Category Archives: Model Ships

Masking Tape, over a glossy finish, a sticky question.


My experience has been fairly good, using old-school beige masking tape, Scotch “Magic” (flat) transparent tape, 3M blue tape, or the light green 3M high stick tape. I prefer the 3M blue product. Scotch “Magic” tape can do really sharp lines on flat, smooth, surfaces, but it has no ‘stretch’. It won’t go around complex curves, stretch to fill engraved lines, etc. It can be hard to remove too, if you don’t leave an edge up somewhere.

First you need the base glossy paint to be well attached. Clean all the parts on their trees with Luke warm water and dish detergent, hand soap, light scrubbing with a green dish scrubber, light sanding with 600 or finer wet-dry sand paper, your choice. Do what’s worked for you in the past. Lay the paint down lightly and evenly. Keep the model parts warm enough before and after applying paint. Keep the paint warm too.

Having a gloss finish doesn’t require glossy paint. Future floor wax, gloss finish lacquers, gloss acrylic, gloss enamel, what ever’s right, after all the paint colors are in place, gives the thinnest finish.

If you’ve already got the glossy paint down and you’re wondering how to mask over it, there’s still plenty of little details to attend to.

Roughing the area the second color will go on doesn’t hurt- my problem masking is as much about the second coat not sticking on up to the masking line as it is about the first coat pulling off or separating.

Having a clean, fresh, edge with effective adhesive is VERY important. You can get along with the edges of the roll of tape as it comes from the maker IF its fresh and you just unwrapped or opened it. If the roll is a long term resident on your workbench, or the sides/edges are scruffy, its not going to make a clean, tight, line.

I keep my masking tape in a small zip-log bag now, stand it on its ‘tread’ instead of laying it on its ‘sidewall’, in or out of the bag. When I want a really crisp edge, I take a nice length of tape and my sharpest Fiskar scissors and cut the tape, straight, down the middle- this gives two, straight, sharp, edges. If I need a line longer than the length the Fiskar’s blades, I piece it from several pieces of tape, to make the edge, and fill with a second layer. I don’t overlap the joints, I trim the edges to slightly less than 90 degrees and lay the pieces down point-to-point, starting like:

1st color layer…
=====\/=====\/====
area for 2nd color.

Smallish filler pieces to cover the little triangular gaps are good. In general I find that small, narrow, pieces of tape are easier to use over curves (or to make curves!) than wide tape. I usually buy 1″ (25mm) and often cut it in half or thirds or quarters before I apply it. Getting a crisp edge is NOT the same as covering a large area- mark out the edges with narrow strips, then use full-width strips (or paper or plastic) to cover bulk areas. Yes, its hard to get long, straight, lines with narrower strips. Its hard to get long straight lines with big, wide, pieces too. Once its stretched out of shape, you’re better off throwing it away, or cutting it to the straight edge you need. Piecing out a long line in scissors-length pieces against a metal straight edge is possibly easier than applying a 2 foot (60cm) piece of tape…

Once the tape is down, burnish the edge, and any seams. Something smooth. slightly soft and gently curved like a Bic pen cap, orangewood stick, etc, is good. Fingertips work.

If you’re worried about stuff running under the tape (via deeply engraved panel lines, rough surface, whatever) dust a light coat of the base color or a clear to seal the edge of the tape. EASY does it, no blobs. Just enough to seal.

Now lay the second color down, in light, thin coats. More tape and a third color, etc, can follow. Using flat paint and not having to sand-down gloss finish for subsequent coats to stick to is clearly an advantage….

Some people like to lay a thick, wet, coat down and then lift off the masking as soon as the second color will stay in place… Ummm, that isn’t easy to do in thin, light, coats… Slicing along the tape edge with a brand-new knife blade is good, if you’re making a ‘straight’ line, a straight edge to slice along may help. Slice LIGHTLY, don’t go through the 1st color, or down into the base material of the model.

PEEL the tape, gently, slowly, pull AWAY from the masked edge. Peeling off the tape is a big part of getting a good masked edge. But like all human activities, it isn’t really true that there’s one and only chance, or that it can’t be fixed if there are problems. Personally, if I think any of the paint might still be wet (uncured) I shelve it and come back in a day or two.

But don’t heat something with masking tape on it, or leave it on the dashboard of the car on a summer day… Overheated tape stickum is a complete BEAR to remove. Ask me how I know…. After a year or two, the old, beige tape, stickum would vulcanize or cure or whatever you call it- become stiff and hard and require sandpaper to remove. The new, gentler, “blue” tapes are far more forgiving.

