Gary's Blog

Gary R. WelshGary has been building models since he was three years old and has always wanted them to look as realistic as possible.

"I remember vividly. I must have been about eight or maybe nine, drilling hundreds of holes with a small drill into an Airfix 1/72nd B-17 kit to represent bullet holes, painting flames coming from the engines and mangling up the prop for good measure. It had to look like the box art!"

He has always loved Sci-fi, citing artists such as Peter Elson, Kelly Freas, Colin Hay and Chris Foss; pulp magazines, classic Hollywood 'B' movies and Ray Harryhausen flicks as major influences.

"As a kid I used to buy paperback books just for the covers. Who cared what the story was about? As long as it had a big lumpy spaceship on the cover!"

He plodded along building whatever he wanted until a friend, who also ran a model shop, asked him to build some models for a window display. This led to a variety of private commissions which in turn led to him being published as a regular contributor for various modelling magazines. Gary now writes for Happy Medium Press exclusively.

Now-a-days he divides his modelling time between publishing work and his own flights of fancy.

"I always try to make my models as realistic as possible. If you can take a photo of one of my models and mistake it for a real object then I'm a happy guy. I don't follow modelling fads but use whatever technique works for the project. I hate it when you go to any model show and there are lines of models that all look as if they were built by the same person. Surely what we do is an art form? So, people should develop their own style."

Gary lives with his wife Andrea and cat Hector in Cromer on the north Norfolk coast.

"It's a really beautiful area in which to live - even in the depths of winter and the evening skies are the most dramatic you'll ever see. It gives me the inspiration for many a project."

Gary is currently writing his own contribution to the SF Master Modeller series.

What are we going to do now?

03-12-2015

As I lay waiting for the awesomeness that will be Round 2’s U.S.S Excelsior reissue. The boss called...

“Gary - would you like to contribute to the Modelling the Eagle special?”

“Eh - is that a trick question?” (1/48th Round 2 Eagle Test Shot ... Get in there!)

“Great. Models on the way. Three weeks to build.”

“No Problem... er... what are they?”

Round 2 Eagle 1 and Deluxe kits - Oh, and a ParaGrafix etch set to go with them.”

- Oh. Better get 1/48th Eagle on pre-order sharpish, then...

Build them how you want to - crash diorama if you want to...”

 -That would be into the bin, then.

After the full horror of the situation hit me, and to quote myself from my last blog, ‘this appallingly inaccurate kit is inaccurate in almost every way, is not a particularly good build and takes an awful lot of work to make it into something remotely reasonable’, I was beginning to worry that I had bitten off far more than I could chew.

How was I going to make either of these look like anything?

I mean everyone says that the MPC/FunDimensions Eagle Transporter is a dog (well, that’s until they see the Imai kit, that is) and I know that Round 2’s resin is always excellent, but make these kits look anything remotely like studio miniatures or even bring them to a point where they square up against the new Round 2 1/48th kit? I mean... Really?

All I will say is that, following some serious research and a close to the edge deadline. sometimes your perceptions of a thing do not always coincide with what are given as facts by the majority.

My advice to the worried modeller is this... don’t take other peoples opinions as facts. Sometimes those who shout loudest are not always ‘experts in the field’. Trust your own eyes and research - no kit can ever be that bad, can it?

Well, I made the deadline, so how did I get on?

Round 2’s reissues are... No; you will just have to wait until February when Modelling the Eagle publishes.

Anyway, with the Eagles done, it was now onto the latest model to hit the bench and...

Well,again,  I can’t actually tell you what I’m working on now. All I can tell you, is that it will keep me away from sci-fi and fantasy for a bit and this will probably be my last Blog for a little whilet. However, all is still under the careful nurture of Mike and Dave and all will become clear by mid second quarter of next year.

So...Round 2 1/48th Eagle on pre-order; still awaiting that Excelsior reissue and a bench full of unbuilt kits I can’t tell you about.

...Have a great Xmas, everybody - enjoy The Force Awakens and a very peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Gary (chained to and sleeping under his bench) R. Welsh.


The greatest sci-fi kits of all time?

23-09-2015

On forums everywhere there seem to be polls, or links to polls from kit manufactures requesting consumer panel ideas - Kick-Starters, NPD, re-releases, etc... And OK, I also participate... the chance of the Sealab III kit being reissued is far too good to miss. Have you any idea how many parts for Star Wars vehicles this kit offers?

Anyway, all these polls got me thinking... which are the best sci-fi and fantasy kits of all time?

Big questions demand big answers... so here it is - my own twisted take on what I consider to be the greatest-ever sci-fi model kits...

How do you go about the monumental task of choosing the most worthy, most accurate, most profitable, most satisfying builds?

In the end I decided the best way was to gather together the most influential kits that have moulded and shaped those to follow. You may well not agree with my choices, and it would be a sad old world if everyone did.

Here we go, then, in chronological order...

Strombecker: Walt Disney's ‘Man in Space’ XR-1 - scale 1/288th.
Released in 1957 this kit was derived from the filming miniature used in Disney's legendary Man in Space TV series. Designed by Werner Von Braun, this really is one of the very first genre kits released. An expensive collector’s piece in its original lurid yellow plastic (my first model of this subject came from the D&E Miniatures resin kit in the late 1980s). Luckily the original Stombecker kit was reissued by Glencoe as the 3 stage Ferry Rocket in the late 1990s and is still generally available. It’s still a fun build of a classic 1950s rocket shape.

Aurora: Frankenstein - scale not given (fit the box - 1/9th approx.).
Back in 1963 Aurora already had a large selection of figures in their catalogue available to the market, but the introduction of five kits from the classic Universal horror film back catalogue really struck a chord with contemporary teenage culture, probably due to the constant reruns of these films on the US networks.
Frankenstein is (in my opinion, anyway), the best of the original five kits (Wolfman, Dracula, The Mummy and the Creature from the Black Lagoon being the other four). When Aurora went out of business in 1976, the moulds were brought by Monogram and have been reissued on several occasions, including re-engineered kits of some of the more obscure subjects by Polar Lights and Moebius.

Today this kit still holds its own and is well worth seeking out and building, albeit in a form other than the original Aurora boxing, which will set you back £250-400!

AMT: U.S.S. Enterprise. Scale not given - 1/560th approx.
One of the first licensed tie-ins with a TV series, it went into production and was released in 1966 as season one went to air. This kit was continuously available for thirty years until the original AMT company folded in the 1990s.

Retooled twice, my first kit was built in 1972 and was molded in dark blue with yellow clear parts and seriously poor pylon location points. I must have built twenty to thirty of these kits in my time. Although some of the details are questionable (the kit was scaled from Matt Jefferies’ drawings, not the miniature Enterprises), it is currently available via Round 2 in a variety of boxings, the Tholian Web version most probably being the best.

Today the moulds have been beautifully cleaned up with a cracking decal sheet to boot - why are you still sitting there? BUY AND BUILD TODAY!

Airfix: Angel Interceptor scale 1/72nd.
Released in 1968 and the first model I ever built and finished without the help of my Dad back in 1970. The third Anderson kit produced by Airfix and the first to see general release. (Fireball XL5 and Stingray were only available via a Lyons mail order offer).

Although lacking in a few areas, probably due to a poor Pantograph copy from the licensing sheet sent out to all manufacturers (it seems only Dinky got it right) the kit builds into a reasonable representation of Spectrum’s primary interceptor, without the hassle needed to get Imai’s 1990s kit into shape.

I’ve lost count of the amount of Airfix Angel Interceptors that I built, packed with bangers and sent into oblivion during my misspent youth.

Reissued in 2011 (in its retooled 1980s snap-fit format) with a great decal sheet that used Phil Rae’s surviving original miniature as its guide, it has been delisted from the current Airfix catalogue, although it should still be generally available and is worth seeking out if you have never built one.

Fun-dimensions, MPC, Airfix; Space: 1999 Eagle transporter - Scale (1/87 - 1/72... take your pick).
Why? Well, this appallingly inaccurate kit was staple sci-fi modelling fare in 1975 when it was released by Airfix (in the UK and Europe), Fun-dimentions (Asia) and MPC (The Americas). Anyone of a certain age would have built one or two of these which were crashed and burnt again and again in a thousand backyards.

As stated, it’s inaccurate in almost every way, is not a particularly good build and takes an awful lot of work to make into something remotely reasonable. But there’s another reason why I put this in this list, that being that in the TV series every now and again this beautifully modular design was used in creating different ships - most notably the Meta Probe from Breakaway and the Ultra Probe from Dragon’s Domain.

This kit therefore had an incredible influential on me and other modellers who, for the first time, realised they could use it (or multiples thereof) and combine it with bits of other rocket, military and space kits to create their own designs that sat comfortably within the Space: 1999 universe.

