|MAKING LEMONADE - We've all heard the old expression, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade". Well, I suggest
applying this philosophy to your model building experiences, as well as life in general. The quality and detailing in most of today's
plastic model kits is vastly superior to the kits that I built as a kid. There are also a wide range of kits available in mediums other
than plastic, such as cast resin, and molded vinyl. Unfortunately, along with the increase in the quality and variety of model kits,
there's also been a rather dramatic increase in cost.
Fine, sharp, molding, and accurate scale and detailing are things we've come to expect in model kits. Most of the major kit
manufacturers like Tamiya or Dragon / DML live up to our expectations - at least most of the time. But what do you do when you
get a kit that turns out to be a lemon (a kit where parts don't fit together right, or parts are warped, or surface details are just
unintelligible little lumps, or some parts don't scale properly with the other parts in the kit)? Well, you could just trash the kit and
end up wasting all the money you paid for it, OR you can make the best of it and find ways to finish the kit so it's flaws aren't so
obvious. For example, say you're building a model of a 1950s era car and the detailing on the 'fabric' covered seats is virtually
nonexistent - the seats are smooth lumps and you can't tell what they're supposed to be made of. Try covering the seats with
surgical tape before painting them the desired color - this will give a clearly 'fabric' texture to the seats and seat-backs.
As another example, you've got a very nice model of a vintage car, every thing's cool, except the headlights, which are just solid
lumps of colored plastic. Where are those nice clear headlight lenses you were expecting? You can fix this with a little patience,
and a little work, by drilling out the front of the headlights, painting the interior bright silver, then filling the headlights with liquid
acrylic medium - bingo, nice clear, realistic looking headlights (see my article on improving military vehicle headlights on PAGE 3).
In some cases, you can cover or hide flaws in a kit by covering them over with new / added details.
If you're into military models, like I am, you've always got the option of using weathering techniques to cover or hide flaws in a
model's surface detailing (mud, dirt, rust, can cover a world of poorly molded details). Some major flaws in parts fit, or just the
overall accuracy of the kit's detailing can be literally covered over - just add 'combat storage' items to your military vehicle (add
crates, oil drums, canvas tarps, backpacks, ammo boxes, etc.). You can also use very heavy weathering (lots of mud or lots of
debris from bombed buildings, etc) to cover imperfections in your finished military vehicle.
If a kit is a real dog - and this does still occur from time to time, military models can be saved by destroying them. Huh? No, you
don't stomp on your kit, you build it to look like it's taken extensive combat damage by applying some or all of the following
detailing techniques - a. Use a soldering iron, or heated Philips-head screwdriver and literally punch holes in the vehicle's body
so it looks like it's taken hits from artillery or tank shells. Be sure to finish the area around each 'shell hole' with some gouging and
/ or scorching to give a more realistic look. b. If your kit's tracks or road wheels aren't great, pose your model so it
looks like it hit a land mine or took a hit from a small caliber anti-tank gun - blown off tracks and road wheels is a very common
form of combat damage, especially for tanks and half-tracks. c. Badly formed or damaged surface details can sometimes simply
be removed or omitted when you build a military model - items like headlights, grab irons, supply racks, headlight guards, are all
susceptible to all sorts of damage under combat conditions. Just be sure to make the absence of such details look like field
damage by making the area around the missing part look like its paint has been scraped away or add some rust marks where
the part should've been.
Luckily, today's model builder has one other major option for correcting flaws in a model kit. Badly formed, or incorrectly or
inadequately detailed parts can often be replaced by 'after market' parts. For example, there are many machined aluminum
gun barrels available for a wide variety of model tanks. There are kits, often in cast resin, for building well detailed engines.
There are all sorts of 'photo-etched' brass parts available for adding sharper, more accurately scaled details to your models.
IN SHORT - when you get a kit that's 'not quite right', don't get frustrated and toss it in the trash. Take a little time to think and
find ways to correct the problems, or put your model in a diorama or vignette where it is deliberately 'trashed', so that the
flaws blend in with all the 'damage' you apply to the model (Really bad car kit? How about a vignette with the car plowed into a
brick wall, or phone pole - it happens all the time, so you can make your model look as banged up as you want and you may
end up with something more interesting than the kit right out of the box).
|ABOVE - This vignette is titled,
Volksturm, and shows a
Russian SU-76 assault gun on
the outskirts of Berlin. As the
vignette's title suggests, the
SU-76 has been destroyed by
a local Volksturm unit. Note the
civilian figures armed with tank
|RIGHT - This Allan SU-76 kit
has poor surface detailing & a
few badly molded parts - note
the gap in the hand-rail at the
rear of the fighting compartment
Fallen bricks, plaster, and other
debris covers many of the
surface detail flaws. The heavy
weathering (brick and road
dust, etc) helps make the model
look truly 'beat up', distracting
you from the poor detailing.
|ABOVE - The fenders on this kit are out of scale,
they're too thick. Also, the drive sprockets were
poorly molded, and the tracks are not as well
detailed as they should be. All these 'flaws' were
fixed by modeling a Panzerfaust hit that blew off
the track and drive sprocket, as well as bending
the fender out of shape. The right side of the
SU-76 was set close to the brick wall, so the flaws
in these areas simply aren't visible.
LEFT - To complete the 'destroyed' appearance
of my SU-76 model, I used a heated screwdriver
to create a hole where the frontal armor was
penetrated by a Panzerfaust rocket / shell. Note
how the green paint was blown away around the
hit point and bare metal shows through. Also,
note the jagged edges of the hole, for a more
realistic 'blasted metal' look.
A gap between the left-side corner plate and the
front armor plate of the fighting compartment is
neatly hidden by a fallen brick.
|I don't usually like doing 'destroyed' vehicles, but a little imagination and a little extra work let me complete this Allan SU-76 kit
despite the problems I had with it, and I ended up creating a fairly nice, interesting, little scene where the SU-76 is actually more
interesting looking than it would have been if I'd built it 'right out of the box'.
The point of this article is simple - if you've got a model kit where things are going wrong or parts and details aren't living up to
your expectations, don't junk it! Take a little time and, as Tim Gunn might say, 'make it work'!
ADDITIONAL INFO - See PAGE 1, Article # 3 and PAGE 3, Article # 1
|AN EXAMPLE OF 'CREATIVE DESTRUCTION' - DESTROYING A MODEL TO SAVE IT FROM THE TRASH-CAN