1:48 1:72 Airfix Editorial Comment Kitty Hawk Models Thought for the day...


If you want to build a new kit but your skills aren’t up to it, perhaps that kit is not for you…

“It’s as though I and modellers like me, belong to the modelling equivalent of the Illuminati, where classified ideas and secret handshakes are as much a part of taking a look at a kit, as you know, sticking together the pieces and painting the results”


When I started building models as an enthusiastic eight year old, my first attempts were nothing short of a disaster. My very first kit, the Airfix 1:72 Scammell Tank Transporter was so encrusted in glue that it was hard to recognise what it was. My second was no better. Another Airfix kit, this time their Harrier GR.1 was fine until I realised that an invisible part from inside the fuselage had been left out, so it was pulled part and reassembled, glue covering it and me, in the process. Looking back, I wonder why I ever thought that this was the hobby for me!


Over the years that followed, I gradually built up my skills and learned as I went along and though larger, more complex kits were tackled (after all, who’s going to turn down something expensive when all you can afford are cheaper alternatives?) they often resulted in less than impressive models. Why? Because my skills were simply not up to the task. So I persevered and learned to deal with more involved builds and I always knew my limits. In fact, I still do. I walked before I could run and knew that falling over and grazing my knees, was simply part of the journey.

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I’ve talked about this on here and it’s almost as if I’m repeating myself, but I really get mightily cheesed off with the assumption, no, demand, that some modellers have for kits that everyone can build. These people seem to want beginners kits across the board. If anything is more difficult, more involved, or needs more skill to complete, they cry foul. They accuse the company of over-engineering the kit, those that can deal with them of elitism and then complain about not being patronised by more skilled modellers who then suggest that these kits are maybe out of their reach, their skills perhaps not up to it, or that they need to develop a little more and then have a go.

Well, guess what: they are.

So here’s how I really feel about this: not all models are designed for all modellers to build. Some will require more skill than you may have at your finger tips. That’s not the kit manufacturer’s fault; they have zero responsibility to produce kits that everyone can  build. This is not a sports arena where all are players are at the same level, this is a developing hobby where there is an expectation on you to learn new skills, to be able to tackle more involved projects as you develop; in essence: to become a better modelmaker, should you wish to do so.

Recently I posted the video in which I discuss the Kittyhawk fitter… Again. A number of the comments seem to insinuate that the kit should have been more modeller-friendly and thus easier to build for everyone that chooses to do so. Why? This is a complex aircraft and thus demands a complex kit to do it justice. “Yes, but for the price it should be more user-friendly”. What?! Seriously, what the hell has price got to do with it? By that logic, a £4 Airfix kit should be ready assembled and painted to a high degree of accuracy. It is patent nonsense perpetuated by those that want the moon on a stick and a bag to put it in and to whom the idea of different skill levels and the need to learn additional skills, is more of an inconvenience than a fundamental aspect of learning anything, let alone modelmaking.

All I was saying there and all I’m repeating here, is that in order to get the best from that kit, you have to have the skills to do so and thus it’s not the kit that’s necessarily at fault…


I write this thinly-veiled rant, not to bull up the more skilled, but simply to point out that the hobby is naturally a place where there is a need to learn – as all of us have done and continue to do. There is no agenda, there is no glossing over obvious issues and we are not here to be clever or tell lies, but we are here to reveal that there are levels of skill to match kits that graduate from simple to complex and if you are not aware of that, you will fall down and graze those knees once more. Much like playing a musical instrument, you wouldn’t expect to pick one up and be brilliant, unless you are some kind of savant. Instead, you would expect to learn the basics, develop the building blocks and then move on to more complex arrangements. Why is that ever seen as being any different in what we do? Where did that idea come from – is it simply the way of the world? Perhaps the same thought process would mean we would no longer need schools because everyone should be on the same level and there would be no need to learn anything that we don’t already know. You see – I told you it made no sense.