My first ever scratchbuild was my version of a deep space Eagle tanker ship, built with Airfix Saturn V and Westland Scout helicopter parts (obviously to fuel up the Enterprise that was hanging from my bedroom ceiling). A Jupiter Probe, Light Ship and Proxima Centari surveyor soon followed.

It’s also liberally sprinkled over studio miniatures used in Blake’s 7, Battlestar Galactica, and even in the series itself.

To be absolutely honest; you’re better off not building this kit but waiting for the new 1/48th Polar Lights release which - lets face it - will most probably end up as one of the classic kits in years to come. If you want a cracking kit to expand your scratchbuilding and design skills, however, better buy a cratefull!

MPC: Star Wars Darth Vaders Tie fighter - scale not given 1/48th approx.
We all had to wait a long time for any licensed products to be released from the first Star Wars movie and when the first MPC model kits (Denis Fisher/Palitoy here in the UK) eventually turned up, they were a pair of 1/25th van kits with some poor Star Wars mural decals.

Thankfully the next six kits (released in 1978) were all worthy of the Star Wars name and, of these six, Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter was arguably the best.

How good? Well, it builds into a really excellent and surprisingly accurate representation of Darth Vader’s Tie advanced ship, with the exception of the spurious landing legs. This kit was also used by ILM as the basis of the Tie Bomber seen in The Empire Strikes Back and was sprinkled as detailing over the majority of UK Visual effects models in the late 1970s -1990s. It is currently unavailable, but still turns up for reasonable prices on the second-hand market and is well worth a build.

Bandai: Gundam Mobile suit HYGOG - scale 1/144th.
Which is the biggest and most profitable model company of all time? Revell? Tamiya? Airfix? Well, no... actually Bandai have a largerrange and bigger sales than any of the above and their amazing collection of Gundam kits has a great deal to do with their incredible success. Those of you who have never built one of these kits will be amazed when you do - click-together, multi-coloured (with even multiple colours on a single moulded part, no less), posable kits that are buildable and affordable.

Hygog is a personal choice, due to the fact it was the first Gundam kit I ever built, and also due to the incredible level detail and articulation this kit features.

More incredible is the fact that all this innovation was first created in the 1980s, aspects of which have only just begun to trickle down into mainstream kit production today.
Buy and build - you won’t regret it.

AMT/Ertl: U.S.S. Enterprise-D - scale 1/1400th.
Following the less than great selection of Star Trek kits produced by AMT during Trek’s movie period (let’s face it the Movie Enterprise was well and truly ruined when retooled for Star Trek II following the addition of some awful spurious surface detail) this kit was released in 1988, tying in with the new Star Trek series Star Trek:The Next Generation to mild disinterest by the majority of modellers here in the UK.
When, however, you actually brought one and opened the truly dull photo-art box, a real treat lay inside.

I bought and built my first NCC1701-D before I’d even seen a single episode of STTNG. First off what struck me was that the finished kit was a great size. Secondly it was (with the exception of a set of lower saucer windows that are missing), amazingly accurate and, yes, I even found the legendary UGLY pattern on the surface panel detail.
It was a great model, with great build ability and took an age to make a really good job of (in fact I only ever took this kit on a POA commission basis due to the complexity of the paint job) but it was a great experience.

Finally we had a Star Trek kit that we could be proud of and it boded well for what was to come. I felt sci-fi modelling had finally come of age as a form to be taken seriously. Still available under the Round 2 brand with an amazing decal sheet, if you haven’t built one, you’re not a Star Trek modeller, are you?

Billieken: Predator - scale 1/6th.
When Aurora went bust, it looked as if the genre figure market would never recover. However, in the late 1980s a book appeared called The Garage Kit that ate my Wallet.
This book spoke with authority, listing and critiquing a movement that would explode and dominate the world of sci-fi and fantasy modelling for the next decade - garage kit figure modelling!!

Of all the companies that came - and subsequently went - during this period (Horizon, Screamin, Geometric, Argonauts, Kaiyodo to name but a few) one that is still held in very high regard and sometimes stated as one of the founding companies of the movement is Billiken.

It was said that in the USA classic monster subjects from the 1940s and 50s dominated the scene, but in the rest of the world Alien and Predator ruled! The Billiken Predator (in classic standing and roaring pose) was one of the first and one of the very best ever sculpted of this subject.
Cast in tan vinyl with optional head parts, it builds beautifully and really looks the part when competently finished.

When the figure movement finally collapsed in on itself during the early years of the 21st century (at the same time the third reprint of The Garage Kit that ate my Wallet’- ironically titled Return of the Garage Kit that ate my Wallet hit the shelves) recasts abounded and, although I must of built nearly ten of these kits in my time, I would say that only one or two of them were ever the real McCoy.
If you want an original kit you will have to do your homework and be prepared to part with £100-200+. However, an Elfin recast (in an Elfin box), can be sourced for as little as £10 ($15) if you know where to look, and is definitely worth a build.

Comet Miniatures: Liberator - scale not given 1/3000th approx.
When an enthusiastic sci-fi fan and shop owner pitched up at noted railway kit producer Ratio and handed over a considerable amount of money for new tooling of a genre subject it was an extremely brave thing to do.

That man was Tony James and the subject was the Blake’s 7 Liberator. Based on the original miniature held by BBC effects supervisor Mat Irvine (who had more than a passing hand in its development) the model, although small, is a highly accurate injection moulded kit that includes a small photo-etch detail fret and pre-cut lengths of piano wire for the smaller details.

Moulded in white plastic with a limited edition - ie: now highly collectable - release in clear, Comet’s Liberator was not the first kit release by Tony, as anyone who built his TB1, Stingray, Nautilus, Fireball XL5 or 1/6th Dalek kits will testify, but the Liberator was a bold move and somewhat of a gamble for a small, predominantly retail company.

Luckily it went together well, although the addition of photo-etch was a bit of a learning curve for beginners.
Whether Tony still has the tooling is unknown, but I think it’s safe to say that it is unlikely that this kit will ever be reissued. If you want one you will have to search for a while and prices are steadily creeping upwards.

Captain Cardboard: X-Wing - 1/16th Studio Scale.
Back in the early 1990s I was the 178th member of Starship Modeler, a world-wide website for a collection of like-minded modellers whose preference was for models of their favourite sci-fi craft that were direct copies of the original studio miniatures to 1:1 scale.

Among this jolly band of pioneers there were people prepared to take a gamble by producing kits - at a very expensive layout - for those who didn’t yet have the skills (or the wallet) to produce studio scale models of their own from scratch.

Captain Cardboard’s X-wing (reissued under Atomic City) was one of the first. Although the original CC kits now look in need of a bit of an update (due for the most part to better information now being available 25 years on), overall the kit is sound and builds into an excellent copy of the original studio props.

Still available (the moulds were updated for the AC reissue), this kit is well worth building, with good examples being picked up for as little as £100 ($200 - $300) if you’re prepared to search for one.

Polar Lights: U.S.S. Enterprise NX-01- scale 1/350th.
At the end of the very last aired episode of Star Trek Voyager a single image of Star Trek’s next lead ship was seen on the screen. When the kits arrived (courtesy of Polar Lights) they were to an earth-shattering scale of 1/350th!

I have two of these kits in my collection now and have built two or three of them in my time. The first mainstream Star Trek ship that never existed as a physical model, Polar LightsNX-01 kit is accurate in shape and has great fine detail, although the build quality - due to some sloppy moulding on the initial batch released - left quite a lot to be desired.

However, the success of this kit led to a Movie Enterprise in 1/350th and, more recently, the awesomeness that is Polar LightsNCC - 1701 original TV series Enterprise.
This is the kit that started it all, however, and, along with 1/1000th, 1/350th has become the default scale for large scale Star Trek model kits on both the mainstream and garage kit scenes.

It’s very likely we will see more 1/350th ship kits at some point. I for one can’t wait for the next 1/350th release and we have this kit to thank for it all. Still available and easy to light, Polar LightsNX-01 - despite those fit problems associated with the early issues - is a pioneering subject and a satisfying build with a little care. - An excellent display piece!

Moebius: Cylon Raider - 1/20th. Studio.Scale.
Monogram models (RIP) released four kits to coincide with Glen A. Larson’s Battlestar Galactica when it was first aired in the late 1970s. The Galactica (an awful kit), a Cylon Basestar (an awesome kit), a Colonial Viper (a reasonable kit) and a Cylon Raider (an at-the-time excellent kit).

When Moebius announced they were going to release new toolings of these ships, there was more than a bit of excitement. This time the Colonial Viper and Cylon Raider would be in scale with each other (only the Galactica and Basestar were to the same scale in the original Monogram kits) and - as most fans suspected - this would mean that the Cylon Raider would be studio scale!

