Editorial Comment Model Shop Tips and Techniques


If your enthusiasm is flagging, maybe you need to visit your local model shop...

“I’ve spoken about this before, but it is worth repeating that no amount of online browsing can replace the experience of actually seeing a product up close, picking up boxes and letting your imagination fly…”

Summer days are not really the ideal time to build models. When warm temperatures, blue skies and the chance to spend time in the great outdoors arrive on the scene, the last thing I want to do is spend time indoors, building models and I’m sure I’m not alone! What it does allow though is the chance to have some downtime, a period of reflection and if you are lucky, time with friends and family.

This weekend I found myself taking a trip to my brother in law’s in Bristol. This was a journey that would allow me to meet up with a group of Academy members that I had worked alongside as part of a secondary school art and english project. This had involved the collation and preparation of a large amount of written and artistic material that was then grouped together and published within a printed book, that the students involved could keep. The weekend would by necessity, involve a degree of socialising with those members of the Academy Council, but it would also give me at least a little time to spend on my own. So a few hours of relaxation planned, I headed off into town on Saturday morning to take in my first model shop visit in over 18 months.

Bristol, famous for Banksy, the SS Great Britain and a desire to dip unwanted statues into the waters of the docks that created much of its wealth in years gone by, is a city that is more than worth a visit. Grand without being grandiose, attractive without being vulgar, its city streets, built in layered inclines that flow from the Severn Gorge, a deep fissure, spanned by the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, offer much to see and plenty to enjoy. Shops, restaurants and the aforementioned docks, are some of the best in the UK, each repaying exploration and discovery. 

Fans of street art will enjoy seeing the way the city is widely regarded as a bastion for intricate murals, brushed and spray painted. Decorated buildings abound, an encouraged art form being allowed free rein, when in other cities it is looked upon with considerable disdain. It’s no surprise to see the famed Banksy hail from this town when such licence is given to the work that made him famous, a number of his more well-known pieces being lauded by those that live there and those that get a chance to visit. I’m a fan, what can I say?!

Having little time and thus a rather short window of opportunity to take in the city’s delights, I narrowed down my targets and headed for the model shop that I needed to visit. The Bristol branch of Antics, run by the ever-affable Andy Hills, sits within a rather nondescript street, a modern unit flanked either side by small food shops and a Chinese supermarket, outside of which sat three gentlemen who seemed keen to be left alone to their coffee and conversation. Passing the Rough Trade record store that’s over the road, I couldn’t help but smile at the idea that two of my favourite shops, record and model, were in such close proximity. The only way it could have been bettered, is if there had been a drum store nearby, but maybe that’s just being greedy…

Being in a model shop after so long away was a very pleasant experience. I’ve spoken about this before, but it is worth repeating that no amount of online browsing can replace the experience of actually seeing a product up close, picking up boxes and letting your imagination fly. Part of the thrill is that feeling you get when you walk in with a list of items that you need, only to be replaced with others that you suddenly want. Boxes in your eyeline always inspire ideas, as does the inevitable conversations that fly when they are picked up and examined. Online shopping is fine, but it’s not the same as actually being in a shop, is it?

Yesterday was certainly no different. I’d drawn up a list of products that I needed for upcoming projects, a list that included paint, glues and other products that either supplemented what I had, or replaced what had been used. Though some thought had been given to the possibility of kits, this was ultimately rejected in the face of my ever-expanding list of finishing products. These days I’m finding myself buying less and less kits. As time passes by, the realisation that I won’t build what I have is becoming a louder and louder voice in my head, so I tend to fall over the line marked as mentioned, things I need, rather than things I want

So my shopping list was very much about modelling supplies, rather than kits. One of those was plasticard. For some reason, this has been a difficult material to buy online, so seeing sheets of it in the shop was a pleasing bonus. I’d recently bought some from an eBay shop, but when it arrived, not only was it slightly smaller than A4, it was not smooth, having a velvety texture that I found most off-putting. Thankfully, the sheets in the shop were both A4 and smooth, so I grabbed a pile and then wandered off into my imaginary workshop where I considered actually building something from scratch…

Building models from raw materials is something that I do more than you would imagine. Many of the dioramas that I have built recently feature scratchbuilt structures and details (The Garage being a particular example of how far I’ve pushed that idea) but I have not for a while built a complete machine from scratch. This is certainly something that I plan to address at some point, an aircraft being top of my list of potential subjects. I fancy something off the wall, small and civilian, a subject that won’t tax my skills too much, but will keep my enthusiasm up through the ride to completion.

