Saturday, December 28, 2013

Night in the Ruts!

We all know about getting in a rut, you know when you can't seem to get anything finished, or started.  To me that's not really a rut, it's more of a not doing anything.  I went through that this past summer, I built nothing.  Nada. Zero. Zilch.  The weather got a little chilly and I decided I needed to get back at it and I decided I needed to build something out of my usual theme.  You can usually spot my builds on the table, they have wild paint, they lean toward the cartoonish, and most of the time they are a showrod.  Even when they are "serious" builds they always have something that leans toward silly, weather it's lace paint, neon colors, a wild chop, or big wheels.  So when I started back up this fall, I was going to be serious, dammit!  Well, not so much.
Of the five (yes, I said five) projects I'm currently fooling with, three are altered wheelbase cars (you know, the cars that coined the term "funny car"), one is a salt flat car with the roof chopped off, channeled, and tail fins extended, the last is a Mustang that has been widened to fit a modern chassis and super wide tires under it.  Yeah, I am the picture of seriousness.  Not a single cartoon proportion on these cars at all.  We were discussing paint last night and one of the altered wheelbase cars may end up looking like a giant candy cane.  Very serious.  I used to build replicas, but I can't seem to get interested in them like I used to, I have a compulsion to lean to goofiness, I think it's an illness.  More accurately, it's a rut.  Everyone has a rut they are comfortable in, mine just happens to be way too much fun!
Some guys are in a super detailed rut, a super accurate rut, a "I have to build a million of 'em before I die" rut, or a super clean build rut.  I know guys that are in all of these ruts and none of them seem "stuck' in their ruts. To me, being "stuck" in your rut implies you don't enjoy the rut you are in, I'm having a ball in mine!  My one buddy refuses to add any kind of weathering to his models, he wants them "factory fresh"  without a mark on them.  Other guys like 'em rode hard and put away wet, I tend to fall in the middle somewhere.  My point here is, weather you like it or not, you have a "preference" in your builds and anyone paying attention can spot your stuff on a contest table without seeing your name on it.  Every model you build has a "signature" on it weather you like it or not.  So if you are "signing" your work, are you proud of it?  Is it your best?  Even if it's silly, is it the absolute best "silly" it can be?
"Rat Fink" Ron

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Clubs..Not Just For Baby Seals

I belong to a model club, hell, I'm the president of the club, again.  I think I'm pretty instrumental in the running and success of the club, others may disagree with my effectiveness.  I recently became way more involved again after a summer hiatus to play with my big car (I wasn't the president then), I have to tell you I missed it.  I really enjoy hanging out with the guys and talking models, checking out what others are building, and showing off my latest build.  I like the camaraderie, the goofing off, and the sly sarcastic commets and jokes we make at each others expense.  I get some really great ideas and how to's to make my model building experience better and more fun.  We have a really great club.
I always want the club to do more stuff together and have more fun interaction.  I always try to get together a build day on the same day as the 24 Hours of Daytona, the first day of the racing season seems like a great day to spend watching racing and building models.  It's still cold out in central Ohio so there is not much else to do.  I've also tried to get a trip up to the Detroit Autorama in March, the greatest custom car show in the US, but I've been met with little success.  I go every year and pick up some great building ideas.  The Goodguys Nationals are in Columbus every summer and there has been limited interest even with no travel time involved.  I've always wanted to have the club show up en masse to a big show like the Toledo NNL, but it doesn't seem to come together.  I've always wondered why our club seems to be a little inactive.
We're not a bunch of slugs either, we do some pretty cool stuff, too. I think we put on one of the best shows in Ohio, the Buckeye Classic.  The guys do a great job getting together on that project. We also do a couple of same kit builds, one for the "Ohio Challenge" and a box stock build off for our contest.  We do these because as a club member you can't enter our contest, so we want to have a way for us to show off our stuff.  We also started a "Christmas Kit Build Off", we have a blind gift exchange each Christmas, then you have to build the kit you got in the gift exchange for next year's Christmas party.  We had limited success this year, but I have a feeling it will be better this next year.  We have also done a "Group Build" where each part of a kit is built by a different club member and then the final assembly is done by another club member.  We had a lot of fun doing the last one, I think we'll do another one this year.  We also have a pretty good turnout every month of new builds.
This brings up the point of all of this rambling, what do you like about being in a model car club? What things do you want to do?  What does your club do that you like?  Are you involved, or just a spectator?  What is it that keeps you coming back every month (or more)? I always enjoy getting together with guys that have similar interests and doing things.  To me it is the social aspect of a club that is the appeal.  What about you?
"Rat Fink" Ron 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

