This month’s entry for the Sprue Cutters’ Union blog circle is a bit of a special one for me. Last month, I asked aloud on The Museum Modeler Facebook page what sort of kits my followers go to for relaxation. Not for the perfect build, not for the most intense aftermarket accurizing, but just pure, (relatively) mindless relaxation. Jon over at The Combat Workshop must have been reading because, next thing that I know, my musing has been adopted for this month’s Union topic. It simply wouldn’t do for me to miss out on answering this one, now would it?
(For Better or For Worse comic strip, July 22, 1984)
We’ve all been there.
You open up a build that you’ve been excited about for a long time; maybe it’s your favorite aircraft, or the last ship you’ve needed to complete your long-awaited vignette. Things are going smoothly, until you notice something that’s not quite right. Perhaps it’s a poorly-detailed cockpit, or an inaccurately-sized catwalk. Maybe you can’t get the seams to blend just right. Whatever it is, you decide that it needs fixing.
From such innocence and attention to detail comes the rabbit hole, sucking in your time, energy, and ultimately every bit of motivation that you originally had for the build. By the time you reach this point, what was fun has become a slog, with work done for the sake of just getting the damn thing off your workbench. Sometimes you don’t even make it that far, frustratingly storing your unfinished dreams away in a dark spot in your closet, or perhaps throwing them away altogether (OK, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that). Regardless, without warning your fun, relaxing hobby has turned into a nightmare.
How did it all come to this?
Without a doubt, a large part of this frustration stems from the modeler’s level of knowledge or passion about his or her subject. Maybe you love building Me-262s for whatever reason. If the Stormbird that you’re building isn’t perfect, every single flaw is going to stand out at you, nagging you, demanding your attention. I know that’s what happens to me for Yorktown-class carriers – I have the receipts for aftermarket parts to prove it. I know that I can’t move on to the next phase until I fix that annoying funnel cap, thus turning the build experience into little more than a de facto checklist.
My theory is thus: the more you care (and know) about a subject, the more you’re going to obsess over getting it right. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule: those who don’t have the tools or experience to get paint just right or to scrape off every inch of molded railing in favor of replacements is often happy with simply finishing the kit out of the box. And you know what? That’s fantastic. Sometimes I’m even jealous of those modelers, since they seem to embody the original and truest spirit of our hobby. They build for fun, and they have fun. In this game that we play, I would call them the winners.
Recapturing the Spirit
So what’s the secret? This is a rather long-winded way for me to say that on must simply let go. No, I don’t mean for every project. There’s no way I am ever going to be alright with a ship that hasn’t been improved with photoetch. OK, maybe I could leave an obnoxiously small 1:1200 scale build as-is, but I can’t really see myself taking on one of those anyways.
So about which kits am I talking? I’m talking about those molds and subjects which hold your interest academically, present an opportunity to use the skills we’ve learned, but not require any extra work to present an enjoyable and presentable final product. This will be different for everyone, but for me the answer lies in 1:72 aircraft.
Last year, I bought an Academy P-51B from Hobby Lobby on a lark (I mean, it was something like $3.00 after coupons – how could I say no?) and found it to be an absolute blast. The quality was enough to keep me satisfied and the minimal financial investment made me less nervous to try new things (like invasion stripes and ground cover display). I told myself that I would build the kit straight OOB, and by holding myself to that standard, any stress I may have felt floated away immediately.
That’s the key: you have to draw the line somewhere by telling yourself in advance that you will resist the urge to dive into the rabbit hole. You will accept the kit as is, flaws and all, for with acceptance comes release. No brake lines on those landing gear struts? Who cares – save the detailing for the 1:48 kits and simply let this one be.
With the P-51, I loved it the experience so much that I went out and bought two more in that brand and scale the following week for the same purpose. I plan on having one on hand at all times, and will have no compunction breaking one out when the slog of my more serious builds becomes distracting to the point of frustration.
Due to other life commitments, I’ve had to step away from the bench for nearly four months. That phase is wrapping up, however, so I will be back at work within a week. And while I’ve had a 1:700 USS Hornet, 1:48 B-25B, and 1:35 St. Chamond waiting for this interminable hold to be over, I can’t wait until the space has cleared a bit to let me tackle my Bronco, Stuka, or whatever else flies my way in small-scale.
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