Why do you like Mecha Modelling?

Why do you like the mecha modelling hobby? How did you get into the hobby? It’s an interesting pair of questions for me, and I think we have all taken widely varying paths to varying levels of enjoyment in the hobby. Do we all feel the same way about it?

So what ‘feeling’ does mecha modelling, as a hobby give you? It’ll no doubt vary according to mood, but think of a time when you enjoyed it the most. What was that feeling? For me, it’s mixture of excitement, awe and achievement. It’s also betterment. Knowing I have done something I did not do before, even if it did not turn out so well – it’s a plus.

So let’s get back to the ‘why’ I am into the mecha modelling hobby. First, a little background.

In my teens I had a relatively brief interest in warhammer 40k, painting the odd mini without any kind of encouragement or decent tuition (not to mention lack of money) so naturally, my interest in painting models was lost. In fact, all the way up until 2012 I had no interest in it at all – so what changed?

For most people I imagine, the healthy interest in the hobby is formed from having an established background in scale modelling, or wargaming of some kind. For me, it stemmed from finally allowing myself to just try it. I had an interest in these models before, but always at a distance, favouring that part of me that says “you’re too old to enjoy these things” or the classic “it’s a bit of a weirdo hobby”. I’m so glad I finally stepped over those thoughts.

In the year I started to get into mecha modelling, I was in the process of self discovery, and was really getting into philosophy that really bought home the reality of.. well.. reality. You got to live it, not exist in it. I had come out of stagnation in my music career (a whole other story) with a little extra time on my hands, and was looking for something to spark a new passion.

While travelling in Japan with my wife and then only child I did one of my usual junk shop rummages – and there they were. 2 HG kits. One, a calamity, the other a strike rouge + IWSP. Dead cheap, I think less than the equivalent of 5 pounds each. When I got back to my in-laws house I spent all afternoon building them, and I loved them! From that point, a trip to a hobby store in the local mall I picked up a Rick Dias HG and build that too. My in-laws I think were a little bewildered by my sudden enthusiasm for it, after all in Japan this is largely seen as an activity for children.

When I returned home, I did a little research into the hobby, found the MAC forums and joined up – quite literally a whole world of possibility opened up to me and I was very keen to get stuck in. I saw a PG red frame, painted up so exquisitely I knew I wanted to be as good as that, but would the interest hold? I thought it would be just a small fad or passing interest.. but here I am 3 years later with the very same passion and drive to make models as good as that. Unfortunately, I can’t find that image any more, but modellers around the world continue to showcase amazing works, and that works great for my motivation.

I think the ‘why’ for me is not only the feelings I get from taking part in the hobby, it’s also the fact I allowed myself to do something, without restraint by social pressures. A lot of people I meet now, when seeing what I do look puzzled, almost like they are saying “why are you doing that? that’s a bit childish!” and that’s something that used to bother me. It’s now become a great measure for me as to what level of interaction I have with that person. Liberating yourself from social memes, and these individuals is a great path to happiness. It seems on occasion, people are uncomfortable or even offended with others who get such enjoyment from a less socially-acceptable pastime. It is to me, being myself, and not a night-clubbing soap-watching drone that society wants me to be (…ok a little hyperbole, but the point is made). I’m thankful too I chose to surround myself with only those who share or support my passion, and even that alone could answer the ‘why’. Remember that, people who deny your individuality care about themselves more than they care about you – so distance yourself from them.

Ok, so I’m getting a little off track and philosophical here, probably a little too off the subject of mecha modelling, but this is my experience. So how about yours? I love to hear from you people in the community. Did the hobby have any impact on your life, or the people around you?

Why should I prime my kits?

I recently saw a YouTuber comment in a video on the question “Why don’t you prime your models?” with the response “because I don’t have the time […] and the parts are too small”. Now, how we all work is down to the individual, but even if this is not intended advice, there may be some who follow suit and take it as gospel. You should, and most modellers will agree, prime your models.

If you want to have great results, you need to give your models time and attention. Not priming because of a lack of time is your decision, but expect sub-par results if you’re still learning the ropes, or are just plain lazy and impatient. It take’s some serious know-how to do it without, and get good results.

