We can’t see the wood for the trees – 2.0

Need an example of how sometimes modellers become so wrapped up in small, insignificant details that they miss the bigger picture? Ladies and gentleman, here’s my F-86 Sabre…

“For whatever reason (and honestly, that eludes me) I had seen something in this Sabre that I didn’t like, focussed on that and then convinced myself it wasn’t worthy of any more of my time”

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A week or so ago I wrote a Blog on the problems that modellers have with seeing the wood for the trees.

Here’s the link:

https://thekitbox.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/we-cant-see-the-wood-for-the-trees/

Now that you have read that wonderfully pithy insight into the mind of a modeller(!), I thought that you’d like see an example of exactly what I was talking about! You may recall last year that I spent some of my time building two F-86 Sabres as part of my day-job editing Model Airplane International magazine. You make also remember that that exercise was not wholly successful. For those that don’t, here’s a little reminder of just how far south a project to build two F-86s went during the summer months of last year

Here’s the link:

https://thekitbox.wordpress.com/2016/07/02/time-to-pay-attention/

Okay, now we are fully up to speed – almost. Following the disastrous completion of two less than accurate Sabres, I decided that I would tackle a third, using an Academy kit that I had in the loft and then decorating it with the spare markings from the Eduard kit that I used to build the American one seen in my earlier essay. That way, I would finally have an accurate model to add to the collection, rather than the error-strewn ones that I had already assembled. Now, I know without thinking about it too much that trying to remove the poisoned memory of a bungled project by tackling another, never, ever works. I tried it with a 1:35 German Wespe once and it was a disaster, all enthusiasm that I initially had, having gone down the pan with the first model that I wrecked. Building another was nothing more than an exercise in futility in that case, so I have no idea why I thought it was a good idea this time. But you know, being pig-headed, I had to try

So, against my much better judgement I grabbed the kit and set about construction, painting and then decalling. All was going rather well actually, until after I’d applied the decals. The paintwork was neat enough, the natural metal finish looking smooth and sharp, the smaller sub-assemblies and details looked presentable and the markings, all bright blue and white, looked as smart in three dimensions, as they did in two on the instruction sheet. The decals from the Eduard kit were superb snuggling down beautifully and though I had to raid an old Hasegawa kit for some national insignia, they worked fine as well, despite taking an age to release from the backing sheet. So I applied everything, breathed a slightly weary sigh of relief and then left everything to dry out overnight.

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The following day, I checked the model over, noted a few blemishes here and there and then decided that it looked pleasing enough, so airbrushed the airframe with a few layers of Tamiya Semi Gloss Clear to smooth it all out and hide the decals’ carrier film. They didn’t. So I applied some more. No change. A little sanding and another coat. Better, but not great. Oh well I thought, some weathering and a wash around the panel lines will help blend it all in and level everything out. Yep, that was no more successful. Removing the wash simply polished the surface, highlighting the edges of the decals on the surface of what was rapidly changing from a delicate natural metal finish, to one that looked to be painted in several shades of medium grey. I wasn’t making the model look better: I was making it look infinitely worse.

By now I was tired, frustrated and fed up, so decided to call it quits, box the model up and forget about it – maybe, just maybe, tossing the whole thing in the bin and admitting defeat if the mood, as has happened many times in the past, took me. Several weeks passed by and the box moved from the workshop to my office during a tidy up, where it remained for almost six months until I lifted the lid once again at the start of this week…

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It’s odd, but the passage of time can certainly temper your feelings towards a project. During the summer of last year I really loathed the sight of the model and had convinced myself that the whole thing was rubbish and yet here, in my hands was a miniature aeroplane that I had a chance to examine once more and for the life of me, I couldn’t work out what I didn’t like about it! The finish, though far from stellar, was actually quite delicate, the paintwork and decals having settled down to a pleasing appearance. Why the hell did I not finish this model?!

For whatever reason (and honestly, that eludes me) I had seen something in this Sabre that I didn’t like, focussed on that and then convinced myself it wasn’t worthy of any more of my time. Maybe fatigue had played a part, the two other aircraft kits having burned-out my enthusiasm for a third and that had clouded any judgment that I may have had for it. Who knows. As it was, I’d left myself with little more than a day’s work to complete the thing, so that’s what I did, painting the remaining bits and bobs, cleaning up the model, repairing any damage that had befallen it over the intervening months and then bringing it all together to produce another addition to my Sabre family. One day – why could I have not done that last year?!

So now it’s finished.

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The model in my opinion looks okay, but not as neat and tidy as the other two Sabres, despite the fact that this one is more accurate! The use of decals from different sources has created a slightly imbalanced finish and in my desire to simply finish this model rather than spend any more time on it than needed, has meant that weathering is less than subtle and a touch hamfisted. I also note that some of the parts didn’t fit as well as I would have liked, the windscreen looking to be rather lopsided and I’ve lost the pitot and gunsight (the former being borrowed from my earlier builds for this photo-shoot) so it’s far from perfect. But now its done and despite my personal reservations, I rather like the results, the blue trim popping wonderfully against the metal finish.

