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david leigh-smith
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The doctor is in…

March 8, 2018 · in Uncategorized · 153 · 6.4K

The doctor is in.

In many of the threads I've have contributed to recently I have picked up on several quirks, oddities, complaints, philosophical questions, and existential wrestling, plus the occasional rant from this wonderful brotherhood of plastic worshippers. So, I had a thought. Perhaps there should be a place in this (self) esteemed community for us men (really, name me a single female member) to just 'get it off our chests'.

No professional advice, just a plenary forum to air modeling or even real world observations, musings, or just relieving the pent up frustrations from hours on the bench. Nothing too serious, please, we all get enough of that real world. We men get accused all the time of not talking about our feelings. But you know, I've had at least one emotion so far this year and it's not even Easter, so flex those sharing muscles.

Let's snip ourselves from the sprue of convention and free ourselves of the tyranny of pre-shading and super detailing that GE-CH5 turbo super-charger. Just for a while. It's an intense hobby, can be isolating (one of the joys), but really, have you met one non-modeler who 'gets' why you do it? Do we even get why we do it?

I'll post some of my own thoughts along the way and see if we pick up some passengers on this road less travelled. So whether you have OCD (Obsessive Corsair Disorder - you know who you are...) PTSD (Plastic Deficiency Stress Disorder), or just had a nervous breakdown after building the CV6 for the past seven months AND THEN WON-HUI LEE MAKES THE BEST DAMNED ENTERPRISE I'M EVER GOING TO SEE (I'll get over it, or at least my own quack says so) - just free associate, ramble, be yourself, you can even talk plastic if you really want to.

Relax, take a load off, lay on the couch and let it all out. Well, everyone apart from Won-hui Lee, obviously.

Reader reactions:
13  Awesome

153 responses

  1. David, I LOVE your sense of humour. I like this whole idea. Oh ... your drawing is excellent as well.

    Please schedule an appointment for me.

    Uh ... do you have a receptionist or other helper we must be aware of?
    (Sorry about ending the sentence with a preposition.) (Perhaps I should have written; "Uh ... do you have a receptionist or other helper of whom we need to be aware.")

    This is just what the Doctor ordered.

  2. Jeff, Sit down, take a seat. I sense a little reluctance to get on with what's really bothering you, so take a deep breath and just let it all out. This has all the hall marks of the grunt going to the company medic and saying, "well, my friend has this little itch..."

    Of course if it is just a grammar issue I can pass you on to Prof. David A. Thomas who I believe will be along here soon...

  3. There is a great modeler – Valentin Muchichko. You may not know him, but he was doing master models for ICM back years ago – He-70, Ki-27, He-51 and some others – before the Era of 3D. I've tried to translate one of his famous phrases about scale modeling: "Our models is a specific by-product of a process of improving our souls – the material artifact, needed only by ourselves and understandable only by such as ourselves.".

  4. Dmitry, this is wonderful, wonderful quote. Thanks for sharing. I am sometimes guilty of being a little awkward about my hobby. At least two colleagues (who searched my name on the interwebs) have said to me, "are you the same David Leigh-Smith that has a model making blog" - people's responses are always much more positive than I think they'll be. Maybe stems from childhood and being a bit embarrassed about it all, especially regarding my father, who never understood why I did it. Apparently it wasn't manly.

    “Our models is a specific by-product of a process of improving our souls – the material artifact, needed only by ourselves and understandable only by such as ourselves.” - That will go on my cave wall, Dmitry. Thanks.

  5. David , I could not of put it any better. LOL

  6. Hi Simon, and thanks for joining us. Loved your image on the true age of Airfix kits...

  7. Doc, I've got this phantom phlombisis phixation, just when I think that I'm cured, I have to build another one.

    1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

  8. I'd love to talk about what's really bothering me of late, but I don't think anyone would be the least bit interested in my mundane droll. And it has nothing to do with modeling (well...maybe a tad to do with it). At any rate, I digress with prevailing upon the modeling community to offer advice, tips, techniques, suggestions or any other form(s) of therapy that would undoubtedly be of little or no help with my dilemma. However, I may "open up" somewhere down the road when/if this thread has so many responses that my situation will hopefully be lost among the many replies and [hopefully] be passed over without a lot of people actually reading it. To quote the line uttered by Forrest Gump "...and that's all I have to say about that.." 🙁

    • Craig, you are among friends here. The only reason I'm back on this site after a rotten back end to 2017 (boy, am I glad to see the end of THAT year) is because friends reached out (you know who you are, thank you).

      You are an institution here, my friend. Whatever ails you, it doesn't stop you supporting people here and being a huge part of what makes iModeler different. And that's all I have to say about that...

      • Thank you, David...I don't know about my being an "institution" (although I may end up in one before too long), but I shall indeed ponder your advice, as it were, and perhaps post something down the road. Some here already know of which I speak, but I don't think this is the place to "air ones' dirty laundry", no matter the topic.

        • Craig, if we had an iModeler 'hall of fame' you'd be in it for sure. We all know how much you reach out to (especially new/first time 'posters) members with that easy style of yours.

          The thread here is a bit of fun, but as Tom C has shown, it can also just allow us to get to know people a bit more than just what they build. I'd hope no-one ever feels the need to air their laundry unless completely comfortable (as in Tom) with it. I (as well as many, many of your friends) respect your contributions to this community far too much for that, Craig.

          • To be frank, I simply haven't had the inclination to build anything in the recent months. Since the passing of my wife last September, I've become pretty much of a 'couch potato" - don't go anywhere other than to get groceries or the like. On the computer several times every day. Get up in the morning and go through my usual 'routine' and veg out (me and my two cats). Just can't get in the "zone" anymore. My one and only respite is my weekly poker game with my fellow former co-workers. I do see a lady (strictly platonic) for company, dinner, movies, shopping, etc. (she was the in-home care giver on my card night during the last few weeks when Joan was still here). Allow me be even more frank...I've developed "feelings" for this person, but she doesn't share my emotions to the same level as I'd hoped - and THAT bothers me, too. There. NOW that's all I have to say about that. Thanks. I needed to vent.

          • I thought long and hard about responding 'in sight' or via private message, but I think this is best because you have chosen to talk about something difficult that we can all learn something from. Craig, my respect for you (it was already high) has risen several notches.
            I know several of us in this community (including myself) have been through horrible times recently. Five months is the blink of an eye when we lose someone. In Jewish custom, we allow people to have a year where they can totally lose it after someone close dies. They can go crazy, drink, isolate themselves, dig a hole, whatever - but after that year someone will say, "right, let's get back on track".

