Saturday, February 22, 2014

So You Want to Learn the Force... Help You I Can

What have you given back to this hobby?  I hear lots of chatter about getting kids involved in the hobby, but let's face it, if you were 12 and had to choose between sitting quietly and building a model or blowing shit up in a video game, you would choose the latter.  Times have changed and we are the dinosaurs we thought we'd never become.  So I'll repeat the question, what have you given back to the hobby?  If you go to a contest you will see guys building at all skill levels, from the bomb diggty super excellent over the top builder to the I wired the motor and slapped a decent paint job on it builder to the I used four tubes of glue and painted it in dust storm builder.  When was the last time you talked to those guys?  I bet you had no problem talking to the top shelf builder and spent a lot of time picking his brain about how he did this or that.  What about the up and comers? Did you make time for them?  At the club meeting are you seeking out the lesser skilled builders and offering advise and help if they want it?  Notice I didn't say criticism, some guys don't want to hear it, they are happy to build the way they are building.  Other guys are hungry to improve and want some advice on how to do that, find those guys and help them.
What I'm saying here is be a mentor and find a mentor.  For those who don't know a mentor is an experienced and trusted adviser. This does not mean to glom on to the best builder you know, it means find a guy that is a little better, or a little more experienced than you and ask for advice.  Then take that advice.  That is the hard part, taking the advice, that is why your mentor must be trusted.  The other cool thing about a mentor ship is that it usually starts out as a friendship because a mentor has to be someone you trust.  You may also have to change mentors as your skill develops, of course that doesn't mean that you lose friends, it means you get to make more friends.  The cool thing about having a mentor is that you can be a mentor at the same time you are being mentored.  As you are developing your skills you can share the skills you already have and you can share how you learned it.  As with anything else, there are good mentors and bad, if a guy isn't helping you out, be friends but don't expect to gain from the friendship.
I have had several mentors throughout my building "career" and some didn't even know they were mentors, as these things are usually very informal.  I used to live in a small city and I didn't really know any modelers, so I built to what I thought was to a high standard, then I went to a contest and not just any contest, the Toledo NNL.  I thought my stuff was going to knock those guys eyes out.  About 15 minutes after I set my cars down and I looked around a little bit, I wanted to grab my crappy builds and run.  A couple of guys came up and talked to me and I looked at their cars and they looked at mine.  They were polite and the best part was, they kept talking to me like I knew what I was doing even after they saw my crappy shit .  I didn't go to another contest for a long time.  I later moved to a small town, built in my basement and collected kits until I finally found a club about 50 miles away and I got involved with them.  At the same time, I got involved in several groups online and got some good advice there.  Some guys from the club invited me to a few contests and because of the advice from them and others I actually won something.  I became good friends with one of the guys who had entered lots of contests and usually did pretty well but was not a "Best of Show" winner.  He gave me advise and help with the ins and outs of contests and I learned a ton.  Then I got as good as him at contests.  Another guy from the club started giving me advise on my builds and how to do things, he is a consistent "Best of Show" winner.  I learned more and my skills are improving.  Then a local IPMS guy who has won national awards several times and is a really good military modeler started to give me help and advice.  I'm positive my skills will improve.  By the way, these mentor ships all started out as friendships, trust is huge.  These guys also kind of "sought me out" as a builder who wants to improve and is willing to learn.  At the same time as these guys are helping me, I have tried to help others improve by sharing the skills I have mastered and giving advice and encouragement to guys that want to improve.
We all have a vision in our heads of what we want our models to look like.  Some of us come closer to that vision than others.  If you have the skill set to help a guy achieve his goal, help a brother out.  If you want to improve you building, seek out those who build better than you and learn from them.  Make friends with builders of all stripes and be a part of the community, and as Robocop would say, "Thank you for your support."
"Rat Fink" Ron

