Tuesday, September 30, 2014

1930's pieces

Not a lot to show in this post. Had much on my mind and a lot to do this summer. But taking time to build is good therapy for the mind. It takes us away from the harsh reality of life and puts us in a place where we can create unencumbered by the distractions we face constantly. It also gives a sense of accomplishment. The ability to create something in miniature that reflects real life.


The yellow dumper here is the 1936 Chevy, a resin kit from Sylvan Scale. I assembled the model itself as per instructions, added a clear acrylic windshield, new wheels from Jordan and the wooden scuff boards on the bed.  This is actually, the first time I have used the chipping technique with hairspray. I have always used Future Floor Finish with Windex but the hairspray gives a much more controllable chipping. I will be doing more this way in the future (or should I say without Future?)

   The next is an addendum to my fire house diorama.  This is the Busch 1932 Model AA that I have made into an ambulance. Changes are basically just the paint and decals with the addition of a siren (Ratcliffe Models).  I'm going to add the AA to my firehouse diorama and along with the '34 Ford pumper will make a package deal to take to the big show in Springfield this year.

   So as I said, not a lot to look at here this time around. I am slowly getting back on my feet after another kick in the teeth from life but I'm standing. Next we'll try to put one foot in front of the other and see how that goes. Please hug all that mean anything to you.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Playing with the camera again

I'm wondering where life would have taken me had all of this technology been available way back when. For that matter, where would folks like Thomas Edison or Alexander Graham Bell be if they could have accessed everything we have literally at our fingertips today.  I'll leave the speculation on those fellas to some Hollywood producer for a future cinematic endeavor. But for me, I'm pretty sure I'd have taken a different path. Retrospect is a weird thing. I know that had I not been a smoker all my adult life I'd be some $80 thousand richer given some rather casual calculating. (And wouldn't get winded walking up the hill from the harbor.) As long as thinking about "what if's" doesn't get to be a preoccupation, I suppose it's OK but as I get older, it seems I do it more often than I used to. Perhaps it's a subconscious realization that there's way more time used up behind me than there is ahead. I do recognize that very few of the more important choices I've made would be different if it were possible to know what I know now.  I certainly wouldn't have wanted to go through this life without my wife and kids. All that said brings me to what captures my interest today. One of my fascinations today focuses on this hobby of course. And without a doubt, the ability to capture what we do in pictures has become a particularly enjoyable effort. Not much in the way of new models this posting but a few photos that I thought made for some realistic images. Of course given the era many of the photos would have been taken, most are black and white.

When I made the change into the new computer last winter, I needed to update a lot of the software I had in order for it to work. Much of it had the expected improvements and doodads that weren't on the older versions. My graphics program is rather rudimentary by the standards I see offered by much on the market today but was inexpensive and actually does a lot more than I even know how to use.  Now in addition to not knowing what the settings on the camera do,  I don't know what the photo editing software does either. So what I present to you was achieved by sheer luck and repeated attempts.

Making a model appear like the real thing is, as I have repeatedly said before, what model building is all about, for me at least. Presenting a miniature rendition of real life is the goal.  This manipulation of photographs is a terrific technique to help us to get to the goal.  I don't want to hide anything that would belay the fact that something is a model. But more, I want to enhance those things that fool the eye into thinking a piece is real. Oh, there's always that speck of dust that sticks out like a cherry on a cream pie in this scale. I will often remove the speck and take another photo. But sometimes it's just as easy to wipe it from the memory of the image.

Then there's that serendipitous occasion when something quite unexpected happens as in the case of the photo of the Ford Model TT grain truck. It appears that I have a resident spider that put his web in my barn interior.  The web here is so small and delicate that I didn't see it when taking the photo and was really quite delighted to see it when I began to crop the photos on the computer screen. How many old barns have I seen this in over the years?

OK, I do have one new model at least to show. This is an addition to the fleet of Mack quarry trucks I've done for a customer. As with the rest of them, it comes from Ratcliffe Models. The tractor is the M65, slightly modified from the kit. The large capacity belly dump trailer is a limited edition resin piece. It now is the largest 1/87 scale model I've ever built.