            Making scale models seems like a ridiculous and trivial thing at these times. But the process of it, the concentration, and more importantly the interest are the real things we get from building. Get back on the horse, amigo - even (especially) if you don't feel like it.

            Don't be hard on yourself (hell, who of us hasn't had feelings for someone that didn't feel the same way?) and just ease yourself into the things you used to enjoy.

            I said before, you are an institution here on iModeler and an important part of why this site has become different to similar forums. Get back in the saddle. And that's all I'm going to say about that...

          • You are a VERY wise man, David. Your advice to Craig is spot-on and I have a lot of respect for you as well as to Craig for being able to "air his laundry" so to speak on a public forum.

            Craig, I don't mean the "laundry" comment with ANY disrespect, my friend. I believe you were the 1st person who became my iModeler friend. I have many friends here because I remember how cool it seemed that some of these "old timers" with many postings would "friend" me, a "newbie" - or FNG as we said in the service. So now when I see a new person make a comment here, I shoot them a friendship request. Funny thing is, MOST of those new folks have one friend already - Craig! Having a friend on iModeler may not seem like much but I have made friends with a number of folks here whom I consider to be REAL friends. Sadly, I have only met one of those great folks in person, but there's still time to meet others. Having someone you can confide to or simply share a laugh with is important. That's all I have to say about that.

          • Jeff, I don't see this so much as a public forum, it's a community of friends and as such there's no 'dirty laundry'. Look at the posts here (yours especially) and you'll see a lot of respect and support. If someone chooses to talk about a hard time on this site, it makes me feel I know that person more and their posts mean more to me. I don't have many 'real' friends as I'm quite introspective and take people on very much on my terms. I value my iModeler friends.

            The tag line of iModeler is 'social scale modeling' and this is, I feel, an important part of our identity. Like many, I'd love to be able to meet my iModeler friends but we are an international bunch and that makes it hard. Hell, if anyone's near London give me a call - just drop a message.

            Jeff, You are a 'real' friend and you and Craig do a stand up job welcoming people to this great community.

  9. This has become very enlightening - especially to me. As the great Confucius (may have) said:

    The man who stands in a dark room takes a dim view of his surroundings.

    Whether it is a Phantom Phixation or Polyvinylpolystyreneefrontallobecerebrumafecticus or even Armamachophobia, every one of us here needs to see a bit of light at the end of our own tunnel.

    Dmitry, the information about Mr. Valentin Muchichko is great. His saying; "“Our models are (sic) a specific by-product of a process of improving our souls – the material artifact, needed only by ourselves and understandable only by such as ourselves” is well said and true.

    • Jeff, for some that light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming armoured train.

  10. Those of us who inhale plastic dust on a regular basis are well aware that there is a fine line between hobby and insanity...

    • Jaimie, thanks for the input and I have seen your work; given the detail I think the last train leaving from Hobby to Insanity left some time ago. And stop inhaling those 'fine lines' .

      • All I really wanted was a Mustang that was just a little bigger...

        • My god, when I was 11 years old I'd go to bed dreaming about the Airfix 1/24 Mustang; I never got her. Funny, I could say the same two things about Maggie Miller...

          ...wish I had a photo of Maggie.

          • Now there's a memory. I got that kit for Christmas one year from a relative who had a lot more money than I did. What a revelation - complete, gun bays, cockpit, the works. It took about twelve of those little bottles of Testors chrome silver, five paintbrushes and a Q-tip to paint it. What's left of it is in my junk box, but I have no idea how it got there.

            The other Mustang I'm working on is just a little bigger than this one.

            I wish I had a photo of Maggie...

          • Ah, Jaime. You made my morning.

            You'll need to let us know more about your Pony - RC or the real thing?

            Maggie. Oh, Maggie.

          • And here it is, part completed, last worked on in the 1970's, transported halfway round the world and then back again, only recently emerged from the box in the loft!

            1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

          • David, that is impressive. Now, if you have a photo of Maggie Miller in that box circa 1977...

          • What did she look like?
            I'll have a look!

          • David, as I remember she looked like an angel

          • In that case, I will have a look!

  11. I dunno; I’m pretty happy with my own preparation for a modelling project.

    1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

  12. Well, I'll toss a grenade into the analytical bucket here and see who is brave enough to fall on it...

    Although I've never been asked this question, I've always feared being asked, and have only a few rudimentary thoughts as to how I would respond, if even just to myself. Here goes...

    "Why do I, a man who is a whole-hearted follower of He who epitomized and exemplified a life of love (Jesus), have such a fascination with the technologies of warfare and destruction?" (I know this question wouldn't be relevant to auto modelers and a few others...)

    • Not an easy question, no easy answer, Thought about that myself.

    • Greg, being in ministry I have encountered that question when I had a small group meeting at my house one day. And of course during that little gathering one of the members asked me, I have notice your miniature planes, that you have some German WWII planes with Swastikas, a symbol that is considered evil, Why would you display this in your home?

      With everyone staring at me I simply said, you know these planes represent a history of aviation. Being a retired Naval Officer, I have admired the history of flight ever since I was a child. Yes I am aware of the evil deeds of Nazi Germany. However farther back in history the Swastika is a peaceful symbol that was taken from the Hindus and used by the Nazis. Also need to point out among those Luftwaffe aircraft models I also have Japanese aircraft. Aircraft that were also part of history that was not pleasant times. My hobby is not to glorify the acts of what these nations may have put this world through in WWII. It is the history of flight. My hobby which is my sanctuary away from real world dramas. Represents the good and the bad. The Me-109's, the Stukas, the Fw-190's that were flown displayed the swastika on their tails. Just as our Mustangs, Spitfires, B-17's Lancasters and Corsairs displayed not only the stars and stripes but the Royal colors of Red White and Blue. The key to victory was being together as one despite the superior forces and equipment the Germans had at the outset, we were outnumbered out gunned and inexperienced against a hardened well trained foe. And really good luck. To say God was on our side. You know I believe He was. Watch Dunkirk and the Darkest Hour. Those 2 movies from last year tells a story of what could have happened if the Germans kept up with their invasion of Europe. It was sheer luck that Hitler decided to stop and launch Barbarossa and go for Russia. Instead of the invasion of the British Isles. I point out men like Audie Murphy, a teenager from a farm in Texas, bare footed hunter of squirrels, 12 weeks later fighting Germans, scared to death like most young Americans were thrown against veteran battle hardened Germans with 4 years of war under their belts already, long gone the fear of death. Most of these young men God fearing men, young men who were at church every Sunday, sworn not to kill a man. And here they are doing what they have thought they would never had to do even when it was just to do so. So yes some may view a swastika in my house as If I let Dracula himself into my home, it is not so now my house will not be blessed. Some will not accept the fact and condone what the Nazis did to the Jews. What I do, is I actually pray before I start a model, that may seem corny to some, but some view me as corny when I pray before I eat breakfast, lunch or dinner at a restaurant. It just part of my lifestyle. Those models are just that models of airplanes of WWII, part of history and I mark them as they appeared when they flew in that period of time. As my Pastor says to our congregation as a reminder don't get to religious. Just be aware and have common sense. Amen

      1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

      • That's some serious, thought provoking writing, Chuck.

