Viewpoint – April 2017

Modellers tend to be creatures of habit. We mostly stick to the subjects we like. We generally build in a constant scale and we often develop particular styles and methods of construction as we become more experienced.

It isn’t a hard and fast rule and I sometimes spread my building across many genres of modelling, but for more than 30 years my subject and scale of choice was 1/35 scale and (mostly) modern armour. Even within those parameters, I had particular favourites. Engineer and recovery vehicles were always on the agenda, as were any and all variants of the M113 Armoured Personnel Carrier. Over 20+ years I must have built in excess of 30 M113 kits, nearly all of them different and very few of them in American markings.

But things move on and as anyone who follows this column on a regular basis will know, I made the momentous decision to change my allegiance to 1/48 scale armour a few years ago. It was a combination of factors that brought about this move to a new scale. I felt increasingly overwhelmed with the sheer range of 1/35 scale kits that were (and still are) being released. That, coupled with the steadily increasing retail price, meant I was less and less inclined to buy the kits. I think the last 1/35 scale kit I purchased would have been Tamiya’s original M561 Gama Goat kit when it first came out.

1/48 scale offered me good quality kits at lower prices. The models are still large enough to allow me to convert or detail them to my heart’s content  and perhaps most counter-intuitive of all, I didn’t have as many to choose from. In more practical terms, the reduced size of the models meant less pressure on my limited storage resources. It doesn’t resolve the ultimate problem of what to do when I run out of space altogether but at least it delays that evil day for a few more years.

The decision to change scales didn’t wholly end my interest in 1/35 and neither did it happen neatly at the end of a project. I usually work on three or four projects concurrently and one of those ‘old scale’ projects was left half-completed. It continued to stare balefully at me from the shelf of shame for the next five years.

Quite suddenly about four weeks ago I got it down from the shelf on a whim and decided to review where I had left the project and what needed doing to complete it. Looking back all those years I think I’d hit a creative barrier with a couple of the scratchbuilt elements and that had stalled the project. With the benefit of a fresh pair of eyes I found myself able to move forward quite easily. The interior details were quickly undercoated and sprayed with their base colour and I started on the detail painting.

One of the biggest shocks was how comfortable I’d become working in 1/48 scale. Returning to 1/35 means that the parts seem so big, almost cumbersome. A simple jerrycan for example, looks much larger than I remember. I had re-calibrated my brain to work in the smaller scale, to judge sizes and proportions and to estimate dimensions with a fair degree of accuracy. Now I’m having to remember what it felt like to work in my old scale. The worry I have is how easy it will be to go back to 1/48 scale once this project is finished?

All the reasons I moved away from 1/35 still exist so I have no great desire to return to it. However, there are temptations… AFV Club have said they will shortly be releasing a new-tool M113 kit and of all the subjects to tug on my emotions, this is perhaps the most tempting. I can purchase resin M113s in 1/48 scale but they would cost almost as much as a new tool 1/35 scale plastic kit and plastic is still my material of choice. On the other hand, the challenge of producing my favourite AFV in 1/48 is also holds a powerful attraction.

The very fact that my preferred subjects are not easily available in 1/48 scale means I have to work to achieve my goals and encourages me to extend my modelling skills. I’m not the rabid competition junkie that I used to be and rarely enter models at the shows I attend, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy putting my work on display and talking to people about it. The more unusual the subject, the more likely people are to ask about it.

The prospect of producing yet another Tiger or Sherman has never appealed. I’ve built my Tiger, just the one, but it won’t win any prizes and I’m sure the experten would find myriad faults with its accuracy. Kudos to those who find these vehicles fascinating as subjects, but I’d rather choose less popular subjects.

If we all built the same stuff, the hobby would have the richness and diversity that makes it so appealing. I’m going to stick with my oddball armour scale and offbeat subjects and who knows, maybe I can persuade a few of you to join me too.

John Tapsell

Copyright IPMS(UK)

First published in Scale Military Modeller International magazine