It has come to my attention that I might be an asshole.
Ok, let me back that up a bit. Over the last few months I have heard on one pod or another and I have read on one blog or another that:
- Armor modelers tend to be community oriented, happy-go-lucky, salt-of-the-earth, give-until-it-bleeds types. They drive cool cars, they are the guys you want your daughter to date; the guys you team up with at softball and with them, your money is no good at the bar. These guys that have it all and want to share everything; and
- Aircraft modelers are assholes.
How did this happen? Was it always this way? Is it everyone of us? Maybe so. It’s somewhat hard to believe. I mean, there are a lot of airplane builders out there! Do they all have some toxic, malignant personality? Or are we just talking about those hard-core modelers who make their own vacuform parts and practice other modeling dark arts?
What about me? Has my previously sunny disposition turned to something less pleasant as I have stacked the shelves with completed aircraft builds? Or, maybe the reason why I was drawn to pretty flying things is because I’ve always been an anti-social asshole.
These are deep thoughts.
This definitely needs a deep dive.
I tried thinking of this issue objectively. However, I just couldn’t picture the FROG company board of directors debating the question of which aircraft model would best cater to ‘A-hole market’ when they started making scale models in the 1940s. So, as any professional would when completely out of his depth, I conducted some simple google research to see where all this started. Suffice it to say, there were no scholarly writings on the subject. Far from it.
Still, this theory persists in scale modeldom and individual opinions abound. I recall a specific episode on the Plastic Posse Podcast contained a quip that summed the general consensus nicely. Now I have to be careful with quotes because I generally (and intentionally) get them wrong. But it went something like this:
“Armor builders are awesomesauce! While aircraft modelers tend to shit on each other. And it’s such a shame…”Ivan Jensen Taylor; Former aircraft builder who regrets his previous ways but is now a reformed and proud tank building guy who will help you move anytime.
(Seriously, just text him. He’ll come with coffee!)
Now, I can only assume that poor Ivan had some less than ideal experiences with aircraft builders. Maybe he’s had some serious run-ins with those notorious aircraft building toughs and their no-goodnik entourages. Those guys can be found anywhere but things can get downright scary out front of an LHS or at a model show:
Hopefully it resulted in nothing more than looks of disdain, eyerolls and maybe clicked teeth. Perhaps it was only hushed mutterings about the need for gloss coats before decals, that weathering only hides bad construction or the impending death of the hobby. If others have experienced similar run-ins, I certainly hope no one got hurt.
Well, that’s it. Things have got to change! And these days the best way to start the healing process is to issue an apology: So, on behalf of all aircraft model builders: I apologize!
Clearly there is an image problem. So, I am going make things right. I believe you can teach an old aircraft modeler some new tricks and behaviors. Armor builders are all about community, Apple products, campfire songs and ice cream. Maybe they can set an example. So, I am going to attempt to attract some of these awesome armor builders into the world of aircraft modeling! That way the armor guys can expand their modeling repertoire while their super-duper friendliness is bound to rub off on us crotchety old airplane guys.
That, my friends, is the pure definition of ‘Win-Win’.
A No-Nonsense Guide to Aircraft Modelers
Below you will find a guide that will teach you all you need to know to quickly pick up the ins and outs of aircraft modeling. This is not some boring list of tools, techniques and paint mixes because, if you have a couple of tank builds under your belt, you have more than enough skill to make any airplane (but don’t let any aircraft modeler hear you say that!)
This guide is more of a primer on language, the beliefs and the culture of the aircraft building community. If you can understand these touchstones, you will be well on your way to disarming any asshole aircraft builder, no matter where he or she sits on the asshole spectrum:
Canopies: A necessary evil. No one likes them. Complaining about canopy masking is the brass ring of aircraft building. Canopy masking is like getting rid of the seam on a tank barrel or maybe sanding roadwheels. One more thing: no matter how dirty the modeler makes the airplane (see: ‘You CAN weather aircraft’ below), the canopy has to remain factory fresh and crystal clear. Don’t think about this logically; you’ll get a headache.
The Corsair: An airplane from WW2. It is un-questionably awesome. It has won wars, united countries and served in hundreds of airforces for hundreds of years. Think of it as the ‘Sherman tank’ of fighter airplanes.
Decals: Here is all you need to know. The first thing you do when you slice open a fresh aircraft kit is throw out the kit decals. They are no good. Don’t be mean and give them to kids or to car or ship builders. Pitch them. Now, go buy some nice aftermarket decals. After all, the decal hoard is the new stash!
Gloss Coating: This is a triggering and emotional subject. So, tread very carefully in these parts. I know most armor modelers question its necessity and consider it a waste of time. But they are too focused on the process of building and not at all on the ritual of building. Think of it like throwing the ball around the infield after a strikeout. No one really knows why this is done, but it looks cool and chicks dig it.
Airfix Kits: This is a tough one and even I get it wrong most of the time. My advice? Treat it like a negotiation. Read your audience and let them say the first thing about Airfix. Then just agree with it. Trust me; don’t die on this hill.
Wing Leveling and Wheel Alignment: Think of this as making sure the tank tracks are straight and equally touching the ground. Again, no one likes stooping over their model with rulers and expletives. Doing this work is stress inducing. Pro tip: Avoid pointing out the wings are not level or the wheels look pigeon toed. That builder already knows these things.
And he feels shame.
As he should.
You CAN weather aircraft: In fact, if you do, you might even move up a rung in the airplane builder Social Hierarchy (see below). Fade the paint, paint some faded markings and do subtle exhaust staining? You’ll get high-fives. Add a weathered base and they’ll be eating out of your hand! But don’t fly too close to the sun. If you cake on too much weathering product, aircraft guys will think you are trying to hide something and you’ll lose them forever. Yeah, we can be a fickle bunch.
The Social Hierarchy: The aircraft builder social hierarchy is based on attempted build difficulty. Oddly, you’d think that actually completing the model would count for more. But you’d be wrong. Nope, it’s all based on dragon slaying. Or to be accurate, it’s based on stories about kinda, sorta, half-way slaying dragons and then placing them on dusty shelves…. right next to all the other crippled dragons. To give you an idea of how this works, the list below provides clear examples of build attempts from the easy (where the builder would earn little to no social status) to the impossible (where the builder instantly becomes a small “c” celebrity):
- An out of box teen fighter kit…painted in grey;
- A WW2 propeller kit;
- A Corsair;
- Any kit with at least 4 pounds of aftermarket accessories and products;
- Biplanes that are rigged and don’t look like they were sat on;
- A kit from the 1960s that has had 7200 hours of work put into it to “bring it up to todays standards”; and
- A scratch built vacuformed model of an oddball aircraft from that flew in the 1920s in some country that no longer exists.
I always thought a few aircraft modelers were more like ‘Lone Wolf McQuade’ types. Maybe a bit rough around the edges, maybe lacking in a few social graces. But they are otherwise harmless.
The guide should get any armor modeler started with the basics and well on his or her way to re-setting the aircraft building culture from that of a bunch of aloof jerks to a brotherhood (and sisterhood!) that will outlast time itself. If there are any more pointers that you think could help, please feel free to set them out in the comments. Hell, we need all the help we can get!
So please, Armor builders – it’s up to you now. Come out and show us how it’s done and we can all be unicorns and super friends!