After the tape is off, there may be a ridge where a taped line was. Fine or extra fine fingernail sanding sticks, wet, are good for working down the ridge without losing the sharp edge. The stiff sanding stick is easier to control than a floppy sheet of sandpaper, and you only want to affect the stuff that’s sticking up.

Another reason to paint flat paint and gloss it later.

For natural metal finish with solid colors as well, I cover everything that will be bare metal and do the paint first, completely, including masking-ridge-sanding and the gloss coat, then tape off ALL the paint and spray Testor’s Metalizer (from rattle cans) over the bare plastic. So everything gets masked once, at least. (The airbrush-able Metalizer works just as well, and you can mix it and tint it, but I choose to use my time on other things.)

NEVER try to save materials when masking. Use fresh tape, use more tape, remove the tape and start over if you don’t like what you see. The tape is cheap, your time is expensive.

That said, don’t make your life harder than it needs to be. If you’re painting the tips of wings and rudder, mask the EDGES of the tips off, then cut some slits in a paper bag, and use the bag to cover all the model, except for the little bits you want to paint. Its not saving stuff, just making your life easier. Wrapping something completely in tape isn’t much fun, and risks overspray on gaps that require a lot of inspection to check.

Well, that went on too long, but you’ll have a good time doing multicolor paint and paint + natural metal. You can do the gray wings with polished leading edges, flat aluminum panels, satin finish engine intakes and maybe a titanium bit on the engine pylon.

Take a shot, take some pictures, let us know how it goes for you!

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Building Plastic Models. How-to, tools to use.


This article presents a “short form” and then repeats the short form with a longer discussion of each point. The goal is to put the basic information needed to build a plastic model into your hands as quickly and easily as I can. Please let me know if you used this guide, what you liked, what could be improved, what you didn’t like. And don’t forget to mention how your model building went!

Minimum Tools:
1) Diagonal cutters or fingernail clippers or kitchen scissors or small pruning clippers…

2) Masking tape, the blue, long-use type…

3) Non-toxic plastic model glue (Testor’s blue label). Like the toxic stuff, it dissolves the plastic to form joints. Very strong when dry.

4) At least a coarse fingernail sanding stick, a piece of sandpaper or an emery board… Coarse

5) A paint stirrer, if you’re using paint.

Optional: 6) A really sharp knife for trimming parts…

7) Some “Future” brand floor wax if you’re using clear parts or decals…

8) A container for water to rinse your brushes, if you’re using paint…

9) A small, fine, flat file and rat-tail round file. The file on a nail clipper will work.

What to do:

1) Wash all the plastic parts in warm water with a little bit of dish detergent. Dry gently.

2) Read the instructions all the way through.

3) Brush 2-3 coats of Future over all clear parts

3.1) If you’re going to use paint, you can put the first, second, etc. coat of paint on the parts while they’re still on the trees. Parts that are glued together will need paint removed where the glue should go, and touch-ups along the seams where trimming, sanding, etc, has removed the paint.

4) Start at the beginning of the instructions, build a subassembly, put it aside for the glue to dry, start the next.

4.1) Fit the parts together dry, without glue. Use tape to hold them in place.

4.2) Use the clippers, knife, sanding stick and file to get each part to fit

4.3) Apply glue lightly, where the parts will touch, back from the edge. Big joints benefit from glue on both pieces.

4.4) Fit the parts together, with many small pieces of tape right across the joints.

4.5) Let the glue dry at least a day. If you can smell glue solvent, its not dry yet.

4.6) After the glue is dry, sand, scrape, file, trim, etc before you continue with the subassembly or before paint.

5) To glue the clear parts, sand or scrape off the Future from where the glue should dissolve the plastic, put the pieces together, tape them in place, ‘wick’ the glue between the parts. Easy does it. You can always make a second pass.

6) Do the final painting of parts when a given subassembly of a given color is together. Not before or after assembly, but during assembly.

7) Most of the work in painting is preparation.

8) Get the piece or subassembly as nice as you can before you start painting.

9) Stir the paint until you are sure it’s completely blended. Then stir one more minute.

10) Don’t expect good paint coverage in 1 coat, use many THIN coats. Sand or scrape off unwanted paint, don’t paint over it.

