Sometimes you can become bogged down with an endless precession of similar projects, so why not try something a little different to cleanse the palette?
“I’ve always loved the early Tamiya bike kits but their release at a time when I had little money and even less skill, meant that they rather passed my ramshackle desk by”
Today, the 22nd of March 2017 is my son’s 21st birthday. Frankly, I have no idea where the time has gone or how I managed to be party to the raising of such a wonderful young man but I have, though more by accident than intelligent design. This year also marks another 21st anniversary: it’s been 21 years less a few months or so since I left the UK’s Land Registry and became a full-time editor and professional model maker, earning my living from doing nothing else but building models and writing about them – sometimes very badly, but often with a degree of success, despite limited time and clumsiness that has haunted me like Marley’s ghost.
Throughout the last two and a bit decades I’ve been asked to build almost everything imaginable, but in the main, the subjects have been military in nature and drab and weathered in appearance. Grey jets, green tanks, sand trucks and camouflaged WWII fighters have been a staple diet through my working days with little need to do anything that is either clean, or brightly coloured. As such, the desire to deviate from this rather set path has become more and more important, so I am always on the lookout to build something different, a subject that is not demanded by the constraints of publication, a model that is just for more.
Often these choices, cars, bikes, trucks or spaceships, are made because I’m bored with the day job’s demands and the sight of yet another pot of Light Gull Gray, but mostly it’s because I’ve always built lots of disparate subjects and rarely if ever have I stuck to one genre, or one scale, or even one manufacturer. Several days ago I talked about my love of 1:72 aircraft, but that’s never been to the exclusion of other scales or subjects, 1:144, 1:48, 1:32, 1:24, 1:16 and 1:12 scales having all crossed my desk, the result being a display case that is diverse as it is confusing. Anyone looking through its glass walls will have no idea what really lights my fire, just that I build models and there is no plan in place when it comes to subject or scale.
What this has enabled though is the mastering of techniques that allow the construction of finishing of almost anything that I choose to build, so when the inertia of boredom and repetition hits, I can shift gears and do something else until the fog clears. Usually, this means the construction and painting of 1:12 motorcycles, usually Tamiya and almost always straight from the box.
I’m really not sure where my love of these bikes fits in to my current mindset, other than it being another rather nostalgic element to my hobby. I’ve always loved the early Tamiya bike kits but their release at a time when I had little money and even less skill, meant that they rather passed my ramshackle desk by and though I did attempt a couple, success was not something that could be levelled at them, rough building and less-than-glossy paintwork being more the result of my halfhearted labours, than something I was keen to show off. They were to put it mildly, rubbish!
So as the years have passed by I’ve turned to these bike kits to give me something that I can build quickly and not have to think about too much as I simply open the box, grab the instructions and start to build and paint the contents. Though I have good friends who spend countless hours building masterpieces from their bike kits, I have nonesuch heady aspirations, simply building each one for the pleasure of doing so and the chance to add something bright to the display case. The learning curve has been steep with these builds, different surface materials, gloss paintwork and carefully applied decals all being prerequisite factors on the road to success. They are not carefree by any means, just fun and demanding enough to be worthwhile challenges.
One thing though that typifies these builds is that I love each one and treasure them above almost everything that I build. I like my day-job builds; I love the bikes.
Along with the bikes, I also dabble with cars, F1 kits being a nerve-racking diversion that can certainly test the skills. There is something about the building and painting of a car to create a picture-perfect finish that you don’t always get from other models where surface finishes can be intentionally rough around the edges. Build a tank and the weathering can be adjusted to suit; build an F1 car and you have to get it right first time, every time and that’s a thrill. I’m not sure that I’d want to build these models week in week out because a) I don’t have the skill to do so and b) my nerves would be in tatters within a month, but they are fun to complete every now and then!
Deviating from the norm can be a good way of clearing the mind and opening up paths to enthusiasm that maybe close when you are constantly bogged down with similarly complex builds within the same genre. Equally, they can be a way of stretching your skills, teaching you new ideas and techniques and pushing you into areas that you perhaps wouldn’t normally consider. But more than that, it is fun to just build something just for the hell of it, without constraint and without the need to think about whether this, that or the other, is correct.
Chances are that I will continue to build drab aircraft for the foreseeable future and that my collection will be rather dull as a result, but at least I know that when the demands of the day job allow, I’ll have those little bike kits to cleanse the palette and add colour to my pale grey and olive drab world…
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