Updated: May 13, 2021
Unless you blindly rushed into the model shop and it so happened that you bought 1:32 Zoukei-Mura A-1J SKYRAIDER or any other of their models (yes, they are very much complex) and that is because it is the first one you saw on the shelf, or it has such a lovely art work on the box, or it is an iconic aircraft you have always loved and you must build it... then it means that you stopped and thought for a while - and that is the best thing you could do really - after a moment you probably realised that there were so many questions already in you head, like what brand and model should I start with, what scale, should I use aftermarket parts, what about painting, weathering... and that is just touching the tip ot the iceberg.
I would like to share with you how I tackled my entry into scale modeling world which might be overwhelmingly complicated for the very beginner - I write this post hopping that the information provided will help you finish your first model - in my opinion this is the key, as this gives you a lot of satisfaction as well as motivation to start next one. Selecting big scale, complex model, trying to use airbrush or fancy weathering techniques right from the beginning will decrease chances of finishing your model considerably! Instead you will quickly become disappointed, nervous and in the end you may even throw it all away and never get back.
Research - that was the first thing I did when I decided that I want to try scale modeling. I read articles and watched quite a lot of videos no YouTube covering different aspects of putting together plastic models. Having some basic knowledge I choose for the first model to stick to the below rules:
model must be simple to build, that means:
parts fit is very good and there is no need to use a lot of putty
excessive sanding is not required
model contains low number of parts
not using aftermarket parts
sticking to one brand, no mixing, no searching for perfect colour
using brush for painting smaller surfaces and spray paints for camouflage
weathering - as simple as It can be
Having that rules defined I started to look for the proper brand, model and paints. It quickly turned out that Tamiya is a great choice as it fulfils all of my requirements. This brand is known for perfect fit of parts and great design of the kits they are making. Additionally it so happens that Tamiya provides its range of camouflage colours as spray paints - perfect! I made a decision to only brush paint smaller components (cockpit, wheel wells etc) as it is very hard to get a decent finish without brush lines on larger surfaces. For weathering I simply bought a wash or two and be perfectly honest with you I did use one aftermarket set - pre-cut masks for the canopy.
Another important aspect - what scale should I choose? In my opinion it is really a matter of personal preference and of course amount of free space you have for you finished models, though for the first one I would not recommend buying big scale model - they are expensive, have a lot parts, are much harder to finish and you will not be able to use whole potential they have.
Taking all of the above into consideration, my first model was 1:48 Tamiya 61046 Chance Vought F4U-1/2 Bird Cage Corsair. It was really simple model which I managed to build in under 2 months. I remember being surprised how some elements are small in that scale, yet there was no detailing at all. Mostly I learnt what is the flow of building a model, starting with cleaning up parts with sanding sticks, glueing them together then priming, painting, using clear coats, applying decals and a bit of weathering.
The next one was 1:48 Tamiya 61090 Republic P-47D Thunderbolt Bubbletop. With this model I definitely focused more on detailing and weathering different components like cockpit, landing gear, propeller, ordnance or engine. In fact, for the engine I even added ignition leads using very thin wire. This was as well the first time for me to use Photo Etched parts. With this model I understood how important it is to go slowly and be patient. Weathering wise - I was brave enough to use some new techniques. This model took me about 5 months to finish it.
After finishing second model it was not a hobby any more, scale modeling become my passion - at that time I already loved every aspect of building models. I made a decision that it was time for the next big step - adding airbrush to my set of tools! Again, I took some time to find proper airbrush and compressor - I bought Harder & Steenbeck Evolution Silverline 2 in 1 and Fine Art FA-A5500 together with all the needed accessories. Then I spent some time learning how to use that thing, how to thin the paints and so on (this alone probably is a good subject for another post).
Third one was again from the same brand, but this time different era - Tamiya 61073 Douglas A1J Skyraider USAF. With this model a definitely further improved detailing, started to use more complicated PE parts and resin components, though the main focus was on airbrush painting and then weathering - this aircraft is perfect for different weathering techniques. One of the reasons is a specific engine lubrication design which resulted in oil normally dripping out the bottom of the engine cowl onto other parts making them really dirty. Painting wise it was first time for me using airbrush, decanting paints, trying pre-shading techniques. In the end some mistakes were made, but most importantly many lessons learnt! Finishing this one took me again about 5 months.
For the last project so far I decided to try another brand - Eduard 11134 Chattanooga Choo Choo P-51D Limited Edition - what a great kit it is! I can highly recommend it. It is nicely designed, parts fit is really good and it is amazingly detailed, especially cockpit and wheel wells. If you add to that PE set from Edward and a bit of scratch building you get perfect miniature of the really thing. My focus this time was on metallic finish. I experimented a lot on plastic spoons with different kinds of surface preparation, primers, paints, thinners before I started painting the model. Another aspect I turned into during that build was weathering of metallic finish which is a bit different than when camouflage colours are used - again experimented and learnt a lot. I believe that this model I was able to finish in about 4 months.
Where all my choices at the beginning correct? Due to proper research I would say that mostly yes they were. To give you one example of where I could do better then - selecting other paint brand for brush painting - Tamiya is definitely no the best one for this. Try Hataka Blue line - great paints for this kind of stuff! In general though my entry into scale modeling world was very pleasant and smooth and that is how it should be.
Now it is time for the next one! I have already everything prepared so it is just a matter of starting to build it. In the next post you will learn more about this next project. Till then!