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Judgement Day

Yesterday was the local IPMS show here in Buckeye capital of the universe.  Every year they put on a great show and draw lots of models and modelers.  They had 525 entries this year which was a little down from previous years due to the weather.  Our club goes every year and we take lots of awards in both the adult and master categories, several guys have tables in the vendor area, and a few of us judge.  I am usually asked to judge the automotive categories and I usually decline and judge tanks or more appropriately, the armor category.  Since there are judging "teams" of 3 guys my lack of specific knowledge of tanks is really not a factor, but my knowledge of good modeling is welcome.  I find it really great to look at other styles of models with a critical eye and see what the other side of modeling is up to.  The tank and plane guys tend to look at car modelers as "just playing with toys" not as serious modelers while the car guys think the military guys are "rivet counters".  Both statements are true to some extent and both are foolish generalizations to some extent.  It is fun to see what the other half is up to and I always learn something when I judge tanks.
This year, I had to judge the cars.  They didn't really have enough car guys to judge the automotive stuff so another club member and I hopped in to help out, since both of us had cars in the master categories, we judged the adult classes.  Other club members had cars in the adult class so I had to judge cars that I had seen being built and in some cases, had offered advice on how to fix flaws.  This is the exact reason I don't like to judge cars, I'm pretty sure I'm way too hard on the cars I have seen and know from the guys in our club.  The guys in the IPMS always want a car guy to judge the automotive area but it is really hard since I usually know the car guys and their cars, it's hard to be objective.  I try to encourage the military guys to judge cars and the car guys to judge military not only to minimize bias, but to let modeling skills be judged on a level plane.  A good model shows up in the skill of the builder, not in the subject.  I prefer to judge and be judged on my modeling skill, rather than what kit I chose to build, I think most modelers are the same way.
So make sue when you go to a contest that you hop in and help with the judging, you may learn something and you may find out that the other side ain't so bad.
"Rat Fink" Ron

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Failure, Not As Epic As You Think

Failure.  No one likes it, but everyone does it.  We all fail at some point, no matter how much we try, plan, and prepare something goes wrong.  Sometimes failure seems to out weigh success and even the littlest thing just won't go the way we'd like it to go.  In modeling, failure is ultimately up to you, the builder, to decide.  Some kits fail on a monumental scale and you really have no say in the matter because no matter what you do, that puppy ain't going together.  That is a whole different matter, some kits are not meant to be built.  I'm talking more about the difference between paint that's "close enough" and paint that get a bath in the "purple pond".
The old saying, "If at first you don't succeed, try and try again" applies to modeling as well as life.  How well you deal with failure is the measure of your success.  I recently have been working on my 1957 Ford for an upcoming contest and I scratchbuilt the fuel injection set up for the 312 motor in the kit.  It came time to think about the injector stacks on it so I bought some short injector stacks from Detail Master.  For those that are unfamiliar with the old Ford Y-Blocks, the intake ports are stacked vertically in pairs, not in the usual horizontal arrangement we are used to seeing.  The injectors have to be short and very close together to fit in the tight space.  When the Detail Master parts arrived they were too big for the little Y-Block, so I had some tall injector stacks that were smaller in diameter so I cut them down to 1/8" to fit, still too tall.  I whacked off another 1/16" and they were still too big in diameter to fit correctly.  I tried flattening the sides to mover them closer together and they were still a little too wide to fit. I then had to create some 1/16" tall injector stacks out of aluminum tube to get them to fit.  This little exercise in failure took about four hours; and a lot of swearing.
Later, I needed to build a front spoiler, or "air plow" for this Bonneville Beast, so I got out a piece of aluminum, cut what I needed and then made a futile attempt at gluing it to front bumper of the old Ford. It never happened, it just wouldn't fit right and in the process I managed to rub all of the Alclad off the bumper, and scratched the black under coat to the point that I needed to redo it.  I then decided to glue the "air plow" to the bumper support and that worked better.  Total time for that little fiasco: about three hours.  I also sanded through the clear coat twice, which caused a repaint each time.  Lots of "fails" on one car.
I'm not writing this to impress you with my building ability or to whine about the trials and tribulations of model car building, I'm writing this to explore the idea of what makes a person successful.  Success with model building, as well as success in any endeavor, are directly related to a person's ability to handle failure.  I've been following a thread on the Model Cars Magazine Forum about a build of the Army Vega Funny car in 1/16th scale.  The craftsmanship on this car is amazing, so I commented on how nice it is and how I hope to improve my skills to this level.  I got a reply back from the builder that said,"Thank you sir. I appreciate the kind words. My advice about adding more detail is to not be afraid and go for it, and do it little steps at a time. I can't tell you how many things on this build that I redid 2 or 3 times."  We tend to forget that when we see the final product.  We don't know how many "fails" were involved to get it right.  Any great accomplishment has a history of failures to its name.  So next time you think you need to throw that model against the wall (which I have done) remember, you may be one redo away from success.
"Rat Fink" Ron