        The symbol of the swastika has been around for millennia, meaning different things to specific cultures and I often smile (as a Jew I like to think I have license to) when I see this symbol covered or bastardised on models at shows or online.
        This is a symbol; if we invest significance, especially in emotional domains of fear and intimidation, we accede to superstitions and propaganda.

        You make a very optimist and valid point that the Axis powers were defeated through collaboration, joint responsibility and good people making a stand. I like to think that most of the world is made of people such as this and I have faith that good will prevail. In many ways these symbols of terror are just as strong a reminder of that than they are of a 'brand' of evil.

    • It's a thought I've had for a long time. I have consciously never touched a gun in the 53 years since I returned from my war. Spent one year fighting that war and the next seven fighting against it. And yet here I am with a reputation as a military historian. Fortunately, according to my readers and my fellow authors, my work is known for not glamorizing the subject in the least bit, and for pointing out the stupidity wherever it raises its head. I like the fact that the readers are people who like that.

      I've had the opportunity of knowing two former Luftwaffe pilots well enough to have a pretty good idea of them as people. I also had the privilege of meeting three of the most famous members of the Luftwaffe ever - and to have been bold enough to have asked them (since each of them met him) what Hitler was like and why they would have followed him (and was lucky enough to have enough understanding in how I asked the question to get a serious answer).

      It turns out they really were "just like me." Kids raised to believe in their country and to want to serve, who weren't all that politically aware during their youth, who were "conned" the same way my generation who went to Vietnam were conned, to believe what they were doing was in their country's national interest. And each of them came to understand during that war that what they were involved in wasn't what they had thought it was - but by that time it was "do or die" and they did.

      And I can say for certain that I met people who claimed they were on my side, and who even wore the same uniform, who were the same criminal scum as any member of the Waffen-SS.

      Wars happen because most young people are not well-informed on the issues of their day and too afraid not to go along with everyone else, and then those who go spend the rest of their lives living with regret (whether they admit it publicly or not). if they're fortunate to be among the "winners" they can tell themselves what they did was in the service of a "higher calling."

      • Thanks, Tom. It bears reflecting on the fact that there's no sovereign right to good or evil because of the geography of your birth. One of my treasured possessions is a print with an original signature by Adolph Galland (below).

        The friction between Galland and Goring is well documented but reflects a mindset in the Luftwaffe that was very set against the Nazi doctrine. I will at some point resume my dio intended as a tribute to Franz Stigler

        There were pilots in the RAF and USAF (Tom, I have read you describing more than one) who were deeply disturbed individuals. Common wisdom at the time shows how pilots hated Douglas Bader with a passion.

        The manifestation of the evil that mankind is capable of is not hard to find. The recent atrocities in Florida and Kentucky show that this extends into our youngest generations. Tom, I've read your books and they are wonderful historical reads, but there ARE essentially anti war in nature. Making these models as we do (swaztika included, please) is one way of keeping a dialogue open about what happened, and paying testimony to heroes on either side who faught both for the wars and against them.

  13. Greg, I'm not the professional here but I have some feelings like yours. I see it as the way I keep my personal demons in check. I don't admire those who use these implements of destruction, but the tools can be very interesting. Some would say that's morbid curiosity rearing its ugly head. I think its human nature. Besides - aircraft, tanks, ships, helicopters, and don't forget autos, racing cars and other things are cool "toys." You don't have to use those things for the intended purpose to appreciate the complexity of the machinery and quality of the tool. A great example is the P-51 Mustang ... or any other warplane of any era; they were made to destroy things. NOW they race at places like Reno and many serve as working memorials to men and women who used those deadly machines to make the world a better place.

    Your mileage may vary ...

    • Besides, most of us still miss our youth and the toys we played with!

      The real difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.

    • Jeff, we are all the professionals here. When you see projects posted on iModeler, you'll often read the most amazing stories alongside them and I feel that the essence of why we build these machines is wrapped up in these stories.

      These narratives encompass valour, bravery, sacrifice, obsession, skill, determination, honour, mercy, and more. The subjects themselves are often beautiful in direct inverse proportions to their purpose, for example that gorgeous elliptical wing of the Spitfire with those deadly Brownings.

  14. Greg, well spoken and I utterly respect your asking of a difficult question. I've thought about this issue long and hard at times, and for me it is epitomised every time I attach a swaztika decal to a subject. I can share my thoughts.

    There's light and shade in everything and I think there's conflict at the very heart of everything we do. War is the greatest analogy of this. From war comes technological strides that wouldn't happen in peacetime. It shows us the bravest sides of humanity and demands faith, both in the belief of good and the necessity sometimes to make the ultimate sacrifice. War makes us choose between 'good' and 'evil', to hold a mirror up and ask what we see, and how that reflects on our view toward others.

    In modeling these subjects we can connect with the best of humanity and be reminded of the very worst we are capable of. And there's a thing called forgiveness.

    Lest we forget.

  15. After a few belly laughs (the acronyms, the graphics, the Won Hui observations...all too astute for words), I'm ready to chime in here myself.

    I read somewhere once that we should allow trivial imperfections to stand once in a while, even if they are easily corrected, just for the sake of our souls. Dunno who said that but it sounds like wisdom to me. That's means your grammatical faux pas are safe with me, David, if you'll let mine go in return.

    Greg, I've mused about the same thing regarding my fascination with these death-dealing contraptions. I watch documentaries and even entertainment flicks and take no delight in the death of anyone, even the wicked. My sense is that my chosen genre (WW2, almost always) represents a time when evil was easily identified, lines were (apparently) clearly drawn, allies were allies and the enemy was the enemy, and by pulling together we could get 'er done. The simpler age also exemplified a simpler inner posture: men were unselfconsciously brave. I love my own dad, but he was my dad, you know--just dad. But he volunteered at 17 in the spring of '44 (with the signature of his parents), and marched off to war. He could've waited until his 18th birthday (October of '44) and essentially assured himself (after training and transport) that he wouldn't see combat. The crazy thing is, he was just one of millions who thought and acted the same way. I would also add that the enormity of the conflict--eschatological, really, and in some senses we are still playing it out--also fascinates me. David Leigh-Smith has noted the mystery, too, that some who fought for the good guys were anything but, and some who fought for the villains were actually noble and brave. I think that is true, which rather than repelling me from my somewhat simplistic narrative, serves instead to draw me in all the more.