11) You can mix a lot of colors from red, yellow, blue, black, white and flat aluminum.

12) If the paint seems to dry TOO fast, makes lumps, brush marks, or pull off when you add another coat, add a few DROPS of water, or water mixed with rubbing alcohol, and stir thoroughly.

12.1 ALWAYS clean and dry the top of paint jars, so the lid seals neatly and can be opened easilyl.

13) Future floor wax and the water-based paint don’t react to the non-toxic glue. So you can blot-up extra, especially on the outside.

14) Just let the bare plastic be the basic color when you start with painting. Paint the little bits that should be silver, or black, or other colors that stand out. Paint the interior but not the exterior. Paint the engine but not the body, the wheels and tires (on airplanes) but not the wings.

15) If you really must paint the whole thing, use many thin color coats. If you want shiny paint, you can paint with a flat paint that’s easy to use, followed by several coats of Future to make it shiny. Expect it to take a week. Or more.

16) I use and recomend Polly Scale acrylic paint for models. Also Testor’s Model Master Acryl (water based) and Tamiya water/alcohol based paint. Tamiya’s spray paints are pretty neat too, but they’re NOT water based or non-toxic. I leave anything I spray outdoors or at least in the garage for 24 hours.

17) Check your public and school library for “Fine Scale Modeler” (USA) or your local model builder’s magazine. FSM, and the others, also have web-sites. You can find reviews and advice on how to build, paint, and improve many models onine.

18) Internet Modeler and Hyperscale are other general-modeling sites. Modelling Madness tends more toward military airplanes, Airline Modelers Digest (AMD) and Airliner Cafe are specificly for commercial, passenger, aircraft.

19) In the southern San Francisco Bay Area, The Silicon Valley Scale Modelers club meets every 3rd Friday-of-the-month in the Milpitas Library meeting room. 7:00 to 10:30 pm. The Fremont Hornets meet at 7:30pm, Wally Pond Irvington Community Center, 41885 Blacow Road, Fremont, CA, similar hours. New modelers are always welcome at both clubs.

Look online or ask at your local hobby shop for the club in your neighborhood.

———-========== Long Form ==========———-

1) Diagonal cutters or fingernail clippers or kitchen scissors or small pruning clippers or some other small tool for neatly cutting the parts off the trees. Put the flat (bottom) side of cutters against the part, the stuff you want, and let the connection to the tree get mushed by the diagonal part of the cutters. You can use a sharp knife for this but clippers are easier. If you use a knife, cut against a plastic or wood cutting board or the back of an old phone book or something like that- thick, smooth, something the knife can’t either hurt or cut all the way through.

2) At least a coarse fingernail sanding stick to smooth the clipped edges and any ‘flash’ or wrong-shaped areas on the parts. A medium and a fine stick would be good too- start with the coarse, then the medium, then finish with the fine. The colored ones with white foam inside them are waterproof and you can get better results by using them ‘wet’ with a little water from the sink. Experiment on the part trees to see what you can do with them. A piece of sandpaper- 100 to 300 grit, would work if you can’t get fingernail sanders. “Emery boards”, with beige stuff on wooden or cardboard sticks, are NOT waterproof and will fall apart if you wet them, but they work too. Medium Fine

3) Masking tape to hold the parts in place while the glue dries. I prefer the long-life stuff that’s colored blue- you can leave it on for weeks and it doesn’t get ‘funny’, the way the old beige style does. One roll will last for years. A given model needs maybe a foot, or less. Use lots of little pieces right at the seams to hold parts.

4) Non-toxic plastic model glue. Testor’s make a liquid and a gel ‘glue’ that are flamiable, but not toxic… neat trick that. The tubes and bottles have blue labels, to be different from the red-orange label on their toxic, flamable, glue… I’ve been using the non-toxic for years, it works great. It really melts the plastic, but doesn’t give you a headache. Work in good ventilation anyway- open the window, sit outside, leave parts that are drying somewhere that the fumes can escape easily (garage, on the porch, etc.)

5) A paint stirrer. A piece of solid copper wire, a large, long, shiny nail, a small, clean, screwdriver. Something metal that you can put into the paint, stir with (like a wooden stirring stick for house paint) and rinse off in hot water and/or with a scrubber to get ALL the paint off it.

