Since getting back into the hobby around 2007 I have constantly heard about it’s impending demise. There are a variety of reasons given and they seem to recycle a few times a year on modeling forums, facebook or in casual conversation at the local hobby shop (or LHS). Just picture this guy saying one of the silly things below:
- Camouflage Decals??!?! Why that’s the death of the hobby!
- Rising price of crude oil??!?? Definitely the death of the hobby!
- Rising kit prices!!! That will mean the death of the hobby!
- Kids these days! Slow death of the hobby!
- Increasing kit complexity!!! Quick death to the hobby!
- 3d Printing?!!?!? Death of the hobby!
- Paper Models!!?!? Death of the hobby!
- International Postal Treaty amendment??!?! Death of the hobby!
- The online hobby dealer!!!! Death of the hobby!
- Closure of an LHS!!! You better believe that is the Death of the hobby!
Despite the literal piles of evidence to the contrary, this “impending death” thing still comes up. I’ve even read an opinion that the massive volume of kits being released is an indication that the hobby will die soon.
And yet, somehow, despite all of these dire predictions, the hobby just keeps happily humming along. The reality is the hobby is not dying. And its not just humming along. It is raging at full steam and there seems to be no end in sight.
I ask you: Has any hobby been this good at any point in time? I can’t think of any. Need proof? Pick up a hobby mag or visiting the site of any hobby publisher and you will find they can hardly fit the new releases, future releases and even things that may someday perhaps be released. My LHS has a wall of new releases that seems to be updated weekly. I’d love to post some examples but (1) there are far too many to select and (2) these days any blog list of near-released models would be quickly obsolete.
The big manufacturers have pretty much covered every variant and sub-variant of every vehicle that has ever been produced. They are now pursuing the esoteric and one offs. Armor modelers can pick which MONTH in 1944 their tank was originally produced… and in which manufacturing facility. Come to think of it, Wingnut Wings does the same thing! Major manufactures are also kitting vehicles that never existed beyond blueprints.
If anyone asked me 5 years ago whether we would have a 1/32 Lancaster model I might have said “Of course!” But I probably would not have believed we were getting two of them…. and that one of them would come molded in stressed skin. Now I am thinking that stressed skin and lapped joints will soon be just as “standard” as slide molding is.
There are also “little” manufacturers who are turning out extremely good kits – and there are a ton of them. Back in the day there were always the low run manufacturers. But with the quality of contracted molding companies and computer aided design (not to mention far better tools to measure prototypes), we no longer have low pressure molded 3 foot models. Of the ones I have personally seen: AMK, ModelArt, Wingsy and Tiger might as well be “big” manufacturers in terms of the quality of their kits.
But you can’t stop at kits:
Back in the day there may have been testors mini bottles and nylon brushes along with red tube glue at the local hardware store that “used to carry models”. And maybe were humbrols in tins available at the LHS. Now? My LHS has multiple paint lines and there are a dozen more easily available on the internet. Vallejo (which is hardly new but has released entire lines of paint recently), Mig Ammo, Mission, True Colours…
The volume of new hobby supplies and tools is also mind boggling. Zoukei Mura, Tamiya and a whole host of others make absolutely amazing model oriented tools. My two favorite tools are fairly recent ones. The first being the simple to use Scribe-R from RB and my Tamiya sharp pointed side cutters. I could write an entire entry on hobby specific tools.
Yes it cliche to talk about how the “information age” has transformed something but consider this: what was once a very solitary hobby has transformed (sometimes kicking and screaming) into a social one. Back in the day modelers would pour good money into books with mostly grainy black and white photos along with color paintings of airplanes and vehicles. Quite a few of those color paintings were pure conjecture as well. Today even a simple search on Airliners.net will get you prototype photos with incredible resolution. Books of today? There is no comparison in their research and quality.
More importantly: Builders have the ability to quickly find a description of a technique or how to overcome a problem with a build. Hell, they can watch a video demo see it for themselves for FREE. When I was a kid I could never figure out how modelers got those panel lines to stand out so nicely. Now someone can watch how to do it, get a list of materials needed and be off to panel line nirvana that afternoon. That is a true game changer.
The rise of Cartograph decals is well known. In addition there are dozens of makers of extremely high quality decals that have been thoroughly researched. I’m not too picky here – so long as they decal as decals should (you know, give consistent results) and most do.
So why then the continued doom and gloom? Well like most change – people just don’t like it and hoo-boy has this hobby changed! There are fewer local hobby shops than years ago and the hobby is not marketed to kids like it used to be. However, it has never been easier to find out about and get quality scale models and supplies delivered from all corners of the globe right to your front door. And it just keeps getting better and better.
I say: enjoy it! What do you think? Have I missed something here or are we living in the best of time for pursuing scale models? I’d like to hear from you in the comments.
I have to agree, this is the golden age of scale modeling. Sure, there are differences, the lack of brick and mortar local hobby shops is a big one as is the target demographic group. True enough, like many builders today, I started quite young with a couple of kits when I was about 8 or 9 years old that my Dad helped me build and starting to build solo at the age of ten and today’s hobby favours adults with their greater (perceived) disposable income, greater patience and (hopefully) more mature outlook on history, accuracy and detail. My youngest son started at about the same age and has encouraged a few of his friends to try the hobby, but through local clubs I have met adults who are just getting involved in the hobby as a way to relax and pass the time, either during retirement or as a distraction from the pressures of the modern world.
Kits themselves, as pointed out already, have made leaps and bounds in detail, complexity, fidelity and most of all…variety! Whether through mainstream manufacturers or through aftermarket conversions, there is hardly a topic that remains out of reach and we have our choice of excellent kits that satisfy every taste from the casual builder to the most dedicated super-detailer. What more can we ask for?
Perhaps the biggest improvement I have seen is the communication between builders. Today we have connections to other modelers the world over through the magic of social media, this blog is a perfect example! Without social media, my son and I would not have joined the couple of clubs in which we are now active participants. We have literally turned a solitary hobby into a highly social event where builders can freely discuss techniques and methods, share historical information and develop a strong camaraderie. I, for one, feel privileged to be a modeler and to share this hobby with my son and our friends during these times.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks Steve – great points. I have to agree with you on the social aspect. I got back into the hobby after discovering a couple scale model sites and reading about techniques and products… Once I saw how people were building in “in progress” threads, I was back. I also joined our loose band of builders and met some great guys. Its brought a whole other dimension to the hobby.