So what’s the problem? It looks great without priming, right? It’s likely that if you have not been mecha modeling for a while this will be your conclusion, and in some instances, you may very well be correct. The more you get into the hobby however the more you’ll probably strive to improve, and the more you’ll realise just how important this process is. On a personal note, when I see other modellers who have greater experience than my own not priming – and telling others it’s not necessary, it’s outright irresponsible and subjective.

Priming is a key binding process your model needs to add strength and a consistent finish to your models. Priming is the process of adding a porous layer to the surface, to enable paint to have better ‘grip’ as opposed to a less porous surface where there is much less friction. Without a priming layer your paint is at a significantly increased risk of sagging, running, bubbling and graining. It’ll also be very weak, be very prone to scratching and have a higher risk of stripping off if you want to do some masking.

The way you prime your model can also be dependent on your style or comfort. For instance, some people will use a rattlecan primer such as Tamiya grey primer, some will use an air brushing brand, and different colours will yield different results according to how vibrant they want certain colours to be. With this in mind, I urge anyone starting out to try out many different types and application methods, and find out what works best for you.

There will also be some cases where priming is actually not necessary. In my case, I don’t prime metallics in order to keep the shine as high as possible. In these cases I’ll use a good levelling enamel to form a good, hard coat. I’ll spray it in 2 layers – one for a ‘sticky’ light covering left to dry for 10-20 mins to aid cohesion, and a second to completely cover the piece. This is not however an argument against priming altogether.

For me, I started out using no primer at all and rattlecan paints. As you can imagine, after doing my very first painted model I noticed paint dripping and sagging all over the place, so on the next I used Tamiya primer – worked a treat. From there I have evolved into airbrushing, trying out all kinds of brand primers with varying results (over 3 years now). Now, I use alcad II black, white and grey primers & microfillers depending on the intended colour. I also double prime, meaning the first primer layer is wet-sanded, and a second is added and wet sanded again to make perfectly smooth surfaces that still remain porous. It’s a fair amount of work, but the results I am getting now are far better than I used to get, and have taught me the value of a good canvas to work on.

I guess I am not only saying it’s a fine idea to prime your model kits, I’m also saying don’t take any advice out of context from a popular source. You should also cross reference any advice with an alternative source, and check that the person giving the advice is qualified to do so (just take a look at their work in comparison to known pros, for starters).  See here, here and here to help you understand a little deeper from other people’s experiences, and professional advice as to why priming is a good idea.

Foundations, before custom?

One thing I have noticed, especially so over the past year or so in the hobby is that more and more custom model kits are appearing, but the standard of work is dropping. It may be the case of course that there are more beginners in the hobby than ever (which is great news), and we’re just better connected through the medley of social channels, but the question stands – should you have a better understanding of the fundamentals of mecha modelling, before you attempt to make a custom model? Most modellers would of course agree, but is anyone listening?

To clarify, the ‘standard’ of work I refer to in this article is not necessarily how well it’s painted or customised but how well detailed, and now much attention has been paid to removing seam lines and nubs of a kit, that make it look like a kit. The overall point of a model kit of course to make it look as ‘real’ and as pretty as you can. I have commonly seen kits with a medley of additional weapons, metallic paint jobs and wings and fins jutting out in all directions, but have very visible seam lines, dirty oil marks from panel lining and ugly, amateurish posing. Much like mine on occasion.. but we’re not talking about me…:)

I understand there is a little debate too over the very definition of the word ‘custom’ so for the sake of this article, let’s define it as any model kit that has extra parts that are not original to the kit. 

With the encouragement of Bandai through the build fighter series of improved engineering on HG kits having a more compatible interchangeability, and it’s range of weapon sets and accessories it’s now easier than ever to make customised kits. How good is that! I have a few sets myself and they most certainly save a lot of time. Making a customised kit now is much easier than toiling through cutting pla-plate, waiting hours for putty to dry and having the patience of a saint, but can you really define it as a unique creation?

