Saturday, July 25, 2015

FineScale Modeler 25-year Collection 1982-2007

Sometimes you see a product that really interests you, but the price point is just a bit too high.  When I first saw it, that was my impression of this product at $99.95 plus shipping.  It was just a little too expensive.   However, when Kalmbach Publishing Co. recent held a sale offering it for $69.95 with shipping included, I ordered it.

You receive 2 DVDs and instructions in a DVD box.  You have the option of running it from the DVDs, or you can download it to your hard drive and not need the DVDs to access the program.  If you do the latter, you need 10.2 GB of space on your drive.

The result is access to 19,000 plus pages of a quarter century of FSM staring with the inaugural issue.

Some observations:

1.       While you can print the articles, the PDF files are locked so they cannot be copied.  That is reasonable.  It is easy to print an article to have on the workbench, for instance.

2.       The installation process is very easy (the instructions are excellent), but it will take 20 minutes or so to copy the DVDs over to your hard drive if you go that route.  (You will of course need a DVD drive on your computer.)  The product will not play on DVD players connected to a TV.  It is intended for computer use only.

3.       Searching the library is easy.  And, it is surprisingly fast.  Just enter the words or phrase in the search box, click, and in a few seconds your results appear.

4.       The page images from the early editions (pre-2000) are from scans, so they are not as good as the post-2000 images that are from digital originals.  However, the early pages are totally readable and of good quality.
I have found FineScale Modeler to be a great addition to the hobby.  The how-to articles are clear and well-photographed, and the reviews are honest and useful.  For the cost of a few volumes of research books at today’s prices, I now have this really great library at my fingertips.  I am glad they had that sale!

UPDATE:  8/3/15 - I have now been using this for a few weeks, and I am finding it invaluable.  For instance, today I was looking for information on weathering.  A quick search gave me about a dozen useful articles.  I had tried Youtube, but so many of those videos, while earnestly produced are too full of out-of-focus pictures and bad camera angles, along with woefully abbreviated presentations.  (I know, if I am so smart, why don't I produce some Youtube videos?  The answer is simple - I really don't think I would do any better!)

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Swastika & WWII German Aircraft Kits

I have included a number of photos below of two kits, both of which were produced in Japan.  First if Hasegawa’s Bf-109E4/7 kit and the next is Tamiya’s Fw190 F-8 kit, both in 1/48th scale.

With both kits, the swastika markings are included with the decal sheet.  In both kits, the swastika is not on the box cover painting, the painting guides on the instruction sheet or anywhere else in the kit.

Why the reluctance to portray the swastika?  Is it for legal reasons?  Or is it just political correctness? 

I did some quick research, mostly on Wikipedia, and I found that many countries (not the USA where the 1st Amendment still applies) do have laws banning the public exhibition of any Nazi regalia, flags and so forth unless such display is for educational, scientific or artistic purposes.  But, I found nothing to indicate that one could not under any circumstances display a swastika in public.  In Japan, I found, the swastika is quite routinely seen in public because it has been part of their culture for millennia, as it has been for many cultures, including Native Americans.  Hitler and his thugs did not invent it; they hi-jacked it.

It would not be hard to argue that displaying a historically accurate depiction of an aircraft on the cover of a kit box (a time honored tradition) would be exempt from any prohibition as it is clearly for historical and educational purposes, such as the display of a Nazi flag or uniform accoutrements in a museum.

So, I would argue that the reason the swastika is not on a box cover is purely political correctness.  There would seem to be no clear legal prohibition. 

Now, my research was far from exhaustive.  I recall seeing swastika decals that were cut in pieces the modeler would have to “assemble” on the model to make a marking.  (I just checked Eduard’s website and they have the full swastika on the decal sheet for their Fw 190A-8/ R2 in 1/48th scale, so it probably wasn’t them.)
I think that modelers as a group are to a degree historians.  We try very hard to accurately reproduce in miniature replicas of armor, aircraft, uniforms and weapons used in the past as well as currently.  If we were forced to forego some feature because someone might be offended, that would be pretty offensive in itself.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Kudos to Airfix

Recently, I purchased the Airfix Supermarine Spitfire Mk1a in 1/72nd scale (Photo 1) at a local hobby shop.  Having been so impressed with the Curtiss Hawk 81-A-2 kit, I decided to build it.

Photo 1

I was surprised to examine the kit and find that the decal sheet did not include the stencil data (see Photo 2).  In a few reviews, I saw decal sheets that looked like this plus a decal sheet with the squadron codes etc. and the stencils.  Two sheets in one kit?   It looks to me that there were some production issues with putting this kit out.   Unfortunately, I got the decal sheet without the stencils, and with the Spitfire, they are noticeable underneath and the red tape patches on the gun ports are very prominent also.

Photo 2

I sent a nice email to Hornby’s (you catch more flies with honey than vinegar), and I received an auto response saying they would be in touch.  About ten days later, I got a response apologizing for the delay and telling me they were “sending one out” right away.  It arrived today.  Rather than dub around with a decal sheet, they sent an entire kit.  And, inside was the correct decal sheet.  (See Photo 3)

Photo 3

Today when service is a hit-or-miss thing, it is really nice to have such an excellent response.   

Not only are the new Airfix kits very well done, they do not cost big $$$.  The range of models in the WWII era is growing, and some of the more obscure aircraft are being produced (e.g., the Boulton Paul Defiant and Avro Shackleton).  

Who knows what might be next? I for one am very glad our British cousins are still mindful of the important role WWII played in all our lives, and they are still eager to preserve that history.  And, model making is one way that history is preserved.