6) A really sharp knife for trimming parts. You can get along with just clippers and sanding sticks, but a knife will make short work of small trimming jobs. It can also be used to carve away extra glue or melted plastic at joints, or scrape adjacent surfaces to a common plane (or curve). A sharply pointed knife can do many jobs you might expect to require a drill- making holes enlarging holes or openings in parts. A kitchen pairing knife that’s been sharpened will do, as will any other small pocket knife that is sharp, or a box cutter, X-acto knife, scalpel, etc. Single-edge razor blades are more trouble than they are worth for plastic models. A small Xacto knife handle and small package of #11 pointed blades is a part of many modeler’s tool kits.

7) Some “Future” brand floor wax- if you don’t use it in your house, maybe one of your friends or neighbors does. Its like magic, two or three coats over ‘flat’ paint and it looks like the part was dipped in glass. SO shiny! It completely protects clear parts from damage by solvent glue, both non-toxic and toxic kinds. And it cleans up with water. Its also a good undercoat for decals, which work best on a glossy surface, and a top coat to seal them. If you want a dull, flat, finish, a barrier coat of Future followed by Testor’s Dullcote from a rattle can will do the trick.

8) A container for water to rinse your brushes in as soon as you finish using them. A plastic deli container, plastic drink container, etc, anything you can rinse out with HOT water and scrub off extra paint will work. Empty jars are good, coffee cups with broken handles, salsa containers from a resturant. A damp paper towel works almost as well.

9) One or more small, fine, files, 4 to 8 inches long. The most useful are a flat one and a round, tapered, rat-tail. The file from a nail-clipper is a start, a but you’ll soon want more than you can do with it. An inexpensive file assortment will last a lifetime. Use a wire brush to clean the faces if they get clogged with plastic.

What to do:

1) Wash all the plastic parts in warm (not hot, like bath water when you’re done) water with a little bit of dish detergent. Use your fingertips to rub soapy water all over all the parts- they’re cleaner and softer than any sponge or brush. Rinse well, pat dry with a towel and then let the parts air dry completely. This will remove any oil or ‘mold release’ that might be on the plastic and allow paint and glue to work best.

2) Read the instructions all the way through, find all the parts, figure out how they fit together. NEVER apply cement unless you’ve put the parts together FIRST and confirmed that you’ve got the right ones and you know the way to assemble them. Ask me how I know this…. For complex stuff, assemble the parts and tape them together. When you’re ready to glue, take off all the tape, stick it on the edge of something, stick it back on as you glue things together.

3) For the clear parts, you don’t have to wait for the parts to dry- Use the wide, flat brush to paint Future floor wax, maybe with a little tap water on the brush to start, lightly and smoothly over all the clear parts. Don’t make big puddles, just a little, light coat, everywhere. When the parts are covered, prop them up somewhere where any excess can drip off and no dust will fall on them. Alone, inside the box the kit came in, is good. When the first coat is dry, 20-60 minutes, put another light coat on. You want complete coverage. When its time to glue on the clear parts, scrape or sand off the Future where you want the glue to work. The Future will serve as a barrier and keep the rest of the clear parts from being damaged by glue. No finger prints, no white clouds, just shiny, clear, parts.

4) Start at the beginning of the instructions and build sub-assemblies. If you’re painting, stop when you get all of a given color together- for example, the cockpit of an airplane or engine block of a car. Put it aside for the glue to dry, and go back and build more. Cut out, trim, fit, glue, tape, let it sit, repeat. Test-fit and Clean-up the sub-assemblies before assembling them further.

4.1) Fit all the major parts together dry, without glue, before you apply glue. Use tape to hold the parts in place, see how it all fits, and where adjustments may be needed. This is when you check that all the tires of a vehicle will touch the ground at the same time, that you’ve got enough wieght in the nose of an airplane, etc.

4.2) Use the clippers, knife, sanding stick and file to get each part to fit, and look right. Remove material slowly, its much harder to add! If you think you need to use the knife, try the file first. If you think you need the file, try the sanding stick. Everything should fit with no effort needed to hold it in place, but only just.

4.3) Apply glue lightly, where the parts will touch, some distance back from the edge if you can. Big joints like body or fuselage or wings benefit from light glue on both pieces. Most small parts are fine with glue on just one before joining. I prefer liquid glue because I can apply less of it, but small amounts are still very sticky, as they disolve the plastic.

