09 February 2016

Wayne England

I was saddened to hear today that the artist Wayne England has died.

https://www.facebook.com/wayne.england.35/photos_albums

When I talk of the "good old days" of Warhammer and Warhammer 40K Wayne's art was part of that world and continued to be right up until the present day. The White Dwarf covers below perfectly encapsulate the feel of Warhammer 40K in the late 80's.

White Dwarf Issue 110
Space Marines - White Dwarf 110 (1989)

White Dwarf Issue 112
Terminator Badge - White Dwarf 112 (1989)

As well as Games Workshop products he was also well known for his work on many other ranges, including Magic the Gathering, D&D, Avatars of War and Fantasy Flight Games.

07 February 2016

New Box, Old Mould - The Pitfalls of Kit Selection

A few days ago I was involved in an on-line discussion regarding the re-issuing of old moulds which I thought I'd revisit on this blog.

The discussion started with a commenter's experience of building, in their words, the awful Airfix 1:48 scale Hawker Fury, which contains plastic from 1980. It then turned to whether or not it was an underhand tactic by model makers to sell kits that are well past their sell-by date and is such practice unfair on customers?

Airfix 1:48 Hawker Fury
New Box, Old Plastic
To start with lets look at things from the model companies point of view. They have a product to sell, they exist to make money. Straight forward and to point I know, but that is the reality and I see little point in blaming them. It's easy for us to shift the blame to them, to call them underhand but in the end it's up to us, as customers, to make informed choices.  If we do then we won't be buying the inferior products and they will cease to sell them.

Certain companies seem to have different approaches to re-boxes, in my experience they are:
  • Academy - For years Academy have been producing budget kits of a mixed quality. In recent years they've started releasing more expensive and higher quality kits but I've not yet seen any of their range retired. They've changed the catalogue numbers of some their older kits but released them exactly the same as before so I'm not even sure that counts as re-boxing them.
  • Airfix - The near bankrupt Airfix of a few years ago quite obviously couldn't afford to do much else other than sell their old models. But now there's been a significant cull of older models. Although some still remain I suspect that there will be replacements in the pipeline.
  • Eduard - A newer manufacturer with an emphasis on quality. There kits seem to retired fairly quickly.
  • Hasegawa - It feels like Hasegawa never change. I've bought many of their kits and sold them all on, never actually building a single one. Alongside their steady range of new releases new box, old model seems to be what they do.
  • Revell - The re-box kings. I rarely buy Revell models for the reason so many of them are so old, and in many case not even their models to begin with. I think their recent Star Wars licence will keep them earning for the foreseeable future along with the loyalty of the American market toward the old Monogram kits. But Revell just isn't a name that's associated with quality in my opinion. Which is a shame, because the few new kits they make are actually very good, if you can find them.
  •  Tamiya - Like Hasegawa they never seem to change, we see a few new kits each year which are of a high standard. However their older models were years ahead of their competitors when they first came out so they seem to still hold their own against today's kits. Interesting in my preferred scale, 1:72, I have noticed a reduction in the range recently (mostly the Italeri kits they re-boxed for the Asian market) so they obviously feel some of the older kits are no longer of a high enough quality.

I do believe it's no coincidence that that model kits have moved in terms of quality so much in the last 10 or so years alongside the growth of the internet side of scale modelling. By participating in forums and groups, by writing blogs and posting photographs and so on, are we already driving the change so many of us desire?

And then there are on-line resources such as Scalemates. This site is a model kit database which gives a complete time-line of many kits, allowing us to see just how old the plastic inside that box is.

Scalemates database

One counterargument I often hear is the argument that bad kits will put off beginners from continuing with the hobby. I can see the point, after the first kit I built for this blog you may wonder why I continued. Well I do believe this is a hobby that requires a certain amount of perseverance and patience anyway. Anyone who quits after one setback will never be a modeller, so that's one reason. Secondly the majority of model companies have already figured this out which is why we have the starter kit. These are the kits I always see younger modellers with in my local hobby shop. Interestingly this seems more common among companies targeting Western audiences, maybe those beginners in Asia have the character I referred to in my first point or maybe model making is more embedded in their culture?