How Do I Love Thee? Uh...I Don't

All of us have things we'd rather not do, clean the gutters on the house, shovel snow, or eat spinach.  Even when it comes to this hobby, there are things we don't really like to do.  I have a buddy that does some great scratch building, absolutely fantastic stuff, but hates to paint.  All of his stuff spends years on primer hell, never to be finished, so he usually just sells them almost done.  I run into lots of guys who hate to detail kits, they like their kits closer to box stock. Interestingly, they seem to be fascinated by other people's models that have gobs of details added.  Photo etch, plug wires, throttle linkages, resin parts, and any other multitude of little gee-gaws will usually draw a crowd around a model.  Others don't like to weather their models, they like them clean as the day they drove out of the factory.  My one buddy says, "Can't do it, won't do it, don't wanna try."  That about sums it up, his builds will always be pristine.
So what is it that I hate more than a root canal?  Body work.  I can't stand the endless filling and sanding, over and over without end.  It seems to me that I fill an area, sand it, prime it, and ta-da, there it is, the low spot that needs filled again.  Every time I prime, all of the body work underneath shows up like a bad penny.  I know it's just part of the process,  but come on, why can't it just be right the first time?  I once had a four year project chopping the top on the old  AMT 49 Merc (Revell's is already chopped, but it was still years away from being released) partly because I had no idea that I had to also lengthen and widen the roof and partly because I became so frustrated with the filler shrinking under the primer.  I have tried every type of filler known to man and they all seem to shrink when covered with primer.  My buddy that has a bodyshop just tells me to reprime and blocksand, it's just how it works.  Well, that may be the way it works, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
So after reading the above paragraph, you would assume that I usually build my cars with the bodies as close to stock as possible.  Nope. Not even close.  I have two projects on my bench right now that involve bodywork, a '68 Mustang that I widened 1/8" on each side and a '57 Ford I cut the top off and filled the giant hole to make a salt flat car.  I also have a '64 Marauder I'm altering the wheelbase a la 1960's A F/X car, and I'm doing the same to a '62 T-Bird and another '57 Ford that I'm also going to stretch the nose on.  Why would someone who hates body work attempt all of these projects?  Because I like a challenge and I'm kinda stubborn.  Wait, did I say kinda?  I meant really stubborn.  I want certain kits to look a certain way and I ain't takin' no fer an answer!!  If I can spend four years chopping a 1/25th scale top, I can do this.
"Rat Fink" Ron