    But enough of that. Here's my existential and theological two bits:

    "And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person's envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."~Ecclesiastes 4:4

    • Chime away, David.

      From Islamic geometric art, Persian rugs deliberately left imperfect (as only God should be perfect), to the Japanese art form of Wabi-Sabi that focuses on impermanence and melancholia, art has a long history of deliberate mistakes. In deference my grammar, and (eventually) my Enterprise will, alas, be imperfect.

      My own (step) father was, sadly, a horrible man. In my early life I found a refuge in making model kits, fuelled by fantasies of chivalry, honour, and fairness. When I plan a build now, be it allies or axis, I embue it with a story, or it has an explicit narrative that touches me and draws me in. I see that in many of my friends' work here.

    • There is such good feedback and insight embodied in all of these posts that I supposed I should pitch in here how my thoughts have coalesced over the years.

      My dad learned to fly before he got his drivers license, and joined the AF (via ROTC) simply so he could get paid to fly. Unusually for a typical career in the Air Force, he stayed in active flying posts for 19 out of 20 years. Some of his discomfort with being in the service (not just moral, but bureaucratic nonsense) and his machinations to stay in the cockpit penalized his climb in rank. Just an example of his commitment to the pursuit of his love of flight vs. a "career."

      I grew up fascinated both with aircraft and with military history. I think Jeff Bailey got closest to my own sentiments - the creativity, ingenuity, experimentation, iteration, and accomplishment of the seeming impossible in the pursuit of the refinement of aircraft design for a specific purpose (or variable purposes if you look at the breadth of mission roles). In the "capitalistic" sense, competition continually spurs engineers and designers to push the envelope of something designed to first defy the laws of gravity and then perform its assigned mission better than the other guys stuff. Like a bird of prey soaring on thermals, an aircraft in flight - especially a military aircraft - is just a majestic thing to watch. (hint: one reason all my builds are mounted in-flight!).

      I also enjoy the "artistic" variety of aircraft livery - the endless combinations of paint schemes, markings, and even the organic rouge of wear and weather on factory-fresh finishes (that's my right-brain self talking).

      Then there is the personal artistic challenge of attempting to replicate what my eye beholds - moving from 1:1 scale down to a display replica, that looks as realistic as possible. Sensing an improvement in skill - picking up new tips - making mistakes - finding new tools - and all of this working quietly (no music or TV on) with my hands, letting my mind clear of all other issues of the day - this is my escape, by detox and de-stress zone.

      It isn't so much to me about being on the wrong or right side of a war - all war is bad, period, and the glorification of war per se to be avoided at all cost. But war is history, and unfortunately war will always be a part of future too - because men are not God. The study of war is as much a study of cultural dynamics, leadership (good and bad), human endurance and self-sacrificing action, politics, strategy, tactics, technology, industry ... There is so much fascinating about the subject.

      As much as I don't feel badly about my pleasure in the hobby, and in the study of military aviation, I still wonder every now and then how others perceive it, hoping as always to keep peace and not offend, and how I would respond. I guess it does say something that I've never had to do so, but that may also be because my collection is rarely seen by others outside my circle of hobby enthusiasts, family and a few friends.

      Enough musing for one day...

      • Greg, I think I posted this a long time ago. It tells the story of a young airman who flies for the British, not because he believes in the cause, or pride, or because he hates the enemy, or politics; he flies (despite the danger and terror) because of his pure love of flying.

        My subtitle for this - 'a lonely impulse of delight' (a line in the poem) - could also describe our hobby.

        W.B Yeats. An Irish airman forces his death. (A lonely impulse of delight)

        I know that I shall meet my fate
        Somewhere among the clouds above;
        Those that I fight I do not hate
        Those that I guard I do not love;
        My country is Kiltartan Cross,
        My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
        No likely end could bring them loss
        Or leave them happier than before.
        Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
        Nor public man, nor cheering crowds,
        A lonely impulse of delight
        Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
        I balanced all, brought all to mind,
        The years to come seemed waste of breath,
        A waste of breath the years behind
        In balance with this life, this death.

        Thanks for your musings, Greg. And God speed.

  16. I have never been one to open up regarding this addiction, it must be the smell of plastic, super glue and solvents that have turned me into an anti social person, even when we have guests at the house, I find myself looking for excuses for them to leave so that I can go back to my hobby room. I also find my self faking illness to avoid going into town with my wife. let it be known, that on more than one occasion I have been known to fake a headache so that I don't have to go to bed early. When I buy a roll of plastic for a new project I can hear it calling out to me when I am in the Congo ( yes, I hear voices). Instead of counting sheep to fall asleep, I plan the next day's build, and wake up with a plan. When I finish a project, I hold it close like a new born infant.

    Is this normal...Doctor. HA HA HA, yip, I love this hobby. I could not stop laughing at this topic. Lets face it we are all addicts.

    • So, Marc, let me recap. We have solvent abuse, Munchousen Syndrome (faking illness), lying to a psychopathic level, obsessive ritualistic behaviour, not to mention hearing voices...

      Well done, sir - you are a consummate IModeler!

      As you were...

    • Classic Aspergian, Marc. Read up on it. It's actually a gift. A super-power.

      • Hi Marc. Tom's right, it's a superpower, not a 'disorder'. I suggest the real problem is your wife's failure to adjust to your lifestyle. Send her to me, I'll charge $200 dollars a session (then she won't complain about your model spending) - and you can get more time in the hobby room while she's away.

        Everyone's a winner.

  17. My name is Louis and I am a plasticoholic... There now I said it. The first step to recovery.

    Where did I put my tin foil pyramid shaped hat ? It helps me to paint plastic parts much easier when I wear it.


    Just joking around with you guys. This is the best website ever.

    I really like the drawing with the patient holding on to his plane that looks an awful lot like a Spitfire.

    One of the reasons why I build my models, is that I do it to honor the men and women that gave it all for their country. I build planes from all sides of the conflicts, good or bad.

    We need to remember that history is almost always written by the victor.

    • Louis, you crazy, wonderful, unhinged human being. I was wondering who'd be the first nut obsessive enough to comment on the (slightly stylised) Spitty. That it was YOU, it has to be said, did not surprise me. Well done.

      • I was even going to go into what "Mark" the Spitfire it was...

        Since I didn't then, I will do it now... To me it looks like a Mk VII with the pointed wing tips and a four blade prop...

        • Nurse! Please get Louis his aluminium hat...

          You are of course correct.