When the model arrived, guess what? It wasstudio scale!
Yes - at last we had a studio scale miniature requiring minimum work to produce a phenomenal copy of a filming miniature, all for under £50! This was amazing. Before this the only way to produce a studio scale Raider was from a £300 garage kit of dubious quality, or by building one yourself which would end up costing you double that amount.

Packed into this box (and I mean packed, as it’s a Chinese puzzle to try and get all the parts back into the box once opened) are well detailed and accurate parts produced using an original miniature as its guide. The build is easy and satisfying... Does this kit qualify as one of the greatest of all time? You bet it does. Buy and enjoy. Tell them Gary sent you.

Well, that’s my pick for the greatest genre kits of all time. I’m sure there are lots of people out there nodding in agreement and an equal amount shouting at their screens.
As stated, these are my personal choices and I whittled them down from a further ten+ kits including Screamin’s Hell Raiser Pinhead, Sevens Dalek, Revell's Babylon 5 Station, Reshape’s Akira Bike, Halcyon’s Aliens APC, AMT/Ertl’s Rancor, Horizon’s T-800 Terminator, Dark Horse’s King Kong, Aurora’s Flying Sub, Airfix’s 2001 Orion Shuttle, Comet Miniature’s Thunderbird One, Imai’s 2ft Thunderbird 2, AMT’s Star Wars AT-AT, Shuttle Tyderium and DS9 Runabout, Moebius’s ... the list goes on, and on... and on!


'The Continuing Adventures of a Modelling Hack'

17-07-2015

In the last eighteen months a lot has happened, so I thought it was about time I dusted myself down and got on with a new blog, this being - hopefully - the first of a new batch of regular (or at least semi-regular) online missives.

I've decided these new blogs should be written to give you, the reader, a peek into the mystery that is being a jobbing modeller for hire in the world of journalism! Therefore prepare to laugh, love and loath as I share with you the pain and joy of getting copy together as a regular part of the Sci-Fi & Fantasy Modeller team. But first, a little back story...

I've been writing for the modelling press for nearly twenty years now! It's hard to believe I have lasted this long, as most model writers are born and die after only a few brief years (in journalistic terms, that is!). In my time I have written for a variety of modelling publications, starting with Scale Models International and washing up on the shores of Sci-fi & Fantasy Modeller back in 2005, becoming a permanent fixture there in 2007.

I fell into publishing by accident (I certainly didn't set out to write about my hobby), via a fellow modeller who already wrote for the aforementioned SMI publication. He approached me as his editor was on the lookout for a modeller who could handle sci-fi subjects. Luckily that man (who became my first editor -Richard A. Franks) realised I could write and make models to a high standard within deadlines. I just needed a crash course in photography and some polishing up in other areas... as a side note my first feature published was an updating of an AMT/Ertl X-Wing kit, which is also the subject of an excellent conversion article in volume 38 of SF&FM!

Many people ask me why I write under the Monicker of Gary R. Welsh. Is this some weird homage to my first editor? Well, no... SMI had four writers called Gary and getting paid was a nightmare, so Gary R. Welsh it was, as I have always signed my name G. R. Welsh and the accounts department found it easier to process my invoices that way.

When I first started, making the model was the easy part. Taking photographs (no digital cameras at a reasonable price then, so it was good old photochemical all the way) and writing up always took a little longer - or at least it did for me to begin with.
I dutifully used to make notes as I went along, for referral to when the model was finished. I would then go down to my local library and write out the text on their word processor (double column, double spaced), print it out and wait for the photos to come back from the lab. I would then number the shots in order on the back with a permanent marker, once I had scrutinised each one carefully to make sure each was up to scratch (back in the day of photochemical you always took three shots of each subject - one for the camera, one for the subject and one for luck).

Then it was back to the library's word processor to type out a photo list and captions, print these out, put the feature all together, pack it all up (along with the invoice for said number of pages contracted for) and sent it off to my Editor as semi-finished copy.

Once the feature was printed (you usually work two to three months in advance of publication) I would then be paid - sorry... start chasing to be paid (which usually took at least a couple of months)!

This was my introduction to the modelling press. I soon learnt that the quicker I turned things around, the more work I received and the quicker I got paid!

Twenty years on I have a digital camera, a home computer and the world has definitely changed. Nowadays I get an e-mail or call from the boss, a box arrives, a deadline is set and off I go. Build pics are taken, the feature is written and edited as I go along and, as long as there are no major disasters with the build, four to six weekends later the copy is sent off.

It's strange... when I started out I used to rush to get finished, so I could get on with commission work. Now, once a feature is completed and sent there seems to be a hole that takes a while to fill - that is until the next box of goodies arrives!


Blog 23

18-02-2013

Today my childhood died.

Back in 1970 Don Maclean wrote about  ‘the day the music died’ in his seminal song American Pie. He was referencing the death of Buddy Holly.

It’s Thursday, 27th December 2012. I awake as usual following a Boxing Day with my in-laws and turn on Breakfast TV for the top of the hour headlines. ‘Tributes are pouring in for Gerry Anderson...’ That’s all I really hear. The rest of it becomes a blur of sounds and noises.

Thursday, 27th December 2012. ...The day my childhood died.

I can clearly remember the first Anderson program I ever watched with my Mum and Dad. At this time Mum worked for Mackintosh’s Chocolate in Norwich (then the home of Quality Street and Rolo). We sat down in front of the TV and Mum had brought me a present, a superb friction toy of Thunderbird 1. We then sat and watched Captain Scarlet whilst stuffing our faces with Quality Street rejects - Heaven!

Captain Scarlet is still probably my favourite Anderson show. The first kit I ever built was an Airfix Angel interceptor and as I grew up Gerry was always there in the background: Thunderbirds reruns, Joe 90, Secret Service... all soaked in as a child watching Anglia region tea-time and summer holiday broadcasts.

UFO was ‘must-see!’ Sunday watching, as was The Protectors.

Space: 1999 made me want to build huge spaceships.

Terrahawks passed me by - No, not really. I watched, but as I was now a rock’n’roll rebel, I kidded myself that I was watching with a sense of profound irony.

Then Gerry went uber-cool and Dick-Spanner was prime-time post pub/club watching (at this time interspersed with CS reruns).

Later Gerry was a band post-sound-check favourite, as I and my band mates sat in the pub every Friday night watching the series reruns of Thunderbirds, Stingray and good old Cap S, before hitting the stage!


Post-band, Space Precinct was not-to-be-missed viewing, finishing off with a blinding CGI version of my all time favourite and a DVD box set rediscovery of Fireball XL5.

Yes, Gerry was always there, but alas, now - no more.

It’s taken me nearly seven weeks to complete this blog. Trying to put into a few brief words the last forty-eight years of my life has been a daunting proposition.

All I really want to say is thank you.

Thank you, Gerry Anderson. A large portion of what I am, what I do and what I have become is due to you.


Merry Christmas

21-12-2012

Well here we are; the end of another year and it's time for Gary's Christmas Blog...

Andrea and myself are all done for Christmas, with only the odd tabletop and stocking filler for family left to get.

I love Christmas shopping and always end up browsing my local model shop (I say local - I have to travel at least 30 minutes to get to one), looking for a last minute bargain with any money that I may have left from the Prezzie splurge!

When I was a child (back in the 1970s), you could buy model kits anywhere and each local outlet seemed to be company specific: one newsagent only ever carried Monogram kits, a hardware store only Airfix, and with Revell, Aurora and AMT dominating yet another newsagent.

A trip into the local city yielded even more choice; Woolies stocked every single kit in the Airfix catalogue with each city department store (and there were six of them in Norwich), holding vast stocks of Revell and Airfix respectively.

But the prize was the specialist shop... three of them in all: Galaxy Models, Kellers and Langley's.

Langley's was my favourite; a toy/model shop with half of it filled with every type of kit you could possibly imagine. Here I bought my first Tamiya kit (a motorised remote control 1/35th Tiger I, as I recall). Here I gazed in awe at the massive Bandai tank, car and fire engine kits and wondered if I would ever have enough pocket money for a 1/1 scale MP40 submachine gun kit, sitting perfectly assembled in one of the sizeable display cases of beautifully made models dotted around the shop.

Nowadays Galaxy Models is a radio control specialist and as such stocks no construction kits. Kellers is no more - now part of the Modelzone group and relocated from its original location (which, by the way, is now the best coffee shop in Norwich). Langley's is still there and still the best, although a shadow of its former 1970s' heyday. Yes, model shops are now few and far between and most toyshops seem only to hold tiny stocks of the latest Revell or Airfix starter/gift sets.