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Practice of Perfection

I've been thinking a lot about practice, specifically the type of practice.  The old saying is, "Practice makes perfect."  What if you are practicing wrong?  Let's say you want to learn a new skill like applying bare metal foil, so you go out and you buy some foil to do the trim on one of your cars.  Well, if you don't know how to use it, it can be very frustrating.  How do you get it to stick?  How do you trim it? Do I need a new blade in my knife?  Do I use a Q-tip, my finger, or a toothpick to burnish it down?  These are questions you either have or had about foiling a car ( the answer to the last two is yes). If you don't know the basics, a new skill can be hard to master and can lead to you giving up.  To have authentic practice you must practice proper techniques.
How much practice do you need to master a skill?  Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book, "Outliers" about that very subject.  He states that you need at least 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill, that's about 10 years give or take.  That's a looong time.  Of course, talent will determine how good you get at that skill, because let's face it some guys are just better modelers than others.  A pinstriper called "The Wizard", Steve Chaszeka, tells his students they need to do each of the 10 basic strokes needed to pinstripe 1,000 times to master them, that's 10,000 strokes. Coincidence? I think not.  So in order to master a skill it takes a lot of time and patience.  Think about that next time you try a new skill or technique out on one of your models.
When is practice not really like practice?  I never had to learn to play piano, but from what I've seen on TV and in movies, it must be pretty grueling to practice because some kid's mom is always forcing them to practice.  Building  models should not be that kind of practice, it should be the kind of practice you enjoy.  I recently read an article about "the Zone", and not the Twilight Zone.  "The Zone" is when you are so engrossed in something that you don't notice the passage of time, hours have passed before you know it.  We have all had that experience when you sit down at the old workbench to "do a few things" and next thing you know several hours have passed, the wife has turned out all the lights and is already in bed, the cat is wondering why you're stumbling around in the dark, and your leg is numb from sitting in the same position for so long.  "The Zone" is that special time when all you are concerned about is the kit in front of you, that is also my idea of perfect practice.
What is all of this practice for? Is there some test for modelers to pass?  Is there some intergalactic contest that you must win before you can be admitted to paradise? No test, no super contest, just the personal satisfaction of learning a new skill and doing your best at something you really enjoy.  If you truly enjoy building models, then it would stand to reason that you would enjoy learning to do it better.  One of the best ways to improve your skills is to build your models out of the box, no added details.  You will learn to build cleanly, remove kit imperfections, and how to improve your painting skills.  Out of the box does not mean boring, you can use paint to bring out details and draw attention to your builds.  I've always wanted to see a well built out of the box kit win best of show at a contest, to me, that would say that contests are really about building skills and not just about how much custom made stuff you can hang on a model.  Another good habit is to avoid the "good enough" syndrome. We've all done it, looked at a model we're working on and saying, "aw, who cares, it's just a shelf model."  Yeah, a shelf model, on YOUR shelf where you display the kits that you built for others to see (even if it's just you and the wife; and maybe the cat).  The point I'm making is build for you and make sure that it is up to your standards.  Your shelf models should be the best ones, because you built them for you.  Until next time, perfect practice makes perfect.
"Rat Fink" Ron

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Inspired to Aspire

     What inspires your builds?  Think about what really gets your creative juices flowing, what is it that keeps you going on a build when it falls into that dreaded stage of tediousness that makes you want to throw it in a box and do something else? For me, it's car photos from the internet and car magazines.  That's right I'm a car porn junkie.  My wife kids me a lot about what is in my computer history, it's all car or model related.  I also subscribe to several car magazines and heaven forbid I walk past the magazine rack at the store without browsing to see if there is a car mag I might be interested in.  I take my old Ford to car shows and cruise-ins all summer where I enjoy looking at cars.  Sometimes that isn't enough to keep a build on track, and that doesn't help with a figure build, because let's face it people are everywhere.  What make us pick up a kit out of the huge pile we have or buy one at the hobby shop, and say, "you are the one!!"
     One thing that also help is trying new things on my builds.  I always like to try out a new skill on every build.  I usually try a paint technique I have never done before, whether it's weathering, or a lace paint job, or true fire, or a fade job, or some other old school paint trick, it helps keep my builds fresh.  When you do this you end up with varying degrees of success so sometimes you have to make several attempts to get it right.  Sometimes you get it right and other guys don't think it's as cool as you do, oh well!  I also try to scratchbuild at least one thing on each build. The last build I did I scratch built a gasser front end out of stainless steel tubing, I've built throttle linkage out of empty soda cans, and made fuel lines out of fishing line.  Another thing I do to get me started and keep me going is to try to do some subtle modification or hide something in the paint to see if anyone notices.  I've had mixed success, some things are just too subtle.  I also build a "series" of cars.  What I mean by that is I'll pick a driver or team and build all of the cars they drove in their careers.  I've done most of Bill Elliott's cars, the Ramchargers cars, and the IMSA Mustangs from the '80s.   It's cool to see you only have one or two more cars to build and then you'll have the complete set, IPMS even has a "Collections" category to show off your hard work.  Another fun thing to do that helps a build along is to build a base to display your car on at a show, something built especially for that car.  One finished project displayed really well leads to another.
     We all have a ton of kits in our stash, some guys have over a thousand or two in their stash, and limited time to build.  I always hear about "life getting in the way" of building either before or after I hear about how much time was wasted on the computer or watching television.  As in all things it's about priorities.  If you are really motivated to build, you will make or find the time.  I realize we all go through slumps, I didn't build anything all summer, I didn't even look at a kit.  One thing that fired me up was "Nerd Night" at the local hobby shop.  Every Friday night we get together at the hobby shop to build for a couple of hours or so, shoot the bull, and share ideas.  Being around other modelers inspires me to want to build, that's why a joined a club.  Model clubs are a great way to be motivated and get new ideas, so go get involved with a local model car club or join the IPMS.  Going to model shows is very inspirational, every time I get back from one I am fired up to build something.  So don't just buy up those kits and store them in the basement, build 'em!  Be inspired!  Until next time.
"Rat Fink" Ron

