Plastic scale model

Mike McEvoy looks around him

‘How to model’ articles in various forms appear in many magazines, ours among them, but I remember only one which covered the domestic conditions and circumstances which help to make our modelling possible, and even enjoyable, without once mentioning knife, glue or abrasives.

You will recall – oh, yes you will! – that a year or two after we re-started SAM we produced a collection of our Tools and Techniques articles that had already appeared in the magazine, logically arranged and under the title Guidelines. Black and white illustrations magically reappeared in colour, there were one or two updates to the original text, and I produced a closing item entitled And of course you’ll need… At this remove I’m not sure whether this was just an excuse for me to use the photo of Amber Moon, our ginger cat, posing delicately on a table of undamaged models, or whether the photo came to my rescue when I was looking for a tag-line. I suspect it was the latter; I don’t always know where I’m off to when I write the opening sentence, but I travel hopefully.

The articles were written and illustrated by those with greater modelling skills than mine; at the time my models, notably in kit reviews, frequently benefited by having their photos printed in soft, or even off-, focus to blur the errors. But it occurred to me while our compilation was underway that a form of essay on the where and when of modelling would finish it off neatly, and would also offer something that hadn’t already appeared in the magazine. I found Amber’s photo recently and it prompted me to revisit the idea.

Some level of domestic tolerance is a given, however you prefer to negotiate, with whom and what to offer in exchange. Facilities are probably the next obvious consideration, and in particular somewhere to model. My early modelling years necessitated clearing a small space and tidying away afterwards, often involving disposal of balsa shavings and dust, but I’ve been lucky for all my adult modelling life, not necessarily a contradiction in terms, in being able to have my own space. When we left Marlow eight years ago I was using two rooms, one on the top floor for modelling and one on the middle floor for storage, library and display and, once I was, after a fashion, familiar with word processing, writing. For soothing background, or perhaps as a form of white noise to insulate me from the outside world, I progressed from radio to cassette and then CD player which would offer me music when I was writing, and occasionally the spoken word while wielding the knife, the superglue and the wet-and-dry. The cats wandered in occasionally, but by and large seemed content to regard the ground floor as their territory.

Just a pair of snips?

First the space, then the work surface. In theory this shouldn’t need more than a cutting mat and a pair of snips, but before long it acquires its own level of detritus. Mine is covered by partly-used paint pots, or at least those which I can’t fit into the designated drawers, assorted flasks of superglue – some of them still useable – and models on which I am more or less working. Not long before we moved I acquired some very solid ex-exhibition display computer desks, and when setting up my new workroom these formed the basic building blocks for the layout. This room is the width of the house but not deep, with a centre aisle between two connecting doors the main route from the front to the back of the house. With only two bipeds and three quadrupeds now in residence I didn’t think this would be a problem, and it also neatly divides the room into two functional areas, writing and modelling, so that to some extent the old vertical split is replicated horizontally.

After the surfaces, the shelving, for both books and completed models. I lined the walls of the room with as much shelving as possible to accommodate both paper and plastic, but it’s never enough. By now virtually all the available space is stacked with books and magazines, and that for models is gradually reducing which, like so much else, is of course all my fault. If I made, or even finished, fewer models, built only those with folding wings, or in 1:144, or got carried away with a new enthusiasm less often, my space requirement for plastic would be less.


The kits-in-waiting are by and large in the garage, which frees some space in the workroom, though there are enough looking back at me to trigger the guilt feelings for not making them – yet. But I can’t put books and magazines out there, and my series/serial addiction is evident in the rows of Osprey and Midland aviation publications and the piles of magazines. Like, I suspect, many others of my vintage, I am haunted by the spectre of the vanishing Profiles, those particularly useful little booklets from the 1960s that came regrettably to a halt with many interesting subjects still in prospect, and as I collected them all – as well as some non-aviation subjects – they included some aircraft that may not have been a major interest at the time, but details of which have subsequently proved useful. So I still worry about missing something that may be of use later, either for my own modelling or to answer a query from elsewhere; it’s probably vanity, but I do find this ability very satisfying – it’s always nice to be asked!

When we moved, I added to the audio setup a small TV/video combi, and this has enabled me to keep up over the long haul with such absolute essentials as ’24’ and The West Wing’ while occupied with my other therapies; any way of doing two things at once is very welcome. Unfortunately, at around the same time as my wall-mounted unit suddenly wasn’t, the little TV stopped working, and after an attempt at repair it became evident that it would have to be replaced. My new set is a little larger – more space, therefore – but the upside is that it can also play, if not record, DVDs. I can now combine my viewing, live or recorded, with such healthy pursuits as hand-painting the Belfast – which should count as a minor Olympic weight-lifting category – with watching, or at least listening, to such delights as ‘Forgotten Bombers of the RAF’ or the ‘Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.

I try to have as much as possible within easy reach, and my brushes live vertically in those tubular office pen holders, separated by size and, if possible, by acrylic/ enamel function. My two local art shops stock the flat brushes with angled ends which I find excellent for camouflage patterns and even fairly straight dividing lines. The plastic carrying cases which I take to outside events are increasingly useful for keeping things in an easily-remembered place, providing of course I remember to replace at the end of the day whatever I’ve taken out.

I still hope for expert help to reorganise my work area, though it’s questionable that it was ever organised in the first place. One old friend compares my work space unfavourably with the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. When we moved, some items had a preordained position but we knew that others would take time to find their rightful place. This ever-developing, indeed organic, process may never be completed. New ideas keep coming and your editor has convinced me that I should use ‘daylight’ lamps to ease the eyestrain and enable me to pick the correct colours or even shades of paint, of whatever kind.

Amber’s picture shows her posing prettily with the models I was photographing on a garden table, as I couldn’t find a big enough space to take photos of the models in the house, let alone in the work room. This still needs addressing, but I live in optimism! My design for modelling continues to evolve, and the space will have to, to accommodate Ospreys, Red Stars and, of course, SAMs yet to come; and at least two Nimrods – three if there’s an AEW.3 conversion – as well as more Hunters, several Meteor 8s and of course all those TSR.2s.

Connected themes: model rc plane, jet rc planes, giant scale rc planes, Plastic scale model, aircraft plastic models, micro rc planes, plastic model reviews.

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