We can’t see the wood for the trees…

Are you the sort of person that becomes hung up on minute errors and mistakes? Join the club…

“So we all become obsessed with our own corner of this little world. We concentrate on the areas that we shouldn’t at the expense of those that perhaps will cause less angst, less argument and more pleasure”

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Building models is not unique in bringing out the anal in us all, but it is certainly a fine example to share with friends to whom a small missing detail, or fleck of dust on the surface of a painted wing, is more likely to raise a belly laugh, than an eyebrow of understanding. You have to be part of our world to understand and maybe, just maybe, you have to be part of our world to realise that such things are really rather silly.

It would be unbecoming of me to suggest to you that I have never fallen foul of such minor obsessions. The list of models that I have never finished and put away, repainted, or smashed with a hammer after finding a small blemish that would be invisible to anyone but myself, is as long as it is painful, so I am most certainly part of the story. Even when up against deadlines that don’t allow for such things as repaints — or worst still, rebuilds— I’ve been so frustrated by what I see as an utter failure in my ability to complete even the most simple of tasks, that I become physically incapable of ignoring tiny errors, mistakes that to all but me, are nothing short of inconsequential. And that’s when the problems really start…

You see, that’s my personal, modelling OCD: the finish that I apply to a model. The paintwork has to be perfectly smooth, the colours FS-accurate and the markings, as perfectly applied as possible. If I spray a model and any part of the finish feels rough, it has to be smoothed out and repainted. And heaven forbid that some airborne fluff should land on the surface! My need to remove the unwanted contaminant is only matched by my ability to chase it around the finish so much, that the damage that I do and the blemish that results, is way beyond anything visible from just leaving it alone. But I never learn; the remaining finish could be picture perfect and I would still focus on that tiny fleck of dust that by now I hate with every fibre of my being and know, despite my better judgement, that I am going to ‘deal’ with and make matters infinitely worse.

So I lose sight of what I have achieved and focus on a wholly unimportant issue that does little to damage the look or feel of the completed model. Like a grain of sand blowing onto a freshly swept path, it should be immaterial and I should be able to sit down and enjoy a coffee that serves as reward for a job well done. But no; I grab the broom again and pray that the breeze holds off. But it never does…

And thus we see the same obsessions with those to whom the worries that afflict my personality are replaced by a focus on absolute accuracy, detail and perfection from the kits that they plan to build. Flecks of dust are replaced with missing details, simplified features and engineering issues that won’t allow them to build a model kit without aftermarket details, extra work, or forward planning. Reworking a paint finish is replaced with hyperbolic pronouncements of unbuildable kits, engineering disasters and ideas that companies are ripping of the unsuspecting, with sub-par products unworthy of an opened wallet ready to be emptied of hard-earned cash, handed over excitedly to a model shop owner who’s no doubt, in on the ruse.

In these cases, the modellers are blind to the fact that these minor problems are often offset by the complexity, detail and accuracy found in the rest of the kit, or that their competition is an ancient tool consigned to the dusty shelf of ignorance by all but the most enthusiastic. Recent discussions about the correct shape of Zoukei-Mura’s F-4 Phantom flanks, ignore the excellence of the rest of the airframe, detail and accuracy; criticism over Kitty Hawk’s misfiring radome and its ungainly mounting lugs, ignore the complete cockpit, fine surface detail and the fact that finally, we have a replacement for the ancient OEZ kit, a kit that is held up as still being worthy in the face of such heinous design flaws, despite being poorly detailed and difficult to build without huge amounts of additional work and no little skill. Wood cannot be seen for the myriad plastic trees, obsession clouds judgement, minor issues become major distractions. Grandiose argument, follows moderate interest.

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So we all become obsessed with our own corner of this little world. We concentrate on the areas that we shouldn’t at the expense of those that perhaps will cause less angst, less argument and more pleasure. If I was to ignore the less-than obvious, I would be less stressed than I almost always become over every single paint job that I apply. In the past that has helped me to improve, but now that my standards are more than acceptable, it should be time to put the breaks on and calm down. Those who complain about the smaller issues in kit production should perhaps realise that we have genuinely never had it so good and even ten years ago we could not have imagined that we would see the kits that we have today, offering the detail, finesse and choice that they do. And before anyone offers up analogies about cars, electrical appliances or other spurious nonsense that is supposed to make me understand that we shouldn’t simply accept the status quo, don’t; this is a discussion about plastic model kits that are supposed to be a fun diversion, not a safety feature that’s there to save your life, or a fail-safe that’s designed to protect your house from burning down.

We all lose sight of the wood for the trees, but maybe it’s now time to take a deep breath and take a walk through the forest to admire the view, rather than stopping to admire the first oak that we find as we step off the path…

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13 thoughts on “We can’t see the wood for the trees…

  1. Dr Malcolm McKay February 20, 2017 / 9:13 am

    I regard my models in the same way as I regard myself – flawed, not perfect but just trying to do the best I can and relying on my own skill to do that.

    • spencerp6745 February 20, 2017 / 9:16 am

      I think that perfectly sums up my approach as well – with a healthy lack of time thrown in for good measure!