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Here Comes Da Judge!

I know, my posts have been about contests and nothing else.  So far, you'd think all I do is worry about contests, but that's not really true.  I enjoy competition and I also believe that it is the best place to meet modelers with varied interests and skill levels.  A contest is like "church" for modelers, a place to go where it is all about models, where you get ideas, and "recharge" your enthusiasm for building.  It is also is where you are judged for your "sins".  That gets us to this week's topic, judging.
     If you read the message boards you would think that every contest is judged fairly and with the utmost care.  The guys who judge all have immense knowledge of all things automotive and are expert builders.  They are uncompromising and just.  Or maybe they are the only guys on hand that didn't go have a few beers to fill the void instead of judging.  The latter is usually the truth and it leads to some interesting decisions at contests.  Flashy paint and loads of scratchbuilt gee-gaws hide a multitude of sins, while the basics of good construction are ignored.  I have been both the recipient and victim of this judging flaw and more than once I might add.  I have seen cars with massive orange peel paint jobs win over smooth paint, crooked engines with loads of wiring and plumbing beat cars with less bells and whistles but better basic construction.  I have seen runs and dirt in flashy paint jobs beat a simple well done paint job repeatedly.  A car that has been featured in a magazine is a sure winner most places, and a "famous" name will always do well at a contest.  Model car contests are notoriously poorly judged, the question is, why?
     Let's first look at the real car world for a second.  I have an old '59 Ford I play around with and my buddy has a '78 Mustang II.  They are pretty much the same as far as the drive train, hopped up small block Fords with headers, cam intake, etc.  they are both nice and rust free with decent paint.  If we pull into a show, my old Ford tends to get more attention than his, why?  Because most guys don't like the Mustang II, they say it's ugly and isn't a "real" Mustang.  Whatever.  My old '59 is a neat old car you don't see a lot of and has that 1950's coolness to it.  Then let a '57 Chevy pull in, or a Camaro, or a '69 Mustang.  My car is now invisible.  Let's also look at the rules for correctly hopping up your car.  Oh wait, there are no rules.  It's a free for all, do whatever you like.  You can Pro Street it, Pro Tour it, Resto Mod it, Rat Rod it, Restore it, do a Kustom, a cruiser, or what ever you like.  Whatever you do, someone will think it's pretty cool and someone will think it sucks.  Unlike the Armor, Airplane, & Ship (or A.A.S., pronounce it however you want) crowd, there is no correct way to build a car, hot rod, or what ever.  It's all subjective, if you love Mustangs and hate Camaros, you are going to lean in favor of the Ponies.  If you think any Funny Car built after 1978 is crap, it is harder for you to see a 90's F/C in a good light.  If you're positive you'll poke your eyes out with an Exacto knife if you see one more super-detailed NASCAR, you tend not to pick them as a winner.
     That brings us back to where we started, basic construction techniques.  No matter how much crap is added to the build, no matter how cool the paint, if the basics aren't covered, it should not win.  Orange peel in the paint is unacceptable with today's paint products.  Crooked motors are wrong no matter how much of the car was scratch built.  Seam lines and sink marks should never be seen on a finished build.  All of the photo-etch, wiring, resin, and scratch built stuff is cool, but it has to be well built at the basic level first.  Because cars are so subjective they must be judged on basic skills first, degree of difficulty second, and subject matter last.  Next time we'll talk about inspiration for for builds and get off the contest deal for a while.
"Rat Fink" Ron

