Modeling for a Buck or Two

It’s already spring and this year I think I have read some 834 posts stating that the prices of this hobby are ‘getting out of hand’. Or, that prices of kits, prices of paints, prices of shipping kits and paints…pretty much everything related to gluing and painting styrene has ‘sky-rocketed’.

But, let me ask: Is this any different from any other year? I think ‘Nope’. I mean, hasn’t it always been this way? Now, I might be going out on a limb here, but I have never heard a modeler complain that the hobby is simply too affordable and the prices are highway robbery in favor of us buyers. It has always been ‘too expensive’. I wrote about this some years ago as well. Bottom line: this hobby constantly being on the verge of unaffordability has become somewhat of a scale modeling trope.

(As much a trope as the ever-impending death of said hobby!)

I get it, things are more expensive across the board. There is more that has to be spent on essentials like food, heat, and kids leaving less money to spend on fun things like models, oddball historical memorabilia, and kayaks. Certainly, my last trip to the grocery store was a sobering experience. What idiot pays $18 for grapes? Moreover, what idiot tries to sell grapes for $18?

I digress.

Maybe it is time to think about some hobby austerity measures, some hobby right-sizing, or maybe some aftermarket belt-tightening? Ugh… but that doesn’t sound fun at all. No, I don’t think so. Hobbies are important for us. And they keep our minds from wandering down social media rabbit holes and away from brain-reducing network TV.

Instead, this might be the right time to dig out some of those old-school modeler-building tips. I say this because, if you think modelers of today can be a little on the frugal side, the builders from the 70s and 80s were proudly cheap. Mostly because they had to be! There wasn’t a smorgasbord of aftermarket bits, or expensive finishing sauces and pastes. Hell, most kits were what, a wallet destroying fifty-eight cents? And when those guys wanted to upgrade those Hawk and Aurora kits, out came stubby beer bottles, the c-clamps, aluminum tape, candles, and rasps.

I recently posted a video showing how to scratch-build clear wingtip light covers from clear sprue and I thought to myself, “This tip is practically a $0 upgrade for anyone who has some spare clear sprue and a few rasps!” I’m positive this tip and a Def Leppard t-shirt would have been a thing in the 80s.

And that got me thinking – what other inexpensive but effective modeling gems are out there:

Stretched Sprue

Photo by David Douglass Merriman III

First introduced to the Western world in the late 1600s, our scale modeling forefathers seemed obsessed with this technique. Antennas, aerials, rigging, wiring, tubing, hoses, rings, and replacement panel lines…. all of these and more could be and were reproduced by those master sprue stretchers with little more than a flint and a wick. Legend has it that some of these masters swore that sprue from certain models had better-stretching properties. I think a war was fought over this. Anyhow, a cursory glance at the YouTubes has shown me this technique lives on and may be headed for a revival of sorts. See below.

Gap Filling

Stretching sprue to fill gaps? I saw a blog post on this topic that got me thinking “Hell, why not?” I am a big fan of tossing the putty in favor of filling large gaps with styrene and topping them off with a touch of super glue. Whether stretched sprue or evergreen; With a bit of elbow grease, you’ll end up with a polished and bulletproof surface that won’t ever shrink. And speaking of polished surfaces…

Polishing Sticks

Do yourself a favor and head on over to the Buck or Two and get yourself one of these bad girls. Or go on over to Amazon and get yourself ten (they make great stocking stuffers for modeling buddies!) These buffers will make quick and exacting work on your gaps, canopies, and pretty much anything else that needs a mirror-like surface. These last a surprisingly long time but even if you use them once, you will be happy with the results. Especially for the price. They are practically giving these away. Seriously, get yours now before one of the bigger model paint & finishing products companies re-brands these as some sort of “EXTREME SURFACE POLISH SYSTEM 2.0!” and sells them for $15.

Last thing

There you have it. Things might be a bit more pricey than they were last year and we modelers will always complain. Just remember, the sun will still rise in the east tomorrow morning and life will go on. As I have set out above, there are ways to stretch a modeling dollar, gain a skill or two and have fun enjoying the process. You might even prefer the cheaper alternative!

I know I have not even scratched the surface of cheap hobby techniques and products so if you have any to add, please do in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

One thought on “Modeling for a Buck or Two

Add yours

  1. The cost of everything has gone up…what else is new? I’ve been a modeler since I was about 8 years old, but I had a decade plus-long hiatus to build a 1:1 scale airplane. Well, I got all that out of my system. I retired and am back to modeling. Here’s something interesting: Nobody believes me when I said that the Phantom Mustang only cost $5.00 when it first came out in 1961. I got one of the first ones for Christmas around 61 or 62, so I know this for a fact. Anyhow, I cranked up my trusty inflation calculator, and found that 5 bucks in 1961 is equivalent to $50.00 in 2023. Guess what? The reissued Phantom Mustangs are all selling for around that among, give or take. The only really expensive ones are the original issue, which should probably stay unbuilt in the box to hold that value. Dang collectors!

    Jim Bower

    Sent from Outlook

    Liked by 1 person

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