As the weather warms, I expect a little drop off on production here but we'll still be working on models. In fact I have a project that may prove to be very interesting in the works. I have been approached by a prominent 1/87 kit manufacturer to do a video. I have no idea how this will turn out. I usually let the models speak for themselves. Will need a haircut before filming. Take time to reach out to your loved ones and have a good one!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Firehouse project

I've been sitting on a disassembled Railway Design Associates plastic building for some time. I built it several years ago but tore it apart shortly after using half of it for the stucco building you see in a lot of my photos. For the other half, I have used styrene clapboard sides with Tichy windows and doors to make this firehouse. The first floor is styrene boxcar siding to give a wooden floor look. And the second floor and roof are just sheet styrene. The roof has black paper strips applied for a finish.

Everything was sprayed black, inside and out. Then the brick front and rear were sprayed with an acrylic craft paint mixture of Terra Cotta and Crimson Red. The side walls were done in a blue and the windows and doors were hand painted a slightly lighter blue color.  The ivy is 'old man's beard' a lichen growing here, that was sprayed dark brown and while wet, laid on a piece of glass flat and tea leaves were sprinkled over it.  Once dry it was touched up with a little green paint and glued to the wall.

   The engine here is a 1934 Ford built from the '34 Ford bus from Jordan. The chassis was glued in upside down and the body was scratch built. The windscreen is from a model T and the hose reel and fittings on the pumper sides are scratch built.  The top photo shows the completed station.

   One more Roco Zis 5 turned Autocar here for this wrecker. A scratch built bed and wrecker unit make up this truck.

   One last pic for this post is a Model T touring car from Jordan, pretty much as it is intended to be built. I did take some liberties on the colors. I doubt if many were this colorful.

    With that one, this Memorial Day, I will leave you all so you may give the thanks deserved by all those that have donned a uniform in the service of our country.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Fun in the garage

 I haven't wasted any time getting shots of my new garage diorama here. Everything sitting on my shelves here has become fair game for the next photograph. And I've been playing with the light as it enters the windows like a cat chasing the beam of a flashlight. Most everything has turned out being artsy-fartsy kind of images and really don't contribute to the models description. But it's been fun.

I have built a few new models in the mean time including this 1936 Chevy tanker. The base model is from Sylvan Scale that I used the resin cab and chassis to which I added a tank and bunks. The tank is two Jordan tanks spliced. The wheels are Jordan's as well.

I decided to build another of the Roco pieces. And in spite of the fact that these are hard to find, I really trashed this one. Using the Dremel, I went to work on the door panels and fenders. I have tried this before with decent results but when you decide to cut up a perfectly good (and now rare) model, you always have your trepidations. The wood deck is...... well, it's wood. I also made an attempt at the Autocar Blue Streak 6 cylinder that came in these trucks so I cut the hood sides too so it would show.

The next and last in this posting is an addendum to my Mack R Model.  I wanted to do a utility pole truck with the Mack, but not just a wooden telephone pole type, but a transmission tower metal pole. Ralph Ratcliffe, as if he isn't already one of the biggest contributors to my modeling, came through for me. I found an expandable container trailer from an outfit called American Limited. A really finely detailed but unfortunately discontinued model kit in the scale. I mounted bunks on the assembled kit and painted it to match the truck. Then Ralph turned a gorgeous stainless steel pole for me complete with mounting flange. It simply makes this model and many thanks go out to Ralph for his generous talents.

I'll leave you with one more parting shot of the garage this post done with a pen flashlight. And I hope that this coming nice weather is bringing you closer to your loved ones.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


 Seems like I jump from project to project without much thought given to a theme or era. I guess that's what makes this modeling thing so interesting to me. I'm not locked into any one particular time frame or type of vehicle. Or even whether I will be doing a vehicle or a house, barn or whatever. Anyway, I've certainly strayed from any coherent pattern here this month. Without a doubt the largest vehicle I've ever built is the Mack M75 quarry truck you see. This is a kit from Ralph Ratcliffe Models that has his usual, exceptional fit and finish.  Not quite as heavily weathered as I did to it's little brother the M65 a short time ago.

