Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Sprue Cutters Union #2 - Words of Wisdom

For our second assignment in the Sprue Cutters Union, we are asked the talk about the top three most significant things that have impacted our modelling, good or bad.

First, I thought this would be easy, but given the liberty to talk about techniques, tools, resources, etc. so much springs to mind that I really had to give this some thought. And to distill some actual "words of wisdom" from them didn't turn out so easy.

This promises to be a long post, so if the wall of text hurts your eyes, just read the parts marked in yellow.

Except for the airbrush, which is my best ally AND worst enemy, no specific tool comes to mind.

Apart from one measly attempt at post-shading, I have tried very few techniques. I consider myself a beginner with much to learn, but I do hope to change that in the course of the following months and (probably) years.

Resources and advice
Given our access to the internet and a wide variety of forums, it's sometimes difficult to find actual advice. There is an abundance of information available, but it's sometimes difficult to find what you actually need. There are many magazines, like FineScale Modeler for instance, but if you want MY advice (see what I did there?), try to locate your local IPMS chapter or whatever modelling club is in the neighbourhood. There's nothing like taking your WIP ("Work in progress") model, sit at a table and let people with decades of experience judge your work or your mistakes. Be warned : one short question may result in a flood of information, as - in my experience - experienced modelers are all to eager to share there knowledge. Absorb their knowledge and don't be afraid to ask.

Now, let's start with my three "life changing" experiences:

#1 - My first "convention"

As I've already mentioned in my previous assignment for the Union, I started modelling at the age of 12, which would make that the year 1990. Back then, I would finish a model and buy a new one. There was no hobby store where I lived, I doubt I even knew the concept existed. I just bought al my models in "Blokker", which wasn't even a toystore, but sold common household items. They had a range of toys, Lego and some model airplanes and even a rack with a selection of Revell paint-bottles. I would just browse the shop and buy the model that most appealed to me. They usually had about 15-20 models to choose from.

A few years later (3 or 4, hard to say really), I was at an airshow (Koksijde, Belgium, if you must know) and wandered into a tent filled with models. I had never seen so many models in one room. The merchant was from London and had come all the way with hundreds (dare I say thousands?) of boxes, bags and goodies. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a familiar shape on a box under one of the tables, not on display. I asked if I could see it and the owner said he had several more of that line in his van. The box in question was the USS Enterprise, not the aircraft carrier, but the spaceship from Star Trek!
You have to understand, back then I was a HUGE fan of Star Trek - The Next Generation. I ended up going home with the Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) and a Klingon attack cruiser. We didn't have internet back then to do resech and shopping online, so the next several years, I hunted down airshows and conventions for all kinds of sci-fi-related models.

I handbrushed the Aztec pattern, but the lines for it were molded it,
so it wasn't that hard, only time-consuming.

Which words of wisdom do I extract from this?
At least once a year, find out of there's a convention in your neighbourhood

I'm not asking you to travel 5+ hours to go visit the IPMS National Convention. Something local will do. You find all kinds of merchandise in one spot, get exposed to models you've never heard of, see what other modellers are doing and maybe fall in love with something you'd never have expected to have an interest in. All this and more at usually very fair prices.

#2 - Coming back to the hobby

At the age of 23-24 (the year is 2002), I stopped modelling for some reason. I see it among many fellow modellers that, at some point, they put the hobby on hold.

Last year (almost to the day), I visited Normandy (France), with the mandatory tour of many museums, beaches and cemetaries. (Please tell me you know what D-day is?) At Arromanches, I was flabbergasted by what the Allied Forces pulled of. The sheer audacity and ingenuity of creating a floating harbour, pull it accross the channel and assemble it right under the enemies' nose was awe-inspiring.
Seeing all those beautifull dioramas triggered a dormant interest. I had never build a model tank and at the museum shop I was holding several models, trying to decide whether or not to start again. My girlfriend tried to persuade me to give it a try, but eventually I put them all back, thinking I'd never find enough time for this hobby again.

Two weeks later - at home again - I regretted my decision and decided to try it anyway and bought my first model tank. That's when I started this blog.

Words of wisdom?
No matter how much or how few time you can invest in a hobby, it is worth it.
I don't know who said the following, but it stuck in my mind when I read it : "A hobby is not something you do when you have time, it's what you make time to do."

Also : don't throw anything away if you put your hobby on hold. You'll be back :-).

#3 - The airbrush

One of the things I promised myself when I came back to modelling, was to learn how to use an airbrush. My older models were handpainted and it's not something I'm very skilled at.

If you follow my older posts, labelled airbrush, you can follow my (9-month) journey of learning to use it. It was not an easy road. For every 5 minutes of successful airbrushing, I spend many hours in frustration. At several points, I was hesitant to return to the workbench, just because it would only be frustrating again. If 10-year olds can handle an airbrush, certainly I should be skilled enough? I often wondered if something was wrong with the airbrush, but there are so many variables to consider (air pressure and paint consistency among many others) I wasn't entirely sure if it wasn't just me doing something wrong.

Just slightly over a week ago, I believe I made a breakthrough, when I accidentally discovered why the airflow accross the nozzle wasn't as it should be. As soon as I'm back from vacation, I will test this fully and hopefully you'll see happy posts with more airbrush successes from now on.

Edit : I forgot to mention that (when working as intended) the paintjob with an airbrush is sooo much nicer than with a brush. I know there are people who can do a stunning job with a simple brush, but for me that's impossible, and more than once detailed panel lines would be hidden under too thick a layer of paint. 

Words of wisdom?
Never give up. If at first you don't succeed, try again (and again, and again ...)

As a sidenote : don't waste 8 months like I did trying to figure out the problem. If you have reasonable doubt about the performance of any tool, take it to the shop and let them look at it. If they say it works fine, maybe find someone willing to assist you and show you the ropes a bit.

Part of being in the Union means we share links to our fellow contributors' posts. If you liked this post, take a look what some other modellers have to say about this topic:
The airbrush seems to be a recurring theme as a "life-changer" within the modeller community.


  1. Brilliant post, Jeroen! I totally agree, the convention is likewise one of the most hobby changing experiences a person can have. Really nice looking Enterprise as well!

    1. Thanks, Jon.
      This Sprue Cutters Union idea of yours is turning out great! I rather like posting about something else but modelling progress (or lack thereof /grin) and how it makes me reflect on the hobby and where I stand in it.

    2. I agree. It keeps the blog fresh! Hopefully more people will tune in and get involved. Glad you like it!

  2. I really enjoyed this post, a worthy Union Member! I have only ever been to Gamesday a couple of times, so now I've been inspired to see what gaming conventions or fairs are on nearby.

    Love the Star Trek models! Got any more you can post pics of? Makes me want to do a post about my Battlefleet Gothic collection...

    1. Thanks for the support, Frank.

      There are more picture of my Star Trek (and other) models on my "Finished models" (http://jvtroyen.blogspot.be/p/blog-page.html), if you go to the second half of that page. It's become a fine-looking collection, if I may say so myself.

      I hope to one day redo a few of them with new and improved skills.

    2. And a collection of Enterprises at http://jvtroyen.blogspot.be/2013/07/enterprise-c-background.html