Model building is an universal hobby. I can say without a doubt that in pretty much every corner of the world there are people building models of cars, plains, buildings and everything else. It’s a hobby that allows you to get your artistic skills, to get your mind off of something and gives your hands something to do. I’ve heard that an old man started building ship models out of wood in order to keep himself occupied from smoking.
What fascinates in models is rather tricky to explain. One one hand you’re creating something either from given building blocks, or from scratch. LEGOs can be thought as a model building lite in the sense that it offers somewhat cartoony representation of a police station to build and to play with. With both the most challenging phase (at first) is the building; to make the model the best you can. Not to leave a seam open, to push every nub into right place and check every corner that no excess material exists. To be precise as possible… if that’s what the modeller strives for. Building a model takes time and effort, and if one is willing to put their earnest for it, it’ll show in the end result. Taking one Revell plane and fixing it up won’t take much time for a seasoned model builder, but for a newcomer even Level 2 tank can be a challenge. It builds up certain skills, like eye-hand coordination and nerves. When you’re finished with installing 2mm gatling gun to a 3mm base successfully, you can stand in a line for few ten minutes without a hitch. To put it simply, it’s the joy of building something.
Scratch building is an interesting field of model building. It starts from having, well, nothing but the basic building blocks of the model, like few sheets of plastic and tubes. From here the modeller starts to shape buildings and trains, bends the tubes into arches for a bridge and so on. This is perhaps the most pure version of model building, where one isn’t restricted to pre-existing blocks. I take my hats off if you’re one of these modellers, as I don’t have the patience for this kind of building. However, give me steel materials and a workshop, and I’ll create a model out of them.
The second point that attracts people into models is what they can do to them. Customization in a word. It’s a whole other thing to get a ready model and be done with it. Some are perfectly content with it, as it would most likely represent the real world object 1:1. Some people wish to go over this and customize the model to their liking, to make it something their own. Creating a whole new top paint, changing the weaponry or the dashboard, adding small details like physical scratches or converting a propel plane into a jet version of itself that never left the drawing board.
This customization isn’t anything particularly special to model building, but it is the other insanely huge part of it, at least to some of the model builders out there. It’s a highly debated point if an uncustomized model is finished or not. The most basic example would be models that come with colours ready in the molding phase. With unpainted models they look plasticy, and models based on cartoons do tend to look rather toyish with their plastic look. Applying a layer of paint makes them somehow more “finished.” Personally, I leave some models unpainted and then paint some models. Depends on the model and it’s molding mostly.
The two previous points basically creates the whole modelling experience from start to finish. Depending on your tastes the other may take over the other, and both are equally just as important as the other. Some models actually only concentrate on one of the aspects, and thus the market actually has a nice variation from which you can choose from. While some modellers argue that these build-kits are child’s play when compared to some Bugatti model from the mid-90’s, I’d give them a fair treatment as these models usually also have extremely sturdy and high quality parts, as well as other functions. Those who get the reference about the Bugatti may start jugging alcohol down already.
I’d like to take a look at these pre-coloured models. In Japan these robot models, or rather models that are build into toys, are called Plamo. Plastic Model. Granted, this term can be used to describe every plastic model in general, but for the sake of accuracy it should be used for these kind of models. Gunpla or Gunplamo is a subsection of Plamo that is only about Gundam plastic models. The above example is a Takemikazuchi from MuvLuv Alternative. The modeller here has chosen to prime the plastic with gray and dark brow, and then given it a nice red overpaint. While some painting is a little bit strange at places due to given shading, we can say that it’s rather nice for the modeller’s first time with an airbrush. Seams are pretty well hidden to the point that an untrained eye can’t see them at all. All of this has been done after the initial building and most likely has taken majority of the modeller’s time. However, he feels that it is something he himself wishes to do and I respect his endeavours for that. Personally I would’ve gone with a white primer in order to make the red glow lighter, but as said, everybody to their own.