To get the best from some kits, you need to be able to plan ahead, carry out more complex construction tasks and then apply paint to sub-assemblies and the external surfaces that are beyond simple, one-coat finishes and a few decals. That’s the challenge that helps you to develop, but that challenge is not to taken on without other building blocks in place. I’ve said this before, but if you are struggling to align a Spitfire’s wings, then perhaps a biplane is a little beyond your grasp…

So please, give some thought to that next choice. Are your skills up to the challenge? Can you do it justice and if you choose to build it – which is perfectly fine! – and it is beyond you, hand on heart, is it the kit manufacturer’s fault for releasing a complex kit, or is it yours for electing to tackle something that was simply beyond you?

See you next time.

I'm formerly the editor in charge of Military In Scale magazine and latterly, Model Airplane International. Editing duties to one side, I'm now a full-time modelmaker with Doolittle Media, working to supply modelling articles and material for a number of their group titles, including MAI and Tamiya Model Magazine International. I'm also an avid fan of Assassin's creed, Coventry City FC and when the mood takes me, a drummer of only passing skill. Here though, you'll find what I do best: build models and occassionally, write about them!


  1. jamessperrin

    Ironically the price is “why” it is broken done down into so many fuselage parts to allow a variety of variants to be produced without have to tool whole new fuselages.

    I’d hate to blow smoke up the bottom of an industry shill such as yourself 😉 but to do talk a lot a sense Spence and please continue to do so!


  2. Dan Hackett

    I suppose diecast is an option for those wanting it on a stick. Some of the cars guys have beautiful diecast products available to them. Some, though, take them apart to enhance them even further. To each his own. I’ve been away from building for a while, though I read a lot (magazines, forums, etc) and I wouldn’t presume to think I could jump right back in with a difficult kit and produce something as fine as I see others doing. I do appreciate them sharing, though. Gives me something to shoot for. It is a hobby after all.


  3. Spencer, your logic is quite good, and I agree with you (for the most part). My skills are decent, and I have tackled projects where the results have surprised me. Logic and planning are two extremely important skills for building modern, complex kits. However, modelers are most levels have expectations of what they’re buying. For example, if Tamiya came out with a new tool of something and it didn’t fit, or had poor instructions, there would be quite the hue and cry, and justifiably so. For other examples, like your Fitter, less so. But, I got into ‘trouble’ on a model car board for something like this. I bought a new tool of a neat car, and it went pretty well with the exception of the windows and front grill, which did NOT fit and really ruined what was up to that point a great experience. I did a rant, basically asking didn’t the manufacturer build a test shot of their own kit? The editor of the magazine/head of the form basically called me an asshole who didn’t ‘understand’ what was involved in making a kit. For any reason, I feel I was right to expect that a mainstream new tool would have the basic fits correct. I still feel that way. You’ll always have some give and take in this category, but given the way kits have improved I feel our expectations will rise along with them. And we may complain (justifiably) but if we have the skills to make a ‘happy ending’, that will make it all worthwhile.


  4. Kenneth David Hanson

    I think complex kits and modeler-friendly kits are not mutually exclusive. It can take all of a seasoned modeler’s skills to produce an excellent result from a kit that would be considered aimed at the novice, yet a well designed kit, with a high parts count that falls together, can be built built by the less experienced and achieve an equally good result. The Tamiya 1/32 Zero springs to mind as being a kit that a novice could tackle and get good results with, however, try to build a Monogram 1/48 P-38 and you will need to dig deep into your bag of skills to produce something excellent.
    The modeler needs to assess his or her own skills and define the purpose and goal of each build.
    Modelers are a creative lot, and the great ones always overcome the shortfalls of any kit.


  5. Francis Gallemi

    Well put. I totally agree with you. I’ve been building models for ages. Last year I purchased the Tamiya 32nd scale Spitfire, Corsair and Mustang at a good price. I could have jumped right into them but decided the time was not right. Why? Because those models will require some careful planing and I’m just not up to it nor feel the inspiration. So they will have to wait until I feel comfortable to tackle them. It has nothing to do with complexity as they are well engineered but I will not risk doing a so-so job on them. That simple.