    • David Robbins Sr February 20, 2017 / 12:50 pm

      Same here

  2. Geoff Pereira February 20, 2017 / 10:04 am

    I am much, much less a perfectionist than the author and I frequently forgive myself for things that could have gone a lot better than my final results but there is one aspect of the hobby that I do take to heart. If a manufacturer makes a product and the cost (for whatever reason) is high, then they owe it to the thousands of buyers to produce a high quality model, deserving of the price. I am not talking about the one scale inch out here or the feint fault in the shape of a canopy or the micron off-scale wingspan, etc. I am talking about the types of issues that will actually cause a kit not to be properly built, or result in hours and hours of sanding and shaping due to non fit of parts or as in the case of one particular manufacturer – hideously thick sprue gates and terribly soft plastic, coupled with bad fit. I am happy to deal with issues on a kit costing 20 Dollars but not on a new release 70 Dollar kit.

  3. David Robbins Sr February 20, 2017 / 1:04 pm

    In the last little while l have had my confidence grown in some areas thanks to the likes of Spencer and Phil. I bought the Academy 1/72 B-17B as it is the only game in town. There it has sat on the shelf for several years do the lack of confidence in not only fixing the wing problem but for years l have shy away from BMF due to the quality of products until recently. New Metalizers like AK, Gunze and MRP have given me the confidence to do them and actually looking forward to doing them. As for the wing problem watching Phil Flory has given me a lot of ideas as to how to solve it without messing up the finish. Will it be prefct? Of course not but l endeavor to improve with each new model. Pass errors? They don’t bother me but they are filed in the back of my mind as to not what to do the next time.

  4. Jeremy Moore February 20, 2017 / 1:15 pm

    I recently waisted almost a whole day trying to find a replacement for some .06 mm brass rod that I had run out of in the middle of a project. And then I realized the .05 mm I had on hand would “suffice”…! I laughed at myself the next day and chalked it up to myopia induced by old age and treachery.

  5. Scott A Bregi February 20, 2017 / 2:44 pm

    I totally agree with you Spence. I am the same way about my finishes, especially my car finishes. I tend to not get wrapped around the axle about shape issues. Although I have one model that I have always poo-poo’d, The classic Monogram 1/48th scale Mosquito. That is so FUBAR’d that I cringe when I come across one. I have also seen some modelers get so fixated with fixing shape and accuracy issues that they fail to take care of the basics and screw up a project trying to “get the shape perfect”

  6. Michael Douglas Scott February 20, 2017 / 2:52 pm

    I think this is endemic to basic human behavior. There may be those who live in a world of constant satisfaction and personal perfection but these are the true outliers of the human condition. Or so I think. The isssue for me arises when those modelers who are perennially dissatisfied with some small perceived or actual flaw in a kit magnify and publicize it beyond belief. My fault in all this is to give them the attention they so obviously crave. Getting sucked into yet another imbecilic internet flame war is totally my fault.

    EVERY model I complete is ridden with flaws, the vast majority of which are of my making. Those are the ones I care about and I am fortunately caring less and less all the time.

  7. Jerry Little February 20, 2017 / 4:28 pm

    This is a great rebuttal to a small minority of modelers out there who suffer from “false-consensus bias” when it comes to their opinion on modeling. These people tend to forget that to the majority of sentient beings out there models are just little plastic toys and they couldn’t care less how knowledgeable or talented a modeler thinks they are. That is just reality. So what does that leave? We build models because we enjoy the challenge of creation and the aesthetics of an interesting subject sitting on the shelf. Well written…thank you.

  8. Stuart Hale February 20, 2017 / 4:49 pm

    Whenever I complete a model I can always find some detail that I feel I could have improved on , but I still enjoy the building of my models and find it it a great release from the stress and strain of life today , what more could I ask from a hobby ?

  9. Kenneth David Hanson February 20, 2017 / 9:33 pm

    I’ve learned to look past minor accuracy and fit issues, whether it’s a new or old-tooled kit. They are, after all, scale replicas of a particular subject and not scale duplicates. That being said, I do tend to read the reviews as a way to gauge how much work may be involved in building a kit. At the end of the day, if it’s a subject I’m keenly interested in, I will buy & build it, flaws or not.

  10. Graeme Buckley February 21, 2017 / 12:48 am

    The whole point of a hobby is that it should leave you feeling better rather than worse at the end of the process. I think the person who summed up golf as a sport in which you are really only competing against yourself. I have immense admiration for the skills of those who win the competitions, and to realise that your own products are not in the same league is just being honest. Nevertheless, I still have fun building them, and if I can get something that looks like a reasonable replica, I’m happy.

    In terms of what is on offer to us, into terms or kits/aftermarket/tools, this really is the golden age of plastic modelling, a home user can produce the sort of model that was formerly the province of top museums, or manufacturers, and I personally am getting a little tired of people whose only pleasure in life seems to come from trashing new releases.

    I think most of the kit manufacturers are trying to produce a decent product, though their interpretations I sometimes find a little strange (i.e. ZM and Trumpeter’s habit of putting all that engine detail in places where it will never be seen again, on the other hand the Be-6 cowlings were empty apart from the front cooling fan?)

    In terms of value for money (and mostly the market is way past the pocket money stage) surely the longer a kit keeps you occupied, the better value it represents?

  11. Paul Frawley February 21, 2017 / 8:08 am

    Great post Mr Pollard! Like a breath of fresh air and actually quite cheering. I believe we truly live in a golden age of modelling – yet it should be enjoyed as much as I did when I started building kits way back in 1972. Many thanks again.

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