Recently, I have been visiting my parents. My Deep Stash is located in their attic, as are a number of models which I built over twenty years ago. They were all packed carefully away and stored when I was posted out to Germany in 1985 (I used to be in the RAF). That was the last aircraft modelling that I did for a very long time. The barracks where I lived in Germany simply didn't have enough room for even the smallest modelling bench. When I was posted back to the UK, five years later, the unit where I was based actively discouraged any personal interest in aircraft! I reverted to my first love - railway modelling.
It has only been in the last two years that I have taken up aircraft modelling again. I am slowly making my way through an extended build of F-4s, which had been my intention twenty years ago.
I was interested to see how - or indeed *if* - my skills had improved since I last built a model aircraft, so I unpacked the models from two decades ago and cast a critical eye over them.
Well, I am pleased to say that my current models look a lot better than the ones I build twenty years ago - however, in a very few cases that is due simply to using better base kits. The modern Hasegawa F-4s look *far* better than the old Italeri ones. My airbrush skills seem to have improved slightly. The noticeable improvement is my attention to detail in the build. Some of the old models have quite glaring joint lines that really should have been filled and sanded. This is especially noticeable on the intakes and noses of some of the F-4s. I really can't believe that I considered that sort of thing acceptable in those days.
In those days, although I used an airbrush, I didn't have a compressor. I used to use cans of propellant instead. Therefore I was always looking for a way to reduce my propellant usage. One of the ways was to use an aerosol gloss lacquer that I bought from an art shop. It worked quite well, but I had to be very careful - spray on too much in one go and it would run. It was very easy to get a run, but because it was a lacquer, it was very difficult indeed to get rid of the run. Some of the models have a noticeable scar on the surface where I had ended up peeling off the lacquer and had never been able to properly repair the surface. Sanding the edges of the scar simply peeled off more lacquer. Thankfully there is none of that these days. I have a compressor and I use Kleer (aka Future) as a varnish. I still get runs if I'm not careful though! ;-) I don't think I've become any more patient. Never mind... these runs are easy to sort out.
Considering everything, I feel that my greatest improvement has been in "consistency". Some of the models that I looked at are very good. I remember feeling very proud of an F-4F (built from the Italeri kit using decals from Modeldecal sheet 46) and a Kfir C2 (from the Hasegawa kit). Looking at these over twenty years later and I feel I would *still* be proud of them. Other models, however, I wouldn't be so proud of. There is a MiG-25 and a French Jaguar that look as though they have been assembled and painted by a stunned sloth with its head in a bag! There is a Hasegawa Sea Harrier that even that sloth would have been ashamed to admit to. The annoying thing is that I know that all of those sub-standard models were built *after* the F-4F andf Kfir.
Back then, it seemed that occasionally I would produce a "masterpiece", while most of my models were fair to middling and some were absolute disasters. Nowadays, my models are all of a similar standard, which is somewhat better than my old "masterpiece" standard. I tend to spend more time detailing things that I would never have considered detailing before. I add sway braces to pylons and extra detail in cockpits and undercarriage bays. I almost always use resin seats and other detailing parts. I also seem to get more fun and satisfaction out of modelling these days. Back then, if a model wasn't going well and seemed to be turning into a bit of a disaster, I would lose interest and sometimes not do any modelling for a couple of weeks. Nowadays I simply sand down the rubbish bits and do it over again - it's even more fun second time round!
All in all, I'm happy with the improvements - such as they are - in my skills.
I wonder if I should have left those old models alone... I didn't. I salvaged a number of sets of Sparrow missiles from the F-4s and an F-15. The new Hasegawa kits don't have them! What would *you* have done?
I currently have plans for another F-4F model - it will be the exact same aircraft from Modeldecal sheet 46 that I built more than twenty years ago. This time I'll use the modern Hasegawa kit but it will be very interesting to compare it to the old Italeri model that I was so pleased with all those years ago.