Bill Chappell owns my local hobby shop. He’s an affable guy capable of dishing one-liners with the best of them. He loves a good story and a good laugh and he has been feeding my scale model addiction for years. I imagine he has seen every kind of builder pass through his store. From someone about to start into this insanity to someone who is internationally published.
And the rest of us in between.
Truth be told, I probably spend far too much time in that store but I live incredibly close and they always have something interesting to look at or buy. Anyway, years ago I remember we were talking about a few particularly talented local builders who made masterpieces within weeks of taking up the hobby. I can’t remember exactly what we concluded about these builder savants, but Bill said one thing that always stood out:
“Everyone has one great model in them. It may take someone years to get there, it may be someone’s first attempt. But no matter what, we all have that one.”– Bill Chappell, Hobby Centre owner, truth teller, sooth sayer and general bon vivant.
I always remembered that statement. And I, not being one of those instant Allstar builders, was always focused on the “years to get there” aspect. I think I was wrong to look at it that way. You see, the longer I have been in this scale model game of ours, the more I understand the ‘years’ don’t matter if you enjoy building. I also have come to realize that ‘getting there’ is not a single state of being. ‘Getting there’ means different things to different people at different points during a hobby ‘career’. And that is definitely something to explore in a future post.
Nope, the real gem here is this idea about everyone having that one great model.
If you really think about that concept, it has to be true. When someone is starting out, there is a definite skill increase with each finished build. For those people, the last build is probably the best one and will remain that way until the next one. Those with more experience come to accept that skills can top out and some builds go better than others. But there are significant highlights along the way. Those highlights are still recalled fondly years later and/or occupy a special place in the display cabinet.
My model-building career can be easily sliced into two eras. The first era was the kid era where I built a little bit of everything, but mostly planes. Most were built in a day or a weekend. By the end of this era, I was trying my best to make them “nice” and I had a couple of them on my bedroom shelf. One of those might have been my best model if I did not come back to the hobby years later.
The second era is the one I am living in now where I can’t even add those godforsaken decals in a weekend. At least I am still challenging myself to make them “nice”.
So, which one is my great model?
I probably average 7 or 8 builds a year and every now and then one of them goes very well. I will freely tell you that some of them are better than others. Have I made my one great model yet? To be honest, I don’t think so. I think I have yet to make it and I am really enjoying the journey of ‘getting there’. Now, if I had to pick one today, it would probably be one of these favorite builds:
Tamiya 1:32 A6M2 Zero
The big zero stands out for a few reasons. It was one of those builds that went together like butter. No seems, no putty, no issues. Everything fit and everything just worked like it was supposed to. It was also the first time where my pre-shading worked well, the masking for the markings worked perfectly and my shading of the fabric areas was pulled off. This model was definitely a turning point for me. It did very well at contests and made an appearance in a magazine. I’d have to say this is, so far, one of my best models.
Hasegawa 1:72 Ki-45 Nick
The little Nick eventually became a gem but it sure did not start out that way. I built it so that I would have something to show at the 2018 Nationals in Phoenix. The key consideration was portability but I also wanted to have a model with a fun paint scheme. This is one of my best builds because I successfully combined a few things: scratch building, a resin cockpit, vacuform canopies, painted markings, and a freehand camouflage finish. This model has traveled to many shows and was also in a magazine.
I think I will always be driven to make my one great model and maybe I’ll get there someday. I used to strive for consistency but now I want to take more risks. That may result in a build going sideways once in a while. I am ok with that so long as I can still improve my skills or try new things. But a risk can also pay off and result in something amazing.
Do you think Bill is right? Does everyone have one great model in them? Have you made yours yet or are you still looking for it like I am? I’d love to hear what you have to say about this.