As a hobby modeller, I don’t really think that such prescriptive lists are either sensible, or frankly, fun. If I was building something that was just for me, I think I would revel in the idea of a freewheeling build that allowed me to explore other ideas, techniques or moments of inspiration.
I don’t suppose I am alone in being one of life’s great procrastinators. Many’s the time that I’ve decided to carry out a particular task, only to then decide that actually I have something better to do (read: more interesting…) and so those amazing plans, if not entirely cancelled, are heavily postponed. Modelmaking, my full-time occupation I hasten to add, is absolutely no different is this regard; it’s littered with half-baked schemes, fully-formed ideas, or just simple time-passers, that I’ve felt worth of consideration if not time at the bench.
You can imagine that this is a rather unfortunate condition to be suffered by someone who is almost always deadlined, but there we are: a dirty little secret that I have now shared to a wider audience of modellers who are now no doubt, nodding along in recognition.
In order to work around this issue (see what I did there?), I have over the years become well-attuned to a need for forward planning. I’m not talking about that decision to build a model and then spend the next week completing its construction and painting: I’m talking about planning every single step along the way. Mostly, this involves a day to day schedule but sometimes if time is really tight, I can even get down to hourly plans that involve very specify tasks, that break down a project into bite-sized chunks that move it along its path to completion.
This week has been a good example of that in practice.
For work, I have two builds to complete by the end of next week; the Airfix K2Y ambulance for TMMI and a new Harrier model that I’m building for Brett Green and Model Airplane International. You can read a little more about both of these models in the following updates:
As the ambulance is all-but complete, my attention has turned to the Harrier. Having built many Harrier models over the years, my imagination was captured a while back, by the idea of building XV276, the first of the ‘Development Batch’ Harriers. Flown following the Air Ministry’s decision to clip the Kestrel’s wings in favour of something rather more potent, the ‘Harrier’ as it became known, was a more powerful raptor, its slightly modified fuselage, wings, engine and weapons carriage, being enough to convince those padding the carpeted corridors of power, that Hawker Siddeley’s masterpiece was a viable warplane, rather than flight of fancy.
Should you wish to read more about this story and the aircraft that were developed along the way, I can recommend Tony Buttler’s superb “HAWKER P.1127, KESTREL AND HARRIER: Developing The World’s First Jet V/STOL Combat Aircraft”. The book is filled with incredible images, detailed drawings an engaging text that I am sure you will enjoy!
Fans of this aircraft will no doubt know that the only way you can build XV276 easily in miniature, is to convert Revell’s 1973 1/32 Harrier “Jump Jet” (sic) kit. Despite its age, the Revell kit is a remarkably accurate model, created from works drawings to create a replica that captures the look of those early machines, very well indeed. That said, the kit, offered as a warplane rather than prototype, is a slight hybrid with features from both developmental as well as service, stages. For instance, though decals are supplied for squadron machine (include US Marines), the airframe features early fairings in front of the ‘cold’ nozzles which you must blend-in for a GR1 or AV-8A. Similarly, pylons are early pattern, again, pointing towards DB aircraft, rather than in-service machines.
Similar issues then befall modellers wanting to use the kit as a true DB aircraft. In order to sell the idea of a service jet, the tail stinger is the wrong pattern; cold nozzles are not supplied with five vanes as carried on XV276; wings feature a complete set of vortex generators rather than the four seen on those earlier Harriers; the seat is modelled as a Martin Baker Mk9, rather than – we think… – the Mk6, used. You get the picture!
So in deciding to model XV276, I have a list of modifications to carry out in order to create as accurate a model as possible. None of these is/will be difficult, but I really don’t want to miss anything. That being so, and with the help of Harrier maestro Dave Fleming who also helped me with my 1/24 Harrier T2 conversion, I drew up a list of work that would help me to navigate the construction and painting of the model. Here, for those with nothing better to do, is my list:
- Modify the nosecone to allow the fitting of a long nose boom.
- Modify the tail sting to reflect its longer length and different shape.
- Change the shape of the airbrake so that the bay and break are essentially square rather than having angled corners.
- Remove vortex generators to allow the fitting of the four on each wing as seen in reference shots.
- Modify fairing in front of could nozzles to allow the creating of a small, ram-air intake.
- Detail cockpit.
- Detail airbrake bay.
- Modify kit’s Mk9 seat to create one that looks like a Mk6.
- Remove and deflect flaps.
- Add rubbing plates to each tailplane.
- Drill out roll control reaction valves on upper wings.
- Modify cooling air exhausts on upper engine panel and then add remaining superficial details.
