Everyone has one great model

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.

Last Thing

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.

7 thoughts on “Everyone has one great model

Add yours

  1. I would *love* to have a great model! (Red headed, preferably, but I’m adaptable.) Some I’ve turned out that I wish could have gone better (my 1/24 Gemini comes to mind), some I’ve turned out that couldn’t have gone better (Tamiya’s P-38F), and one that made me very glad I never got rid of my CO2 pellet pistol (it knows which one it is and I’m comin’ fer it). I would like to think that my best is still ahead of me but at 72, that might be other than the case. As of this writing, I think the SR-71 Blackbird I did from Testors hoary old kit is my best. A metric butt-load of scratch building and two and half years of building comprising a bit over 975 hours, thus far it’s certainly my most epic build.

    This old dog keeps learning new things (or I may be so brain-rotted that I keep learning the same things and just *think* the lessons are new) and I apply them to the next build.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I havent yet made my “Great Model” but at least to me, I’ve made a few really good models that for a couple of points probably could have been great. A lot of it probably came from not knowing when to stop weathering a subject.

    All in all, it’s a learning experience – as long as it stays fun and doesn’t get you down with trying to get to perfection.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Having returned to the hobby full time around 17 years ago – though I started as a young kid – I think that within the last few years I have produced some of my best works. The one I am most enamored with – at this time – is my SeaRAM loading diorama completed earlier this year. Why? Well there is a metric tonne of scratchbuilding that turned out very well, and I made figures that I am very happy with. Though it may be one one the seven deadly sins, I can say I am proud of that model because of the struggles I went through and obstacles I overcame to bring it to fruition.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. My one great model may be on the bench or still in the stash, I’m just not sure. What I do know is every time I open a new kit I think, this will be a great build! Every time I find a kit at the hobby shop I think yes, this may be the one! And I buy it! It’s hard to know, maybe my best build is all in the anticipation! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Yep, those two aircraft models are pretty dang good! The part about even the most expert modelers needing every step to go just right seems very true. I don’t expect ever to make a world-class model like those, actually. I love the building and the collecting, but I don’t have the patience or ambition! (Maybe when I retire?) I appreciate it when I see it, though! Two thoughts: I recently completed a 1/72 Dragon Armor King Tiger, and I was so pleased with it that I actually showed it to my bemused wife — a gesture I know there’s no real point to — saying it was “the most beautiful thing I have ever made”! That’s about as good as it gets for me. And then, one thing I hate is when I love something I’ve done but then see all of its flaws in close-up photos — oh, well, it’s all good.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Funny you should say that. I went to a seminar and the presenter was a world class modeler. His stuff was in books, mags, etc. Anyhow, he was trying to show the result of a technique and had a high res super close shot of his tank. He started laughing because all he could see was the flaws!

    Liked by 1 person

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