“I can't built as well as the the RTR manufacturers, so I won't bother trying.”
It's a common enough thing to hear modellers saying, especially when it's suggested that they might like to build an item of rolling stock, but does it matter?
I'm going to suggest it doesn't – with one caveat. It doesn't if you are building a model railway layout. That is, you will place your loco/carriage/wagon in a larger scene.
For many years I've not bothered to number my wagons properly considering that blobs of paint roughly the same size as numbers will suffice. I've also built many locos that are missing lamp irons and other fiddly little details. I even know a prominent 3mm scale modeller who doesn't bother fitting brake gear to his locos.
Has this been a problem?
No. You see when a viewer sees a layout, they see an entire scene and most simply can't take in all the visual information in one go. They see locomotive shaped lumps, not every rivet and handrail. Rolling stock will normally receive even less attention – a rake of coach shaped objects behind the loco will be fine.
So why are people worried?
Well first, I'd suggest it's an excuse. If you have decided that you will never be able to work to the standard you desire, there's no need to actually do anything. No need to climb the learning curve from raw beginner to seasoned bodger. No need to waste time that could be more valuably employed on the Internet or watching TV by sitting at a modelling bench and trying things. No need to put any effort in at all actually.
Second, lots of “modellers” don't own a layout. For them a loco, if it comes out of the box at all, is a showcase queen. Here it will be studied in detail and yes, you will notice the lack of lamp irons or wonky transfers. Here the highest standards will be required and I'd agree that the RTR manufacturers have the edge here unless you are, or are employing, the most skilled model makers in the land.
Third, we buy model railway magazines. In these pages you'll see models built by possibly the top 20% of modellers. They will be cruelly photographed and enlarged on the page. The camera doesn't lie and it's certainly the best way to spot errors.
An excellent example is baseboard joints. Nowadays these tend to be electronically removed from images, not because there is anything wrong with them but simply because they scream at you on the page. Yet, when you see the same model in real life, your eye simply ignores them.
So away people go, convinced that they “could never do that”, a phrase I hear at exhibitions time and time again. The truth is that they could, but the first stage is to understand what they are trying to do. Does it matter if your station doors don't have the right shaped door knobs, or even door knobs at all? For some this is life and death but I bet most people don't notice.
Look at it another way – can you cook as well as a top chef?
Probably not, but it doesn't mean you've starved to death have you. All that happens is you acquire enough skill to produce edible food. Very few people eat out for every single meal so why should you “model out” for every single model?
My feeling is that the eye is very forgiving. Find some realistic goals and stop beating yourself up. At the end of the day it's your hobby. Every time you blame mythical rivet counters for not having a go then you're depriving yourself of enjoyment. Even if one of these people does appear, all you have to do is ask them how they did whatever they are being snarky about and they will vanish in a puff of body odour.
In the meantime, join us bodgers in making things. It's fun when you get started!