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Monday giveaway: BMW R75 German Motorcycle


UPDATE: Given the minimal response, I’m extending through the weekend!

It’s been a while, but I’m back with another Monday Giveaway! This time I’m giving away a Tamiya BMW R75 German Motorcycle with Side Car.

Here’s the rules for this time around:

  • Share your favorite tip/trick related to scale modeling
  • Points for the quality of the tip (depth, detail, etc.) and uniqueness of the tip
  • You have to post in the comments of this post by Wednesday midnight CST. I’ll pick a winner shortly after that and send out the kit.
  • Be sure to leave your email address so can contact you if you win!

Good luck!

By | 2016-10-29T19:09:30-05:00 September 12th, 2016|Contests|4 Comments

Interviewing Jake

This is a bit strange, but I’m going to try it anyway. I’ve seen this interviewing technique done elsewhere and it always seemed fun. So here we go… Jake interviewing Jake.

1. How long have you been modeling and what got you into the hobby?

I started when I was in middle school, some 25+ years ago. I did most of my “first round” building in high school. I even entered (and placed, as a junior) in a number of shows. This was back when materials were mainly what you found or repurposed, after market kits almost all came from Verlinden and a small number of cottage industry companies.

My “dark ages” story is pretty typical: went to college, had a roommate, limited space, time, and interest in things other than girls and grades. In 2000, I went to work for LEGO doing Web development and fan relations. (I worked with the adult enthusiasts who build with LEGO bricks as their creative medium of choice) This was a form of modeling, with a community that was very similar to scale modeling.

2. What is your favorite part of the hobby: Research, Building or Paintwork/Finishing?

I love the whole process of digging in deep on a subject, and finding images, construction/design specs, and details about the vehicle and/or scene. As a history buff, understanding the history, whether how the engine was developed, or the equipment deployed, or the types of problems a particular group of people faced in the field is part of the fun.

When it comes to building vs. painting, I love both. If I have to chose, it’s the construction element I love the most, but that’s probably because I’ve been doing more of that lately. I’ve also spent most of the summer keeping my house staged for a sale, so I’ve had to keep the footprint of tools and workspace portable. That’s been a lot easier for the construction gear than the painting gear. (I have 8+ models completed and primed, awaiting paint at this point)

3. What, if any is your favorite genre and why?

I love Armor, but specifically the odd subjects. Give me a repair truck over a Tiger 1 tank any day. The “rear echelon” vehicles are the most fascinating to me. The radio trucks, the field kitchens, the Red Ball Express trucks… these are truly fascinating. The action packed parts of an army are certainly interesting, sure. But getting the army there, keeping them feed, keeping the troops entertained, these are areas of modeling, and history for that matter that never get much attention.

4. Which other modeler’s work do you admire?

My first response is my friend, Bob Bathea. He’s local to Austin like I am, and a great figure painter and teacher. Check out more about him here and here.

There’s a ton of folks I follow on Facebook and see post in Facebook modeling groups. Here’s a few:

5. What, if any, skill do you feel you could improve on?

Painting, without a doubt. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a novice at all of it, but painting is an area I have a long way to go. In fact, right now I have at least 3, maybe 4 vehicles waiting to go.

6. With the recent advances in the hobby what aspect excites you the most?

Two things:

  1. The burst of new(ish) manufacturers like Meng, Takom, Miniart, Rye Fields, etc. that are bringing impressive models at (mostly) reasonable costs and are often focusing on subjects we’ve not seen before. I look forward to seeing more interesting, non-standard subjects!
  2. 3D printing. I’ve already used 3D printed parts on a model and it was really impressive. Not super cheap, but not super expensive either. I’ve talked to a designer on Shapeways about making one of his 1/24th scale designs in a 1/35th scale. In a matter of minutes, he had the new ones posted and I had posted. Billie Jean DeBekker has been working on a FAMO conversion that uses 3D printed parts making it faster (and more likely) to bring to market.

