Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A welcome

Welcome and thanks for dropping by. I'd like to introduce myself and some of the modeling I've been up to in 1/87 scale. I've been a modeler all my life starting as a little one watching my Dad assemble locomotives and rolling stock from brass and wood. I graduated to plastic kits and continued to model until life got in the way in the form of girls, sports, occupation and finally family. It wasn't until I had my two boys that I got back into the swing of modeling by putting together a small layout for them. As they grew older, another hiatus in modeling occurred. Some years ago, I broke out the old train equipment and began my interest again and now here I am, thoroughly consumed with the hobby.
1/87 scale is the official scale for HO gauge trains, so anything HO, including the narrow gauge trains would be regarded 1/87 scale. HO is the most popular gauge modeled and consequently has the most available with regard to equipment, structures, figures, accessories and vehicles. This has been probably the motivating factor as to why I have chosen to model in this scale.
I'd like to make some observations of modeling in general and not particularly specific to "my" scale. There seems to be a bit of misunderstanding when it comes to accurate scale modeling that centers around the size itself. It's really quite easy since most scales are represented as a fraction. So as not to confuse I will address 1/87, which essentially is just this: 1/87th of the real thing. It cannot be any easier explained than to say that if you take one foot and divide it by 87, you will have 87 scale feet. Often I have seen modelers attempt to build what they believe is in scale and use something like a jewelry chain to replicate a chain in 1/87. Without any attention given to scale this ends up looking quite toy like. A good way to overcome this often made mistake of putting something much out of scale into a model or setting is to have an accurate scale figure placed with the item in question. If, in the instance of the jewelry chain, the links look to be like they are a foot or so wide in the hands of the figure then one really needs to look further for a scale chain. When in question, always scale down in size. However, the best rule is to know your scale and be able to determine what size things need to be exactly to represent the real thing.
One aspect of scale modeling that becomes amplified as you go down in size is what is referred to as "scale effect". When viewing a 1/87 scale model at a distance of 3 feet, one is viewing what would be in real life a distance of 261 feet. At that distance, atmospheric debris such as dust and moisture would obscure a high gloss shine and certainly dull, to a perceptable level, many colors. It is for this reason that I choose to rarely if ever use a high gloss finish on anything I model with the exception being water. I also choose to use muted colors for much of my modeling and feel that by doing both of these things achieve a much more realistic look.
I am always envious of the superb details that many large scale modelers get. A wired engine in 1/25 scale can look downright real if photographed properly. Getting details like that in 1/87 can only be done by a very few and they are certainly the masters. There are things one can do to a model in 1/87 to add detail however. There are a tremendous amount of commercially available detail parts for scenes, structures, trains and vehicles in the scale offered in resin, cast metal and photo etched materials. Overlooked by many is the technique of adding texture to models to add detail. How often have you looked at a weathered railcar or truck and noticed well placed spots of rust colored paint? By adding some colored chalks in powder form to the wet paint, you add another dimension to the model. The texture of the rust becomes a detail. This texturing detail holds true for things in real life that have texture such as cloth, old wood and natural materials like tree bark. By wetting a single ply of tissue paper and placing it over an object, one can easily replicate a canvas tarp. The reasons are several including the way a wet tissue lays over the object but the texture of the tissue becomes a detail that adds to it's realism. Splitting and grooving the grain on a piece of plastic before painting adds to the texture of what one would want to be a piece of wood. Detail will most definitely add to the realistic look of any model.
Some details must be fabricated. Just as a for instance, I use a small diameter styrene rod and slice it thin. Glued to the front fenders of a truck and painted correctly, they become fender mounted turn signals that might not be included with a model you have purchased.
Experiment with models. Use different types of paints and washes for finishes. I know it's a tough decision to take a $25 plus model apart so find cheaper models to work on until you feel confident in your abilities. I take great joy in transforming an inexpensive piece that has little going for it and turning it into an up front model.
Well I hope to go further with this blog and add tutorials and examples of new products along with some of my finished work. Check back from time to time and see if I have improved and what may be new on the workbench.

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