As I travel down the rabbit hole of modeling klutzitude and dire clownage I’ve begun to wonder if I have somehow fallen into my personal version of cyclic climate change. I mean the earth’s climate varies over geologic time like a Benzedrine addict looking for the next jolt. Up. Down. Up. Up more. Really down…

Kind of like my modeling abilities.

Witness: I finished the Airfix Harrier. Fun build. I actually enjoyed most of it, recognizing that we all have moments and episodes with any kit that causes frustrations. I liked doing the Harrier so much I ordered another to do in the Spanish Navy scheme for those stationed on the Rota airbase. I spent a couple of years in and around Rota with a Polaris nuclear submarine squadron so I have some affection for the place. After the first Harrier I turned to my “in progress” 1:96 scale USS Monitor from Cottage Industry Models. I like their stuff and did a long interview with their designer, model maker and chief factotum, William Blackmore (found somewhere on this site). I completed the two ships boats which looked pretty good. I got the bottom of the hull painted a version of hull red when I banged the model, almost dropping it and breaking off the sledge, rudder and prop, and a good piece of the resin hull. Knowing better than to push ahead regardless, the Monitor went back into its box.

Then, I decided to get a start on my old Tamiya 1:48 Gekko. After all, what’s better than a nice Tamiya kit to take the modeling heebie jeebies away? Right out of the chute I royally screwed up the aotake. My one and only jar had long since solidified so I made up a custom batch which was a disaster. OK, rather than scrub off the mess and try again, back in the box and await a future order of paint.

As long as I was on a roll pulling half done models from their dungeon of doom, I began repair on the Wingnut Wings W-29 which I had dropped on a hard floor some time back and bent and broken struts and sundry parts. I began to repair the struts and in the process managed to lose one or two of the stand-alone exhaust pipes. Shelf time.

Oh, and the Hasegawa F-86 was goobered up in that sequence somewhere by using Model Master Aluminum, which rubs off at a sideways glance and doesn’t take to Future worth a damn, thereby ruining too many decals. I could buy better and more suitable paint, maybe use the Tamiya aluminum from the rattle can like Spenser does, but then I’d have to go through the mess of decanting the mixture and lord knows what mess and minor explosions would await. And, I’d need another set of decals which would cost me about as much as I paid for the kit at some California model show.

I put the big Tamiya 1:48 Tomcat box on the bench and looked at it for a while. You know, I told myself, it is really not a good idea to start an excellent, but complex kit like the Tomcat when you are in the throes of modeling ineptitude. My painting skills suck and I seem to be death on decals lately. I make rookie mistakes. I feel like all of my modeling friends, who are quite good at this craft, are looking over my shoulder, shaking their heads, “poor geek. He means well, but the basics seem to have eluded him.

Seeking safety in a solid, no-nonsense Tamiya kit, I turned to the Sky Ray in 1:72. Built quickly and without issues, except I tend to break off the small protruding bits regularly. Paint: white, light gray, black. What could go wrong? I received a can of Tamiya TS-13 glosss clear. Nice. The underside white went on fine. Too fine… Hmmm… the light gray top coat, well it was more gray than light gray, so I mixed in some white and reshot it. Better, but way too gray. So what, I said. It’s my Sky Ray and I’ll live with it. But the modeling monitors in the sky were looking down again and whispering amongst themselves. Too gray. Too bad

Stumbling along, paying insufficient attention to proper sequencing, I masked the canopies, got them on and hit the model with a few coats of good old Tamiya clear. I started with the gray wing walk decals and promptly destroyed one. The damn decal just wouldn’t slide around into proper position but stuck to the surface. Not enough water or Micro Set? Too little gloss coat? All of the above? I quickly destroyed the black set too.

Got the fuselage spine, rudder and vertical stabilizer navy blue decals with stars decals on after repeated applications of Micro Sol and Mr Mark Softer and slicing through the wrinkles and bubbles with a scalpel. Had to touch up some broken areas with Tamiya Royal Blue acrylic, which is almost a perfect match with the decal colors.

Ooops… forgot to paint the silver/aluminum wing leading edges. Laborious masking. Sprayed with the regular aluminum. Remove tape. Lift areas of wing paint. Mask the fuselage spine with post it note. Re-spray. Poor color match. Forget to post it the other side and get overspray on the spine and vertical stabilizer decals. Wipe off with a q-tip dampened in Windex. Where did those aluminum marks come from on the top of the spine decal? Thinner and a q-tip again. Rub gently.

Hit the repaired paint patches with more TS-13. Now the little airplane seems to be ready for the last decals and landing gear. What else could go wrong? Wing walk markings. Out with the tape and another tricky masking job. Will more paint pull from the wings once the black is sprayed and tape removed? Stay tuned.

This has not been fun. Just the opposite. I’ve been modeling off and on for over sixty years and my memories tell me that before I began again as an adult after the requisite break many of us take to deal with life, it hasn’t reached the fun plateau that I enjoyed as a youngster. Why is this, I ask?

I have some ideas which I will likely explore in future essays on this strange, interesting, historical, artistic and, yes, sometimes fun activity we have become addicted to.

The Sky Ray will get its decals and wing walk markings and landing gear and a place on the shelf. The Tomcat will await a hoped for renaissance in my modeling skills and the Meng British Mk.V Male WWI tank and it’s full interior will go next to the block.

This is going to be fun.

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