In the 'good old days' you would patiently wait for new releases to turn up from abroad, but today Paypal means currency borders no longer exist, with many hardcore genre modellers buying directly from abroad before distributors even get a look in.

Even though our hobby is still in a renaissance period, there are distributors and shops that simply can't compete with or understand the new markets they unfortunately have to operate in, with many calling it a day, or bringing in administrators to wind up the business.

So, before you click 'proceed to checkout', spare a thought for the beleaguered shop that maybe in your area and spread a little Christmas joy to the high street.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a joyful New Year.

From Gary, Andrea and Hector.


Blog 21

19-11-2012

It's now mid November and I have just started to build again. My fellow modelling cohorts Andy and Barry told me that once my book was published, I would end up needing a break.

No, I said ...not I!


Well, actually, I should listen to my elders and betters- they were right - a sudden loss of Modelling libido hit me like a ton of lead. I had decided that I would take a short break anyway, as I had already told our beloved leader. However, it has really taken me until a short while ago to even think about getting back behind my keyboard and start blogs... let alone sticking plastic bits together.

This started about four weeks ago, when I bought a kit of a Heinkel P1079B on a whim (must have been Andy's Arado E555 build in issue 27 that inspired me). Yes, I know. I've said it before: 'I'm only going to buy models that I actually am going to build' and, yes, it went straight into the loft stock, probably never to be seen again.

Hmmmm... Ah-Ha! Airfix have just released a special club edition of a Gloster Meteor F8 in Coronation colours, best have two of those - so an order was placed. Yes, there's a pattern emerging.

Finally, I was buying presents for Christmas when I saw it, winking at me from the shop window. A model that I have wanted to build for a while; a collector's item and a timely reissue.

I just had to have it. I had to build it; I had to review it for Sci.fi & fantasy Modeller! Well, you will have to wait until issue 29 to see what I'm talking about. Let's just say that it's big, current and a pain in the butt in terms of the build... But I'm loving it!

Oh - and of course the F8 Meteors went straight into the collection.

As the year draws to a close and with my modelling vibe back, I'm now turning to future projects for 2013. I would like to thank all those who got in contact with me (either directly or indirectly) with feedback on Epic Sci-fi Modelling. If I haven't got back to you yet please bear with me. I will.

Also, have you noticed that this year's Star Trek ships of the line calendar has a UK and rest of the world version for 2013?

I wouldn't worry if you're not really prepared to pay nearly £40 for one on Amazon. The US version seems to be a pretty bland affair... maybe the lack of any new Drex files over the last few months has something to do with this?


Blog 20

13-06-2012

End of May, glorious weather, the Jubilee is in full swing and Prometheus ticket in the bag. Could it get any better?

Well, things have only really got going over the last week or so as I have been wracking my brains to get on with a studio scale Thunderbirds TX-204. Can finding a canopy really be so much aggro?

I was completely overwhelmed as to just how many kits I would actually need to get this build done. I had originally thought to sculpt the canopy for this model, but as I gathered more info on the original miniature the enormity of getting the shape right came to a head and seeing it had to be right I came to the conclusion that I really needed the real McCoy.

Luckily there are two legendary American Rod modellers at my local club. I asked whether either of them had a Ford Predicta kit I could take a casting from. Neither of them did, but when looking at the images I had of the TX-204 they both said in unison, "That's not from a Predicta, it's a 1957 or 58 Thunderbird. Monogram did a kit in 1/24th that's recently been reissued."

Onto the web, one kit on the way... Job Done!

To be honest things had been stalling with the TX-204. Until I had a canopy I was really unsure as to whether I should even attempt to start the body shaping. Good job I talked to Rod and Graham... Mike's TX-204 would have been totally the wrong shape - which would have been unforgivable.

So with the main shape together I can now carry on at full speed. The only thing I can say is Mike, are you aware of just how big this thing really is? (I am now, Gary, and I shall be moving into the shed so the TX-104 can stand proudly in the living room. Ed.)

I have also gotten involved with a group build. Following their superb Viper Squadron build (featured in SF&FM Volume 22) the guys at SFM:uk are now running two group builds for 2012: a Rebel hanger from the original Star Wars trilogy and a Pod Race starting grid from Episode 1. Guess which one I'm in?

That's right - the Pod Race. But not as a Pod builder; I'm taking care of the base and pit lane complete with cliff face, buildings, junk pile and various pit accessories.

Stay tuned, or, better still, get onboard at their Website.

Ok now Prometheus. I can't remember when I was last so excited about the release of a movie. And Ridley Scott's Alien has always been in my top ten of all time film list.

When first released I was too young to see Alien in 1979 -it was an X certificate, after all. But this didn't stop me buying up everything I could possibly get related to it, no matter how small the scrap of information gleaned was.

But come the summer of 1980 when Alien was reissued as a double bill with John Carpenter's The Fog change of venue meant change of management, and I managed to sneak in with my best deep voice 'ONE PLEASE'.

The effect of Alien on me was quite profound and I spent years trying to build a descent version of the Nostromo, as well as buying anything with H. R. Giger's name on it.

So, my expectations of Prometheus are quite high.

Let's see what Bank Holiday Monday brings and, at the end of the day, MIB3 could help bring a smile to my face and take the edge off any possible disappointment.


Blog 19

13-06-2012

Beginning of April and things are finally looking up. It's been a long winter and a difficult one for me. Finishing my book was great, but it has taken a long time for me to get back in the saddle, so to speak.

But as I write this I have just been sorting out radio control aircraft wheels for my TX-204 (for the boss, don't you know?) and have been marking out ABS for construction.

Unfortunately I have had to spend most of March nursing the cat back from the brink; which meant modelling time was put to one side. However Hector is back (Hectors love model parts: Come back with That!) and my workshop is a buzz with new projects.

March did start well; I attended the East of England Model show at Peterborough, as I couldn't take my Nebulon A (as Andrea was in the car with me so there was no space), I took the Proto Neb and the Rebel fleet which I had made from Nebulon A leftovers. The show was excellent and wonderfully friendly. I met up with some old mates and made some new friends into the bargain.

I'm not one for competitions as, firstly, I really can't see the point of them and, secondly, many people are so set in 'Sticking kits together' mode, that most mainstream kit builders really don't seem to get what I do at all.

It's horses for courses, of course, and even though my club mates are always going on about how I should enter  I don't even enter club night competitions.

Unfortunately, when you show at Peterborough you are automatically entered into the competition as every model on display is judged. So I was actually nicely surprised (and acutely embarrassed) when, returning from lunch, I found that I had received a prize 'Winner Class 10 Miscellaneous'. This meant that I had to attend prize giving with the Mayor and dutifully collected my plaque (more redness of embarrassment). Then it was off to the car park to get a space to load up. When I rolled up there stood Andrea with a solemn look on her face...

"You should have stayed." a huge grin grew over her face. "You won BEST IN SHOW!"

I actually had to slap myself. But, as I went back inside it took me nearly two hours to load up and go as so many people came up to congratulate me.

"I thought it would be best to go and get the car, instead of staying to the end of Prize giving," I said to my fellow club members "Sci-fi never wins Best in Show!'.

Flabbergasted!

Anyway, Hector got ill, then had a remarkable recovery - "Hector, NO! Come back with that!" Models came down from the loft and my Star Trek ship found a shape.

So, with her basic shape together I have come up with a little back history on the type...

USS Triton

NCC 71799

Surveyor Class Explorer

Captain J.T.Serres Commanding

Crew: 183

USS Triton was launched in 2365 and charted several new star systems, making first contact with nine new races. Following a refit she resurveyed a large area of the Beta Quadrant that had not been updated since the beginning of the 24th Century. After returning to the Alpha Quadrant she was lost during the Borg incursion of 2373.

The Surveyor Class starships are small, independent Science Explorers packed with instrumentation. These ships can be fitted with or without mission-specific Pods and have enough defensive armaments so they can be truly independent on long range missions.

During the Dominion Wars, the lack of ships meant that many Surveyor Class ships were refitted as long-range escorts and Frigates, returning to Exploration and Stellar Cartography duties at the end of hostilities.

Other notable ships in the Class include...

USS Surveyor - N.X. 71700

USS Africa - N.C.C. 71739

USS Bucentaure - N.C.C. 71781

USS Polyphemus - N.C.C. 71711

USS Rayo - N.C.C. 71767

USS Swiftsure - N.C.C. 71723

Eagle eyed readers will, of course, notice the historically resonate names of each of the ships named - H.M.S.Victory is a Surveyor Class ship and Bucentaure was the Flagship of the French/Spanish fleet, the remaining ships on the list also all fought at Trafalgar. As I rummaged through my loft stock for TX-204 parts, I noticed that I had a box of the old AMT/Ertl mini Enterprise B,C and E kits. On opening the box up, I actually had five of these kits jammed into one box! So the fate of USS Triton points to a plan I have forming in my mind. The box also contained other bits and pieces, including some Stabilo Cool Swing highlighters - Another huge hint of things to come!

