Modelling is all about time. You might argue that it’s about building or technique or perhaps that it’s about history but ultimately, like most craft-based hobbies, it takes time. A simple build project can easily absorb 10-15 hours even it you don’t think of it in those terms, whilst a really complex project might take ten or twenty times that. It all depends on how you want to approach the hobby you enjoy – and if you’re reading this column and buying this (or any other) magazine about the hobby, then I’d argue that you have taken that fundamental step between the casual model assembler to the serious hobbyist.
But should we be measuring our hobby in hours? Does that really matter? If I measure my projects at all it’s in the context of the time elapsed from start to finish rather than actual build time. A model might take three months from start to finish but that isn’t actual bench time because I have other calls on my time. In fact I would question whether it is possible to accurately measure actual build time. What does ‘this model took 50 hours to build’ mean? Does it include preparation time when you are researching? Does it include those evenings when you sit down at your bench for three hours but actually achieve nothing at all (or perhaps that’s just me…)?
I’ve just finished a project I started six years ago. I’d long wanted to build an M577 Command Vehicle in the 1970s MASSTER camouflage scheme. I probably only committed about four months to it in terms of construction, research and completion, but I know it was on my mind regularly over those six years. It was a project that I never felt I wouldn’t finish but a variety of other priorities and indeed other modelling projects came and went over my bench. I will admit that at times I felt it had become a millstone around my neck but suddenly, just over two months ago it re-appeared on my workbench and the old enthusiasm for it had returned.
Now that it’s finished I feel really good about it. It doesn’t matter to me that I started it all those years ago, or that other projects got in the way. It’s all about being able to sit back and know that I achieved what I set out to do. The amount of time it took me is irrelevant.
So why do I say that modelmaking is all about time? In these days of instant access and instant gratification, a hobby like ours requires you to allocate time to it. Depending on how you purchase your kits, they can take time to arrive. To me, allowing 28 days for delivery is still the benchmark I work to. It’s great if the package arrives in two days or even 24 hours, but do any of us really ‘need’ it that quickly? Of course not, but it’s a habit we seem to have got into.
If you like to research your subject before you build the kit then that takes time too. For me there is something immensely satisfying about browsing through my reference material, whether it be in books or online, absorbing the subject and deciding what needs to be done to the kit. Books have always been my downfall. My shelves are bulging with reference material and I like nothing better than leafing through the pages to track down those elusive details.
Actual construction takes time too. I know there are kits that I can (and have) assembled in less than an hour. Some of Tamiya’s exquisite 1/48 scale armour kits for example will almost fall together in that time. Equally, if you have built the kit before, then it usually goes together quicker the second (or third, or fourth) time you build it. Of course, if you have plans to modify or convert the kit into another variant then that will add to your construction time.
How much time you spend on painting and finishing the kit will also vary dependent on the paint you use, the way you apply it and how complex the scheme might be. My recently finished M577 required a four-colour scheme with hard edges, all carefully masked and then sprayed. It was complex and time-consuming, but the end result was worthwhile.
Perhaps instead of measuring how much time we have spent on a project we should be measuring if the result is worthwhile; if the level of satisfaction is high; if you learnt a new technique or refined an existing one. Arguably it doesn’t matter how long the project took. Neither should it matter how long anybody else’s project took either. Who cares whether the project took 20 hours or 2000 hours? I’ve seen contest winning models that took a few hours to build and others where hundreds of hours of time invested in the project fail to propel it to any form of recognition.
Modelling is all about time, but it is about well spent. It matters not how much time you put into your hobby just as long as you enjoy it.
First published in Scale Military Modeller International magazine