A while back, there was an err of muted criticism surrounding people who only snap-fitted their kits, sharing their creation with glee meeting with mumbling grumbles from the disapproving mecha modelling community (including me, I can be a dick sometimes but I stay true), and praise from their follow collectors. While the old snapfitters v modellers argument is null, creating a snap-fitted ‘custom’ from other snap-fitting parts is still, a snap-fitted kit, and as such should not really demand praise from actual mecha modellers. Is is however a step in the right direction, if mecha modelling is going to be your thing.

I have increasingly seen, in blog features especially, a ‘custom’ kit of this style where it has all the bells and whistles but is severely lacking in the very basics of modelling – as if the modeller has wilfully ‘skipped a step’ in the whole learning process.

Now, I’m not teacher nor any kind of expert, but my philosophy has been since I started out in the hobby to get all the basics of seam line removal, masking, painting, aesthetics and assembly before I attempt any kind of customisation. It seems nowadays that kids are picking up a knife and styrene before they have even tackled removing nubs, and are discouraged from taking it any further by that handful of arrogant mecha modellers blurting out unhelpful insults on their first public showcase. It’s a tired metaphor, but you really do need to learn to walk, before you can run. You should also consider where you are posting your work, if you are of that ilk.

It could of course just be a generational thing. I grew up with the understanding that, it takes time and effort to accomplish. Millennials to me are an on-demand generation. Here and now. TL;DR. I want that skill now. I can’t get it. Oh, I can if I just buy these kits.. Genius marketing from Bandai when you think about it. Perhaps, if the interest is retained we can be sure the art form of mecha modelling will continue. Right now, I think the models being showcased are simply not inspirational enough.

Now I’m making an awful lot of assumptions here for sure, and I am merely talking from my own experience with the modelling aspect at heart. So what do you think? Do you think the ‘basics’ as I term it are getting communicated out enough? Is there enough support from the mecha modellers to help out beginners, or should they just be left alone to just do what they want? Are these new types of HG kit a good thing for mecha modelling as an art form, or are they just another way to make your toys have bigger guns? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Making some changes, plus some updates

It’s been a little while since I wrote here, mainly due to life-based activities. I have a few plans currently in motion with regards to the hobby and my on-line presence.

Firstly, here in the real world I’ll be moving my hobby room which sounds fairly inane, but it does however give me an opportunity to properly plan it out and make it more efficient. The room I’ll be moving into is unfortunately a lot smaller than my current one, but it will no longer be shared with my wife’s things and will be solely for my hobby activities. Being only around 2x2m, it’s going to be tricky and will require some planning, and will not be able to accommodate the rather depth-hungry spray booth I currently use, so it’ll need a suitable replacement. The shelving will also be a bit of a problem since the door to the room seems to be fitted to open inwards, away from the wall in order to satisfy either a bizarre joke, or just planned by a genuinely dim or uncaring builder. I’ll see if I can document the toil fun over this coming weekend. Any tips my beloved readers can share will be appreciated 🙂

In the realm of the internets, I’ll be replacing the current ‘look’ of the GundamUK website and all it’s associated social media places with a fresh new logo and colour scheme. I have been feeling for quite some time that it’s about time for a change. I would, ideally like to change the GundamUK name to something else since I’m getting a little board of it. However, it’s kind of stuck now and who really wants to be referred to as ‘that guy who used to be called GundamUK’? ‘ll give it some further thought I think.

I am also in the process of doing some hardcore learning on Premier Pro and After Effects, with the aim to produce some nicer looking videos, and to help out my brother who is currently working on a new YouTube channel as an outlet for his unique sense of humour. I will let you know about this channel at a later date. Going on the amount of laughs we have had making said videos I’m hoping others will find it funny too, and if not, just plain weird. Either or is fine.

Modelling wise, I’m still working on the Nemo. This weekend was spent scratching lines into plastic, cutting teeny tiny peices of pla plating and adding the first base coat to the internal frame. The plan was to film it, but time did not permit. It seems likely that I may be away from YouTube for a little while now while I get everything sorted out. Should be back on in a couple of weeks I expect. In the meantime, I’ll continue to update over on my facebook page. I’ll also be making appearances in the regular Gunpla Talk google hangouts, click here to be taken to the Gunpla Talk facebook page to be kept up to date on all the happenings.

I’ll also have something to announce in July I think.

Later 🙂