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I’m glad I kept this model and I’m pleased that I can use it as an example of how we can all become hung up on problems with our builds that are in the main, simply not there. So the next time that you feel that a model is not that great and that it’s getting away from you, take a step back and leave it alone for a while, you never know, you just might find the next day that you can no longer see anything wrong with it…

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8 thoughts on “We can’t see the wood for the trees – 2.0

  1. Gordon Ferguson March 2, 2017 / 5:54 pm

    Good advice , trouble is when I put the unfinished model back in the box it rarely gets finished and just becomes another one of many shelf queens.
    However this and your last post have helped no end in appreciating that I am nothing special and even professionals have the same issues as the rest of us

  2. Christian Atkins March 2, 2017 / 6:38 pm

    Sage words and a rather splendid model to boot!

  3. Andy Littleford March 2, 2017 / 6:44 pm

    Really good words of advice Spencer! However, the model looks the business now!

  4. Konrad Schreier March 2, 2017 / 9:04 pm

    My wife calls it “fear of finishing” and this is a great discussion of a root cause of the problem. I have rearranged my modeling desk to keep several projects on the go using drawers for those that are stalled waiting parts or research, but try not to give up on one. Keeping the WIPs at hand does help move them to completion regardless. With only four drawers to work with, the system seems to be working, I got 4 shelf queens done last year and hope to best that box score in 2017.

    Now, not that it’s a panacea, I am still pulling long dormant shelf queens into the rotation, but as Spencer observes, when I reopen the box and blow the dust off, it’s not clear why they fell dormant. Considering Spencer’s recent post on foul-ups, which seem to happen to me in almost every build too, I think the take away is simply to decide to finish it, and follow through. Even a flawed model (and from my judging experiences they all are) is a lot more fun than an abandoned half done one. Who knows, what you learn from it may help make the next one at least a little less flawed.

    Konrad

  5. Rick Wilkes March 2, 2017 / 9:52 pm

    I wish my “flawed” models turned out as well as that Sabre. I appreciate your columns when you talk about the frustrations you battle just like the rest of us.
    One thing I did notice, on the close up of the port side, the star and bar overlaps the white trim on the fuselage band, but in the other pictures it doesn’t due to a noticeably smaller national insignia on the side.
    How the heck did you pull that off without ruining the finish!!???

  6. Ian Scrase March 3, 2017 / 7:54 am

    Spencer, it’s so refreshing to read about mistakes and errors from modelling immortals such as yourself! It seems to be a part of modelling you rarely hear about especially when presenting a nigh on perfect example of a particular subject.

    I follow your work as I do others such as the Spanish modellers because I find them inspirational and I always come away believing that I too can aspire to and achieve the finishing that I see in your work and other top modellers.

    So it will come as no surprise to hear that I never quite achieve my goals due to multiple errors that I always seem to make and even repeat on an alarming scale! But what I have learned in my second reincarnation as a model builder is to not be so hard on myself and recognize the need to just walk away and leave a model until such a time as to be able fix whatever issue lead to my loss of initial enthusiasm.

    I have, I believe become a better modeller for it. An example being my recent build of Meng’s P-51D which I thoroughly enjoyed after seeing your fine example. After final decalling and weathering I was ready to call it done when to my horror upon unmasking the canopy hood I found it covered in hardened streaks of residue!! Nothing chemical could remove it. I could have cried. So I left it walked away but I just couldn’t give up when I was so close to finishing what I thought was a really nice model. So out came my trusty sanding pads and voila, after working through the grades and polishing I actually ended up with an even better canopy that I started with!!

    So thank you Spencer for giving your honest and wise words of advice. This very much mortal scale modeller truly appreciates it!

  7. Nicholas Perry March 3, 2017 / 1:06 pm

    Like many I find myself in total agreement with what you’ve written Spencer. Each needs to find their own solution to an issue, as in all life, but you have made points I hadn’t considered. Thank You. My plan is to restart a stalled build with each new build and do as many of the latter in Group Builds as I can. It seems to be working so far.
    Best Wishes for all of us to get these Demons exorcised and maybe, a little relief from SWMBO or even HWMBO.

  8. amateurairplanes March 3, 2017 / 1:41 pm

    Always love a good Sabre! Great job. The mistakes make us human. The desire to fix them makes us better model builders. Even if we can’t fix them, we have given our best and that’s all that matters. This is a fun hobby and I have turned it not fun many times over trying to be perfect. I still do! I don’t think that will ever go away. You should be very proud of your work. I enjoy seeing your builds.

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