So with all that in mind I guess it's time to wrap this post up. To finish I will say, if you really do want to build an Airfix 1:48 scale Hawker Fury from 1980 now's your chance. I very much doubt this kit will be around for much longer.

19 December 2015

Incomplete Review - Revell 1:110 TIE Fighter (06734)

Scale: 1:110, RRP - £5.99 (or £12.99 including paints, glue and brushes)

With the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, being released I decided to get into things with a quick and easy build. This was a bit of an impulse buy, I was in my local hobby store when the first batch had just arrived and the owner let me have one before they were even out of the shelves.

I've had fairly strong opinions on Revell and their Star Wars range but I was more than prepared to give them a fair chance here. I really wanted this kit to be a good one.

So to the kit, I was a bit hasty in getting started so I actually forgot to photograph the sprues so I'll direct you to Britmodeller's in-box review. The parts count is small, 22 in all but they do look reasonably detailed.

The wings, (for want of a better word), are both single pieces which was noticeable when compared to other kits in which the solar collector arrays are a single piece with a separate frame that attaches to them. I can see why because it's simpler for the novice builder, but if you want to airbrush them it'll involve a lot of masking as you spray the dark panels and then the grey coloured frames.

Up until now I've been avoiding the elephant in the room. That scale! 1:110. Just ignore this, especially if you wish to combine this with models from other ranges. This kit is actually bigger than the FineMolds kit and the Bandai kit both of which are 1:72 scale (and both of which scale up the same next to each other).

Now I appreciate that we're talking about the scale of fantasy vehicles and so with that in mind I measured up the pilots in all 3 kits. FineMolds and Bandai both were 1:72 scale, this kit was nearer to 1:50 scale. So why put a scale on it the first place? This seems very misleading if you're a modeller as really this is a toy kit. Looking a bit further at the history of this kit it then became apparent that this is actually Revell's 2012 Easykit Pocket TIE fighter, re-boxed and with the parts unpainted. Suddenly this looks like a rather lazy re-release just in time for the new film.

So how did it build? It goes together fairly well, in fact it's almost a push fit kit. The cockpit has a large hatch to the top which is meant to open to allow you to see inside (and see the oversized pilot). Again this seemed to emphasise the toy like nature of the kit.

Revell 1/110 TIE Fighter 06734

Unfortunately this where my pride takes a bit of a knock. Due to the tight fit of the parts my dry fitting wasn't a thorough as it should have been and the hinge for the hatch ended up catching on the rear wall of the cockpit preventing the two halves from going together. How embarrassing...

Revell 1/110 TIE Fighter 06734 Bandai 1/72

So at that point there was only one place it was going, in the bin. I can't say I'm that bothered as I've already built the FineMolds kit and, despite the restrictions, I have one from Bandai to be getting on with.

I have to say when I saw all these kits in the store I though about getting a few other Star Wars models to quickly build. But with this experience I've changed my mind. I feel that there are much better options out there from Bandai and now, also, from Dragon who've just announced their new Star Wars range for 2016.

Dragon - Phase 1 Star Wars Releases

Overall Build Score: 2 out of 5, The detail is reasonable and a low number of parts makes it ideal for younger modellers. While it is relatively inexpensive it is essentially a repackaged Easykit Pocket TIE fighter from a few years ago without the pre-coloured parts. Combine this with very odd and completely wrong scale(s) make it feel like a somewhat lazy attempt at a cashing in on Star Wars as the new film is released.

16 November 2015

The Airfix Revival Continues – 2016 Releases Announced

This morning I received an e-mail from Airfix. Normally I delete such e-mails without reading them but this was one I actually wanted to read as it contained details of their 2016 release schedule. I’ll get back to what they have planned for next year in a moment, but first I wanted to say something about how impressed I’ve been with Airfix as a brand in the last few years.