  18. Wait! Wait! You didn't let us all say "Hi Louis!" before going on...

  19. Hi Louis! I'm a whatever you said too and there is no recovery... :-p

  20. Interesting comments.

    Craig: since I do know what you are mumbling about above, allow me to to say I think you're on very safe ground here, as a place to discuss that stuff.

    Dmitry's statement about what/why we do these things is definitely the deepest truth I have run across on the topic.

    For me, interestingly enough, scale modeling led to having the life I do. As a youth, I built a model and then asked the question,"What did that airplane do?" which led to my father wisely taking me to the local library. There I found out that airplane was used in a war. What was that war about? led to more reading. Back and back, further and further. Being Aspergian (something I was not aware of and neither was anyone else at the time) I was self-educating despite the school system, and having unwittingly found "my groove" I retained nearly everything I read. (When I finally went to college as a "test monkey" for people with high test scores and low grades, and was tested on this, it was discovered that if I was interested in something, my retention of information was "off the scale", while if I wasn't it was also "off the scale" on the other end - as in "in one ear and out the other" - given that a lot of the things that don't interest me are the things that make it easier to get through life, this has led to "living in 'interesting' times" as a constant state of affairs).

    I then started meeting people who had been involved in the things of which I had read. My questions were well-informed from my previous "research" and it turned out I was a good interviewer.

    There was also an extended period where I was "in the trough between the waves" career-wise, and the only place I could do any writing was in the model reviews I was doing - which resulted in the "Cleaver review" that is half-history, half how-to. This led to an editor at Osprey contacting me about possibly writing a book for them...

    The result of all that is Thomas McKelvey Cleaver, historian.

    Having discovered at that first library the shelves around the corner from the "629s" (Dewey Decimal system for "Aviation History") where books written by such people as Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, et al, were found, I learned by reading what a good story is.

    The end result of that is Thomas McKelvey Cleaver, screenwriter.

    And the combination of the two are history books that readers tell me are "like reading a movie."

    And I always come back to the modeling. Whenever I am "stuck" at writing, an hour or so at the modeling bench will "unstick" things and result in the solution appearing. And when there isn't any writing happening, modeling's a good way not to become unglued.

    • Thank you, Tom.

      I work with many kids with Asperger's, most of whom study in very high end areas (physics, mechanical engineering, maths, etc.). I spend a lot of time trying not to 'cure' them (conforming, or 'faking it til you make it'), but trying to get them to make their traits work for them. Your story is inspiring.

      And you are right about the 'unsticking' process of modeling. There is a zen-like quality to the concentration levels required of building that allows other brain processes to work (like a sub- routine) in the background. Albert Einstein (another Aspergian) famously developed ideas while practicing repetitive chores.

      • Having only discovered in the past 6 years that I am definitely Aspergian (though the first time I ever heard of it I thought it fit me like a glove), it is indeed nice to know that I am not crazy (a thought I had many times growing up). Seriously, it's extremely useful just to know that. I think it is so great that Aspergian kids today get the kind of help knowledgeable people like you can provide - I can only wonder what my life would be like had I received that as a youth (I likely wouldn't have wasted 20 years trying to stick a square peg in a round hole trying to be "what everyone else wanted" and mostly learning what I didn't want to do and wasn't any good at anyway, and might even have more success as the writer I always was). I'm lucky however, looking back on it, that they didn't know what it was back in the 1950s, since the "prescription" would likely have been institutionalization. I do find it amazing looking back that a person with the socialization difficulties an Aspergian has managed to find success both in professional politics and professional screenwriting, two professions that depend on the ability to "schmooze," something I am terrible at. Fortunately the screenwriting didn't involve all that much public contact, writers are expected to be "weird," and I learned to "script out" meeting scenarios that led to successful interactions.

        Those kids are lucky they have you.

        • That last comment means a lot to me, Tom. Thank you.

          I'd say 25% of the kids I see are somewhere on the spectrum, and the usual problem is exactly as you say; trying to make themselves fit into a society that treats different as a disease. This is especially difficult in the U.K., where everyone pretends to be so bloody polite.

          A good example of this has been in some of the (ahem) honest feedback you have left for modelers (I think I may have have coined the phrase 'Cleavered' in a replying post, implying it's a positive rite of passage for serious hobbyists). People sometimes get upset at any form of criticism in 2018. Give me an Aspergian critique any day.

          • You coined it here, but there have been others elsewhere before you. 🙂

            I'm of the opinion no one ever learns a thing from a pat on the back. The only thing I have ever learned from "success" is I like it. But I've never made progress other than through failure. I do like to think that any criticism I have put out has included the easiest solution too.

        • It's clear through looking at the projects you comment on that your observations are both sincere and have improvement as their guiding principle.

          Happy trails, Tom.

  21. Profile Photo
    said on March 8, 2018

    Good topic David.

    Greg. Interesting question. I would say I dont believe the big G is anti war. War and destruction is often the only way to save life for the many. I am no philosopher but common sense says if you desire peace prepare for war. Yes someone else said that or something similar. There is no evil in the machines of war. How they are used and for what ends is in the hands of the user. And again the old saying ' when good men do nothing evil triumphs.' When I see a Lancaster or a P47 I think of those who gave their lives for the good of all. So I have no problem enjoying this hobby and feeling just a little bit of satisfaction by completing a build. Its a small but meaningful memorial tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice and for the vets among us.

  22. Profile Photo
    said on March 8, 2018

    I apologise for any misquotes. My memory suks as they say. .

  23. Wonderful!

    That's what this topic has become ... wonderful. There's a lot more than plastic building here!

    • It's a wonderful place, Jeff. Here's just some of the things I can say here that I can't admit in 'normal' life...

      "I bought some metal tank tracks that cost me $50. The model tank cost $25"

      "I like the smell of superglue"

      "All these scars on my fingers? They are self inflicted"

      "Germans DID have the best uniforms"

      "Sometimes, I'd rather build at the bench than spend time with the wife 'upstairs' "

      "For at least twenty minutes of my life, getting that 5.9 degree wing dihedral on a Spitfire was the most important thing in my life"

      "Yes. I did spend 200 hours on that kit; equal to almost 10 continuous days of my life"

  24. Well expressed, Anthony. I see a similar debate now with the difficulties our American friends are having with the complexities surrounding gun laws.

    As something of a non-sequitur, but tangentially linked, why do so few females build models? Why the overwhelmingly high male interest in all things plastic and particularly war? Considering the traditionally more creative nature of women, isn't it a bit odd that there isn't even anything close to a minority interest? Are we 'hard wired' to conflict?

