Ask any armor modeler and they will tell you: Armor models look far better on a base. Any kind of base – from a simple piece of stained wood all the way to a fully scenic miniature field or forest. Take a tour of any contest and you will see the majority of armor models on a base.
Aircraft entries? Not so much.
I believe there are a few reasons for this. An armor model is generally boxy and fits very well with a proportional rectangular base (or at least a base with right angles). An airplane is a weird shape. Or it’s certainly one that doesn’t lend itself easily to a similar base shape.
Despite these issues, I’ve become a base believer. I’m now at a point where I think an aircraft model looks sad, lonely and scared on a show table without a base. That said, I am not sure what works best because I’m also looking for bases that I can use at home to display my built models.
Sure one can go square or rectangle, but given the wingspan of airplane models, a base can end up being rather large with a lot of open space. Or its smaller, still has unused space and has the wings or tail hanging over the base. A circle base can look great on its own and cut down on the unused space but, circles have a drawback once you take the model home. There the rectangular armor base can fit naturally on a standard sized shelf. However, unless you are dealing with 1/72 airplanes (or smaller) the square airplane base doesn’t fit on most shelves. Where it does, the model is usually angled. Also, it doesn’t take much for a circle to creep over the edge.
At the last few shows I have attended, I have paid more attention to bases. Each has its own charm – especially when you consider the point of the base is to draw attention to your model but not distract from it. When it comes to bases, I think there are 6 or so broad categories:
This is the natural – after all, airplanes spend 90% of their time at an airbase of some kind. I’ll include aircraft carrier decking and “rough” airstrips in this category too. I think the secret here is balance. Too big a base and the model is dwarfed. If its too small you lose the point of the base which is to compliment the aircraft. The circular base below works well and I think the base for the F-100 is in perfect proportion to the model.
The Flag (Crisp or distressed)
Flags or other marks of nationality work well and if there is enough of the right colors, they can really compliment the model. Flags can make models pop. Shape and size are still issues. For example, the flag used with my Zero was put in a picture frame. Looking at it now I think its way too big and the frame border detracts from an otherwise colorful display. If I did this one again, I would have the flag mounted on a wood base.
The Informative base
I have to say, I really like these. It certainly does something colorful and creative with the space on a square or rectangle base. It also nicely “introduces” the model as something more than only a model – this piece is a specific replica of something that has some history and some importance.
Aligned slightly differently and with a method of fixing the model to the base (not to mention an acrylic cover over top) an informative base and model could look great on a wall.
The Scenic Base
Hey, if the armor guys can do this then why not? For whatever reason I think these work so much better for armor than they do for aircraft but there are some exceptions. My thinking is that aircraft do not go: in the mud; along trails; amongst the trees; beside bogs or other streams, brooks or creeks. Yes – exceptions do exist. But grass airfields sort of fall into the first category and a lot of the rest might be pushing the complete model into the wacky world of the vignette slash diorama. And THAT world is worth a conversation for a later date.
There can be a lot of detail under an air frame but most modelers do not want show goers to lift up their models. The mirror is very popular with the car guys who want to show all the work underneath. The only drawback is the glare from the overhead lighting and they can be tiresome at home after a while.
The Plane Jane
(See what I did there?) Since the point of the base is to bring attention to the model but not detract from it, the plane jane can be anything from a simple piece of stained plank, to a pre-enjoyed floor tile, to a felt lined picture frame.
So What Works?
In a pinch and just for a show, I think the circle just works. Minimal table estate and can be anything from an airfield, grass strip, plane jane or mirror… it works. But I am really thinking of the informative base if I am going to put some effort into it. With a little creativity, some research and basic graphics skills I think I can put something neat together.
But what about home use?
I think I have a solution for that as well. If I can figure out how to (1) Cut and glue acrylic sheet; and (2) Come up with a secure way to hold the model, I think the informative “base” can be converted into interesting wall art. That idea really appeals to me!
Let me hear from you!
Am I nuts; are bases going overboard? If not, then what – Circle, Square, Triangle? Is it “Airfield” or don’t bother with a base? I’d love to hear what you think. Let me know what has worked for you in the past or what you are interested in trying in the future.
Great article! Coming over from dabbling in armor, I’m a base fan too. Whatever the base, I’m a sucker for figures to show a sense of scale.
Agreed with adding a figure. Excellent idea.