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