A definite departure from this monster is the next set that I decided to pair up together. The Jordan Ford Model AA is obviously a favorite of mine if you've seen many of the other postings I've placed here. I built the wrecker bed and tow unit for this truck from scratch out of styrene. Wanting to finally do a tow truck pulling a wreck, I turned to another Jordan, the Model A sedan.

I really worked this one over. By taking the Dremel tool to the inside and chewing out some plastic, I achieved the rotted look you see here. And with a series of washes and dabs of chalk got what I thought was a pretty awful looking car. A broken window, exposed engine and front hubs and the open roof with ribs showing add to the dilapidated look. If you go back two posts there is another quick look of this wreck sitting in my new garage.

At the Springfield show I picked up Sylvan's newest kit, a Fruehauf livestock trailer that is resin with laser cut wooden sides. These are very delicate but manageable if careful. I paired this with the Chevy cab over from Sylvan from the early 50's which is a good match to the time span of the trailer.

Last and most recent is just one more of those Roco pieces that I've been able to acquire through the help of others. The rack body here is scratch built out of styrene and here's another shot from inside my truck repair garage.

Well, I jumped around quite a bit here. And as spring fights hard to take hold here in Maine, I hope you all have fared well through this, the toughest of winters I have seen in a while. And as the flowers begin to poke their shoots through the soil, give remembrance to those you have loved and lost.

thoughts from long ago

I wrote this many years ago for a web site that is still in existence but has slowed in traffic. I still go there to see if any of my old friends are posting things of interest as they are a highly educated group in the realm of 1/87 scale vehicles. Sorry no photos accompany this writing but it struck me as still very much appropriate to my feelings on the hobby.

I started this as wanting to get an opinion poll going but when I finished writing I forgot what I was going to ask a poll about. Your forgiveness is requested if this seems a bit too editorial for these pages. I'm off on another rant today, please forgive it's lengthiness.

Every forum or list that I subscribe to ends up having a topic posted like "who are we?". And inevitably everyone gives a brief summary of what they are in this life. Husband, father, construction worker, investment banker etc., how long they've been at it and a brief blurb about how long they've been modeling. This is fine and good and I am very interested and actually quite amazed in the diversity of the participants in our hobby. But it doesn't really say who we are as modelers. It shows us all of the differences in us but doesn't address what we share in common as modelers. One must delve much deeper into the psyche of a modeler in order to find the common ground that makes us as devoted to our hobby as we are. Of any form of recreation that I participate in (I love to fish and I'm a minor sports nut), I have come to the realization that those that share this one with me are the most preoccupied and enthusiastic (some may say even fanatical). Truly a rare breed and in most cases a subject of concern among their families. ("Is Dad alright? He's been poking at that model over 4 hours now.")

It is an odd occurrence that would put me in my pick up to go somewhere, even if only down the road a short piece, that I am not imagining something I would like to model. An old truck in a field, a barn, a tree even a culvert that is passing under me, all become subjects for consideration. Immediately the wheels begin to turn or the light bulb goes off or whatever you use to describe the smell of an idea being born (you don't smell things burning when you think ? hmm..) Thought then turns to the elements of the build process that would bring any of these subjects to fruition in miniature. "OK, now draw it out...and you'll need some 1/16" diameter tubing and some scale wood...hmm... how long to put that part together ?" Soon you have a plan or at least the start of a plan. Now don't make me paranoid by saying this doesn't occur from time to time to you. I know I'm not alone in this thought process and it's time you all came out of the closet with me.

Now that we've established at least one thing in common (hopefully), we share some of the same thoughts as we observe the real world passing by our windshield. Or at least some kind of pattern in our thinking that seems to want to translate everything we are in contact with into miniature. (I tried this with my mortgage but the bank wasn't going for it). I won't try to explain why this is so, I'm not qualified to make that call. These thoughts help to get me through the day, is all I know.

