Searching Your Research

Credit: elenaleonova /Getty Images

About to start that new (or old) model you been meaning to get to? You’ve got everything together: kit, glue, sharp hobby knife, filling putty, sandpaper and time. But wait! You don’t want to start it without finding out something about your subject. Everyone can learn something new about their modeling subjects.

Before you start your next masterpiece, think about looking up books, magazines and the Internet for information about it, especially if you want to include a lot of historical details. Period photos can be a wealth of information about how your subject looked back in the day. That can be important is you have a model that needs a bit of correcting to make it look good.

Reference material can be found in many libraries, bookstores (real and on the Internet), web pages and forums online. Along with photos and diagrams, there will be a wealth of information about how the vehicle was designed and built, how and where it was used, what campaigns it fought in and how it was painted. Experienced modelers might know all that, but for new modelers it can contribute to the satisfaction doing a model the right way. And you can talk tanks or planes wherever you are.

See, this is what I’m talking about

That’s just for the new Tiger barrel. Photo by Stuart Dee

While looking through my Facebook feed the other day, I came across a post from a fellow member of a group I belong to called the Grumpy Old Scale Modeler’s Group. He raised some good points about the hobby. For privacy I have quoted his text only. Here it is below:

WHY BOTHER BUILDING ANYMORE!!!!!! I swear to GOD this is starting to bother me more and more each week. Maybe it’s just age getting to me, but still……. The price of kits are skyrocketing. Cost of supplies to build them are also rising. Then there are the modelers that bitch, moan and groan about how this or that is wrong with a kit. Monogram. Revell. Testors. Early Airfix. They’re all shit they claim. They can’t be worked with they claim. These plus many others were the kits we all grew up with. We changed things as best as we knew how to improve them. Some of us even mixed and matched kits to make that version we wanted. That’s how we all wound up with boxes of junkyards. Or why don’t they issue this version or that version. THEN BUILD THE DAMN THING!!!!! MODIFY IT!!!!!!! MAKE IT ONE OF A KIND IN YOUR COLLECTION OUT OF ALL OF THE OTHER GUYS COLLECTIONS!!!! MAKE IT UNIQUE!!!!! But I feel that it has gotten to the point that some of you would rather your kits to be almost like those prepainted, put four screws in the bottom kits that we buy for our kids. I heard a few guys in the hobby shop the other day complaining how they couldn’t just walk in and buy anything they wanted without having to be creative and spending hours on it. I’m done ranting for now. It’s just been an itch I had to scratch.

Bro, others feel your pain. There are models I’d like to build, but they’re just too expensive for me. I like the challenge of modifying models or bringing old ones back to life. Instead of going broke when I started modelling again, I hit up EBay and got some older but affordable models.

And certainly the price of supplies has gone up, especially for specialist supplies like paint kits, weathering powders, washes and other items. Of course, there are tutorials all over the web that tell you how to make these yourself. That’s the approach I take, carefully decided what I need and learn about it. 

Something else which shoots the price up is the aftermarket parts and decals. You’d have to factor that in when deciding what to buy, especially if you’ve already bought a brand new kit. Some people can afford this stuff, but modelling shouldn’t be a competition (unless you’re at a model show.) 

Scale modeling isn’t just a hobby anymore. It’s a business that pulls in a lot of money and businesses respond to demand. Have you see the plastic tank models with the die cast hull bottoms? I wouldn’t build one, but that’s just me.

Everyone has their own idea of what they want to do, so do your own thing. There’s more satisfaction in correcting an old, out of date kit than buying one which is already accurate, I say.

How to build a diorama

imageA diorama, in scale modeling terms, is a miniature scene made by a modeler, usually depicting a vehicle and or figures doing something. In military modeling, it is usually historic, showing  a particular time and place, a certain vehicle and its crew or people involved with them somehow. Popular time periods are WW2, the Gulf War, the Vietnam War and the recent and ongoing conflicts around the world. 

Subjects can vary widely, some focusing on the hardship and tragedy of war, or a light or humorous moment during military life. Dioramas serve also as a showcase for the modeler’s skills because not only does the assembly and painting of a vehicle demand certain techniques, the creation of a whole scene needs different skill sets. Terrain, trees, grass, rocks, buildings and the whole environment all have their own challenges to making the scene realistic. 

Just as the modeler wants the vehicle to be accurate, so should the setting be. What time of year is it? What is happening? Has it been raining? Is it a scene of rest or action? Is there fighting going on? All these factors play into the final scene.

You can find many tutorials on building dioramas on the internet and in modeling magazines. As an example, here’s a link to an article I wrote about making my WW1 Tadpole tank diorama.

As you can see, building a diorama can be a complicated and long process. The above diorama took me a straight month to finish. Some take months or years to complete, but it’s satisfying to finally finish it and show it off to everyone.

If you want to build your own diorama, here is a link to a great tutorial showing how to get started.
Dive in and have fun!