I am no different than most scale modelers. I got into models as a kid, put them away, and then sometime later (after school, work and wedding) I got the bug to build again. I got back into the hobby sometime in 2007 with a 1/48 Tamiya F4U-1A and my inspiration came from the internet (especially the ARC site and forum).
What bugged me as a kid was the inability to ask anyone any questions!! Everything I did was by trial and error… and with tube glue and little testors paints, there was definitely a lot of error. The internet answered a ton of questions and SHOWED me how to do the things I couldn’t figure out how to do on my own.
Well, after that first Corsair model came a couple more. I went to my first IPMS contest that year: The 2007 Ottawa IPMS Capcon. I didn’t enter anything but I sure took advantage of those contest tables. I was amazed at the finished models. I didn’t buy much (apartment living) except I did get a bag full of Tamiya Model Magazines to learn from.
Capcon is every two years and by the time CapCon 2009 rolled around, I got my confidence to compete with my 4th model – a 1/32 Tamiya A6M5 Zero. This time I bought a few models and took pictures of everything on the contest tables. I stuck around to the awards presentation and was thrilled when my model placed 2nd in the OOB category… from that point on I have been hooked.
At some point in time I got an interest in attending contests other than my local show – especially an IPMS USA Nationals. The issue for me was always the distance and the time required for the show. I also wanted to compete and to that I had to make sure I wouldn’t make a fool of myself.
Steven Brown over at Scale Model Soup has written multiple entries about attending Nationals shows. His message is to go for it and no matter what, it’s all about having a great experience.
When it was announced in 2016 that the 2018 show would be in Phoenix, I was very interested. Was it far? Yes. Did it matter? No, not really. You see, I have a love of Giants spring training baseball and warm weather. I have been to Phoenix about 7 times over the years – mostly staying in South Mountain Village – and I love the place. The first trips had me visit the Grand Canyon, Sedona and Tucson (mainly for the Pima Air & Space museum and the Titan Missile Museum). All those trips were a lot of fun.
I think I made the decision to go to the 2018 show sometime in the fall of 2017. It was the perfect storm. It was a Nationals Contest – something I wanted to do for a long time. It was in Phoenix – a place I love visiting. I’d have the time and opportunity to go back to visit some museums. What sealed the deal was the release of the Giants 2018 Schedule… they would be visiting the Diamondbacks that week! So I cleared it with my lovely wife and then sat down to think… what am I going to build and how on earth would I get it to Phoenix?
Enter the Nick
The Nick in this case is a Hasegawa 1/72 Ki-45. I love Japanese WW2 aircraft but 1/72 isn’t my normal scale. My good friend bought this model for me while he was on a business trip to Japan. The box art featured this twin engine fighter with an elaborate “squiggle” camouflage pattern – he challenged me to paint the model this way.
When I decided to go to Nationals, I figured the only way I could bring a model with me was as a carry-on. That meant something small that could be protected in a small box. Something that could easily fit into a back pack or under an airplane seat.
I grabbed this kit off the shelf and went through it. The size was right, there was a lot missing from the kit (a basic interior, no engines, no detail in the main gear bays, thick glass. It would be a lot of work but that camouflage finish with the white bands and red hinomarus – it would be an attractive model. This kit took me about 6 months to complete. It took that long because I typically build less in the spring. I will have a separate entry detailing the build.
Bottom line: there was a lot of work but it was fun and I think I made one of my better models. So it met my goals – to compete at a US Nationals and not make a fool of myself!
I used some pick and pack foam to create a simple padded box for the model
The result was a very secure box that could fit in my back pack and go through airport security without issue. The model made it to the show and back without any issue…. except for some curious comments when crossing borders.
The IPMS Nationals Convention is a 4 day event starting on a Wednesday. I decided to take a week off for the show. After arriving, eating at my favourite lunch place and getting my self situated in a Tempe AirBNB, I went to the Pima Air and Space Museum on Monday (see my blog entry here).
On Tuesday I ticked a box off the bucket list and drove up to see Antelope Canyon near Page AZ. Yes – a super long day but:
On Wednesday morning I got my contest entry ready. This just meant gluing on the gear doors and making sure everything was still aligned and level. After that I was off to the show.
There was a slight hiccup at the registration but it was ultimately worked out. I wanted to get the model set up so that I could hit the vendor room with my hands free! Unsurprisingly, most opted to hit the vendor room first so my time in the contest room was a breeze! There was a lot of real estate set up for the contest:
Finding my way around the room was a breeze – it was very well organized. I also love the way they asked people to keep their hands off the models:
The vendor room was impressive. I was definitely impressed with the Zoukei Mura tables and I enjoyed talking to the various reps from all over. To be honest I was not really shopping for models as I had to somehow truck them back home with me on the airplane. But over the course of the week I picked up a lot of bits, pieces, decals and some great prints.
I also attended a few seminars (Building a Diorama, Model Photography, Ship Modeling, and a very interesting presentation on the F-105 and even one focused on cleaning airbrushes!). Wow did I ever learn a lot. These guys also came prepared with good slides and were fine with answering the 1000s of questions they got during and after their presentations.
Between seminars I returned to the model room to see the models (they appeared gradually over 3 days) and to get some pictures. Along the way I found out I won this guy in the raffle:
And while I was admiring the models and taking shots – I saw this under my model!
And each day would end with me seeing my Giants play the Diamondbacks. Unfortunately I only saw them win once. Oh well, it was still fun to see.
The final day
On the final day I had no expectations but I wanted to enjoy the full experience and see who won what. I spent a great morning at the Arizona Commemorative Airforce Museum in Mesa (likely a future blog story). I then went to the show to get my final shots and go to a couple more seminars.
After dinner and watching my Giants get decimated, I wandered over to the awards ceremony. I liked how they did it. The National IPMS presented some awards to key modelers and clubs, they announced the host of the 2020 show and they went into the show awards. With each category they would show a picture of each model that placed.
I was floored when I saw my Nick up there with a second place. Wow.
Well I definitely enjoyed my IPMS Nationals experience. I learned a lot and I got a lot out of this nice trip. I’d definitely do it again if I am able to swing it. One thing I would do differently is participate in the group activities – I thought I’d go to Pima on my own so that I could take my time and go on my own schedule. However, I think next time I would go with the group.