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Spirit of Competition

Let's talk contests. This is a subject that can evoke lots of different emotions for modelers.  Some guys love contests and some guys are terrified of them.  Some guys are literally trophy whores while others are truly surprised when they win.  I have some ideas about this I'd like to share with you.
     Let's start with the trophy whore.  Everybody says they are not him and they will go on and on about how they hate this guy. Well, I'm throwing the bullshit flag.  Everybody likes to win! The guy who doesn't want to win stayed home because he truly doesn't care.  If you spent the time and effort to drive to and enter a contest you thought you had some pretty cool stuff to show off and you would like to be recognized for your efforts.  I know I do.  We all have to admit, it's a pretty cool feeling to walk up there and get the hardware while our peers applaud. It's a way cooler (way more cool?) feeling to be the guy that needs help to get all of his trophies to his car.  Face it, we have all driven home after winning something, be it model contests or anything else, with that smile on our faces you couldn't slap off.  So what is the difference between feeling good about having other modelers appreciate your hard work and being a trophy whore?  The grace with which you handle winning. The guy who is truly humble says thanks for the recognition, enjoys the moment, and looks forward to the next time he can compete.  He always walks into a contest knowing he may not win and he is truly glad for the guys who do win.  He accepts the fact that he may not always agree with the judges and has a "we'll get 'em next time attitude" when it happens.  The trophy whore always wants more.  More awards for things that are well done on his car.  He has an issue with "spreading the wealth" and always looks down on his competition.  He secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) wishes those with lesser skills would stay home and not clutter up the contest tables.  When he wins, you will know it, he will make sure of it.  My favorite comment from the trophy whore is, "I have boxes of these at home, I just stick them in my basement,  I don't even display them anymore I have so many."
     Then we have Mr. Sore Loser.  We've all done it at one time or another.  You put your latest superbuild out there on the table next to an OK build and you know you've got this in the bag.  You can already see the award on your shelf.  Lots of guys at the contest come up and tell you how great your car is and want to know everything about it.  How did you build that? What color is that? How did you do that?  The magazines want to photograph it.  You have this in the bag.  They start the awards and you end up empty handed.  What the duck in his underwear driving a Honda is going on?  That loser pile of gluebomb shit got an award and mine didn't? I'M NEVER COMING BACK TO THIS STUPID CONTEST AGAIN!!! You rant and rave, you tell all of your friends how bad this contest sucks, you post on the internet that this bunch of inbred, numbskull, half wit, degenerate, living in their mom's basement, never had a woman, clubfooted, overweight, bald, butt like a woman, wouldn't know a good model if it smacked 'em in the face, wanna be judges couldn't run a contest if their life depended on it.  OK, maybe that's a bit much, but you're upset, you feel cheated.  What separates a sore loser from the guy who is just not happy about losing? The ability to move on.  That's it, the ability to say, even though you may have clear evidence you were cheated, we'll get 'em next time.  It's not childish to have hurt feelings when you don't win, it's childish to let them interfere with sharing another's joy in winning.
     Those are the two biggies I see at contests, the trophy whore and the sore loser.  These guys can ruin a contest in a hurry, especially for themselves.  Which brings me to the real point of this post, why do you go , or not go, to contests?  I go to meet other modelers and see what other guys are doing so I can improve my own builds.  Because in truth, I'm never really happy with my stuff.  I always see room for improvement, I strive for perfection.  Meeting other modelers and seeing their builds helps me in my pursuit. Next time I'll share my thoughts on judging.
"Rat Fink" Ron

Friday, November 15, 2013

More, Better, or More Betterer?