4.4) Fit the parts together, with many small pieces of tape right across the joints. If parts fit perfectly, you can tape them tightly in place FIRST and then apply the glue, wicking it along the seam, or apply it from the inside or back-side. Many small parts will stay put without tape or other clamping. It may help to prop the sub-assembly against or on top of the kit box, on paint jars, etc. Long, thin, parts, like landing gear, gear shift levers, etc., dry well while hanging straight down. This may be easier to arrange than taping them firmly in place AND correctly aligned.

4.5) Let the glue dry at least a day. If you can smell the glue solvent, its not dry yet. You CAN check alignment and gently manipulate parts that aren’t right- SMALL adjustments of a few degrees are ok, larges ones may need re-gluing. To hold airplane models in place while horizontal stabilizers, rudders, engine pods, antennae and so forth are drying, I slide one wing between a tight bunch of books on a bookshelf. putting the plane vertical. You can check of alignment of parts that should be 90 degrees apart by holding them directly above a CD case or a book or some other stiff, right-angled, object. Sight along the center lines of the parts- surface to surface angles are affected by any taper in the form of the part, so the correct 90 degrees at the center of two surfaces might be 95 degrees from the surface of one to the surface of the other

4.6) After the glue is dry, sand, scrape, file, trim, etc before you continue with the subassembly or before paint.

5) To glue the clear parts, sand or scrape off the Future from where the glue should dissolve the plastic, put the pieces together, tape them in place, ‘wick’ the glue between the parts. Easy does it. You can always make a second pass.

6) Do the final painting of parts when a given subassembly of a given color is together. Not before or after assembly, but during assembly. You can start painting the parts while on the trees, and do most of it there, but not all. Other than Future on the clear parts, the final paint needs to happen when all the stuff that is going to be one color or related colors put together. So, for example, you can start painting the seats, or the engine block or transmission, on the trees, but then assemble and let the glue dry, THEN do the finaly paint. Paint will prevent the glue from melting the plastic, so you need to remove it from the gluing surface but you don’t want to glue things together that will be different colors if you can paint them separately. If you get paint on the parts that the glue should be on, just wipe it off with a paper towel, and when it dries, scrape it off with the edge of a knife blade or sand it gently with the coarse sanding stick. (or fine, etc.) So paint the steering wheel, gear shift, parking brake, etc, now.

7) Stir the paint until you are sure it’s completely blended. EVERY time. Then stir for at least one more minute. This allows you to build up thin coats, all the same color. If you don’t stir completely, they won’t be the same color.

8) DON’T try to paint anything with one coat. For a good gloss, you’ll need at least 2-3 coats of Future. For a good black over white plastic, 2-4 coats, letting them dry in between. FOr a good white over black, it might take 5-7 coats. For red or yellow, put a coat or two of white under it unless you’re painting over clean, white, plastic. If you get a splotch of paint where you don’t want it, don’t try to hide it with another color. Clean it up NOW, using warm-hot water and a paper towel. If something goes really wrong you can always dunk the model pieces under running, hot water and the old finish will disappear. You can scrub with fingers and a dish scrubber, and detergent. If it dries, you can gently sand (with running water and fine sanding stick) or scrape with a knife.

9) You can mix almost any color from red, yellow, blue, white and black and flat aluminum. Mix small amounts on a plastic container lid, wash the stirrer in the sink with warm water and a scrubber between colors, don’t contaminate one jar with paint from onother. Start with equal (one drop) amounts, use simple formulas you can remember and re-create: 1 drop red, 10 drops white for a pink, for example. Put the drops next to each other rather than on top of each other, and use your big brush to pull in the color you want to get the shade you need. Write down the recipe you like on the plans of the model, right next to the assembly you are painting. Orange = Red and Yellow, Purple = Red and Blue, Green = Blue and Yellow. Olive green = Yellow and Black. Brown = equal parts of Red, Yellow, Blues. Metalic gray is a little black and a little flat aluminum. Lighten to taste with white. Transparent red for tail lights is a little red and a little Future floor wax Transparent orange for turn signals and front markers is a little red, a little yellow, a little Future floor wax. Do your mixing in a disposable pastic container, a deli pint or coffee can lid, ice-tray you bought at the junk store, etc. If the paint dries, you can throw it away. Color and black is a “Tone”. Color and white is a “Tint”. Color with black and white is a colored gray.