Some models you might want to paint, but then again there are models that are transparent to a degree, so painting would defeat that purpose. The bike above screams some paint to be splashed over because one side has some serious molding errors in the green parts, but that would be rather stupid. This is the last model I’ve build for some time now, and this was more than a year ago.
Then there’s these models that you put together in less than ten minutes. Five if you’re using some fast glue. This Iczer-One model here is all about painting. Painting is a challenge of skill, and I have to confess that my painting is skill is a bit lacking, but has been developed during the recent years. During next summer I hope that this project will come into a nice fruition, as well as one car that I’ve been holding back because creating weathered leather surface is a bitch task.
To emphasize as last, in model building everybody has their own way. Some people just build models for the sake of building and are content that you can view their work as in detail. Some want to ditch most of the building process and concentrate on the customization altogether. There’s no one way to to build a model, no matter what people may tell you. The freedom to do what you wish is one hidden attraction model building has.
Model building has rather steep learning curve, but extremely rewarding one. However, there’s an alternative for this; LEGO. I already talked about how LEGO and models share the same basic idea of building, but let’s dwell a little bit more into the common things they share.
Much like most models, LEGO sets come in many pieces that have to be out together according to the instruction booklet. However, unlike in most models the LEGO blocks can be separated and reused for multiple purposes. It’s no secret that you should be able to mix and match all of the blocks and build something completely new, a thing that models can’t compete with. However, pretty much anything you make with LEGO blocks will end up being rather cartoony. Awesome perhaps, but the blockiness will always be there. It’s both good and bad, depending what you are trying to build and achieve.
LEGO blocks are pretty good gateway to model building. I’d argue that model building leaves something more permanent to, both mentally and physically. I’ve experienced and heard multiple stories of awesome LEGO constructs that ended up being taken apart by a mother. A model on the other hand, while most likely meeting the same fate, has more value overall. I’d like to get into LEGO building again, but seeing that I can make the most with steel, plastics and wood kinda pulls me in further. I’m not limited by the blocks, no matter how much possibilities they offer.
Another rather large phenomena that comes close to model building, or rather model customization, is the My Little Pony fan community. At least they used to. I have no idea how these “bronies” work, and quite honestly, I have no intention of finding out.
Back in the day, like in the 80’s and early 90’s man, girls got their Transformers in form of ponies. I’m sidestepping everything about them and I’ll just say that at one point it became stable to fashion the pony toys to your own liking; to customize them. Locally this wasn’t as widespread as you’d think, but looking back at some archived pictured long time pony fans have been showing around, it’s pretty apparent that customization was important. Girls would make their own accessories, repaint the emblems and eyes, and so on. It’s very similar to these nearly finished models that offer more painting customization challenge, like the Iczer-One above. While LEGO customization isn’t uncommon, pony customization is as widespread as flu and almost as bad.
There’s numerous things that have a lot in common with model building, from prototype building to building building. It’s an easy hobby overall to get started with, and a hobby that might suck you with it. Or push you away like a mad bull. It could go either way. There’s also this interesting point that it seems that model building is regarded as a men’s hobby foremost, thou I know from experience that few ladies out there have enjoyed it as well. Taking that out of context works just as well, as these magic hands of mine can work on a lot of things with minimum amount of experience.
ANYWAY I didn’t really want to touch on subject of miniatures, a thing that warrants its own post at a later date. The way I wanted this post to come out was to say what are some of the points that fascinate in model building. It’s a personal hobby, and everybody finds their own thing inside it.
Personally, one driving force behind model building for me is that they exist, or have existed at some point. To paraphrase, ‘a battleship was not only a weapon, but also a place where people lived their lives. The dreams and dramas of the individuals on those ships will always be there. These battleships are build by hands of many craftsman, and many people die during the battles they have. These battleships are lost forever in the midst of war, and if one takes a model of one of these ships and builds it with an earnest mind and pure intentions, the model is a testament for those who designed it, built it, lived on it and died on it. It’s to show respect towards those who came before you, and remember them.’
With MuvLuv models, it’s to recognize it all.