Sunday, September 20, 2009

Partwork season

Bismark hanger
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
The holidays are over so this means it's part work season in your local newsagents. WH Smiths has bins full of cheap first issues tempting you to hand over money on the first stage of what the makers hope will become an addiction you'll be hooked on for the duration of the series.

Across teh interweb, forums are full of disparaging comments about these. Most have totted up the price and say it's too high. Others tell you that the series will be cancelled after a few issues and you'll be left with an unfinished and useless collection. Since this blog still seems to get traffic to my review of the first part of the "Build a Flying Scotsman" series, it's obvious that the world is looking for to me for advice in this area.

Let's start with the Flying Scotsman. There seems to be a good deal of grief associated with this one. One forum describes all sorts of trouble, not helped by Hachette deciding that the model is to be a static item rather than the working locomotive shown on the introductory DVD. There seems to be a lot of demanding money back going on.

However this might be a small number of grumpy people who expect the model to go together like an IKEA bookcase. While I would expect a pricey part work to assemble well, with little or no modification, it's going to attract a lot of newbies who have never built anything before. Any model making takes patience and care, there's going to be some who won't be interested in putting the effort in. Mind you it is being sold to that market.

My scepticism is partly down to the slagging off of the Build the Bismark kit. My Dad is progressing well with his and generally is very pleased with it. The fit of the etched brass parts seems to be excellent - far higher then I've experienced in many locomotive kits. The photo shows one hanger with it's mountain of brass parts, all of which have been super glued in position. I think the results look fantastic, especially from someone who has never worked in this material before. At just of an inch long, it's a tiny part of the much larger model. The level of detail seems pretty consistent so if all goes well for the rest of the issues, and he's getting close to the end of the series, it ought to be an impressive model.

New out this year is a similar kit for building a Lancaster bomber. Again, people have done the maths and come up with a figure of over 600 quid - for a static model. Now the Bismark is going to cost a touch more than this, but for a working boat with radio control. And compared to buying the kit in one lump it's not too out of the way. But Lancaster bombers are easily available in plastic kit form for less than 5% of the price of this model.

You could argue that there is fun in building it and I can't argue with this. Putting those laser cut wooden pits together looks fun to me. The DVD (which didn't work properly on the one I bought) show quite a lot of detail inside the plane but also gives away how the covering will be achieved - at some point you'll be supplied with some thin aluminium sheet which will be riveted with a pinwheel and then stuck over the framework. I'm just not convinced by this - on the real Lanc you can see the covering sagging slightly between the stringers and that won't happen with metal covering.

Worse still, at the end of the day you get a big (1/32nd) aeroplane which you have to store. Displaying it will be difficult due to its size and as a static model when the building is finished, what happens next ? And don't even think of selling it, you'll get next to nothing and certainly not recover the cost of the parts, never mind your labour.

So, if you still fancy a part work, what do I recommend ?

Plastic SkullSimple, there is one out there offering ease of assembly and interesting results. I talk of the "How your body works" series. Issue one gives you a skull with teeth. Keep going and £215 and 34 weeks later you'll be the proud owner of a child sized skeleton complete with innards. All in easy-clean plastic. No skill required, just plug the bits into each other.

As you can see I couldn't even do part one without fiddling. The teeth have been painted with Humbrol acrylic white which looks good. I might even buy part two to get some eyes and a skull cap. Then maybe I'll bury it in the garden and let archaeologists dig it up in a few hundred years as a new Piltdown man !

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