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Kyle Koppos
22 articles

Of Memory Lane and Angry Clients.

May 6, 2021 · in Aviation · · 23 · 1.9K

These photos are models I no longer own, or for what I know, no longer exist. Sorting through old family files resurfaced these ghosts to me, reflecting on my younger years and my decision to do commission model work. Around my high school and college years, I was paid to build from three or four separate individuals. I have since learned that it tends to not be worth it, but for a student it was okay money at the time. The stress that could come along with it? Not worth it.

The Connie was paid for by a random man I talked to at an antique store, but the other five were purchased and commissioned by the same man. At first I felt it an honor that he wanted to buy my work: the first time he approached me was after he saw my Chinese Peashooter at a show and wanted to buy it. He was a great modeler himself, but he hadn't the time to finish everything he wanted. The Hawk III, A7M 'Sam," P-38, and Raiden were kits he supplied and paid me to build for him.

The Hawk and Sam seemed to please him; after all he did request my further work. But as our relationship went on he became more disgruntled with my efforts. He had peculiars that he wanted done, and I admit I did not always meet them: flattened and bulged tires, cut and repositioned flying surfaces, and other little details.

Eventually he got frustrated enough that he decided to cut contact. The last model I finished for him, the Raiden, I had made a rather simple but glaring mistake on (see if you can spot it), and for him it was the last straw. The final time I saw him was at a model show and he criticized me in public. At the time I was insulted but now I just regret the situation. I did make mistakes, such as not following his full requests and taking too long to finish. He was a j**k, but I wasn't fully innocent.

I no longer do commission work except for friends on rare occasion. Do I regret selling these models? No. As you can probably see from the photography, my post shading at the time was crude and sticks out like a sore thumb. And egads that 'exhaust staining' on the Sam. It's fun seeing these old projects again, but I am glad I have improved over time.

Thanks for looking.

Reader reactions:
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21 additional images. Click to enlarge.

23 responses

  1. Commission work isn't worth the aggravation. All it takes is one j**k to make it all very sour. Or the guy who says "$500? But the kit only cost $50!" My answer being "You're paying $450 to rent my knowledge on how to make it what you want, which you don't have the talent/skill/knowledge/experience to do yourself - and how much money did you say you get an hour as a lawyer?" Nowadays the answer is "I don't have the time" - which is the truth.

    Those are still very credible models.

  2. Commisioned work many times imposes stresses between the builder and the "customer", Kyle.

    A very good Greek aviation painter (by international standards - has done many kit boxarts the last 15 years or so), also good friend of mine ("met" through the hobby) does commision builds for individual customers and faces similar situations like you faced (still, no public criticizing). Truth is you cannot always guess how "difficult" a customer can be...

    Your models above are great! As expected, I am still trying to find the Raiden glaring error...

  3. Profile Photo
    Csaba said on May 6, 2021

    I have never made commission builds. I built a few for friends, but that’s all.
    One of my modeling friends has achieved the level, where he does not have to worry about loosing his daytime job. He has enough second income for living from commissioned model builds and figure painting. I am not sure if it fun that way, but we are all different. I would rather keep my daytime job, I believe.

  4. A nice collection Kyle.
    Looking back at old models has its own problems, those mistakes I made back then still bug me!
    Still its great to see how your skills and approach develop over time though.
    Not sure about the Raiden error though!

  5. Nice work on these models Kyle. I did some commission work for a guy in France after he bought a build of mine on EBAY. He paid extremely well and was pleased with my work but as time went by he seemed to get more demanding. This is a hobby I do for enjoyment and when it starts felling like "work" it's time to stop.

  6. J**k of course is not a strong enough descriptive for that fellow in question. I do not believe he built anything of his own at all, as he had another modeler doing stuff for him too.
    I know where the Raiden error is haha. But I won't snitch.

    • There's a well-known modeler here in Southern California, I won't mention his name but if you've ever seen the handle "SierraBob," you've met him. Has two of every kit and aftermarket set ever made in 1/48 filling a two-car garage/hobby shop, none of which he can build because while he can critique the daylights out of your model, he can't put two pieces of plastic together - if you're nice to him, he'll invite you over and buy your friendship with the gift of "this spare I found." But he has a very nice collection of models in glass cases in his house, none of which he will ever say directly he built, but he won't correct any assumptions you make, thereby proving the truth of the rule about "assume" making an a s s of u and me. But he's an expert and if you have any complaints about him, it's because you're jealous.

  7. C'mon, least begin giving us some clues on that "mistake" with your Jack build. Right now, I'm gluing-up Hasegawa's Raiden in 1/72 and man, I really do want to avoid your not obvious to moi glaring gaff.

    • This photo shows the error more clearly. When you see it, it's kind of funny. The client got really mad though.

      1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

      • That's one of those "Can I kick myself in the head now?" mistakes. There's no accounting for how it happened, and no matter how good, how experienced, you get or how talented you are, there are two kinds of modelers: those who have yet to do this, and those who have (often more than once, as I just did on a project, though I caught it while the glue was still unset).

      • @kopperhed I think this is a fine build. I am sure there were different versions to the plane but on some historic photos, the elevator looked skinned just like the flaps do. I don't have a picture of the underside of the plane but maybe the elevators are upside down? Not sure, as for me it looks like a Raiden very much!

  8. I completely understand how you would feel that way. The extra trouble is not worth it. If you need the cash, then that's another story, as you do what you have to in order to survive, keep a roof over your head and food on your table. It's even worse if you have children at home, as they come first and have a lot of needs.

    As far as the mistake on the Raiden. Is the engine and cowling are upside down ? It looks as if the exhaust is blowing right on the windshield. In no time at all, your Raiden pilot would be out of action, due to carbon monoxide and the windows would likely melt.

    In all honesty, I think we are all too hard on ourselves and tend to be our own worst critics. I know I am.

  9. I think the engine is right Louis...

    Kyle only after much scrupulous examination did I find it... inboard vs outboard. 😉 Couldn't make up your mind? (I kid :D)

    Fine looking builds regardless. I think in part, commissions would ruin the fun for me.

  10. They all look great to me.

  11. Well, it is a job and many of those not so positive vibes just have to be accepted. Didn´t see the wrong you did, almost thought it was you put the roundels the wrong side up 😉

  12. Nice builds! I am too invested in enjoying the hobby (and not being overly critical of the mistakes I make on almost every build!) to ever get distracted by building (for money) for someone else! I'm sure if someone asked me for a really good reason to build something for a cause, I would do it, but only if I believed in the cause or the person...

  13. Hee hee! Great story and a warning to all. I built a Swordfish for a friend's father. He is delighted with it and it's in a case. BUT he bought me the kit and I built it for the fun of it. These are nice kits to me!

  14. G’day Kyle,
    Spotted! But I’m not gunna tell, right?
    Great builds.

  15. This turned out to be quite a fun thread.

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