Category Archives: Professional Modelmaker

Hardly any time to myself!

It’s good to be busy. I am still staggered by the amount of work that’s come my way in the past eighteen months or so. If there is a problem, it’s I barely find any time for myself any more!

BG Part 05 1

For a start, I’ve got several 7mm scale broad gauge coach models under way. This one is a passenger luggage van (PLV), and is nearing the point where I can begin to paint it. It was recently joined by a passenger coach, known as a “convertible” because it was a body designed for the narrower standard gauge but carried on a broad gauge underframe. When the big gauge swap took place, these coaches were brought into the works and the bodies swapped to the narrow underframes.

BG Part 05 2

It has reached the point where interior partitions and floor need to be fitted, and then it can also have the paintwork begun. While it’s in the paintshop I shall begin work on its underframe.

Last week, the client for this build sent me an email outlining his three year plan for building. I will be busy for a while yet!

Meanwhile, at the other end of the bench, a long-running saga with an etched brass Mk1 coach kit has taken a turn for the positive.

RMB Part 4 3

I got stuck with a problem fitting the roof. A workable solution has turned up, so I have begun work fitting out the interior. What’s not obvious here is the interior is a complete inner shell which fits inside the main bodywork. I’ve started to paint the inner shell, and most of the main fittings have been made up and painted. I just need to assemble the seating bays, and they can be primed and painted, ready to fit later.

RMB Part 4 1

Here’s the bar area of this coach—it’s coded as an RMB, Restaurant Miniature Buffet. The counter and bar dividers are posed here, while I work out whether I like the colour of the floor tiling.

As well as this pair of commissions, I have two 10001 diesel locos (for different clients!), a 2-8-0 Austerity steam loco, a lineside fuel depot… there are also commissions I have got that haven’t even made it to the workshop yet. I’ve had to work out a card index system to keep track of things, and some kind of schedule so that builds all make some progress rather than one being favoured to the detriment of the others.

It’s good to be busy.

I make models of things professionally. You can find out more at my web site. I am always keen to take on new commissions, but bear in mind I am looking at the middle to end of 2015 for new works.

The latest to leave the workshop

Dean 4-wheelers (1 of 8)

You might recall I was working on a threesome of Slater’s GWR 4-wheeled coaches. I finally completed them, and they were delivered to the client a week ago.

Dean 4-wheelers (3 of 8)

This coach was probably the worst. It came to me as a badly-built and badly painted model. I had to disassemble it, and strip the paint, before I could begin to make it into something half decent. The model is a Diagram T34 Brake Third. All the models are completed in the late 1920s GWR coach livery.

Dean 4-wheelers (6 of 8)

This is a Diagram V5 Passenger Luggage Van, otherwise known as a full brake. It had been mostly completed by the previous owner, but needed a bit of dodgy paintwork stripping, and the roof detailing completed.

Dean 4-wheelers (8 of 8)

Finally, the one kit that hadn’t been started—a Diagram U4 First/Third Composite. These vehicles were originally built as First/Second class, converted into First/Third in 1907, and by the mid-1930s had been converted to all-Third. This one happened to be one of the last to be converted to all-Third—no, really, I checked—so we could get away with the First class compartments.

I have to say I grew rather fond of these models. As kits they went together pretty easily, and only needed one or two extras to make them into something special. I am pleased at the way the livery turned out. Although not the most complex livery the GWR ever used, it certainly got me to attempt some new methods to my skill set. There are things I would do better given the chance to do it again, but that’s all part of the process of learning. I like to think that every build teaches me something new, and stretches me to do better.

The bench is currently home to a timber plank, upon which I am building a multi-gauge test track. I have several GWR broad gauge models to build, and I need something to test them on! I am also trying to work out a sensible schedule that lets me make progress on the increasing pile of work that’s coming my way. It’s great to be busy!

In a galaxy far, far away…

In the olden days, before computer generated imagery was easy to do and so commonplace that it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s made up any more, most special effects were accomplished using scale models. If you needed a battleship to blow up, you’d get the props people to make a large scale model, float it in a tank of water and blow it up. If you needed to stage a train crash on a limited budget, you’d call in the model makers and get creative with lighting. If you needed a spaceship, or a complete space fleet and a Death Star or two, who are you going to call?

The original Star Wars trilogy was typical of this. In fact, the special effects company that did the work was created specifically for the films—Industrial Light and Magic. They developed many innovative ways to use models for many feature films. I challenge to you spot one in the linked list you haven’t seen at least once!

I still love watching films and TV shows were real craft is used for special effects. I love the insane amount of detail that gets crammed into spaceships, often only to be seen for a split second—or blown to bits! I love the fact shortcuts are made by repurposing commercial plastic construction kit components, as well as ordinary household objects. I love trying to figure out how big models are, and how they’re made.

Take this detail shot, for example.

