1:24 Harrier Thought for the day...


Do you actually enjoy building models, or to just enjoy the results?

“When I sit back and look at a model that I know that I’ve built and painted to the best of my ability and it looks the way I wanted it to before beginning construction, that’s when I’m truly at ease. The journey’s over, now I can enjoy the destination”


My good friend Haris has just popped round with some kits for me, more of which I plan to build, some of which I know I won’t and others that may or may not be a pipe dream. Still, they look cool, so it’s nice to have them and it was nice to be able to chin-wag about all things ‘modelling’.

Shooting the breeze with a fellow enthusiast can bring up all manner of nonsense, either about actual builds, or your personal approach to them. This morning the conversation turned to passion and just what it means to build and paint models. How much passion do you put into each build and how does that manifest itself within each completed project?

At this point I think it might be worth getting a few things off my chest. Firstly, I don’t really understand the idea of passion when it comes to modelling. I’m not sure I ever have to be honest; I may be driven to finish a build to the best of my ability, but I’ve never, not once, sensed a feeling of passion towards anything that I’ve built or painted. I just haven’t. And secondly, I’m not sure I really enjoy the process of building and painting models that much, not in the same way I enjoy listening to music, playing drums, playing on the Playstation or watching football, kind of way. I enjoy it in loose terms, but it’s not fun in the same way. But I do enjoy the results. Much like going on holiday, I can’t abide the travelling, but I do enjoy the destination. To me, the process of building and painting is simply a means to an end: to have a completed model that I’ve built, of a subject that I want in miniature.

Though this all sounds rather odd, let me assure you that I may not be alone. Within the sci-fi modelling world there is a guy named David Sissons who creates the most extraordinary ‘studio scale’ replicas of famous Gerry Anderson ships from his TV shows. This guy is easily one of the world’s best model makers. His work has garnered huge praise around the world for not only being incredibly neat and precise, but also accurate in every possible way. In his field, he is one of the very best. During an interview many years ago, I remember David saying that he didn’t really enjoy building models per se, feeling that it was simply a means to an end; he wanted actual size models that he loved from his favourite TV programs and so needed to learn how to build them himself, because he knew he would never be able to actually buy the ‘real’ thing. In essence, the journey was simply an imposition, a necessity on the road to possession of these precious artefacts. I’ve not seen another interview from him, but I have little reason to believe he has changed his opinion.

Honesty dictates that I tell you that I feel the same. Last year when I was building my 1:24 Harrier, spending six months filling and sanding, I can tell you with some conviction that I hated it more than I loved it. I persevered (not too strong a word) because I wanted a 1:24 Harrier T.2 and thus the work needed to bring that dream to fruition was just something that at times I had to endure and now that dream is a reality: I have the 1:24 Harrier that I’ve always wanted.

So why not just get someone else to do these things if you dislike it so much I hear you ask? Well, because I don’t dislike it, but even if I did, that would mean it wasn’t my model – it would be something built by someone else and though that’s cool, when it comes to my collection, it has to be my work in my display case.

This all sounds like I don’t love what I do, but that’s not true. I enjoy my job and I wouldn’t want to do anything else, but there is a disconnect between what I do for a living and what I do for fun. Though I carefully pick subjects that I know will be interesting to build and paint, once that process begins — and it is a process — it becomes more of a mechanical series of steps, rather than a free-flowing love affair. Each step is designed to illustrate ideas and show off the model to our readers, so I remain cognisant of that fact, but I struggle to remember a point where I’ve sat and thought “I’m having such fun!”. What’s fun is looking at the finished model – that’s the pay-off. When I sit back and look at a model that I know that I’ve built and painted to the best of my ability and it looks the way I wanted it to before beginning construction, that’s when I’m truly at ease. The journey’s over, now I can enjoy the destination.

When it comes to anything creative, we all have our own personal reasons for doing what we do. Many enjoy the construction, many more enjoy the painting and weathering and many simply enjoy that feeling of accomplishing a job well done. I fall into the latter category, feeling that the completed model, the replica that I can enjoy and share, is far more important than what it took to get it into the display case or onto the model show table. Modelling is a route to completion of a miniature and though I will spend hours on construction painting and weathering and will complete each to the best of my sometimes limited ability, it will always be that that spurs me on, not the pleasure I get from sitting for hours cleaning up endless seams that I know will be visible once more, once I apply a layer of primer…

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. kfutter

    That’s an interesting perspective, Spence. You and I share a great deal of common ground in our respective outlooks on the hobby, but this is one point on which we diverge. I find that, once a model is finished and the initial glow of accomplishment has died down, I completely lose interest in it. What holds my interest most is discovering and exploring new approaches and techniques through the building and painting process, which for me, is no process at all, but a haphazard series of experimental disasters that produce the occasional, addictive, aha! moment. And more rarely, a finished model.

    On the notion of sanding, though, you have my full agreement!


  2. Ok. Deja vu-ish. I’ve been pondering the same thing. https://modelsinscale.wordpress.com/2017/07/22/why-am-i-doing-this/
    Of course, I have a different take on the question, which isn’t surprising. And, I enjoy theses kinds of ruminations that delve a bit deeper into us instead of merely the plastic.


  3. I like some aspects of the journey of model building—painting, problem solving, weathering, and then there are some aspects I loathe—filling ejector pin marks, decaling. I will say though, that on the rare occasion of actually completing a model, I achieve pure pleasure through effusive self congratulations.

    The pleasure I think I get from the journey part of modeling is not necessarily tied to the end result, but instead to the subtle joy of working with my hands. Even by doing something as mundane as filling a seam can release (I believe) serotonin into my bloodstream. Just like the endorphins I get after a hard workout, I think I get a similar pleasure response from serotonin after working with my hands. This is just my theory on why I’m still building models after 25 years. It’s definitely not for the big bucks.


  4. An interesting observation Spence. I actually enjoy the journey of building a model because for me it is an escape and I usually learn something new. The destination is all the more pleasurable when one can sit back and admire one’s work though, I certainly agree wit you there!


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