Paint was my next port of call. Stocking up on Tamiya acrylics and lacquers is hardly the most interesting of diversions, but important nevertheless. With the new Tamiya Panzer IV Ausf.G on the horizon I was hoping that I could pick up some of the new DaK colours to paint it when the time came. This proved to be the case, a number of the new colours being grabbed from their acrylic range, rather than the new LP lacquer collection for my future build. Though you would imagine that I would prefer the lacquers to the acrylics, I’ve found that a number, the Dark Yellow being one, are not really what I want from a paint, so I have picked and chosen different products to get the best from the models I’m currently building.

Several months ago I spent some time going through my Vallejo paint stocks and then over the next few projects, I used those paints on figures and accessories. It’s been something of a learning curve, but I have to say that finally I’m getting to grips with the process, so last weekend I was keen to add to my paint with some colours that I’d seen being used online. Amongst the colours that I bought was Ice Yellow. I’d seen this being used a lot as a lightening agent for all manner of colours and shades, the results being tones that are not too desaturated, staying warm and pleasingly vibrant. As this has become an important factor within many of the models that I’ve built recently, I was keen to use colours such as Ice Yellow to help with the process. My dioramas tend to err on the side of prettiness, so this will help to maintain this look as the dioramas and my approach to the figures within them, develop over the coming months…

My trip to Antics was certainly a successful one. Not only did I spend time chatting to Andy and drinking his coffee in the process, I managed to pick up much of what I will use over the rest of this year. But more than that, it boosted my enthusiasm and opened up some gates into fields that may-well be worth exploring further should time and enthusiasm allow. Now, where did I put that Panzer IV..? 


Here’s the link!


I am currently in the process of finishing off a new book that will be printed within the next few weeks. Covering the first part of my ‘Legacy Collection‘ from last year, the book will cover the construction and painting of four 1/35 dioramas. If you would like to know more, and perhaps even buy a copy for your library, please take a look at my earlier update by clicking the link above where you will find plenty of additional information. I look forward to hearing from you!

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!

8 comments on “A MODELLER’S ANTICS

  1. GREAT Blog post, Spencer. I really enjoyed this one immensely. It set a mood and captured what seemingly was a fantastic day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lee Souter

    Hi Spencer I spent Saturday at antics Gloucester never been before but will definitely go again, this was my first visit to a model shop in 18 months. I walked out with a smile on my face I guess it’s the little things that count.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bruce Culver

    Certainly brings back memories, which for us in Dallas, are increasingly rare. We had a good Hobbytown shop with an IPMS club member running the plastics department – lots of new kits and aftermarket, and plenty of enjoyable Saturday mornings drooling over the newest styrene and decals….. Alas, the owner retired and sold the franchise, and the new owner was simply not interested in plastic kitys and aftermarket supplies. Sometimes a shop shuts down without really closing….. Now it’s mostly online, but I do go to the Hobbytown still as he carries tools, paints and styrene sheets and structural shapes – all grist for the mill. It was better in the old days though, that’s for sure…..


  4. ..use it or lose it basically…ok, buying on-line saves a few quid..but you can’t put a price on being able to visit a ‘bricks n mortar’ shop!


  5. David H. Charlton

    I spent nigh on a decade promoting both Bristol and Bath and your description of the former is best I’ve seen! Great penmanship Spencer and jealous that you spent a bit of time with Andy, and his Antics of course, he’s a great guy, a gentleman, my favourite post to date, nice one. I’ll try and get myself along there soon.


  6. You’re entirely right about about the irreplaceable pleasure of actually going in a shop, and I am fortunate to have two within about a 15 minute drive (different directions). That one has an “estate sale” section where one can sell on consignment the kits one has realized they will never build, or a survivor can turn a now-forlorn stash into cash (with the prices being “build me” prices rather than collector’s prices), it is hard not to walk out with an old forgotten friend under one’s arm on occasion. It’s not just hobby shops! I literally would not be doing the work I am doing these days had I not been able to walk into an actual bookstore 12 years ago and have the clerk recommend a book to me, which led to contacting the author, which led to…

    Online will never replace in-person for an enjoyable experience.


  7. Andy Hills

    Lovely post and a pleasure to see and chat to you Spencer, next time we see you we will point you towards PMT where you may see some drums for sale


  8. mrwitkowski

    Great post. Pre COVID there was a wonderful hobby shop here in Cincinnati called Boardwalk Hobbies. Wall to wall kits and supplies. When I was getting back in to the hobby, finding this place was a gift. The owner and his wife were extremely helpful and never to busy to answer questions or help you find things. Unfortunately, it became a victim of the pandemic and has since closed down. Found a new shop but not nearly as well stocked in kits as Boardwalk Hobbies. I agree there is nothing better than walking in to a hobby shop and getting lost in the aisles.


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