So - one starship, one TX-204 and a few Angel Interceptors lurking on the bench. With a box full of Star Trek starship parts and boxes and boxes of kit parts left over from my book build...

The rest of the year is looking GOOOOOD!


Blog 18

13-06-2012

AKIRA!!!!

Back in the early 1980s, Manga, if you asked most people at the time, was probably thought to be a condiment in an Indian restaurant...

But then came Akira.

Most of us 'in the know' were already aware of the majesty and the sheer innovative cinematic experience of Japanese Animation. But Akira (both a Critical and Commercial success worldwide), really brought Manga to the masses.

So, why am I going on about Manga?

Well, Star Trek VIII First Contact brought Picard and the Crew of the Enterprise-E up against another Borg onslaught on sector 001. A battle seen in all its glory at the beginning of the movie.

Although the Enterprise-E was a practical miniature (The last to be built and shot on stage), she had a supporting cast of CGI ships designed by ILM Art Director Alex Yeager -

Norway, Steamrunner, Sabre and Akira Classes. All wonderful designs that really pushed Star Trek ship design to another level. The most successful of which (although the Sabre is my favourite), was the Akira Class.

So much so that, by the time the last TV series Enterprise was produced there can be little doubt that the design of that ship was a heavy plagiarism of Alex Yeager's Akira design. Even the fans dubbed her 'Akiraprise'. Rumours even had it that Polar Lights (in an earlier incarnation) were going to produce a model kit, something that has, unfortunately to this day, yet to appear on the market.

While designing my Starfleet Stellar Cartography from the 'Cromer Scrapyard' I searched the Internet for some inspiration, and there are some fantastic fan-based sites out there, with some truly wonderful and well thought out conjectural designs. But, unfortunately, an awful lot of these share more than a passing resemblance to a certain ship, designed by a certain ILM Art Director.

I didn't want my ship to end up as yet another addition to the Akira lineage, so I dug some parts out of my box did some rough sketching, while getting on with my Dad's Novo Vampires.

So, what does a stellar cartography ship look like? Well, Saucer (a must), two Warp Nacelles (All the ships in my universe have even numbered engines - Gene Roddenberry) and Secondary Hull? Probably not, but she does need a large Sensor Dish mounted above and behind the Saucer. Stick the engines where? Yes, attached to the Sensor Pod arching downwards. Attach to the Saucer via the Engine Pylons and... Oh dear, it all starts looking all a bit, well, Akira-ish.

Never mind. Let's try some Next Gen-type parts, Sauce, Engines, Sensor Pod, Pylons... Damn!

OK, keep going: Engines on top of Saucer, Sensor below, Pylons... Oh dear!

I'll give up for the moment and have a bit of a rest; February is slipping away fast and the year is shaping up nicely. Next weekend I have a trip to the East of England model show at Peterborough - If you're there please pop over for a chat on the Norwich Scale Model Group table.

Then a trip to the cinema the following weekend for the first big picture of the year, John Carter on Mars, but more on this next month.

And then a breakthrough; more Internet trawling, a flash of inspiration and I finally have a workable design for my Starship. Actually, I have two, one Movie version made up of Enterprise A, B and Excelsior; the second a Next Gen version made up from Enterprise A, B, D and DS9 Runabout parts.

As I said, the year is shaping up nicely.


...still in a bit of a limbo...

01-02-2012

The end of the fourth week into 2012 and I'm still in a bit of a limbo. With my book complete, I decided that I would get straight on with a new project, however a post Xmas virus knocked that on the head - until now that is...

So, with the up coming (and for the Boss) TX-204 on plan ie; I still can't decide whether to lay up Fibreglass over carved former or build with ABS and lots of P38,  as well as four ancient Frog 1/72nd Vampire aircraft (being built for my Dad's Forced perspective 1950's R.A.F. Airfield on his Train set), in motion,


I decided that it was time to turn to the New Years blog.

Christmas was a good time for a recharge, laying on the couch, where I enjoyed a few lazy days catching up with some films bought in the sales and watching some old Star Trek Next Gens airing on CBS Action.

Star Trek is one of those modelling subjects that I have all but ignored over that last few years, which is bizarre as I have a large amount of kits in the loft stock pile that are screaming to be built into something.

One of the things I love about Star Trek is the connection with real history that all the series have. A typical example of which was shown off in one of the episodes watched over this period Redemption pt II, where the Starships Hornet and Akagi are part of Picard's blockading fleet. Military History buffs will know -of course- that both these ships faced off against each other in the pivotal World War II Battle of Midway.

I also managed to pick up a few books over the January Sales, one of them being Eyes of the Admiralty, a fascinating book recounting British Naval Hydrographic, Cartographic and Spying operations during the blockade of Brest in the early 19th. century Napoleonic wars. My interest in 18th. and 19th. Century Naval history has never left me since childhood

Again this has another strong Star Trek link, in that Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek TV series, is modelled on C. S. Forester's heroic 19th century Naval Officer Captain Horatio Hornblower (C.S. Forester being possibly my favourite author).

But good things never last and the New Year meant that I had to return to work and give my workshop a good spring clean ready for the years upcoming projects.

While I was rooting around in my loft (clearing up, don't you know?), I happened across a box of bits that I hadn't realised I still had. Many years ago, I had bought a huge amount of AMT/Ertl Star Trek kits when they were going very cheap, some of which were used to produce kitbashed wrecked starships for a shop display.

The box I found was full of 'leftovers' from this project. In later years, however, this box had also been boosted by two kits broken up for use later on (OK, so I have issues with throwing stuff away... don't we all?), these reclaimed kits being a Runabout from Deep Space Nine, an original Enterprise and a complete part-made Revell 1/200th Skipjack submarine. All in all in this box there are lots of saucers and secondary hulls, but not many engines.

So, as I was all fired up with inspiration, I decided that, as well as the usual drivel written in my blogs over this year, you will also have to put up with my journey into the world of Star Trek ship design.

I still have to decide whether the ship I create should be based around Original, Movie or Next Gen timelines, but I have determined it will be a kind of Science/Stellar Cartography vessel whose name I shall eventually lift from the aforementioned Eyes of the Admiralty book. I might even mount her on a base with an image lifted from that book. We'll see....

So, can I pull it off? Will the ship be an authentic addition to the Star Trek universe, or a dog's dinner like so many of these types of kit bashes can do without due care and attention?

Keep reading to find out, as in my next blog I will ponder on a design. Not so much Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards, more like the Cromer Fleet Salvage Yards.


Gary's Christmas Blog 2011

20-12-2011

I actually built something today.
What?
You did WHAT?!
OK, so it's not the end of the world as we know it, but it has actually been a while since I built anything.
So, how did this come about?
Well, with the majority of the book completed all I needed to do was finish off the composites for chapters and build examples.

While shooting composite elements - fleet in space, pursuit ships in space, Jedi Courier, etc.. I felt I wanted to complement all this excitement with something a little more down to earth - or down to Tatooine, to be exact.
One of the example models to be shot was a Gozanti Cruiser I had built a few years ago, as seen in Star Wars Episode I, II and, recently, in an episode from series three of The Clones Wars.
So... How about a Tatooine shot to match the Gozanti's first appearance in Episode I?
Yes, that would do nicely.
After a couple of hours thinking...

A trip to a supermarket located a couple of shampoo bottles and a microwave plate cover with very Tatooine-esque shapes. A hearty breakfast at the Green Welly Cafe on the way to work provided a children's toy container which broke into hemispheres. All of these would be transformed into buildings.
Back at home I removed the contents from the bottle and cut off the tops, then filled any holes in these objects with P38 and sanded to shape. A paste was made up using Revell Plasto and EMA Plastic Weld and this was stippled all over the buildings to add texture. Job done.
Now for a wreck or two. A few bits from aircraft kits, leftovers from the book models (mainly Sunderland, Harrier and A-10 Tankbuster) made up the forward section of a wrecked ship, with other parts from aircraft (Mirage III, Crusader and B29) making up various discarded bits and pieces to be scattered about (very glad Lucas used aircraft bits to make set dressings).
Lots of cut up sprue (from the A-10 kit) and a Matilda tank top deck made up the rear part of the wreck.
A sort of Vaporator was cobbled together from tank wheels and sprue with a couple of tank bits added to the hemispherical building to finish it off.
An old model was broken up and the front section turned on its tail, then further detailed with a few kit bits and sprue as some sort of power station.
Finally an R2 from a Revell Y-Wing (converted into Red Jammer so the R2 was surplus to requirements) was roped into the proceedings.
Breakout the paints... Lots of airbrushing, lots of hand brushing, a bit of dry brushing and, after around seven hours of work total, I had completed the Tatooine Mos Espa set dressings.
So - how did the finished result turn out?