Airfix Box Art
Airfix's 1:48 Defiant Box Art

Regular readers may recall the first ever build featured on this blog was an awful Airfix kit; in fact it’s still possibly the worst model I’ve ever attempted to build. I followed this up with a more current kit of theirs, the MiG 15 which showed some promise, but the space of less than 3 years even that looks somewhat dated. All these kits have since been dropped from their range, thankfully replaced by an increasing number of new and improved kits.

And that’s the thing, these are not re-boxed kits, these are brand new tools. Something which, in my opinion, has elevated Airfix far above the likes of their immediate competitors, companies like re-box specialists Revell.

It’s all a far cry from this time 10 years ago when Airfix went into administration; the turnaround has been fantastic, especially in the last few years. The investment in quality and the desire to progress, rather than rest on their past reputation is clear to see. Hopefully many more generations will get a chance to build that first Airfix Spitfire, just like I did all those years ago.

So onto the 2016 releases, there’s a good mix of WWI, WWII and Cold War aircraft. Although not my main area of interest the 1:72 scale Handley Page Victor looks like a bold release. However I’m looking forward to the end of 2016 when I hope to have my workbench clear ready for their B-17G (I had been trying to decide between Academy and Revell’s releases for some time but now I’ll wait).

Airfix 1/72 B-17G
B-17G CAD Image

Also, if time and hobby funds allow, I’m tempted by their JU-87 Stuka / Gloster Gladiator dogfight double release. I really like these double sets they’re well thought out and sensible way of bundling a couple of themed kits together. In fact I’ve recently bought one, (the Defiant / Do 17z set) but as I’ve not updated this blog in a while it’s only featured on my Instagram, along with another Airfix build that’s currently in progress.

So here's to the new and improved Airfix, long may they continue!

05 October 2015

Completed Review - Tamiya Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb/Mk.Vb Trop (60756) - Part 2

Continuing from Part 1, let talk about decals. In fact, bear with me, I'm going to rave about a decal sheet. Yes really!

The decals in question are from Xtradecal, set X72187. I have never seen such a comprehensive set of decals with an equally comprehensive instruction sheet.

Xtradecal X72187 Spitfire Mk.V Xtradecal X72187 Spitfire Mk.V

This particular set contains decals for a Spitfire Mark 5s only, there are a total of 12 options, from both the European and African theatres. As well as roundels and identification numbers there's a huge number of stencils and demarcation lines. I think, if you choose carefully, you can probably get five or six complete aircraft from this set.

Application was fairly straight forward although some of the long and very thin decals for the "don't walk" lines pushed my decal skills to the limit. It took me the best part of a week (in the evenings) to apply them, mostly, due to the number of them.

Tamiya 1/72 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb/Mk.Vb Trop

Now in previous builds this would be me about done, but with this build I'd decided it was time to raise my game. I wanted the panel lines to show and some weathering, especially as this was an aircraft in use and in flight.

After spraying the whole model with a gloss coat it was time to apply a wash. The wash I'd chosen was from Flory Models. After watching the tutorial video on their website, several times, I got stuck into the whole wash process. The actual moment of applying the wash is well captured in my Instgram post taken at the point where I was really wondering what I'd done.

However, it all turned out well and so the build was complete. For me it was most satisfying, the kit was excellent and I'd managed to move my modelling on to the next level. It's no competition winner but for me it marks a significant step forward. Take a look at the pictures below and see what you think.

Tamiya 1/72 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb/Mk.Vb Trop & Flory Models & Xtradecal
Tamiya 1/72 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb/Mk.Vb Trop & Flory Models & Xtradecal

Tamiya 1/72 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb/Mk.Vb Trop & Flory Models & Xtradecal

With the final picture I'm reminded of something I'd forgot to previously mention. This kit doesn't allow for a "wheels up" option. The wheels you see actually come from an Airfix kit (the one I sacrificed as a paint tester) and they fitted perfectly.

And so onto the final matter of my score for this kit

Overall Build Score: 4.5 out of 5, another excellent Tamiya kit as to be expected. A good choice of variants exemplified by the 3 types of air filters and 2 canopies included in the box. If I had to pick a fault it's the lack of choice when it comes to portraying the aircraft in flight.