My model building – evolution.
If you look at a typical 1/24 or 1/25 scale model car kit, the box indicates “Ages 10 and up.”
I don’t know how old I was when I started building them, but I wasn’t 10 or older. I vaguely remember taking cars I had built to “show and tell” in the 2nd grade.
They were terrible.
Somewhere along the way, someone gave me a paint set that was all fluorescent Testors enamel paints, and I used them. I’d go through a tube of glue to build a single kit. I pilfered paint brushes from my Dad, I stole emery boards from Mom. I raided the kitchen for toothpicks to stir paint and I cleaned those brushes in turpentine. I specifically remember using a crappy Testors hobby knife to scrape “POLICE” in the trunk of some poor 4-door sedan that I had brush painted flat black. Unmarked indeed.
I remember there being a small selection of model kits and supplies at the Safeway store, and once in a while I could talk Mom into buying me a kit. Eventually she allowed me to join a “Model of the Month” club that sent me a model kit once a month.
They were terrible.
But I looked forward to getting that plain brown box in the mail and putting them together. My desire to build was insatiable. Poorly detailed airplanes, helicopters, cars, fire engines – they all went together with great enthusiasm, and very little skill. Or patience.
Somewhere along the way I started wanting to make my models look better. It was probably driven by my limited access to fresh boxes of styrene plastic, and as I got older by finding some kindred spirits. My interests moved from cars to airplanes.
This is worth a pause. When I was young, my Dad was an aviation mechanic working for a small local airline, which fascinated me more than he ever realized. I was vaguely aware that he was a helicopter mechanic in the Army and served in Vietnam. I remember the Time-Life “Epic of Flight” books at home and I was drawn in particular to the military aircraft – specifically fighter planes. WWI Nieuports, SPADs, Sopwiths, and Fokkers, WWII Corsairs, Mustangs, Lightnings, Spitfires, 109s, 190s, early F-86s, “Century Series” jets, F-4s – I was enthralled by all of them. I studied them. I drew them. I knew about their development, their variants, their missions. I knew their history and the stories of the men who flew them. I wanted to be part of that legacy.
Eventually I became part of that legacy. I enlisted in the Air Force and became an Aircraft Armament Systems Specialist working on the gun systems, missile launchers and other components of the F-15 weapon systems. I got to take it apart, fix it, and put it back together. I got to sit in the cockpit and test those systems. I worked with pilots and got to see them in action during Operation Desert Storm.
My model building got put on hold – mostly.
I built a 1/32 scale Corsair which I considered at the time my ultimate achievement in the hobby. It got trashed in a move. I made some small attempts to get my kids into the hobby without much success. I got into radio control (with a lot of overlap) and building scale models kind of went by the wayside.
Then I decided to get back into it and my beautiful wife got behind me. I’m not sure she understands, but she does understand that it’s important to me. She gave me the go-ahead to convert our mutual office into my own personal man-cave, and guess what it’s focused on?
That’s right, building model airplanes.