Seeing the list in front of me, it seems like a huge amount of work, but in reality, much of what is on there is easy to complete and in need of little in the way of materials or time. But, and here’s the most important reason for drawing it up: it allows me to see what I must do, prioritises the work and then helps me to allocate time each day, to individual steps. And that is exactly what I did yesterday…
As I was watching a little TV on Sunday night, I was drawing up a schedule for Monday that I could use to remove much of what is on that list. Basic construction could be completed, as could the basis of some of the modifications: nose, tail and intakes. I also mapped out the cockpit interior, modified the wings to allow deflected flaps and opened RCR valves, and then added the completed intakes, their joints being filled to ensure the filler was dry when I return to them later today. I drew up a schedule for the day, stuck to it and then didn’t stop until everything on that list was complete. I’ll then repeat that until the model is assembled, painted and decalled.
Listen, I am aware that this isn’t going to work for everyone, nor am I suggesting that it should. As a hobby modeller, I don’t really think that such prescriptive lists are either sensible, or frankly, fun. If I was building something that was just for me, I think I would revel in the idea of a freewheeling build, that allowed me to explore other ideas, techniques or moments of inspiration. That’s the whole point of the hobby: to see where it takes you as each minutes passes pleasurably by. If your model takes one week, or one year, that’s of no importance. What is important is that you are enjoying the ride. For me though, at least with builds that are deadlined such as these, it’s useful to have a plan of action, a list of jobs to complete and an idea of how long they will take and how in turn, they can all be shoehorned into a small window of modelling opportunity.
I hope that this little insight into my working day has been useful. Who knows, you may already be doing many of these things. I may even be preaching to the choir! If not, maybe you’ll look at your models in A slightly different way and you too will see the benefit of forward planning a project to get you through the minefield of steps that we all, at some point, have to navigate.
See you next time.
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Absolutely fantastic book Spencer, congratulations. Packed with beautifully clear photographs of Spencer’s work, I can see much inspiration from these…
Hi Spence, My PayPal account says I have paid for your ‘A Year in Miniatures’ but I don’t find an…
[…] project for work (hence my quietness on here over the last few weeks…) I need to complete my ‘A…
Hi Spencer, order placed for your new book. Thanks for getting it published.
Order Sent. Looking forward to getting my hands on it now.
That’s an interesting point.
It’s different, of course, for you, where there is a deadline to “motivate” you. For the rest of us, who have other jobs, and for whom modelling is a hobby rather than work, I think that making such a list makes it more like work, and less like a hobby – ie, as you say, less fun. We work away on a model (or three) at various times, when the occasion suits. Weeks can go by…. even months…..
But, on the other hand, when a deadline does approach, such as a realisation that the model show that you intend to travel to and into which you intend to enter your model in the competition, is only a couple of weeks away, then a project management type “to do” list might be all that is between you and not finishing the model on time….So – horses for courses, perhaps….
When I was in the stage of life known as “working”, the company I worked for had and marketed a product known as PMW, (Project Manager Workmate). This was a tool to enable you to plan the many stages and timing of a project from inception to completion. To now start planning a modelling project would take be back to a time I really wouldn’t like to be reminded of. I’ll just sail merrily along, either completing something, or throwing it in the bin. It also reminds me of why I really wouldn’t like to turn my hobby into a business – it would be too much like work.
Hi, mostly I plod calmly happily on, trying not to stress, yes there’s a methodical plan, but avoid the stress of deadlines which I don’t have to meet. Like any estimate, things happen which can delay matters. If there’s a show or comp. then I put a bit more effort or pressure on sometimes, which is more challenging. My wife says I get stressed but I try to keep calm and carry on (!) Life gets in the way, as I’ve other work to do, if I was a pro. like you it would have to be different. Cheers.
After being in the military for over 20 years we lived and breathed checklists. So it was natural for me to apply many things in my life that revolved around proper planning. The acronym is PPPPPP or P6.
Proper planning prevents piss poor performance.
I love a good checklist. But given my day job requires me to be so organized and efficient I have been known be a bit more relaxed when working on a model. So I still make my lists. But the timeline is fluid.
I’m currently working on my office/modeling space. Only a few things left on that list and hopefully that will mean I get back to more important projects.
Hi Spencer, interesting viewpoint as always!
Surely the kit’s instruction sheet is a “checklist” in itself in most part but I also agree that any deviation from the base/standard construction DOES warrant doing things differently and often at different stages of construction, sometimes tackling construction stages out of sequence when waiting for bits, decals etc etc to arrive.
I am sure that most people have overlooked something during construction of one of their cherished models, particularly on an extended, modified or disjointed build- hands up those that have forgotten to put weight in the nose of a “tail sitter” for example, or omitted a detail in the cockpit when fuselage halves have been securely bonded!
I am about to embark on construction of the Mini Base Su33….great kit, hundereds of parts and definitley in need of some sort of “work in progress” list to keep everything on track and in focus!
It’ll probably take me until (at least) the middle of 2023 to complete and with so many distractions (as usual) occurring during that period vital to keep track.
So yes, action/priority lists it is for me too…..now where was I up to?…….
40+ years in military aviation taught me the benefits of checklists and plans. Hence I regularly use them for builds that require deviations from the norm, even in my retirement.
Deadlines however, are a different matter…I love the “whooshing” sound as they pass by. 😉🤣🤣
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