Profile Photo

  • 3 articles
  • 511 karma
  • 10 friends

Going Backward to Move Forward

I have a short tale of woe and misery, but this story does have a happy ending. I think some of you may identify with this tale.

I started plastic modelling when I was a kid in the 1950’s. I remember buying the box-scale Revell B-47 in the Post Exchange (my Dad was in the Army) for about 90 cents and painting it with my Mom’s finger nail polish. I was hooked. I built a lot of those early kits. My building slowed when I got to college, since paying my tuition, books, apartment, food, and car by working 50 hours-a-week for a construction company. Things didn’t get better when I graduated and entered Air Force flight training, eventually becoming a pilot flying the C-141 Starlifter. During the next 20 years, I travelled to Europe, Japan, and Korea, often buying a number of kits each trip. I still didn’t have time to build them, but we all know the truth about kits: if you don’t buy them when you first see them, they will either be unavailable or more expensive when you go back to buy them. Another benefit from not having time to build kits: Unbuilt kits in boxes don’t take up much space and they are much easier to move. I moved 9 times in my 20-year career. As I neared the end of my 20 years in the military, I looked forward to a slower-paced second career that included a lot of model-building time. After my retirement from the military, I began a second career (& simultaneously a third) as a high school government and history teacher, as well as an adjunct instructor of government and history at a nearby junior college. For the next 20 years, I would spend 10 hours each day at school, followed by hours of lesson planning and grading papers. I taught my college classes at night. My model-building time never materialized.

During my summer breaks from school, I would dive back into building some models. By this time, I wasn’t satisfied tossing kits together and using fingernail polish as paint. I had started building for our annual IPMS shows. Before I started a model, I made sure I had all the cool photoetch and resin enhancements. Of course, I also needed the pre-cut masks for the canopy, as well as a spiffy set of decals. During the summer I would be lucky to finish one kit. It wasn’t long before I noticed that building kits was no longer relaxing and, in fact, made me extremely tense as I was building. In short, it was no longer fun.

By the time I finished 20 years as a teacher, I had accumulated an embarrassing number of unbuilt kits (several thousand), as well as a severe lack of motivation toward building them. I dreaded going up to my work table to build a kit. I seriously considered selling all of my models. Basically, I had contracted that dreaded affliction: modeler’s burnout. It was a tough time. Just as I was trying to figure out what this retirement stuff was all about, I no longer enjoyed one of the things I had planned to do with my newly-found leisure time.

After not touching a model for several months, I decided to troll through my garage and see if any of the models stored there spoke to me. As I walked through the shelves, the kit that called out to me was an old Revell/Monogram 1/48th scale F-102 Delta Dagger. I pulled it off the shelf and didn’t buy anything additional for the build. I didn’t try to do anything special to it, and I didn’t add anything to the basic kit. I just concentrated on building a decent kit with a good paint job. And guess what, I really enjoyed the build. This led to a 1/48th scale Revell P-51. Then to a Revell H-19 helicopter. And then a Revell B-24 Liberator in naval markings. Then came a totally fictitious Cessna maritime surveillance aircraft in Brazilian colors, complete with ejection seats. I was starting to see a trend.

Modeling is fun again. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I don’t build for contests. I don’t count rivets anymore. I sometimes put a paint scheme on a plane that it never actually carried, for no other reason than I like the plane and I like the paint scheme. The end result: I have built more kits in the last two years than I had in the previous 20 years, and I enjoyed every one of them. I again look forward to building. I still occasionally buy the new, technologically superior kit that has every rivet and seam, but I never seem to build them. I continue to return to the old kits that are simpler and more fun to build. Revell and Monogram, as well as early Tamiya and Hasegawa, are my meat and potatoes now. These kits are fun and uncomplicated to build, create a credible model, aren’t overly complex, and have more than a little nostalgia wrapped up in them. I am almost 68 years old now, and I am lucky to still have the physical ability to build models. At some point in the future my hands may shake, or I might forget where my models are stored, but for now, I plan to build every single one of those thousands of kits.

So, the moral of this story is that I learned to enjoy the hobby again by focusing on what drew me to the hobby in the first place: having fun building a decent kit without getting hung up in the details. I moved backward so I could move forward. I admire those of you who still enjoy the challenge of building a complex kit that is an exact reproduction of a plane that sat on a ramp at a specific airfield in June of 1956 at 4:01 in the afternoon, but it just isn’t for me. I’m having fun and that is good enough for me.