    • Trust me, the women I know who are modelers would destroy any remaining modeling self-esteem male modelers have, if they came around. There was an American woman back in the 80s and early 90s (unfortunately gone to an early grave) who made scratchbuilt and vacuform models that regularly won Best of Show. My friend Candice Uhlir (Yes, I really am a rocket scientist) regularly did models that blew my mind (there's a collection of photos of her work in my blog here). She won Best of Show with her third model ever - a fully-rigged Etrich Taube! Almost all her models were fully-rigged World War I models and she was never afraid to make any part she needed to improve what she was doing. The female modelers I see now are all superior than the men at whatever level they're working at. So be careful what you ask for. Last time I talked to Candice, she had graduated to 1:1 modeling as she built her own Nieuport 17 to fly.

      • I think in many ways this proves a point that not only are female modelers as rare as dragon's teeth, when you find them they are utterly exceptional. It begs the question why? Both in terms of why they don't do it as a rule and why they are so talented when they do.

        I had a look at Candice's work and i was blown away.

        I had no idea she was a member of iModeler. An amazing talent in many, many ways and looking at her work, is a great role model for anyone.

  25. Profile Photo
    said on March 8, 2018

    They are rare indeed. Its true in engineering too though more females are evidently training now than ever so maybe it will change. Tech stuff in general does seem to facinate males more.

    • You see, Anthony, I get the 'tec stuff interests guys' argument. But I've met female engineers, I've met many female scientists, I've even known female mechanics (well, one). But I have never met a female modeler. And I very much suspect I never will.

  26. This is all very interesting especially the subject of female modelers. Before I moved to China I was heavily into railway modeling. It is still a popular hobby in the UK, and there are many exhibitions to attend if you so wish. A typical exhibition consists of a number of railway layouts and an equal of trade stands. It’s interesting to see which layouts and stands attract the highest number of spectators. Invariably it’s the ones where there is a female present. Perhaps the layout builder persuaded his daughter to come along and help, or the trader has a female partner? At the recent Geneva car show some of the lesser manufacturers still had female models on their stands in order to attract potential clients. Enough said, but I would love to hear your comments. And, oh yeah, I nearly forgot, wars are started by politicians.

    • Hi George. Thanks for your thoughts; all grist to the mill. Or mental plasticard to the modelers internal scratchbuilding, if you like.

      We live in a world where Formula 1 'grid girls' are banned, parents are encouraged to raise their children'gender neutral' and females are positively discriminated for in work, schools, and sports. All of this is progressive in terms of where humanity is going. Golf clubs now have to offer membership to women, all 'gentlemen' clubs are fast disappearing, and organisations everywhere are 'encouraged' to open their doors to women.

      In every walk of life we see more women taking up tools, or power, or social responsibility. As far as I can tell, there is something about this hobby that women just don't 'get' or like, or even understand. And as we enter an era where women join men in the front lines in the forces (and there's a can of worms) not a single female voice can be heard saying, why does scale modeling 'exclude' women.

      I don't know, George. I personally know women who like cars, who are interested in historical warfare, who like building things, and who are artistically and creatively gifted. But in my whole life I've never met a woman remotely interested in replicating the froward can't of an FW 190's undercarriage. My wife is an intelligent, liberal, thoughtful and empathetic person. She gets how I could get a meditative, zen like benefit from modeling, but my interests, research, and fascination for the hobby are a complete and utter mystery to her. If our cats started talking, she'd find it less weird.

      Maybe we are the foot soldiers of the only true, and last, bastion of masculinity. That, or our hobby really is so esoteric and arcane that even the equality movement can't muster up enough enthusiasm to challenge us.

      • Fair enough, the point I was trying to make that even in a mostly male oriented event like a model railway show, the men were drawn, almost magnetically, to where the (very few) women were. Something similar happens here with Rob’s pictures, you and I know which ones would get the most “likes” if we had such a feature, that girl standing in front of a Mini did it for me; that picture had an element of surprise.

        • George, I know the point you were trying to make, but I was attempting to make our 'maleness' a little more civilised and thoughtful. And as for Rob, well, that master of the art of ambush has a lot to answer for psychologically. Takes away our beloved Friday Briefing, and replaces it with a teaser series that stimulates controversy and calls it 'No Comment'.

          Hope you are well George, loving your work.

  27. That Spitfire you've drawn is a Mk VI, right?

    • Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha

      Sorry, Paul, let me catch my breath.

      Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

      When I did that drawing I thought, "will some-one pick up on what type of Spitfire this is?" My next thought was, "no, not even iModelers are that crazy"...

  28. I love the smell of solvent in the morning. I resist the temptation to add it to my coffee...

    • Yep. I'm off to a meeting this morning where I'll discuss the psychology budget (lots of millions) and treatment priorities for central London, then off to the the Treasury (Houses of Parliament) to present a lecture on stress at work to politicians and senior Civil Servants.

      Yet all I could think was, " can I get the two halves of that Tiger turret glued together before I leave?" The disturbing issue is that I'll still be thinking about it during that meeting.

      Now, there IS a cure for this type of behaviour. I believe they call it 'growing up'. But given the losses versus gains, to hell with thaf.

      Have a great weekend, Robert. And when are we going to see some of your work?

      • Who wants to grow up ?
        Especially when Tamiya may be coming out with a new Corsair ?

        • Louis Wait! A new Corsair? I must have missed something...
          I work to much...?

          • David, it will be awhile before I get back to the bench, with all my supplies and kits be packed up.

          • So let's talk about Obsessive Corsair Disorder, gentlemen.

            • starting to dress in two tone (sea blue and intermediate blue) colours like this i***t...

            • Small tremors (most noted in the hands) when one had built two consecutive models that are not Corsairs.

            • Sometimes (I know you have done this) sitting and positioning your arms in the inverse gull wing position. For those with advanced OCD, the exact annhedral/dihedral angles are 23 degrees anhedral from fuselage to upward curve, and 8.5 dagrees dihedral from said curve to wing tip...

            • Other symptoms include not being able to hear the word 'wasp' or see said insect without thinking "Pratt and Whitney R2800'" - in psychology we call this 'paired association'. Just stop it.

            For the same reason the term, 'Birdcage' stimulates high levels of emotional arousal. In some cases this leads to sexual dissonance; please do not ask your partner to gently whistle during intimate moments (you may need to think that one through).

            • Similarly, becoming excited on hearing the children's lullaby 'Ba Ba Blacksheep'...

            These are termed as the 'first rank' symptoms. other, lesser signs include obsessive internet searches for that one photo you haven't seen, watching the same PBS documentary for the 48th time and still enjoying it, having at least 16 Corsair model kits in the stash as 'one day' you might be able to build every mark produced, and in extremis having 12,571 models in the stash (are you listening Louis) to cover every plane to roll off the line. Also there is a slight tendency to salivate at the word, 'Tamiya'.

