navy aircraftHuman beings have always been interested creating miniatures.  Small figures, carvings of animals, or even entire 3D maps of roman cities for the Emperor, we have always had miniature representations of the world around us.

Within the last 50 years, new technologies have allowed modelers to capture detail in scale and likeness that makes the models seem like the real object was only shrunk down.  Scale modeling now encompasses Model Railroading with operational trains among worlds recreated to the smallest detail, aircraft, Armor and military vehicles, ships, automotive, space, science fiction, and figures.  Each has its own class of techniques and skills needed to produce an exacting replica.

Most kits are made of either injection molded plastic, or laser cut wood for craftsman  style structure kits.  There are also short run, full resin kits, vacuform form plastic, and other mediums.  Newest technologies in injection molding have made it possible to replicate even the smallest detail.  This has been a two edged sword, as with the higher level of detail and ability has come a much larger demand for excellence in accuracy from the modeling community.

tank in progressThough there are kits of 1000s of subjects, there are still those items that have yet to be reproduced in a kit.  So there is an entire market of aftermarket that caters to those that the kit is just not enough, and provides entire conversions to make a one-of-a kind aircraft or vehicle.  Also super detail sets from photo-etched metal and resin can allow a modeler to model complete engines, open panels, and add a level of detail unattainable with just plastic.  Most advanced modelers work in all mediums; using the material that best suits the effect they want.

Beyond the kit, is scratch building.  Here the masters gather honing and challenging their skills to produce something from nothing.  Starting with plans and photos, they use raw materials to weave a three-dimensional piece of art, sometimes taking many years or even a decade to complete!  Everything from a prototype locomotive modeled to a specific day it traveled the rails, to buildings long torn down, to esoteric aircraft that flew only once.

From either kit or basic plans, we build, assemble, and paint each piece to make an replica of the full size item.  Much of the art is in making plastic look like metal, or new wood look old and weather beaten.  All the textures and effects found in real life are recreated on a workbench, and made to be permanent on the model.  With reference in one hand, tools in the other, we imagine the days of steam locomotives hauling freight over Sherman Hill, or a P-51D dogfighting a FW-190, or whatever the current project may be.

finished jeepNo matter what the subject or the materials, the goal of every modeler is the same, to produce a representation in scale of something that existed full size.  For most of us, it is the journey of planning, building, and completing that is the enjoyment of the hobby.  We also become amateur historians, usually building extensive libraries of reference material to research and learn about our subjects.  Many modelers have become experts at various aspects of history and their favorite prototypes.  Further enjoyment comes from those around us seeing the art for what it is and admiring the work of our hands.

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Consulting Editor (USA)
and contributing author
to SAM Publications

Member of
International Plastic
Modelers Society

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