DdDOK6Z

This is from an Imgur site, sharing dozens of detail shots of Star Wars special effects models. As a railway modeller, it’s not hard to spot the use of a steam locomotive firebox backhead, complete with fire hole doors, gauges, lubricators and the regulator handle! In the right context, though, this makes a perfectly acceptable maintenance or access hatch on a spaceship.

Spend a few minutes wandering through the images in the site. You won’t be disappointed, and if you grew up with the original Star Wars films you can enjoy a pleasant trip down memory lane. You will be forgiven if the Star Wars theme plays in your head while looking!

Incidentally, it’s also worth a look at the imgur site of joinyouinthesun, who posted the Star Wars images.

Thanks to my friend Mark Casey for linking to these photos in a post over on X404.

Catching up

Hello. It’s been a while, hasn’t it. Sorry about that, but I’ve been busy. Larking about updating blogs has been fairly low on the agenda. I have been updating the social media stuff, but this blog needs a little more time and thinking about.

So, what have I been up to?

NBL Type 2

Well, Just Like The Real Thing asked me if I’d like to demonstrate building their kits at one of the biggest O Gauge shows in the country. With all expenses paid, who could refuse an offer like that? At the same time, they were to reveal a new diesel loco kit, and I got to build the show stand version, which you can see above.

The weekend was quite successful. I think I picked up a couple of new clients—which was part of the exercise—and had a good old chat with friends old and new. I think we may do it again.

WD tender

I set about this tender, which matches an Austerity 2-8-0 which I have yet to begin. This build was an exercise in refreshing my head after some tussles with the coach kit lurking behind it. There are still unresolved issues with that build, but I think I can see a way forward.

BG van

Fun and games have also ensued with a GWR broad gauge passenger luggage van build. This is proper old school modelling, as it used to be back in the 1970s and 1980s. The basic body shell is provided by the Broad Gauge Society, but the underframe, suspension, door handles, couplings and plenty more, have to be sourced from various suppliers. The underframe has been built, dismantled and rebuilt several times, and I think I’m almost happy with it now. I’ve finally got the body parts soldered together, and some thoughts are forming about how to tackle the roof. The client is happy, and seems intent on sending some more kits my way—so I think it’s time I set up a dedicated broad gauge test track to make sure things are running nicely.

On a similar tack, and a similar vintage to the broad gauge vehicles, I was commissioned to “breathe my magic” on three Slater’s GWR 4-wheeled coaches. They had been acquired second-hand, and came in various stages of completion. One was unbuilt, one was mostly built, and one was, quite frankly, a basket case.

Deans (1 of 4)

Deans (2 of 4)

This is the unbuilt kit, or rather was the unbuilt kit. I’ve made up the underframe and begun the body work. It’s helped me understand how the kits go together so I can disassemble the basket case and make it properly.

Deans (4 of 4) Deans (3 of 4)

This is various parts of the basket case. I’ve stripped the model down, stripped some frankly appalling paint off the body, and retrieved most of the underframe components for cleaning up and repairing. The plan is to get all three models to more or less the same state of build so they can be painted as a batch.

That’s just some of the work I’ve been up to lately. I haven’t mentioned the diesel and electric locos being worked on, or the ready-to-run diesels waiting for the client to source detailing parts, or the steadily growing waiting list of commissions that should see me busy well into 2015!

In the meanwhile I’ve found time to revamp the web site, although it needs some work to make it play properly with mobile devices. You can keep up with me on Twitter (@snaptophobic), and I am a regular poster on the Western Thunder forum.

One down, several to go!

GWR 0-6-0PT 5700 Class

That’s the Pannier build done. There are things I wish I’d done better, there are things wrong I can’t correct now, but for better or worse it’s finished. It looks like a 57, and most people seem pleased to see it. I plan to deliver it to the client at the end of this month.

For those that care about the details, it’s a GWR 5700 Class 0-6-0PT, built in 1930 by the North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow. The model represents 7752 as it may have appeared in the mid-1930s, so details and livery have been researched—with help from my friends, as I am not a follower of the GWR—to match the period. The actual loco still exists and runs in preservation, currently in the guise of L94 in London Transport livery. The etched plates come from various sources: works plate from Severn Mill Nameplates; number plates from Guilplates; caution plate (in the cab) from CPL. Transfers are from CPL, paint from Phoenix Precision, wheels and motor from Slater’s Plastikard, the crankpin nuts are from CPL (they don’t have a web site, sadly) and the crew from Heroes of the Footplate. The kit itself is from Just Like The Real Thing.

The workbench is now being cleared to make room for the next commission in line, which ought to be a larger steam loco, or possibly a GWR broad gauge passenger luggage van. Decisions, decisions.

The first step

20140509-155507.jpg

I was talking with a kit manufacturer the other day. I was after a missing component, but we fell to chatting about life, the universe and kit building. During our conversation, the manufacturer told me I was a worrier.

The idea had never struck me before, but he is right. I worry a lot, not just about the models I find myself building, but let’s concentrate on the modelling.