7. What model would be your dream subject for release?

I’d have to first say: WWII American Homefront anything. That period of time was fascinating in our country. From my grandparents telling me about the tents on the Washington, D.C. mall to the cities that I’ve read about being camouflaged from the air over miles and miles with people effectively living, working, and shopping under a huge tent. Factories in motion, women in action, home front soldiers patrolling. I’ve been watching the new show “Manhattan” about the secluded desert pop-up town where the atomic bomb was being developed. A mix of WWII military, 1940s civilian, and desert wild west imagery is fascinating. “The Pacific” mini-series touched a tiny bit on this aspect of the WWII story, but I want more. Purely from the vehicle standpoint, we have almost none of the cars, buses, semi trucks and trailers, and structures that the home front was made up of in kit form.

8. Everyone has a dream project that given the time, money and space they would love to build, what would yours be?

I have a few:


By | 2016-10-29T19:09:31-05:00 September 11th, 2016|Random thoughts|0 Comments

Great new cutters for metal track assembly

DSC_5474 (1) - Version 3

Friul tracks are great… the metal weight shows just the right amount of sag, the details are super realistic, and the way you can naturally “rust” the metal makes them fantastic. But assembly can be … tedious and often troublesome.

I wrote a long how-to article about this topic a while back. But one of the things I’ve struggled with is cutting the pins that bind each track link together. Each type of track is much different in design. A modern track link is much different than a German WWII Sd Kfz 9 is much different than a German Sd Kfz 11. Because of that, I’ve found that a strong brass wire can be better than a softer spooled wire like Friul included with the tracks.

But either way, there’s a challenge to assembling the tracks: how do you cut a bunch of precise length pins? Some people put a longer stretch of wire into the tracks and then cut them, others prefer to cut the pins to length first and then insert them. In my humble opinion, the easier method, especially if you’re using the softer spooled wire, is to insert then cut. Cutting them, however, is problematic because getting in close enough to the links to cut it to the right length (especially with smaller track links) can be tough.

I’ve tried a number of types of nippers but recently found some that I really like: Hakko CHP TR-20-50-M Soft Wire Micro Cutter. They are sharp enough to cut cleanly for both soft wire and harder brass wire. But they’re also cheap so you can easily replace if they wear out. You can’t really tell from the picture, but the jaws are bent upwards 45 degrees or so.

If you’re building metal tracks, or doing other types of work with wire, I absolutely recommend these!


By | 2016-10-29T19:09:31-05:00 September 10th, 2016|Reviews|0 Comments

Review: Alliance Modelworks FAMO mit Flak 88 conversion

A few years back, I ordered the Alliance Modelworks FAMO mit Flak 88 conversion kit. It’s been sitting on my workbench since then, calling my name so sweetly. Well, I finally listened and busted it out.

This conversion kit takes the Tamiya FAMO (#35329) and the Dragon’s 8.8cm Flak37 (#6287) and reworks with resin and photoetch. At $150 USD, it’s a pricey kit for a big vehicle.


I have mixed feelings about this kit. At first glance, the instructions are clear, the resin parts have crisp details, and the photoetch was nicely done. And the subject was an interesting one, so I was excited looking at the parts and instructions to get started.

Like so many conversion kits, however, it’s the details that matter. While the instructions are some of the best for conversion kits I’ve seen, they are still lacking in a number of ways, in a number of places. Even a few notes along the way from someone who’d built the kit would have made these world class instructions. Locating the support rails for the real platform (front to back, as well as right to left) was confusing. A few lines of text from someone who’d built the kit would have made this incredibly easy. As it was, I had to build and test-fit to figure out the right position. I also had to google for images constantly to figure out how pieces went together. And I’m pretty certain I’ve completely missed the mark on the real platform. If Alliance Modelworks had done a few simple things, we builders would have had a much happier experience:

  • Add explanation text to accompany the images
  • Add more images… A couple extra pages of build detail wouldn’t have been a major effort for the creators
  • Provide HIGH QUALITY LARGE images of the official build model on the web site so we builders can see clearly where pieces go. Why oh why would the company only put up smaller version of their fantastic photos??
  • Add a tips and tricks collection as feedback comes in from builders to the product page on their site

In real life, this was a low production, war’s end vehicle with very little surviving documentation. We need all the help we can get. Unlike a Tiger I, I can’t go to the library and find 43 books on every detail, or pop by a museum to see one in person.