Well that would spoil it, wouldn't it?

Suffice to say that in 2012 the results will be published when, finally, my belated addition to the Master Modeller Library series will see the light of day.
Meaning as far as contributing to Sci.fi & fantasy modeller is concerned, I am well a truly back in the game!
Have a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.


Autumn

21-10-2011

Well, summer is now officially over and autumn drifts into full view. I just turned around and over two thirds of the year had gone. ...Where?

I hope that you all had a good summer despite the weather?

Weather aside it has been a rather good one. All of you who managed to catch Thor (and, finally, a descent version of) Captain America are no doubt chomping at the bit for the upcoming Avengers movie and praying that the much-touted, all powerful villain of the piece is indeed Vision (along with Daredevil and Hulk my all time favourite superhero from the Marvel stable. Oops... may have given away a huge part of the plot away there for those not familiar with The Avengers). My heart also managed to skip a tiny beat when I came across some press releases regarding next years Judge Dredd movie. Although no shots of Mega City One have been released as yet, hopes are high that this movie will finally depict 2000AD's greatest anti-hero as he should be.

Again I am showing my age - reaching my formative years in the 1970s there are certain things that will always hold my affections, one of these being sci-fi artists from that period. This summer saw the publication of Hardware: the definitive SF worlds of Chris Foss. Although the text at times reaches almost hysterical sycophancy - I think I stretches the limits of credibility to suggest that without Chris Star Wars would never have happened - his huge influence on the world of sci-fi illustration and design cannot be denied. Either way, those of you who don't have copies of 21st Century Foss, Diary of a Spaceperson, Sci-Fi Art or Chris Foss Portfolio should consider this as a must-have purchase, and a must for the Xmas list.

This year being our fifth wedding anniversary we decided to holiday where we had our honeymoon, Portmeirion in North Wales. For those of you who don't know, this Italianate Village built by architect Sir William Clough Ellis, was, of course, the exterior set piece for the original version of the TV show The Prisoner and this was actually our fifth visit and our third stay.

We stayed in our usual room, where from one window I could see the beautiful expanse of the Dwyryd estuary while keeping an eye on No:6's house through the other. I even bought a canvas to hang behind my desk at work with the classic quote 'I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own', but have yet to find the courage to actually hang it!

Finally, I failed miserably to curb my buying of kits, despite the increasingly groaning timbers in my loft.

Best intentions always fail. I had intended to buy one of the new Airfix Valiants, seeing as I have Mach 2 and Contrail kits of the same, but had cancelled my order due to the 'Will never be built' contract clause I had entered into, where I wouldn't buy anything else unless it was specifically for a project, or I was definitely going to build it. However, the discovery of a host of Luftwaffe 46 jet kits while having a loft clearance meant that I couldn't let the photo opportunity of a Valiant being buzzed by a Heinkel P1078 slip by. A poor excuse to be sure, nearly as poor as the 2 x Revell Jupiter C kits that were a bargain, the Revell Pocket Millennium Falcon that I just had to have to hang under my Proto Nebulon Cruiser (a feature build in my forthcoming volume for the Master Modeller Library) or the selection of Tamiya 1/100th aircraft kits which, at £2:00 each, would have been criminal not to get, and the Sdkfz 7/1s that, at rock bottom prices, were just too good to miss out on, etc...

Oh dear. Best laid plans and all that. Maybe I should have taken  No:6's stand on this subject: 'I will not make deals with you!'

Be seeing you.


Blog 14: My name is Gary - and I am a 'Studio scaler'

06-09-2011

...And I must say that, sometimes I feel that I do have some sort of disease that needs urgent treatment. Never more so than when I picked up my latest consignment of newly reissued kits to add to my kit stock, ready for a time when I would/might need them. I was initially chuffed. 'What a Haul!' I said to myself as I opened up boxes and inspected parts, some of which have been missing from my stock for a many a year.

Backtracking slightly, when I first decided that the contents out of any kit box were not what I was going to settle for without improving them somewhat I armed myself with a pile of cheaply bought kits I could pilfer from without spending hours building individual microscopic parts from scratch. These included mainly Airfix and Hasegawa small-scale armour (£2-£4 each), with a few Airfix Vostoks and Saturn 1bs that were on sale at £3.99 or three for £10 (this was many years ago). Indeed, the £60 I had set aside did me proud.


Years later, as I set up building models for other people, any profits were ploughed back into the business. This only increased my ever-bulging stocks of those most useful to me. Early on I realised that buying just one of a subject was not a good idea. Some kits fall out of fashion and sometimes they don't reappear for several years. So, four of each is always a good idea. Sometimes, however, the odd kit lies fallow for many years. Where these exceptions are concerned, ten of each of these is usually a bare minimum requirement, making sure I don't run out of suitable bits and end up having to source from collectors at premium prices.

I therefore didn't feel bad about the 10 Airfix Saturn 1bs and Vostoks, 4 Revell Vostoks (need three for a Cylon tanker) and four Honest John missiles (1 needed for a TX-204) I picked up. Indeed, very pleased with myself I was. Until Andrea asked, 'Aren't you going to put them up in the loft with everything else?'

'Oh, yes,' I replied. 'They are taking up a lot of space in my studio, I'll get the ladder out.'

I set up the ladder under the loft hatch, lifted it up, switched on the light and: Oh, dear. I think I need to have a sort out.

Indeed, the sight I beheld was piles of kits with no space to put my latest additions.

And so it begins...

I honestly thought I had 'gotten' rid of a lot more than I actually had. One side of the loft was piled high with Tamiya kits of all descriptions - mostly armour, with a few ships and F1 cars filling in the gaps. The other side was equally divided into Airfix, Hasegawa, Revell and Monogram subjects, with a smattering of Fujimi, Italieri and Heller. Ships. Armour. Planes. Rockets and Cars... All needed, with big sticky labels on them, marked up Cylon Tanker, X-Wing, Y-Wing, Star Destroyer, Merchantman, Buck shuttle, Borg Cube, Pursuit Ship, London... you get the picture. Virtually all of these kits have parts missing, damaged boxes or some other type of fault, so are next to useless to all but me and my projects.

If this wasn't bad enough (I kid you not, you would think it was the stock room of your local Modelzone up there), it was the remaining stocks of 'Oh, I may well build this someday' that really got me. Ten apple boxes full of German W.W.II aircraft kits in 1/72nd. A box (washing machine size) full of Luftwaffe 1946 kits. Another Box (same size) full of jet designs based on Luftwaffe 1946. And planes I had taken a fancy to. Plus kits I had bought because (and I know I'm not alone here) they were a bargain. Apparently I really did intend at some point to build 1/48th versions of John Goodman's and Richard Dreyfuss's Aircraft from Always, the Ju52 from Where Eagles Dare, a shelf-full of 1/72nd NASA X-planes, and so on and so forth...

I then rediscovered piles of AMT/Ertl Star Wars and Star Trek kits I had bought for a rainy day, Imai Anderson kits and other oddities that, in all honesty, were bought with the best of intentions but will never be built.

After a couple of hours clumping around, occasionally uttering aloud (to no-one in particular) sentences such as, 'Why do I seem to have every jet aircraft from the '40s and '50s when I will never build them?' and, 'Have I got some sort of fetish concerning JU88s?' I had made enough space to deposit my latest acquisitions, dusted myself down, and closed up my loft of shame.

I really must do something about this current situation. Thinking about it, the last kit I built (not counting those for review purposes or for clients when I ran Hector's House of Models & Miniatures) was probably back in the mid 1990s, but this has not curbed my impulse buying frenzy, it seems. The Star Wars and Star Trek kits can be used for bits and pieces or kit-bashed into various enjoyable projects and I'm sure that the remaining Imai kits will turn up in the Modelling the 21st Century series at some point.

But I doubt our Editor-In-Chief can be tempted into a dedicated 'Luftwaffe 46 and their contemporaries' series.

It's time to stop.

No more kits unless they are for review or specifically for a project planned.

After all, looking at my stash of Saturn 1bs, there are only so many studio scale Mark IX Hawks one can build in a lifetime.


Blog 11

07-06-2011

Standing in my local corner shop waiting to be served, I spied and picked up this month's copy of Star Wars Insider to browse through while the shop assistant babbled on with her friends.

Flicking to the news pages one story that leapt out was that, in September this year, both the Original and Prequel trilogies are to be released in the Blu-ray format, complete with thirty hours of new bonus material including lost scenes for Episodes IV- VI. Hooray, I thought! Then, suddenly, a wave of resentment came over me.