Let's examine too the reasoning that takes place as we go through the day. What takes place in your cranial cavity when we are sorting through the cabinet under the sink or the coffee cans stacked up in the garage filled with every screw, nut and tiny piece of wire that we've ever run across? There isn't one nook or cranny in my shop that hasn't been thoroughly examined for items that possess model building attributes. (what the heck is a cranny anyway ?) All the materials that pass before us become fair game and hold possibilities of becoming a part of our next model. Or at least an integral part of the building of that model. When I asked my wife for her used compacts, I thought she would have me committed. I got equally disturbing looks when I wanted old stockings and nail polish too. But hey, these are standard tools of the hobby we're talking about here. Actually this has all worked to my advantage because now I am thought to have, shall we say, a stability issue, and it drums up a lot of sympathy.

There is one last habit that confirms our bonds and that is the one we are currently sharing. The computer access to the internet has been invaluable in finding those other lost souls who's minds are filled with visions of the world in miniature. We are thrilled at the opportunity to share a technique that works for us and to exhibit the results. We are gratified at the positive responses we get and are appreciative of the constructive criticism. It is pleasing to view the successes of others and motivating to see phenomenal accomplishments. I personally jump at the chance to get any new information "on the web" and make it part of the electronic highway for those as interested as I am to view. I'd like to take the old saying "misery loves company" and give it a new twist by saying that this common interest we all have, loves it's company.

Now this all may sound a little strange to some and I wouldn't blame you a bit if you walked away saying "man, this guys' wife has it right, he's nuts". But I know somewhere out there, someone knows that what I'm saying is so. I'm sure I haven't covered all the little oddities we share because of whom we are and I'd like to think some of them should be kept to ourselves. There is something about who we are that many of us share and it goes beyond what we do to pay our bills or how many kids we have or where we live. It resides in a space inside of us that loves to create and we have chosen to do so in miniature. Perhaps what is most comforting about this is the ability to transcend all the barriers of race, politics, religion, income and I guess even gender and age.
To be modelers first, that just happen to be real people.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

New photo backdrop

When I attended the Amherst Railway show in Springfield, Mass. this year, I had several folks wanting to use my barn diorama for photo opportunities. Unfortunately, the diorama is much smaller in real life than people imagine and does not accommodate larger vehices. I did so want to be able to see a piece from Joe Enriquez or Ralph Ratcliffe look well in my barn. And Andy Madden made some valiant attempts with his camera with satisfactory results. And as good as they turned out there was something not quite at home about them. So I turned to my diorama building again and designed and built the garage repair interior that you can see here.

I started with Evergreen styrene brick patterned sheet cut to a proper size and fit the windows and door. Using a spray can satin black decanted into the airbrush, I put a coat on it and a sheet of plain styrene for the floor. I used a mixture of Terra Cotta and Crimson Red thinned with Windex in the airbrush to give several successive coats to the walls allowing for drying between coats (accelerated with a hair dryer). A thin coat of clear flat lacquer was then sprayed on. To that, I applied a mixture of powdered chalks in a gray color and alcohol. This dried quickly of course and was buffed with a paper towel followed by another coat of the clear flat lacquer. Some dusting with dry chalk powders finished the walls. The windows and door were painted with Ivy Green acrylic.

Attention was turned to the floor already in black. I scribed expansion joints in the plastic and scuffed it up a bit with fine sandpaper. Again, using cheap craft paints, I thinned gray, tan and black for the airbrush with Windex and sprayed several coats allowing them to dry between each. A thin coat of the clear flat lacquer on that and when dry, a series of acrylic washes to simulate stains.

In order to get the walls to sit firmly on the styrene floor I glued a piece of styrene L channel to the floor and when set, the walls to it. A small storage loft was built in one corner with stairs.

It was then a matter of creating and adding details. a small workbench was built out of wood and the rest of the details were from my collection of cast metal, resin and laser cut card stock. Some signage was created on the computer and printed. As time goes on I will be adding and taking away details to suit my fancy. I have been using Microscale Liquitape to fasten details so they can easily be moved or removed.

A few pics here of me fooling around with the camera in my new garage.

I'm sure you will be seeing a lot more of this in the future. The lighting possibilities are endless. I would like to , at some point add a roof system with lighting and a chain hoist but at this point, I can't figure out how to support it without putting an obstructive post in my camera positions.

Well this was a very quick, fun build. Thanks for looking. And do something nice for someone today.