still remember the nose-picker at Smith Bros. in Lancaster, California in 1985 who exclaimed “Is that it? A P-38 that’s already made?” I don’t really know what he meant but it was bad. Of course, today, being old and grumpy I’d reply “I was going to get a picture of your mom but I don’t think I could get that across the border.”
It’s bad enough that flying model guys and model train guys and, wait for it, MODEL SHIP ARTISANS– exhale– give us a bunch of grief, but other plastic model builders spend valuable brain cells picking on model builders who build in a different scale. Is there any hope that we will ever live down our reputation as slightly disturbed if we do stuff like that? I doubt it. We should be supporting each other like crazy. We should be breaking our arms patting each other on the back, not acting like we’re happy we bought the fifty acres in northern Nevada back in the eighties so we can live in our own private world where matters of scale mean something because I say so and I’m the big IT north of the Picketwire.
A lot of American plastic kit builders seem weirdly afraid that posterity will remember them only as the eyesight-challenged also-rans who built “large print” models with glandular disorders in 1/48th scale while the true artisans sculpted miniature masterpieces in 1/72nd scale. Ya know– I doubt it. But they are never so secure in their manhood or Nevada residency to resist dumping on us smaller scale people. They seem to believe that a good offense is the best defense. You can’t see that a smaller model is, by definition, a better model if you’re being distracted by the cheerleader making “too small” hand gestures on the sidelines.
Now the people in the U.K., to my everlasting amazement, have joined in on the fun. At least the magazine Meng Air Modeller has taken a leap into the void, delivering a snarky article which implies that anyone who builds in a smaller scale must be financially challenged and probably not too bright. I protest. I resemble that remark, sir, and demand satisfaction! I sent an email to the editor of said magazine in protest and was rebuffed. I won’t publish the reply due to the unwritten law of not publishing replies, but I will say that the words “we’re sorry” never appeared anywhere in the message– and I looked. The only thing I can gather from this is that it’s open season. Any and all jokes at the expense of clowns who still try to make a living from paper magazines and other unfortunates are not only acceptable, but encouraged. Bravo, I say.
I build models in a constant scale so that I can put a model of an Arado Ar 234 next to a model of a B-25 and be able to show the relative size. I choose to do this in 1/72 scale because I like that scale. I always have. The larger scales just seem too big to me. In fact, I do everything that I do in my hobby my way. That is the point. But I don’t let that personalized activity go to my head and make me crazy enough to put down my beloved fellow modelers, even if they make toy trains or toy airplanes that fly or, God Help Them, ships.