10) If the paint seems to dry TOO fast, makes lumps or big brush marks, or applying the second coat seems to pull off the first coat, add a few DROPS of water or water mixed with rubbing alcohol, stir thoroughly, try again. NEVER more than 5 drops at a time. Once you put in too much water, its REALLY hard to get it out! (But you can, if you let the paint settle so the color is at the bottom, then take off a few DROPS of the clear liquid using a brush…)

11) To glue on the clear parts, sand or scrape off the Future floor wax from where the glue should disolve the plastic, put the pieces together, tape them in place, then gently apply the glue and let capilary action ‘wick’ the glue into the spaces between the parts. You can use this same technique for any big seam, but it works best when there’s an ‘inside’ or ‘underside’ (that nobody will see) that you can work from. Some of the glue will stay on the surface of the seam. To make your seams more invisible, apply the glue at the back edge of the parts and let it get squeezed out to the front.

12) Because the Future floor wax (and the water-based paint) don’t react to the glue, you can use a piece of power towel or tissue paper to blot-up extra glue, especially from external parts like door mirrors and other things on the outside of the body.

13) Let the bare plastic color be the body color when you start with paint your kits, don’t try to paint everything to start with. Painting is a lot of work and can be very frustrating. Let yourself enjoy building the kit and get it done. Paint some things with solid colors, enjoy the effect. If you really must paint the body, use many thin brush coats, after thoroughly stirring the paint, followed by several coats of Future, or many, thin, spray can coats… followed by Future. Expect it to take a week to get done.

14) Check your public and school library for “Fine Scale MOdeller” magazine. They also have a web-site and there are hundreds of modelers out on the web. You can probably find reviews of this kit and advice on how to build it. You can certainly find advice on paint.

15) Check your public and school library for “Fine Scale Modeler”, “Model Builder International”, “Modelist Konstructor”, etc, magazines. Many of these also have a web-site. (http://www.finescale.com/fsm/) Web membership is free, and you don’t have to subscribe to the magazine. You can find reviews and advice on how to build, paint, and improve many models in their forums.

16) Internet Modeler (http://www.internetmodeler.com/) and Hyperscale http://hyperscale.com/) are other general-modeling sites. Modelling Madness (http://hyperscale.com/) tends more toward military airplanes, Airline Modelers Digest (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/airlinermodelling ) and Airliner Cafe (http://www.airlinercafe.com/)are specificly for commercial, passenger, aircraft. http://www.rocketfin.com/model_car_links.html is a page full of links to automotive-related modeling sites. Steel Navy (http://www.steelnavy.com/) is for ship modellers, mostly military ships. http://www.combinedfleet.com/kaigun.htm focuses on the Imperial Navy of Japan, ending in 1945.

The Silicon Valley Scale Modelers club meets every 3rd Friday in the Milpitas, CA. Library meeting room. The Fremont Hornets meet at 7:30pm, Wally Pond Irvington Community Center, 41885 Blacow Road, Fremont, CA You can find help and advice at either club, and ask questions of other modelers, or just sit and watch. Both are chartered by the IPMS/USA, the International Plastic Modeler’s Society, which formed in the 1960s in the UK. Most of every meeting is “Model Talk”, where each person talks about the model they are working on, or the one they just finished. Its free, and its fun. There are door prizes for those who bring a model to share, done or not. New modelers, their parents and friends are aways welcome at both clubs.

Families of references for the model builder


I’ve started working on my index of Air International again, but on reflection it occurs to me that a simple list of all the potential reference sources and how to start reeling them in on the internet would be of value, so here’s a beginning,  and yes, I’ll list more of Volume 18 of Air Internatonal!

Which Dewey Decimal and/or Library of Congress filing sections this stuff goes in is a separate matter, and there’s also on-line stuff but here’s a start on books, maybe magazines after this: I’ll put in examples after I get the listings going.

ARCO- ARCO did several different series:

ArcoAircam small, paper-bound volumes of color and black-and-white profiles by artists like Richard Ward

– larger, soft and hard-bound books on a single subject, mostly pix and text – Boeing 707, Lockheed Constellation, P-51, B-58, etc.

Aero series A numbered series of soft-bound books on particular subjects

Colors and Markings – Squadron or Kinzey started this series, they’re a bit too exhaustive for me. One I remember specifically was the volume for F-106s. I like F-106s, and I’d be interested in what I construe their “Colors and Markings” to be. In actual fact, the book contained a clear, black and white, photograph of the squadron markings (and variations) for every squadron that operated the F-106, with some of the test, NASA, etc airframes thrown in too. No color at all, just the names of the colors. (Well, F-106 were almost always Air Defense Command glossy gray…) Still, I was hoping for something like the Arco-Aircam profile books, lots of color illustrations, and sadly disappointed. On the other hand, if you have a squadron number and want to see the markings they used on a particular kind of airplane, this would be golden.