            Lastly, you will probably be the only person you know who has heard of the 'Soccer War' - fought between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969. It was the last was where piston engine aircraft fought each other and the only conflict where Corsairs were pitted against each other.

      • Funny thing - being in the aircraft maintenance field and having worked on the above mentioned radial engines - they were never called by their names. If you mentioned an airplane was powered by a Wasp or a Duplex Cyclone, you would receive a blank stare. They were always referred to by their displacement numbers. Thus, a B-17 is powered by four -1820's, a Skyraider by a -3350. Just as funny is that the V-inline engines are called by their names! So Mustangs and Spitfires are Merlin powered, P-38's are motivated by a pair of Allisons. Go figure..

        The Corsair whose restoration I worked on years ago came from El Salvador, but we could never determine if she had flown in said Soccer War. She was an FG-1D, BuNo 92489...

        1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

        • I think all of the El Salvador Corsairs were Goodyear planes and I don't think there were that many shipped, so there's a good chance that...ah, I see what you are up to...

          In psychology terms, Jaime, this is transference; where the patient attempts to pull the therapist into their distorted view of reality to make them feel less...sick. Mmmm. While we are here, let's talk about this fixation with painting naked ladies on your aircraft...lets start with your earliest mammor...memories.

        • Jaime, I had no idea about displacement, I thought it was a model number!

          • Bernard, most American piston aircraft engines are categorized by their cylinder arrangement followed by the displacement in cubic inches. So an R-1830 is a 1830 cubic inch radial engine. V, of course, in an inline engine with the cylinders in a V arrangement, hence a V-1710, which is a V-12 Allison engine. O is for horizontally opposed cylinders (like a VW engine), for example the O-470 engine in a Beech Bonanza. L is for a straight inline engine. There are several other prefixes denoting whether the engine is turbocharged, fuel injected, etc.

          • I am learning, too! Thanks Jaime!

  29. A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and a cocktail is a modeler.

  30. I've just read through this entire thread, causing me to laugh, self analyze, and ponder on what is going to happen to my stash of plastic when I'm gone. I'm speechless, so I'll close by saying, Hi Louis.

  31. Hi Tom. The thread seems to have caught something under the surface. Nice to hear and see a differerent side to friends.

    In terms of the 'stash left behind' there's far more eminently qualified than me to discuss the Local Hobby Store in the hereafter. For me, I find that limiting the stash to a number that I could theoretically finish before I die (very old, very healthy, and surrounded by people I love) keeps that existential chill at bay. I'm hoping when I do eventually make the walk through THAT particular door, I'll be greeted by all you guys asking, '"what kept you?!"

    • Speaking of stashes, a very nice gentlemen in the Cincinnati club offered to give me a kit I was looking for to build. However, he said "you have to help me find it." Upon an agreed time he took me to a garage he was renting and when lifting the door I saw boxes from floor to ceiling filling the entire space. Each box was alphabetized and he had a list of what was in the box, he just didn't know where the correct box was stationed in said garage. He had been collecting kits since the early 50's. I'll never forget his words when I asked just how many kits he had and why so many? He looked at me and said, "Tom, it's a sickness."

      • Great story, Tom. You know I have to ask, did you find the kit you were looking for? Did you? And what was it? I gots to know...

        You see, we're all 'sick'.

        • Took most of the day but yes we did, an Academy P-38M, Night Lightning. It's still in my stash, but I can find it rather quickly by looking on a shelf. Now what caliber is that cannon your holding in your hand?

          • "Tom, this is a Pratt & Whitney R-2800, the most powerful piston engine in the world. You have to ask yourself, do you feel lucky?"

  32. I'm limiting my stash to what I can build too. Right now I'm not planning on checking out until I'm at least 167 years old.

    But if I don't happen to last that long , I'll be there at the door when you arrive and I'll ask you if you have seen the latest release by Tamiya ... 🙂

    Here's to all of us wishing a healthy, happy long and prosperous life.

    Otherwise our wife's will have to sell off our stuff and in turn get that little piece of jewelry they are quietly looking at ...

  33. ...or in your case, Louis, the wife could buy the White House.

  34. Here's to Mrs. Gardner!

  35. I'm just an ex phantom phixer, I probably ingested to much JP-5 exhaust and took to many hydraulic fluid baths, but I've modeling [or attempting too] since I was a wee lad. I just thank providence for this hobby, [and this site].I've taken the Doc's advice and am starting another Phantom, yeah!

    • Robert, let it all out. Give yourself over to the cure. Love your inner Phantom, immerse yourself in internet photos of your next F4, do more reading about the cockroach/bug bashed/rhino/double ugly. Let her lines wash over you, allow her to take you over. Resistance is futile, acceptance is the only answer.

      --- pic4 not found ---

      Now get building, and show us your work.

      • Love it, what's the story on the submerged F-4?

        • The F4 was sunk deliberately for divers near Manila in the Philippines - was originally a casualty of Vietnam.

      • The Phantom is living proof that if you get a big enough engine, you can even make a brick fly.

        • Yeah J-79's ! Doc, your saying that can expand my library? cool!

          1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

          • Robert, you have to expand your library. Just look what's out know you want to.

            6 attached images. Click to enlarge.

  36. Ok - ok - the stash issue really hit a nerve... My wife would want me on the couch for a LONG TIME to process this subject...

  37. When it comes to the stash, she doesn't question my models and I don't question all the fabric and other supplies.

    • My wife has known me and of my insan---err--hobby since high school late last century. She's been remarkably patient about it since I don't usually let it interfere with other mundane stuff like mortgages and utility bills. Normally, she just shakes her head and tells people that I'm in there with my airplanes. I'm not sure how she explains the machine gun and engine noises, and the occasional strafing run (complete with authentic radio dialogue) over the living room coffee table...

    • The modeler/partner relationship.

  38. Reminds me of yet another acronym- F.I.N.E. (which, in some cases, can refer to:
    F***ed up, Insecure, Neurotic & Emotional. 🙁

  39. Good to know that we're all FINE, then.

    Thanks, Craig. Now get to the bench...

  40. Ahhhhh. Peace at last. I'm FINE.
    Thanks, Craig

  41. I' m doing FINE, on Cloud Nine! Hmmm, wondered about that...

  42. After market fever. AMF Disorder.


    • inability to build a model 'out of the box. I've tried this, (really) thinking I'll do something quick and easy and before you know it I'm thinking, "mmm, I'll just stick in that Quickboost..."

    • getting though 300 replacement scalpel blades a week...

    • spending most of your modeling time on all fours on the floor.