I am currently part of the way through a commissioned build. It’s an etched metal railway coach kit. It is a carefully-designed kit, with many, sometimes very tiny, parts. You can see some of those very tiny parts in the picture above. The kit range has a reputation for being amongst the best there are, and I felt a degree of trepidation about taking it on. It would be bad enough if I was building for myself, but building for a client—even one I have worked for before—was enough for me to worry.

I worried about breaking something, or getting it wrong. One false step early on might have repercussions further in the build, perhaps at a point where it would be impossible to rectify. I worried about doing the kit, and my client, justice. I worried about what the manufacturer might say (we have some ‘previous’, you might say). I worried about actually beginning the build.

I busied myself with research, finding as much information as I could. I tried to find many ways of putting off the moment when I would have to cut the first component from the etch fret. Eventually, however, I had to take that first step.

It was fine. Of course there were moments when I thought it was all going wrong, and there were one or two close shaves. It’s inevitable that problems arise along the way. But that’s part of my job. If I like to call myself a professional modelmaker, then I have to be able to deal with this stuff.

20140509-155534.jpg

The model’s underframe, now mostly complete and painted, is not quite as the manufacturer intended. At the client’ request, there are modifications to the brake gear, extra details on the frames and the buffer beams, and different bogies to those the manufacturer intended. I’ve added to and modified some parts, and scratch built others, all in the pursuit of “getting it right”. The journey has been enormously entertaining, tempered by moments of frustration. I have learned a good deal about the real thing, as I have battled to represent it in miniature. I have learned a lot about this particular range of kits, too.

I have to begin work on the coach body soon, but having completed the underframe I find myself prevaricating once more. I know, however, that as soon as I take that first step, it will probably turn out okay in the end.

Variety is the spice of life

20140419-211132.jpg

Long-time readers of my waffle will probably recognise the bits of model in the photo. It’s the TSR2, destined one fine day for a diorama depicting preflight checks of the first prototype in the 1960s. As we are blessed with a four-day weekend over Easter, I decided it was time to take a break from making models for other people for a day or two.

This aircraft model has been sitting in my display cabinet, almost complete, for ages. I thought all I needed to do was tidy things up, get the wings to fit properly, and apply the decals. How hard could it be?

Quite hard, as it turned out.

While I was working at the wing problem, I managed to dislodge a couple of components. In for a penny, I disassembled the other parts while I worked, so as to avoid further accidents. It was about now I noticed the white paint was taking on a definite yellowish tinge.

The real aircraft was finished in a matt white. For whatever reason, white enamel paint ages with a yellow tinge, something that afflicted railway coach liveries in the 1900s as well. The recommended course of action is to add a dash of blue to the white. I had done this, but it still faded. It wasn’t a consistent fade either. On thinking about it, I reckon it was the varnish that was off. Something had to be done.

I mixed a fresh batch of bluish white, and decided the best way to sort things out would be to airbrush it. I repaired the earlier mishaps, fitted some masking, and I have been applying a couple of thin coats of the new paint. Hopefully it’ll dry nice and hard overnight, and I can get a good coat of gloss varnish on things in the morning.

The plan is to try and get this model properly finished to my satisfaction. Then all I need to do is work on the diorama. That might take a while longer!

Nearly there

20140416-182109.jpg

I was hoping to have all the transfers finished—there should be the legend “GREAT WESTERN” in big bold letters across the side of the engine—and everything varnished today.

As ever, something cropped up. In this case, it was the transfers I had acquired, which turned out to be too small. Meanwhile, a set of etched plates arrived, so 7752 finally has the builder’s plates on the leading splashers, and it seemed too good an opportunity to waste.

So, here she is, posed with the Highly Trained British Penny for scale. While I wait for various bits and pieces I need to complete the build and let me get on with a bit of subtle weathering, other builds will take their places on the workbench.

Reasons for being quiet

20140330-110720.jpg

The arranged parts in this picture are almost ready for their session in the paintshop. It’s taken something like two months to get to this stage, and it is the main reason why the blog has been quiet for much of the year so far.

Another good reason for quietude is simply that I am not sat at my computer all day with nothing better to do. The good news is there are four more builds similar to this one lined up for the rest of the year, so don’t expect a lot of noise from this corner of the interwebs!

Another build completed

I have just completed—aside from some quality control issues—the LNWR motor train. IMG_7425

Delivery will be early in February, when there’ll be an opportunity to see them running on a group layout.

Time now to clear the bench, get some proper photography done of the coaches, and then tidy things for the next build to commence. Perhaps now would be a good time to tidy the corner of my workshop and get the new bench set up? Not sure about that. I don’t have a good track record with rearranging work spaces.

I’ve belatedly updated the web site with some testimonials from clients. I had meant to do it at the turn of the year, when I refreshed things anyway. I completely forgot to add the nice comments I’ve received. Blame it on the festive spirit. </joke>

I have a good set of jobs to keep me occupied on the workbench for the next couple of months. I am always on the lookout for new builds, so if you happen to know anyone in need of my building services, please let them—and me— know.