So, if you sometimes feel like modeling isn’t as much fun as it used to be, then try something less complex. Don’t sweat the scale dimensions, or the number of rivets on the left nacelle, or whether your kit should have a specific version of seat belts or not. Just try for a decent build with a good paint job. Recall those first kits you built when you were a kid and how much fun they were. You don’t need to give up your new, shiny kits, if you don’t want to. Sometimes it’s enough to just take a break to renew your modeling energy. Remember, we model because it’s fun, right? I still admire the craftmanship and drive that it takes to create the masterpieces that I see in the articles I read on iModeler. You have my admiration and respect. But for me, I find my enjoyment in the kits from a simpler, less complicated time.

6 additional images. Click to enlarge.


28 responses to Going Backward to Move Forward

  1. Now that’s a stash! Welcome to the asylum, George! Rob has all the medications, but I’m sure he’ll share if you ask politely…. 🙂

  2. @gblair Great lead in George! those models look great and bring back memories for me as well. Pretty incredible stash you have too! Welcome to the site.

  3. Wonderful backstory George. I left modeling for about 25 years and worked my way back into it. And like you, appreciate every bit of talent out there. The detail, the skill, the pure craftsmanship is incredible. But, the point to modeling is that it brings joy to the builder—regardless of the detail. If YOU like it, share it, and be proud of it.

    Welcome to the asylum, it’s a great bunch of inmates to share space with.

  4. You are in the right place George, welcome! Those builds look very nice indeed and you had fun as you built them, which is the best any modeller can do!

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with your philosophy of putting the “fun” back into modeling. I was never one to “sweat the small stuff” anyhow. I built, as you said, for the fun and relaxation. Although I’ve recently stopped building after some 50 years (for various reasons better left unsaid for the moment), I really enjoyed seeing your builds and how they look (just fine, by the way). And let me add my “welcome aboard” as well. Glad to have ya. 🙂

  6. Beautifully written George.
    I agree modeling is a hobby and hence enjoying yourself is the main purpose. I like the whole spectrum of it: planning a build and dio, building and painting the kit and looking at the end result when it’s finished in line with your personal standards. I personally am no member of any club or community other than imodeler. Modeling accompanied my life for the last 35 years with various intensity and I learned from and grew as a modeler after each build.
    Welcome to imodeler!

  7. As @jetmex says, welcome to the big house. Reading your post, you are in EXACTLY the right place, George.

  8. George welcome to the club, and boy can I relate to your article. I generally pick off an old model or two at club shows and build them just for fun. And after viewing your stash, have you met Louis Gardner? You two should meet and discuss the pros and cons of “the stash”. Once again welcome and I’m confident you’ll enjoy the company that hangs out here.

  9. Hi george. I’m 30 years old modeler from Korea and I have only 4 year of modeling experience. Your article really moves me. when I lost way in my future modeling life, this just will be a lighthouse.
    thanks to Imodeler club that I could see this, because there is no modeler of your age here in Korea. they never had a chance to have a kit in 1950’s..
    You said you’re having a plan to make all of your thousand of kit. you sure can make it. I’ll wait your next build

    • Hi:
      Glad to hear from you. In my flying in the Air Force, I made many trips to Korea. Just before she retired from the Air Force, my wife was stationed in Korea for a year. Beautiful country and friendly people. I’m sad that people my age never got a chance to build models in your country, but I understand. I hope for better times. :o)

  10. George, I can relate to your story. I to have experienced model burnout b/c I got carried away with the crazy details, modifying, scratch-building, rivet counting, etc. I have actually quit several times for a year or longer. I sometimes s/w back and fourth between hobbies. I usually start-up again the same way you did but I gradually fall back into the super-detail mode, but then need to take another break. I quit once for several years. What got me started was my son started to get old enough to appreciate models. I wanted to build several models for him only to play with as toys. So I put nothing into it. Maybe just a quick sloppy paint-job. This is what brought back my joy for just making a model for the fun of it. I quickly built a dozen or so like that. But then the bug bit me again and they got more and more complicated. I even wrote a few articles like yours regarding getting back to the joy of a simple model. Wrote one this year. I do build models for money now and it sometimes becomes work, but still fun most of the time. To avoid burnout I will take a break between complex builds and build something quick and fun. Also I like to change subject matters like s/w from some complex aircraft models to a simple submarine. Really enjoyed reading your story. Touched me and realized how much I share with other model makers.