"I'm not buying these yet again!' I growled.

Those of us of a certain age (in our early teens when these films were originally released) will, of course, have bought them before. ...Firstly as ex-rental in the glory days of Betamax, secondly when they were first issued as part of 20th Century Fox's Widescreen Collection, again on Laser Disc and, as another, last fling on VHS, as 'Special Editions'. Then there were the first DVD releases, the second DVD releases - with the original versions as a bonus - as well as all three two-disc special editions of the Prequels, and the final insult of seeing all DVDs as 'three for £20' in every retail outlet in town.

In between this, some of us have also bought every book available for any image that may come in useful.

But that was then.

Nowadays, the web is full of images and information freely available to the modeller, so I will be passing on these boxed sets for now, picking them up cheaply when Blu-ray players are two a penny at any supermarket and they are as cheap as the Alien Quadrology sets currently are.

As a long-time Star Wars fan, I do feel enough money has been made and I have more than enough copies of each movie.

Of course, I could understand if there was a promise of anything new... Episodes VII-IX would be a start. The long-awaited Live Action TV series tying Episodes III and IV is still far off on the horizon and I am beginning to feel more than a little taken advantage of. OK, The Clone Wars is well up to par, but there can only be five series of this, max, before we cross into the Episode III timeline.

Am I being a bit harsh here?

Well, maybe... maybe not.

Regardless of what I think, I'm sure that these sets will sell by the shipload until another format or special edition can be found as yet another excuse to sell us something we have already.

Rant over.

This foul mood of mine hasn't been helped by the fact that I recently damaged my beloved Paasche Talon airbrush through my own stupidity. However, a new tip and needle (and a score lighter in the pocket) later and I'm feeling decidedly better... especially as Graphic Air sent replacements to me within forty-eight hours (with a Bank Holiday in-between) and, finally, all the models for my SF Master Modeller series book are now complete.

Feeling better, Gary?

Much, thanks!

And another thing about those Star Wars releases...

Go and lie down, Gary. Ed.


Blog 10

07-04-2011

March 6th, 2011: I can't believe it, but I'm on the last lap of finishing the models for volume three of the Sci-fi Master Modeller book series. Last April - 2010 - I made the first cut into that first sheet of ABS, as I made a bulkhead for the largest cruiser model, and now, eleven months later, I am mixing up filler to hide the gaps around parts on the last models in preparation for painting...

Of course, it could have been done a bit quicker and there has been a huge amount of chopping and changing from the original synopsis as I have plodded along. Gone is the U.S.S. Gage kit-bash I had planned and in came a Federation Command Ship from Blake's 7. The large Nebulon A Frigate took considerably longer than first planned (for those of you in good old Blighty, she will be making a public appearance at Barnet/Harrow IPMS show at Hendon in May this year) and my original 'lets take some leftover parts and quickly build a kit-bashed fleet to photograph her with,' turned into, 'Wow, let's see if I can build Nilo Rodis' original sketch of the 'Rebel Cruiser' with the parts I have left over.' So, what should have been a simple three-week exercise has ballooned into a three-month build.

I didn't exactly expect to change jobs, either, when Mike and Dave first approached me to write this volume, with the new job effectively having me working away from home for the majority of the week [Life in the big city]. This has also, as you can imagine, slowed me down quite a bit.

So, how much more is there to do? Well, first off I have four ships to paint, plus a 'Tuna Ship' from Ertl/AMT's Rebel base to paint, a Revell Y-wing to turn into Red Jammer and a selection of pre-builds to refurbish.

All the photo composites then need to be done, and I can then start editing build and example photographs and all the text, ready to be sent off to Mike and Dave for formatting.

OK - so still a bit to do, but I'm getting there. Talking to Barry Ford he said that he needed a break after he had finished his Volume Building Better Dioramas (What? You don't have a copy? Get thee to the ordering page forthwith!). For myself I feel exactly the opposite way and can't wait to be finished so that I can get on with the colossal amount of new projects I have in mind for the future. TX-204, Beach Crash and Angel Interceptor builds, to name but three, are all screaming for my attention.

...But first I need to pull my finger out and 'Get with it, Welshy!'


Blog 09

16-02-2011

Five weeks after New Year and it's almost as if Xmas never happened at all. However, I always look forward to this time of year as my Airfix Club renewal pops through the letterbox.

I love Airfix - always have - and several years ago I took out a club membership. One, because I love the kits and, two, because being a member means I can redeem the box side tokens for free kits (always useful).

So I peered into the box and surveyed this year's pack containing my Membership Exclusive kit, token book (all those lovely freebies), calendar, card, badge (a new design every year) and catalogue. As per usual I opened up the kit to see if anything was useful, put my calendar on my bench and grabbed the catalogue to browse through what's new for 2011...

What a bumper year! By now everyone reading this will know the big news is that the classic series 2 1/72nd Captain Scarlet Angel Interceptor is back (Jbot are working on a corrective decal sheet as we speak). Five on order for myself - keep reading Sci.fi & fantasy modeller and all will be revealed later this year - can't wait! This little baby has been gone far too long and was the first kit I ever bought with my own pocket money (Three shillings... OK - that really dates me!).

Other gems reissued this year are the 1/24th Harrier GR3 (who said the moulds were retooled?), Handley Page 0/400, Chi Ha Tank-Type 97, Joseph Stalin Tank, Vostok 1, Saturn 1b (all the Anderson studio-scalers out there will be jumping for joy...) and, finally, the welcome return of the 1/600th Prinz Eugen - a jewel of a kit, used all over the place and seen on miniatures from Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers.

So - off to my local shop for the yearly order. With this placed it was a quick look through all the other catalogues (traders get these in advance of the public), but only Revell had anything to really report. Good news is that the 1/24th Vostok Capsule is out again (second quarter), along with a timely reissue of the Honest John missile and transporter. Star Wars kits are down on last year with only a Tie Fighter (not a good idea, seeing how many others there are on the market), and, more importantly Luke's Landspeeder complete with Luke, Obi-Wan, R2 and C3PO. This is the first time this craft has been kitted (except for a version that came with the deluxe edition of Lorne Peterson's Sculpting a Galaxy), so I'm looking forward to seeing exactly how well this kit comes out... I feel a review coming on.

The BIG Revell news, however, was the announcement of new Star Trek kits... New toolings in 1/600th Scale, of the original series Enterprise and Klingon Cruiser. At around the 2ft mark and only £40, I just have to have me one of each. Seeing the quality of Revell's tooling of late, I think it's fair to say that these kits will be the definitive versions of these classic craft. I might even buy three Enterprises... Constellation and Tug variants just have to be done!

Happy, happy days indeed!

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Japanese kits. Although the Yen is probably at its weakest state in forty years. Tamiya, Dragon and Hasegawa kits remain at sky-high prices; with a 20% rise across the board in 2011.

So... us studio-scalers will be looking to the second-hand market for material, or casting from existing stock, With HobbyLink Japan filling in the gaps for us.


Blog 8

26-01-2011

Trends can be interesting and disturbing all at the same time. Although no one can be more than happy about the resurgence in Sci-fi and Fantasy modelling over the past year, for every good thing there is sometimes a bad. I'm speaking, of course, of the minority of Nit-pickers and Rivet Counters that have jumped onto our hobby because it's trendy to do so.

I've always thought that the best part of what we do is that no-one can tell us it's wrong or inaccurate. However, an editorial written recently in a mainstream modelling magazine left me more than a little uneasy. This talked about how great it was that a group of sci-fi modellers had such a wealth of knowledge that a hyper-accurate version of Slave One could now be built from scale plans. The biggest issue I have with this is that this same magazine ran a feature stating that if you sawed off the nose of a Hawker Hurricane with a thin razor saw then glued it back into position the result would turn this travesty of the kit manufacturer's art magically accurate.

...In 1/72nd scale?

I thought, is it me? Worryingly, the writers were serious. In my opinion articles such as this one actively discourage the majority of us who take the hobby for what it is: a fun way of killing a few hours in an evening.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the case in point. An accurate Slave One, eh? Which Slave One would this be, then? The Empire miniature (which was re-detailed more than once during its life), the digital version built from book reference photos by John Knoll over a frame best judged from the Ertl/AMT kit for the Special Edition, the digital version modified for Attack of the Clones, the digital version modified yet again for The Clone Wars, or Harlan Ellenshaw's matte painting?

And where did these plans come from? Not from ILM, that is for sure, as there were only ever basic outline shapes drawn for production - the detailing and painting was an amalgamation of drawings done by Nilo Rodis and Joe Johnston but principally done by two ILM modellers 'in the style of'.