On to the parts… First the good: the photoetch. Multiple frets of various thicknesses are designed perfectly for each part. The thick front armor plate, for instance, is quite thick. As it should be. Smaller details were on thinner frets. I only had one instance of the thin parts breaking during folding.


Now on to the bad…. The resin. While the surface details were pretty impressive in most cases, it’s generally been a nightmare. I had to email Alliance twice to get replacements for the cab floor part, as the first was insanely warped, the second was broken and warped, and the third was just slightly less warped. I gave up and tried to heat and bend into shape. My resin bending skills are marginal, so I just opted to close the doors.


Except as I write this review, I’m struggling through making the doors fit properly. I’m seriously considering tossing them and building replacements that I know I can get to fit easier. You have to cut out the braces from the single piece cab, but knowing where the lines between part and brace are extremely hard to find. Fine edges for the overhangs above the doors are so thin, one side was broken on arrival and the other was snapped off with a minor, minor errant knife slice. And the way the roof hatches are casts, I ended up shaving off the necessary lips on accident. And of course, warpage was a huge problem on more than just the cab floor.

I am going to replace the fold down benches because there is so much flash between the bench slats, it’s nearly impossible to clean up without damaging the slats.

I’m also working on replacing the stabilizers because of poor detail and warpage of the resin parts.


With conversion kits, I feel like there’s a three legged stool of:

  • Quality – how is the material itself? Is there flash? Are the instructions clear? Where are the knock outs/fret connections/casting plugs?
  • Cost – is the price point reasonable for what you’re getting?
  • Love – yes, I said it… Is there an attention to detail that shows you that the manufacturer put the time in to make something great? Did they do their research to get it right, or include details/accessories that make the kit sing?

These three need to work together to make a great kit. Quality could be marginal, and cost could be standard, but that extra bit of love makes a great kit overall. Or if cost is too grand, the love and quality might not be able to make up for it.


With this kit, cost is prohibitive against the other two categories. It’s a great kit, overall and certainly in context of how many truly awful conversion kits are out there. But at $150, the resin should have been top notch, or the experience overall should have been much tighter with better instructions, and web based images and tips to help put it together. Be ready to do some work on the resin, but it shapes up in a pretty impressive build.

By | 2016-10-29T19:09:31-05:00 September 3rd, 2016|Build Logs, Reviews|1 Comment

German surrender footage [VIDEO]

I’ve always been fascinated by the “rest of the story”. The battlefield tales are interesting, but learning how local residents survived or rebuilt after the battle is infinitely more interesting. I came across this footage of Germans surrendering at the end of the war. Fascinating look at how things can turn from brutal to something much different. 

There’s also a TON of diorama ideas here!

[Watch the video]

german surrender


The moment I posted this link, I went back to the video. It had been playing and I noticed that the FAMO mit Flak vehicle was driving along in the video. Hilarious, considering finding pictures of this low production, end of the war vehicle has been incredible hard. And now here’s a color video! Nice!

Screen Shot 2016 09 02 at 3 11 11 PM

By | 2016-10-29T19:09:31-05:00 September 2nd, 2016|Fun Finds|0 Comments

Friday Fun Finds – August 25, 2016


By | 2016-10-29T19:09:31-05:00 August 27th, 2016|Random thoughts|0 Comments

Rant: Lady modelers are just modelers

When my Boresight magazine arrives, I’m always excited to tear open the envelope and read. I usually get through at least half the magazine standing in the spot where I open my mail.

IMG 1623
When the Nov/Dec 2015 issue arrived, I was… Frustrated. Right there on the cover the top story was “Lady modeling comes to Bulgaria”.