I have about 200 kits in my stash from cars to figures to all kinds of goofy stuff like a model of a guillotine.  I'm betting compared to most guys my stash is a little on the low side, because I know guys that have 1000 kits in their basement.  You're probably already thinking, "this is going to be one of those, we're getting old and won't be able to build them all" type of posts.  You are wrong.  This is a "should I build more kits faster or build fewer kits better and more detailed?" post.
I have a friend, Matt, that builds at lightning speed.  He builds several kits a month, mostly box stock or close to it, with some cool graphics on them.  He goes to shows with a huge plastic container of cars to shows and usually wins a few awards.  His stuff is pretty cool, but lacks details and realism to some degree. I'm not knocking his stuff, it's good, just not great.  I have another friend, Rob, he spent a year building a 1/12th scale Mustang.  This this is awesome! Machined parts, custom panel work, wired, plumbed, custom built exhaust, paint like glass, the works.  This thing wins best of show everywhere, it has been a feature car in Scale Auto Magazine, and has numerous awards for everything under the sun.
The question I pose is this:  Should you build more models or better models?  Would you rather have every kit in your stash built or 5 kits built to the nth degree?  I recently challenged myself with this very question and I decided I would rather build one kit exceptionally well rather than 5 kits just OK.  I have challenged myself to slow down, not say, "it's close enough", and to plan out my builds better.  The other thing I do is...*GASP*... buy fewer kits!  I know you're thinking, "but dude, there are so many cool kits coming out and I don't buy them how will my local hobby shop stay in business?" Well, buy all of those really cool detailing parts and lots of them, buy those cool decals from Slixx, learn to build better, and paint better.  Scratchbuild stuff, add metal parts, create stuff, and learn to paint realistic finishes both on the top and bottom of your kits.  Make them look real!  Take some tips from the "rivet counters" and don't be afraid to stretch your skills.  Develop "Singularity of Focus", something I made up to describe when you concentrate on one thing and do it well.  You can use this to develop one skill to perfection or develop a set of skills.
So, do you want to build more kits, build better, or build more betterer?  Next time we'll talk about contests and judging, this should get pretty messy.
"Rat Fink" Ron


Welcome to Model Fink, a blog about model cars, model figures, and modeling in general. This is not a how-to blog, although there may be some how-to's. It's not a show you what I'm building blog, but there will be some of that, too.  My main focus will be thoughts on modeling, model companies, modelers, and contests.  To give you some background, I built model cars as a kid in the '70's, built a few in the early '80's, quit all together in the late '80's and early '90's, then hopped back in the the late '90's and I have been at it ever since.  I build mostly cars, street machines, road racers, '70's funny cars, A F/X cars, a few hot rods, a few front engine dragsters, but I really love building Show Rods. I build mostly Fords and a few Chryslers, with very few GM products.  I also build figures; garage kits, model soldiers, and goofy figures like the Ed Roth "Finks" from the '60's.  I've been entering contests for about 5 years or so and I have won a few awards.  I heavily involved in the Buckeye Scale Auto Club here in Columbus, Ohio, having been president or vice-president for several years.  I am a key organizer of our contest the Buckeye Classic and I have organized several contests for the local hobby shop, Hobbyland. I am also a member of the IPMS, although I don't go to the local meetings.  Feel free to comment as we go along, hopefully I'll share so insights you will enjoy.
"Rat Fink" Ron