So much for the plans. Nothing would be available better than scrap Polaroid images of the miniatures. But, as far as I'm aware, the only full scrap images available are for the Attack of the Clones version.

Mike Okuda once famously said that the real Enterprise is the one you see on the screen and I would agree with this statement. Barrie Clucas's excellent Millennium Falcon replica seen in S&FM  Vol 19 could not be classed as a hyper-accurate copy of the ILM miniature (Again, which one? Don't get me started, as there are more permutations of Falcon than any other Star Wars vehicle!) but, if she was photographed under studio conditions then composited into a scene from Empire, I doubt if anyone would be able to pick her out next to the ILM miniatures.

One last thing on this subject: Shunsaka Tamiya in his wonderful book Master Modeller creating the Tamiya style wrote in detail about the development of the 1/12th Porsche 911 kit in the late 1970s. Tamiya purchased a 911, took it apart and used these parts to make a hyper-accurate kit. Once the prototype was finished and assembled it looked nothing like a Porsche 911, even though it was a perfectly scaled-down copy of the full size car. After a lot of head scratching - after all, how can it be wrong if it's dimensionally correct - Tamiya came to the conclusion that your brain can distinguish between a full sized object and a small copy. Because it expects the full sized thing, it sees the smaller copy as wrong. So, Tamiya subtly adjusted the moulds so the finished model 'looked' correct from all angles. So the old adage really is true... 'f it looks right... it is right!' And if that is good enough for Tamiya it should be good enough for any Rivet Counter.


Blog 07

15-12-2010

As I began to write this I suddenly realised that this would be my last blog of 2010 and that it would be timely for a look back at the year as a whole. ...And what a year it has been!

It's safe to say that sci-fi and fantasy in general has probably never been in better shape and it's nice to see a plethora of new and reissued kits hitting the shops again - not just the specialist retailers.

Of course, 2010 marked the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, which was topped off by the awesome companion volume to The Making of Star Wars by J.W Rinzler. The second season of The Clone Wars showed again what the Prequel trilogy could have been with a little thought and application. If you haven't checked out this series yet don't be put off by its 'children's show' packaging - there's plenty to keep the older Star Wars fan interested, especially the use of unrealised designs from the original Trilogy.

Kit producers have really done us all proud in 2010. Moebius have really had jaws dropping over the entire year, with an amazing Moonbus and Jupiter II, some great figure kits and, complementing their Colonial Viper kit, a terrific Galactica, just in time for many a Xmas stocking. Pegasus produced some great new kits of overlooked subjects and Revell increased their terrific Star Wars Easy-kit range with choice subjects (reviews coming soon), as well as reissuing Star Trek Voyager kits at bargain prices. Even though little was in evidence Star Trek-wise in terms of general media, with the exception of this year's superb Ships of the Line calendar, the reissue of much of the AMT/Ertl Star Trek kit back catalogue was welcome, although prices of some could be classed as questionable. Then, just as we thought it couldn't get any better, FineMolds released a half-scale version of their groundbreaking Millennium Falcon.

Despite rumours to the contrary, the Garage scene seems to be in a very healthy position and some superb kits have been arriving via specialist dealers or directly from the online communities. With large models and 'studio-scale' really beginning to come through as a dominating force at -and let's be honest here - pretty reasonable prices in comparison to a few years ago, although the figure scene could do with a boost and the 1/6th market looks a little stark when compared to the small scale scene.

Well - that was 2010... what will 2011 have in store for us? ...Batman; Bond (finally; following bitter legal and financial wrangling at MGM); Star Trek 12 and a few surprises that I'm sure will have us all dipping into our wallets at some point. It's fair to say that our hobby is in the middle of a renaissance, regardless of being in the depths of a worldwide recession.

Time for a standard clichéd seasonal ending?...


Nah! Just enjoy it while it lasts.


07-09-2010

... Cyanoacrylate - or superglue to you and me, Squire. Years ago it was simple for the hobbyist - it was Loctite Superglue 3 or nothing. Nowadays, however, there is a blistering array of product on the market. But, as with evrything, everyone has their own personal preference. Case in point: for years I used industrial types (OK, I could get them from work for nothing) then, one day a few years ago, and while visiting a local model shop where I had some of my models on display, the proprietor had a confession to make. He had dropped one of my models and broken it. He had repaired it, but didn't think he had done a good enough job for my exacting standards.

The repair, however, was perfect, whereas my industrial types always left a white powder mark around the joint. I asked what he had used. 'Grip superglue,' he replied. '£1:99 a bottle; Medium, Thick and Thin viscosities available.'
'I'll have one of each,' I said. I maintain to this day that, even though I did commission work through this shop, I always spent far more there than I earnt!

Grip served me well for many a year, before being discontinued and replaced by Vital - made by the same people who made Grip and a good replacement...

...Until this year. I usually go through a couple of tubes of each viscosity a year. So, while building the communications antennae array for my Nebulon A Frigate, a subtle mix of aluminium and brass peppered with kit bits, I automatically reached for the 'Medium' superglue (opened in April this year), popped off the cap... and nothing came out. In fact, the bottle had turned solid, and so had my 'Thick' bottle. The 'Thin', however, was unopened, so I opened it up. It simply wouldn't stick anything to anything without activator - and even then I had to back up the joins with epoxy before they fell apart. After an infuriating day's work I had accomplished little and made myself hoarse through expletives let out as the whole assembly distintegrated again and again and again!

So, it was off to town to buy some other type. But holy stickup, Batman - £6 to £7 for a tube of a rival type? I don't think so! I therefore bought another tube of Medium type Vital (£3.10 per bottle). And so far? So good... no problems at all.

So, what went wrong? I have no idea... dodgy batch, bad storage, Pluto in conjunction - who knows? But it just goes to show things happen and you just have to deal with it.


07-09-2010

A holiday is good for the soul. A complete rest and relaxation from the daily grind - as well as a chance to reenergise the batteries. Not having the distraction of children, my wife and I always look forward to our summer breaks and usually come home with all sorts of paraphernalia bought from antique and 'knick-knack' shops from wherever we have visited. Of course, for me this means books (my second love next to modelling) and model-related bits and pieces.

This time, however, I managed to squeeze in a visit to that well-known establishment and provider of second hand kits 'Kingkit' under the pretence of 'research' for a chapter in the upcoming book. Expecting the very worst, Andrea had duly made enough space in the boot of the car (Ah - the art of packing!) for me to squeeze in a plentiful supply of newly-bought kits ready for pilfering on the latest project when we returned home.

Malcolm Rolling - ever the genial host - made me at home and answered my ridiculous questions as well as he could, allowing me to shoot off some photographs for inclusion in the proposed book chapter. After an hour of this it was time to go and I turned and asked Malcolm whether it was OK to do some shopping - the best bit of the visit. So it was quite a shock when my mind went completely blank and I stood there unable to think of anything to buy! Surrounded as I was by room upon room and shelf upon shelf of goodies I had had a total brainstorm and, after what seemed like an eternity, I turned to Malcolm, apologised and said I'd send him an order when I returned home.

This was the start of it all and as the holiday progressed, my usual abundance of stuff to bring home ended up being a single purchase: The Art of Terminator Salvation, bought for a mere £4.

Andrea, on the other hand, had entered the land of plenty, buying a myriad of great stuff, some of which she had been looking for for some time. To add insult to injury I walked into my workshop when I returned home to see a list pinned to my notice board titled 'Kingkit: list of musts'!

A lesson to be learnt here, methinks?


07-09-2010

As Mike and Dave have invited me to write a regular blog for the new look Sci.fi & fantasy modeller website. I thought it only fair to tell you you won't be reading the same old 'We modellers are a funny old bunch!' type of shenanigans here - I promise. What you will have to put up with, however, are my inane ramblings over the latest projects and hiccups that sprawl across my workshop, pretending to have some sort of order to them.

- It's been a busy year for me so far, being commissioned to write the third in the series of SF Master Modeller Library books for Happy Medium Press has been a real honour, as well as being quite daunting. Writing a book is considerably different to writing for a periodical. You are not reviewing a product or building to order, but trying to provide an all-encompassing overview of a single subject while attempting to keep it engaging for the novice and, equally, the more experienced modeller. To be truthful I wasn't quite prepared for the amount of work that would be required. 'Real Life' interrupted - as it usually does - with a change of job, which led to the winding up of 'Hectors House of Models & Miniatures' due to time constraints. With this done it meant I could continue as a regular contributor to Happy Medium titles - you can't get rid of me that easily!

I decided to build the most complex and difficult model for the book first, knowing that if I came up against any problems or delays I could make up the time when building the easier subjects. So - is this working? I'll let you decide as you check out the image accompanying this blog. Is that smile through happy contentment, uneasy nervousness or sheer terror?