“Lady modeling”, you say? Is that some sort of special sub-genre that focuses on female figure painting? Is that a style of airbrush technique that a group of women have perfected? Is that a group name acronym…Lazy Articulated Dioramas of Yesteryear?


Basically, it was an article that took a talented modeler, prioritized her gender, then said “LOOK! There’s a female in this hobby after all!!”. For those keeping score at home, this is flat out sexism and it make us all look like the mostly homogenous group we happen to be. And it’s frustrating as hell. The fact that we see a woman in our hobby and immediately seize on her gender rather than her skill and promote her as some sort of oddity reflects poorly on our hobby and each of us as individuals participating in it.

A while back, I ranted about how it was frustrating that I had to try to explain to my young daughter what scantily clad women and historical scale modeling had to do with  each other, thanks to Mig and the Weathering Magazine.

If you’re still not following why this is sexism, let me dig deeper:

A woman shows up to a mainly male meeting/club/hobby/show/site/everything and is met with inherent separation, institutionalize by showing women as objects in context rather than particpants (whether through Weathering Magazine style pinup photography, or “hey look at the oddity” style Boresight articles), you’re creating a two camps. You’re not welcoming a talented modeler or interested newbie into the single “team”, you’re making sure the females know they’re different and separate.

Why did the Boresight editors feel that they needed to create a “hey it’s a female!” Article? Why not just call out a talented modeler?

(Additional note: After I posted the rant post I mentioned earlier, I had a number of women reach out directly and thanks me and/or support my position. This is real, folks. And just because you personally don’t experience it or understand it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.)

IMG 1624

By | 2016-10-29T19:09:31-05:00 August 27th, 2016|Random thoughts|0 Comments

My portable build studio

In the last few months, I’ve been spending more and more time at my finance’s house. I don’t have a dedicated workspace there, so I’ve created a portable build kit that I’m pretty damn proud of. I thought I’d share!

I started with what I believed was the bare minimum footprint of tools and materials to be able to build a kit out of the box… not paint, weather, convert, etc. I’ve added items that were missing or that I found myself really needing for regular usage. It’s surprised me how much I can also remove (or re-org, as you’ll see) as well. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ve discovered that whether in this portable build studio, or in my portable paint studio, the works starts in finding the right single transportation device for your necessary materials. Portability goes out the window if you’ve collected up a series of small containers. It’s just too hard to remember, or even physically move multiple items.

As a happy accident, I found the absolutely perfect portable “container” for my build materials when a makeup artist came to a photoshoot location with her makeup case. (My other hobby is fashion photography) I immediately noticed that her kit would be the perfect basis for my portable build studio. This case is actually two cases that can lash together. The top one is much smaller than the bottom one and can be carried over the shoulder with a carrying strap. The bottom one is larger and wheeled with an extension handle, and based around a set of drawers.

IMG_4931I bought the combo set on Amazon and then started choosing what went into the studio. I started solely with the top unit. I can grab a new kit, the top unit, and head out to literally anywhere and build 95% of the kit without concern.




Inside the top unit, I have individual containers (from Really Useful Box) for types of gear:

  • Pliers (I use quite a few on every project!)
  • Sanding gear
  • Glues/putties
  • Misc stuff (blades, lead wire, tape, etc.)

I’ve also included in the top unit things like:

  • Jeweler’s apron
  • 9×11 cutting mat
  • Foam disc knife “holder”
  • Breathing mask
  • Reading glasses



Once I built a few model kits with this top unit, I had it pretty well dialed in. At that point, I had to stage my house for a (hopefully) pending sale, so I largely dismantled my modeling room at home. As I was packing, I did a second level assessment of tools and materials I felt like I needed in the portable kit, and that’s what has made it into the bottom unit. I continue to refine this one and probably will for a while. But overall, this case is fantastic and has been surprisingly easy to unpack, setup, model, then break down and pack up again.

I’m open to other ideas! What are your tips for portable modeling?

By | 2016-10-29T19:09:31-05:00 August 20th, 2016|Modeling thoughts|0 Comments