This week’s Sprue Cutter’s Union (SCU) topic is “The Aftermarket, And The Death of Hard Work.”
The gist of this week’s topic concerns the aftemarket products available for scale modelling, and their effect on the hobby.
Like many, I got my start in modelling when I was a kid. For me this was in the late sixties. At that age, I wasn’t interested in anything that didn’t come in the box. What was there in the box, is what got attached.
When I got a little older, in my junior high years my main influence when it came to models was Shepard Paine. His diorama tips series that he did for Monogram were my inspiration and introduction to the possibilities of modifying and improving model kits. Everything he did in these how-to articles was scratch built. I would call this time period (mid- late-’70s) my time of enlightenment.
Later, after I was done with high school, I got back into the hobby, I was a little more serious. This was the mid-’80s. Aftermarket was still pretty slim, at least as far as I could see, but people like Francois Verlinden were making headway with some very nice resin products. Around this time, I decided that it was time to kick my models up a notch, or two. I started researching my given subjects, and looking for ways to increase, or enhance the detail of my kits. The things that really stuck with me were the Monogram diorama tips, and something Shep Paine said in one of his Kalmbach books. He described detailing various parts of armored vehicles (like the inside of hulls and turrets) and used the term “creative gizmology.” In essence, using the imagination and a little common sense to add detail where one might not be sure what really goes there, and using what is available. Scratch building is an option, or, as Mr. Paine suggested, parts from other models, or model railroad parts. That was what I relied on, along with as many reference photos as I could glean from magazines, or the library (this was pre-Google, remember.)
Fast forward to the end of the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century. I got re inspired and decided to give hobby another go after a 20+ year hiatus. The world of plastic models had changed dramatically. The after market selection dwarfs the kit selection by quite a bit. There are upgrade kits and spare parts for almost every model made. Need an interior for a Tiger tank? Take your pick. Whole, resin, drop-in interiors are out there. Detail kits are aplenty. Metal barrels for main guns, and secondary armament abound. Engine kits for planes, and armor, and whatever else you might need or desire. Pretty much whatever conceivable item a person could want can be had with a quick tap-tap-tap of the keyboard.
So, this brings me to the questions that the SCU ask this week: “So, what side of that coin are you? With the rise of aftermarket possibilities, do you see a disappointment or an opportunity?”
First, there is the person who uses lots of after market items. This person has to clean it up, test fit, and maybe modify to get the item to get it to work. Then it is paint as usual. As far as I’m concerned, even though it is “ready-made,” it still requires some skill to pull it off.
Second, we have the scratch builder. for this person, good references are a must, skill with tools, appropriate materials, and patience. And, potentially, some of that creative gizmology.
As far as my side of the coin? I would fall in the middle. If I can scratch it, I will try. Angular shapes and such are probably the easiest, whereas curves are more difficult. If something is a bit too tough I would have to go with ready made, after market items purely for sanity’s sake. I have a couple of kits coming up that do not have after market items available. Both are going to require a lot of scratch building. I think any good modeller should use both methods available.
I do have to say, however, that the more scratch building there is, the more impressed I am with the finished product. I think that is why I have always been so impressed with Shepard Paine. His use of homegrown vacuforming, mold making, and all that impresses me to no end.
To look down upon someone who uses after market products is a mistake, though. I look at it as just another step in the evolution of modelling. Pooh-poohing someone’s efforts just because he or she is using non-kit, ready made items, is kind of like looking down on someone that buys the latest Dragon kit that includes detail that one might have to add to an older Tamiya kit. After market parts are just another resource to help people build the best model they can.
So, to sum it all up, I don’t see after market parts as a disappointment. They offer modellers another way to enhance their modelling experience. And for those who don’t care for after market, scratch building will always be there.