The inspiration for this column’s monthly themes comes from a wide range of sources, some of them obvious and others less so. Sometimes those ideas are easy to find but often I am scratching around for something on which to base my monthly ramblings. This month has been one of the easier ones and returns to a subject I talk about from time to time – the nature of model shows.
I’ve just returned from one the shows I attend each year. It’s the MAFVA Nationals and I’ve been going for almost as long as I’ve been a member. I joined MAFVA roughly the same time as I joined IPMS (UK) and I happily split my loyalties between the two. Neither am I the only current or former member of the IPMS Committee to have memberships of both organisations. As a long term MAFVA member I would be attending the Nationals anyway, but I have the added bonus of representing IPMS most years. We have long had a reciprocal agreement that ensures that each organisation has the opportunity to represent themselves at the other’s annual championships. There is the obvious cross-over in membership but it is also about supporting the broader hobby and working with each other rather than as rivals. After all, we all need a healthy hobby in order for us to survive.
Attending a show as an IPMS representative means that I don’t have quite the freedom to wander around as I normally would. My ability to do so very much depends on the size of the event and how busy it is. My primary reasons for being there are to promote IPMS to new people; to offer existing members a chance to renew; to act as a point of contact for our members, a real face if you will; and finally to maintain the profile of the Society within the hobby. I’ve been involved with the Executive Committee for long enough that it is rare that I don’t know several people at any given model show. Some are friends, some are traders who I’ve got to know over time, some are current or former committee members and some are members of some the clubs that I belong to.
Being ‘on duty’ at a show is a responsibility but it’s also a task I enjoy. That said, I always try take a browse around the show to see the club stands and part with some cash on the trade stands. I also try to work on a model. It may not be a current project but it encourages conversation with both the interested observer and the casual passer-by. For the same reason I always put several of my completed models on the membership desk. It helps to identify me as a modeller and to show people what I build. It breaks the ice if they can ask you about one of the models, or perhaps what it is that you are building.
For my trip to the MAFVA Nationals this year I set myself two personal tasks. By some miracle I was able to achieve both. Firstly, I wanted to pick up another 1/48 scale Tamiya Humvee, specifically the cargo version with the soft-top roof and front doors. The second goal was to scratchbuild a pair of rear canvas doors for the Humvee as none are available in the aftermarket world. I have a future project that will require the full set of four canvas doors and needed a pair of rear doors that sat comfortably alongside the kit-supplied front doors without being obviously different.
By the time I packed up at the end of the day I had two doors that, if not complete, were far enough advanced to give me confidence that I could complete the larger project. Whenever I have a new project that requires a complex or unusual item I will often attempt it first. If I can’t get it right then I know it’s not worth starting the rest of the project. I didn’t get it right the first time, or the second, but I learnt enough from the attempts to get the third pair of doors to a standard that I can use.
A model show may seem a strange place to work on a new component but it was a small project that only required some bits of plastic strip and card, plus some basic modelling tools. I can work on it between doing my official tasks and it often generates conversation. In this day and age, watching a modeller building a part of plastic sheet and rod is unusual – there is an all-too-common assumption that ‘details’ and ‘conversions’ come in a box from an aftermarket manufacturer. It’s the type of task that helps to demystify the craft of scratchbuilding and maybe, just maybe it will encourage someone else to have a go themselves rather than buying a ready-made solution.
Most of all it’s about interacting with other modellers and that’s the most enjoyable part for me. You might be sharing your own knowledge but the opportunity to learn from others is incalculable.
First published in Scale Military Modeller International magazine