Tag Archives: life the universe and everything

L’Atomo di Forza, ė morte

L'Atomo

It had to happen eventually. There have been some reliability issues surrounding my little red motor car of late. Despite a faultless journey from Kent to Somerset and back via Dorset the other week, a day out to a model railway get-together in Buckinghamshire proved too much.

Essentially, despite precautions, l’Atomo did a boiling kettle impression on the M25 near Godstone. He had to be hauled home rather ignominiously on the back of a lorry. Currently, he sits, looking rather forlorn, on our drive. I don’t want to try and drive him again, for fear of repeating the damage that cost me so much a few years back, so I will have to call a mechanic who can visit here—hopefully to give an honest opinion about the likelihood of repairs.

Ironically, we had planned a replacement car purchase later in the year. Whether l’Atomo can be fixed or not, he’s due for retirement. The latest escapade has kind of forced our hand, so today I have been trawling the various sales sites for likely vehicles. In an odd kind of way, I quite enjoy car shopping. Let’s just hope we can find a good, reliable, comfortable successor to My First Fiat™.

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.

2013, a year in review

New

If you’re a regular follower of this blog, or if you know me from social media or forums, you’ll know the past four or five years have not been particularly wonderful here at Snaptophobic Towers.

Just to recap quickly, I’ve been more or less self-employed since 2001. I’ve had spells in and out of proper full-time and part-time work over that period, but it became increasingly obvious my chosen career path had pretty much come to a dead end in the last few years.

I was really stuck for ideas on how to revive my interest in the design world, and how to beef up my income. I mean, it’s bad enough that being self-employed means you never quite know when your next pay cheque will be, that you continually fret about which bill needs to be paid over another, but not even managing to get any decent work at all just added insult to injury—or should that be penury? There were also personal health issues, poorly Best Beloved, poorly pets, and generally being just stuck in the bottom of the deepest, darkest rut you can imagine, and it really began to wear a body down.

2013 began in much the same way, frankly. I was making half-hearted attempts to get my graphic design business going again. I tried to push some photographic services, as well as a scanning and digitising service, but nothing was gaining traction, not even a sniff of work.  I continued to try and find a “proper” job, but I wasn’t even getting rejection letters any more. I was pretty much at rock bottom, and about to head off to sign on for the dole. I was not looking forward to doing that. I’ve not “signed on” since 1981 and, frankly, it felt like giving in. While the small financial support would have been welcome, becoming dependent on the state after all these years may not have been ideal for my state of mind.

My only solace was building some model coaches for a friend, who suggested I should offer model-making services to a well-known (in model railway circles) kit manufacturer. I spoke to Laurie at Just Like The Real Thing. He said if anyone enquired, he’d pass them on. I thought little more of it. After all, life doesn’t instantly turn around, at least not from the bottom of my particular deep, dark rut.

But I was wrong. Suddenly, or so it seemed, I was in demand. Requests to quote for building JLTRT models came in. Somewhat amazingly, my quotes were being accepted. As I type, I’ve built a dozen railway coaches for clients, and got three more models on the shelf to build next year, and quotes in the pipeline for even more. I’d got a waiting list!

Colour me amazed. What a turnaround!

In 2013 I’ve managed to make a small business out of a hobby. I admit I may never make a fortune—I can only charge what the market will stand—but there is no price you can place on happiness. I—we—have become accustomed to living on modest means, and I see no reason to change that. Being happy and productive, with enough income to pay bills and have a little left over for the nice things in life, is good enough at the moment.

There is, of course, that nagging doubt at the back of my mind that I ought to plan for the future. I am aware that I may have yet to find a “proper” job in order to keep the bills under control. I will have to cross that bridge when I come to it. I am content at the moment to be able to pay my way in the world with money I’ve earned doing something I love.

What could be better?

Catching up

Wow! It’s been a while since my last couple of posts. Apologies if you’re a regular visitor and missed my ramblings.

Let’s see, what’s been happening?

I decided to kill off the Invicta Shutterbugs photowalks. After a strong start, and support from some regular walkers, things had begun to tail off during the summer. I contrived to miss the September walk, having double-booked another event, and when it came to organising the October one my enthusiasm was spectacularly absent. I just couldn’t pull together enough keenness to sort out times, parking, things to see and so on, so I decided to kill things there and then. This doesn’t mean there won’t be any further walks. It just means any that happen will be less formal and more likely to occur on the spur of the moment.

My little car had been having a few problems. I’d had a new fuel tank fitted, but there were some teething problems with a persistent smell of petrol when cornering. We’d been all over things to diagnose the problem, and couldn’t locate it. We decided to wait until we could book the car into a garage with a ramp so the tank could be dropped out and checked over properly. While we waited, the exhaust pipe decided to part company. As the car would have to be up in the air for that to be fixed, we asked the garage to see if they could also fix the tank. Happily, they did—at the second attempt! I’ve now got a little red car that doesn’t smell of petrol all the time, and has a shiny new exhaust!

I’ve had fun and games with the pooter hardware again. I use a couple of drives to store original RAW images from shoots. Both drives are identical in content, so there’s a simple form of redundancy if one decides to crap out. Which it did. I thought it might be the enclosure, so I acquired a USB3 dock system, and it turns out the drive itself is buggered. I had to shell out for a large external drive so I could back up the backup again, as well as provide sufficient space for vault archives of my Aperture stuff. This never used to a problem in film days: everything got stuffed in a box and put on the top of the wardrobe! Anyway, the backup system has settled down again—for now. Let’s not even begin to think about migrating to the newest version of the Mac OS. Apparently, it eats Western Digital data for lunch, so I’m holding off until WD sort themselves out and get a software update out. I believe the WD hardware is supported by the OS without the WD software, but I got a bit scared and decided to hold off for now. While I don’t get all the new shiny, and I’m missing out on some new software updates, I can be patient until my data is safe.

I’ve been busy modelling. I’ve made a concerted effort to make it a proper Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job, although that doesn’t stop me working on into the evenings and weekends as the mood takes me. As of now, the two Mark One coaches are nearing completion, and the client has paid their second instalment. I’ve got another build to get through, being a couple of etched brass coaches I need to finish and paint, then I have a steam loco and another coach to come. Things are looking quite interesting for quite some time into 2014, which is great. I will need to look at publicising things a bit more in the new year, and I’m considering a reworking of the web site.

I’ve been paid by my last “official” Imagic Design client, so I am looking to wind up operations there at the end of the year. The last job was a web site, which I will hand off to a friend and colleague who is happy to take it on into the future. I am glad to see the back of the design world, to be honest. It’s not been fun for over five years, and I won’t really miss it.

With my new-found wealth, I decided to splurge on a couple of photography items I’ve had my eye on for more than a couple of years. I’ve finally ordered a 17–50mm ƒ/2.8 lens and a battery grip for the EOS 7D. It seemed a hell of a lot of cash when I added it all up, but then I’ve been waiting for so long to get these items, and I had the money in the bank, so why not treat myself? I’ve been so patient for such a long time it was hard to spend such a large amounts of dosh without feeling very guilty, which I suppose is a good thing in a way. That’s about it for my large photographic expenses, so any more earnings go back into the modelling business. Other items I may want tend not to be in the three figure price bracket.

Well, that’s caught up with most things so far here at Snaptophobic Towers. I’ll share some images over a couple of posts, just to liven things up a bit.