    • spending $#¥# on a model that only cost $20 (censored due to possibility that my wife - some bizarre reason - looks at what I'm writing about my hobby).

    • Resinitis

    • swearing. Really excessive, terrible bouts of swearing.

    • blindness. Seriously, have you seen how small some of that ...stuff is?

    • becoming curiously aroused on seeing thin sheets of shiny metal.

    It's endemic within the modeling community. Really. Ask yourself, when was the last time you built something with NO extras. It's not a retorical question, I'd really like to know...

  43. Just found this for our aluminum foil hat wearing (Lou?) fraternity. You are not alone...

  44. After some extensive research based on the replies to this post, I now feel able to map out the brain of our average modeler...

  45. Inspired by Claudio's superb 'speed build' Me 1099...

  46. I stayed up past my bedtime to read this entire thread. What I realized is that though we are all different, we are the same. Different words could describe us... "Nuts" and "Passionate" come to mind. In fact, they may be the best two words.

    I feel like I'm in good company. I love airplanes, whether they are military or not, I just love them. My first models were military aircraft, I believe a B-52, F-100 and an A-4, if I recall correctly.

    I'm glad the doc let everyone open up. If I can't get bench time, it's good to know I can get couch time. 🙂

    Thanks for the thread David.

  47. You are welcome, Gary. This hobby is in equal parts strange and beautiful. As are we who practice it.

    Now give the $120 to the nurse on the way out.

  48. Proof we're not ALL crazy...yet.

    Modelmaking: How This Hobby Makes You Smarter.

    The absorbing fun of making scale models improves mental health, too.

    by Phil Scott, Live & Learn, THURSDAY, October 16, 2008

    RETIRED TEACHER Kevin Gray first fell in love with making scale models in fifth grade. He had had his tonsils removed, and his dad, knowing how fanatical his son had become about airplanes since a local pilot had taken him flying a few months before, gave him two plastic model airplane kits. One was an Albatross D.III like one that World War I ace Manfred von Richthofen, a.k.a. the Red Baron, flew before he switched to his famous triplane; the other was a Nieuport 11, like leading French ace Georges Guynemer piloted. As soon as Gray was well enough to sit, he assembled the Albatross and then the Nieuport, and then he read and reread the specifications of the actual airplanes printed on the instructions. He also had fun gluing his fingers together over and over with modeling cement.

    Over the next two years he would spend every penny on model airplanes until he had more than 70 sitting on shelves in his bedroom, each created in pretty much the same way: he painstakingly assembled it by following the instructions, then memorized the facts and statistics about each one printed on the instruction sheet, and sometimes still glued his fingers together with the crusty cement.

    “Then I discovered girls,” he says. That was the end of his modeling days. Until recently. Retired last year from teaching high school English and journalism in a small Kansas town, Gray received a model of the Wright Flyer from his wife Diane. Not much had changed in the world of modeling: same molded plastic pieces, same assembly instructions, same historical description to read and reread while pieces of the model dried.

    Then came the moment that recovering addicts pray never happens: He began lurking the aisles of hobby stores, searching for ever more obscure historical models, then buying them and building them at the desk where he once graded papers. He also noticed side effects. “Building models helps my hand-eye coordination, and following instructions and reading specifications sharpens my mental powers,” he says.

    “Scale modeling is an excellent hobby,” agrees Andrea M. Macari, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Suffolk County Community College in Long Island, NY. “Not only does the activity provide much-needed leisure, which is beneficial in alleviating anxiety and depression, but it also enhances certain cognitive skills such as concentration, visual-motor skills, and executive functions [processes the brain uses to plan, organize, strategize, and pay attention to and remember details].” Macari explains that the skills used in scale modeling are the same ones that often decline with age. “So by practicing scale modeling, your actions are mitigating any decline of those skills,” she adds.

    Our Brains Love the Work. According to Professor Kelly G. Lambert of Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA, the brain is programmed to derive pleasure and satisfaction when efforts produce something “tangible, visible, and—this is extremely important—meaningful in gaining the resources necessary for survival.” To find a correlation between depression and physical efforts, she took two groups of rats and trained one group to dig for treats (the “worker rats”) and the other group to expect the treats in a lump sum, despite the effort they exerted (the “trust fund rats”). Next, she placed a treat inside a clear plastic ball, which couldn’t be opened no matter how hard the rat tried. Lambert found that the worker rats spent 60 percent more time trying to reach the treat than the trust fund rats did. The moral of the story: The workers were more confident they would succeed than the trust fund rats. And there’s more.

    “A lot of our brain is devoted to movement,” she says. “So hobbies and activities that use our hands are engaging in more of our brain’s real estate. Gardening, building model airplanes, and knitting could be the key to mental health because they activate a lot of our brain.”

    She adds that people born prior to 1950 are ten times less likely to develop depression in their lifetimes than people born after. “What has changed? Our lifestyles. Technological advances mean that we have stopped doing a lot of basic work,” she says, adding, “I think building model airplanes could be very good for us.”

    Getting into the History, Too. There’s also the educational component, says Jack Kennedy, president of the International Plastic Modelers' Society (IPMS) and former host of a half-hour TV program, Adventures in Scale Modeling. “You have to learn a little historical background for whatever you build,” he says. “It piques your interest, and you do research in books for details.”

    While he’s working on a model of a B-57 bomber right now, Kennedy’s focus is building models of historical figures; in fact, he just completed a bust of Erwin Rommel, the German Field Marshall from World War II. Cars make popular models, and so do trains and ships. For Gray and Nick Filippone, a 59-year-old New York surgeon, it’s airplanes. “It’s fun to research the color scheme and markings and so forth,” says Dr. Filippone, who prefers building World War II British warplanes. “I think it’s well-established that keeping active mentally is very important,” he adds. “This is one way to do that. Concentration is good for maintaining mental function. Like exercising the body, it’s exercising the mind.”

    The Social Aspect. Kennedy’s group, IPMS, has some 5,000 members across the nation, a majority of them 50 and older. “We have a lot of Korea vets, and we still have World War II veterans,” he says. “It keeps motor skills in tune, and it also keeps people’s minds going pretty well. We have a lot of doctors, too (their hand skills are excellent), airline pilots, military people

    One of my close friends is a CIA agent.” They hold conventions at hotels, motels, school gymnasiums, and Elks halls across the nation; this year's annual national convention was held in Virginia Beach in August. They compete, too: In Virginia, two of Filippone’s models placed.

    “We have a good time at these conventions,” he says. “But then most of the people I hang out with outside the hospital are in the hobby.”

    Phil Scott has written for Scientific American and New Scientist, and is the author of The Pioneers of Flight: A Documentary History, and The Shoulders of Giants: A History of Human Flight to 1919.

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