  6. Torsten S.

    Is that the intro for the new Revell catalogue? I remember the time in the 80s where kits were marked for different skills (what Revell still does). Who do you adress with this rant? Clearly not your Fans, because they don’t need such a reminder. Outsiders, newcomers? They don’t read your blog. So, consider this text to be published as a forword to the new Airfix, Revell etc. Catalogue. Otherwise its just a waste of time.


  7. This is what comes from 30 years of “participation trophies.” I well remember a guy 10 years ago who built the hugely expensive 1/35 U-boat, and brought it to a competition and got upset that it didn’t win a trophy since “it’s expensive.” When it was pointed out he had attempted a $1,000 kit with $5 worth of talent and $2 worth of skill, he got all huffy and has never been seen again (I’m surprised you couldn’t hear the “hallelujahs” over there).


  8. Heartland Patriot

    Oh, certainly, because a good quality, reasonably accurate kit for a decent price just cannot be made without manufacturing the kit almost exactly like the real thing, only in plastic. By that logic, all Tamiya armor kits are rubbish and only Dragon makes good armor kits. Also, if you don’t have the skills to build a Zoukei-Mura Horten, don’t bother building anything at all, or for goodness sake, at least don’t tell anyone about your horrible sub-par attempts at building scale models. Additionally, I have noticed that “fan boys” tend to ruin everything they touch. I had to stop watching NASCAR many years ago because I didn’t know the timing sequence for some engine on a particular car and the name of every pit crew member on a certain team, therefore I wasn’t a “real” NASCAR fan. I guess I’m not a real modeller, either. I won’t be back to this site, I know when my “betters” have beaten me down properly.


    • Nope, I have no idea what any of that has to do with approaching kits that are appropriate to your skill level and being careful with those that are not. I simply said that it is better to build on experience and move up though simple kits to those that are more complex – did I not make that clear enough? I guess not. Thanks for dropping in and enjoy the NASCAR…


    • Mal Mayfield



      • Mal Mayfield

        Sorry, that “What!” was to the post by Heartland Patriot. It was placed after Spencer’s reply so looked like I was referring to that!


  9. Konrad Schreier

    Very well taken Spencer, the predictable objections notwithstanding. Whether you see modeling as a craft or as an art, it takes practice to get better. Some things will go awry, but (hopefully) each build is a learning experience. For example, what I am learning from detailing out the 1970s Airfix Hurricane that I have on the bench is that it would be easier to have started with a more modern, complex kit. And a lot about fetteling. But all that will make the next one better. That’s why I follow your blog, I learn things from it.



  10. Andrew Redman

    I am 59 years old and I too have been building plastic models since I was eight years old. I think I made the entire Airfix 1/72 scale catologue of aircraft the late 1960’s. I made a lot of models.
    To cut a very long story short I really enjoy making 1/72 scale aircraft again. WWI Aircraft to be precise and to be more nadgery German Jastas of the First World War. Why because I am besotted with them, their size the complexity the colours and yes even the rigging! I make them and store them in boxes like a collection of beautiful butterflies.
    I have honed my skills on all kinds of scale models of different types and scales all very enjoyable in their own way and good for challenging myself.
    I completely agree with you Spencer not all kits are for all people.
    I think it is terrific that manufacturers like Meng and other new companies are bringing 1:35 scale tanks out with full interiors and individual linked tracks. I would not like to try anything like this. I have a stalled 1/32 Revell Ju88 half built looking at me reproachfully from my book case. It is a wonderful kit but I have stopped when I found my self getting drawn into the aftermarket er, market. I have decided such things are not for me I believe that out of the box with as much skill as I can muster or make is the most satisfying.
    I make what I love and avoid the very persuasive influence of fads or fancy. I have consuntrated very hard on improving my building skills so the kit looks perfectly finished before I complete the painting. Painting is my real passion and I have spent a long time getting to know how to use an airbrush. I found that very difficult at first but now I am comfortable with it and do not use anything else.
    I set myself goals and targets with regard to skills and find it so rewarding when I am able to do something I used to find difficult.
    So why would anyone complain about models being too difficult, too complicated, or not modeller friendly? Like I said it is great that companies are producing these things, if it is to hard ornit for you don’t do it it is that simple. I can’t imagine sitting down to make a kit and makes you feel cross?
    Spencer please keep going on about this it is good to hear a voice of reason.