    • We have certainly walked the same paths. My daughter got interested in building model cars when she was younger and we really had a good time working on them. She is in her 30s now, so that is all in the past. I have also started building a model railroad, and the two hobbies seem to mesh nicely. When I get burned out on one, I shift to the other. When I have glue or paint drying on one, I go work on the other. I also enjoy landscape photography, so when I start getting tired of working on planes & trains, I hop in the car and go visit nature. :o)

  11. Words of wisdom for how to have fun with this hobby.

  12. George, as others have said I can relate and understand where you are coming from. For me vintage Monogram kits have been 90% of what I have built over the past year. I still will build my “wonder kits”, but these days I have to build a fun simpler build in between. Even adding detail to older kits is often less of a chore than, well, the how ever many hundreds of parts the Panther I am building now has. Great kit, but not a whole lot of fun!

  13. Good to know my stash is not as big as I thought. Been there done it and I am sort of in burnout even now but I live in hope. Keep it going George good lookin builds.

  14. An inspiring story , sir, and welcome! My hands have a little shake to them now, so I can’t afford to rivet count[not that I ever did] , I’m still having fun though, and this site helps with the therapy. Your builds are great!

  15. You should see my 10X20 storage locker!

    • I understand completely. I have 50 or 60 boxes of kits in storage that are well down the queue for building. I simply had to get some of them out of the garage so that we could put one of our cars in the garage in case of hail, etc. (You never know in Texas). I did have to put all of the kits in boxes into a database, or I would never find them again.

  16. Welcome George! Great-looking models, and a story many of us can relate to! I kind of ping-pong back and forth between just wanting to complete a simple, old kit, and then wanting to take something vintage and “bring it up to spec.” After spending about 7 months doing the later on the old Matchbox Privateer (LOTS of scratch building and aftermarket accessories) I’m now doing a PBJ right out of the box and don’t plan to add a thing! Just whatever strikes my fancy and keeps my modeling mojo going (although like you, I do intend to build my stash before I leave this planet, although mine doesn’t quite measure up to yours…!).

    • I had a great time building the the old 1/72nd Revell B-24 in Atlantic search colors. I built it out-of-the-box, except I did sand down some of the huge rivets. I have a Privateer in line to build, but it falls farther down the list when I remember how much work it will need to build. Your persistence on the Privateer is admirable.

  17. A very helpful post about finding the inner creative balance and ease of being that is necessary to build the way we are supposed to build: for fun and catharsis, and to share with others without angst.

    Is that PBY 1/72 or the 1/48 iteration?

  18. I love this story, saw myself on some of the things you mentioned there. Enjoy the hobby and your retirement!

  19. Love the Deuce! I have two, a case X and a case XX so I was dismayed when it was just re-released in WisANG colors from Truax Field in Madison. So now I guess I have to do a third. (At least it’s a lovely build but I’m still hoping Trumpy comes out with the TF-102 to compliment Monogram’s offering.) Is that NeoMega’s Yak-23?

    • I love the 102 also, especially with the red tail. I had a chance to fly the F-102 simulator when I was a young 2nd Lieutenant. Very cool. I forgot how big the 1/48th scale version was. I am planning to build each of the Century Series fighters in 1/48th, but I need to find some shelf space. The Yak-23 is the 1/48th scale Mikro-Mir version, purchased from Hannant’s in England. As far as I know, Somalia never flew them. But in keeping with my new-found modeling freedom, I used a paint scheme that was actually on a Somali Mig-15. I pieced the Somali markings together from a couple of sets of decals.

  20. Great-looking models. About your well written story, I guess I will have one very seemed like yours, very soon. I’m 60 years old now, with a very long modelling story to tell too. Cheers.

    • Thanks for the comments Roberto. I see from your bio that you live in Brazil. Very nice country. I flew into Rio and Sao Paulo a few times when I was flying transports for the Air Force. The photos of your models are outstanding. Mine are not nearly so well done now that I am taking a more casual approach to modeling. Cheers.

Leave a Reply