  11. Don McIntyre

    I was in my LHS once, a few decades ago. An elderly lady was getting ready to pull a Monogram B-52 off the shelf and head to the checkout counter. I asked her who the kit was for (I honestly would have been shocked if she’d said it was for her). She said it was for her eight year old grandson. “Oh, does he build models?” I asked. “No, but he likes airplanes…” I talked her into getting him a small snap tight kit. Afterwards I talked to the shop owner and he was appreciative of my taking the time to talk to her. “This was, she might come back.” he said.
    Somehow, I don’t think that was the right kit for the boy. No skills, no tools, no paint, and he’d have been telling his buddies how model airplanes suck…


    • Kenneth David Hanson

      I don’t disagree with you, but I received a Monogram B-52 as a Christmas gift when I was 7 year old. It was the one with the jet engine sound gimmick. I didn’t have modeling tools and my paints didn’t match the FS colors, but I enjoyed the hell out of building that model, and rather than put me off model building, I delved deeper into the hobby. Would it have won a competition? Absolutely not, but not everyone builds to a competition level, or to compete. I do think if a person has only a passing interest, or is looking for instant gratification, then scale modeling is not the hobby they will stick with.


  12. Darren Dickerson

    When we get our licence to drive a car that doesn’t mean we can drive Formula One cars! Scale modelling is no different, practice and build your skills. If anyone new to our club or modelling asks me what should they build, I tell them to buy 5 Tamiya “basic” 1/48 aircraft kits (Mustang, Spitfire etc) and go for it. Great work Spencer and particularly enjoying the content In Model Airplane Modelling of late with the mix of new and older kit build articles.


  13. snigel79

    I find it quite funny that someone actually have to state the obvious, even more so that people feel the need to reiterate what you just said…


  14. Mal Mayfield

    Totally agree Spencer. I actually lost a lot of my skills while being out of modelling for some 5 years. I am trying to re-learn them but I am trying different things, not all successfully. I feel that when I have re-found some skill level I may be a little better than I was.
    I buy kits that I feel are out of my skill level but plan on building, such as the HPH Walrus and Fw-189 and a few WNW kits. I also like to tackle the more complicated camo schemes on aircraft models rather than the mundane but I don’t find RAF camo boring. In fact, having produced camo masks for several RAF WWII aircraft, I often see that it is obviously a challenge, that needs a higher level of skill or, possibly, observation to produce accurately. However gluing plastic or resin parts together is the easy bit. Making sure that they fit as the manufacture intended is where the skill level needs to be at a higher level? Building Airfix kits back when I was a kid, with my brothers, didn’t need any skill, well it did, but we didn’t know that we just enjoyed the journey. I only became a model builder when I discovered that removing seams was a thing, many, many years later but I still remember those Old Airfix kits with great affection. Would I build them now? No, my skills are up to it and I could build them far better than I did those many years ago but I do very much prefer the new tooled Airfix kits as they make life very much easier. However I am not sure that my very much younger self could have built these new tooled Airfix kits and certainly I would not have been able to get past the instructions with the Tamiya “super” kits, or the HPH and WNW kits. So, it definitely, does need a higher skill level to tackle more complex kits, however good the fit is, and also a degree of age and understanding is required; in other words, a raised skill level?


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