Aerofax -A magazine that morphed into paperback books and now covers a wide range. Very scholarly, dry, text, lots of official technical manual drawings and photos. Mostly black and white, a page or four of color and a color cover. Very reliable, thorough, but a little bloodless.

Aero Detail – Japanese productions with photographs of museum examples, contemporary technical drawings, color profies. Some English text, some in Japanese, photo captions are in both. Scott Hards of Hobby Link Japan serves as translator for this range and does a good job. Pictures are from a variety of airframes if there ARE a variety available. These books are the beyond-the-ropes tour you wish you could get….

Aircraft in Profile, Armor in Profile, AFV in Profile, Classic Cars in Profile, Cars in Profile, Warships in Profile, Locomotives in Profile, Small Arms in Profile. – the melting pot of British amateur enthusiasts. Texts can be quite good to pretty poor- I don’t really believe that the P-51 (aka A-36) made no progress in the USA until a bribe was paid by North American to someone, but the photos and color art are always fun. The sun WAS setting on the British Empire while these were being written and the result is a lot more pre-1939 British content than any objective analysis would warrant, but what of that? So there are more between-wars RAF bi-planes than total USSR subjects… even with 260 titles published this was a work of love and devotion, not really a scholarly enterprise. Its all from the heart, and they DO have some airliners and the odd civil subject.

The automotive series are even more oddly focused, or un-focused, but there are some interesting topics, even if the mix is strange. The Ferrari 330 P3/P4 and Porsche 917 are well served, in the more modern series, and a lot of the “Classic” cars at Pebble Beach and so forth can be found.

The Armor series seems to have been aimed at classic WWII subjects, the AFV series was a re-take with something improved, but I’m not clear what. Photos tend to be the official record photo from the proving grounds, the text is too short for all of a general overview, operational history and placing the design and use in context. I never found the text particularly usable, or the range of markings in art and photo worth keeping for reference.

In Detail & Scale – Bert Kinzey’s very impressive if slightly stiff series of books on US subjects (Note ampersand in title). The model kit reviews are sometimes singularly humorless, but the quality of the photographs Mr. Kinzey and his authors turn up is VERY good.

Naval Fighters – Steve Ginter’s slightly less formal take on US Navy subjects, with more photos but messier layouts, plenty of manual pages reproduced, lots of informal photos.

Air Force Legends – Ginter Books stretched out to cover USAF subjects, particularly the unusual and underserverd B-51s and F 103s, etc.

Aeroguide With large, clear, black and white photos of modern RAF/RN subjects, this can be thought of as a condensed version of Detail and Scale without the extensive internal detail or text. One or two pages of black and white profile drawings, a good photo or two of the ejection seat, the rest is a walk around.

Aeroguide Classics

Aerofax Extra

Aerofax Minigraph

Air Age Publishing

Aircraft Monograph

Arco Aircam

Smithsonian

Airliner Tech

Warbird Tech

Air Racer Tech

A J Press

Apogee Books

Windsock International

Aircraft Archive

Ballentine History Of A Violent Century – WWI and WWII battles, armies, weapons, commanders. Very high contrast photo reproduction mixed in the text, generally good text, no color. Trade-paper size, inexpensive, mass-market books from specialist authors.

Berliner, Don

Gunston, Bill

Braybrook, Roy,

Chant, Chris

Ellis, Chris,

Zaloniga, Steve

Green, William, Swanborough, Gordon

Presidio Press

Blandford

Harleyford

Crowood Press

Squadron/Signal In Action

Camouflage and Markings – Dulcimus Press

Kookaburra

Famous Aircraft Of The World (FAOW)

Osprey

Salamander/Crescent/Chartwell

Concord Publications

Schiffer Books

Doubleday Books

Hanover House

Koku-Fan

Maru Mechanic

Macmillian Publishing

Monogram Books

Motorbooks

Munson, Kennith

Ward, Richard

Wanatabe, Ruyuku

Naval Institute Press

Cross and Cockade

SAM Publications

Prentice-Hall

Tanks In Detail

Tankograd

Ventura

Verlinden

More later!

Buying a plastic model kit for a kid


Wow, this is a really loaded issue. What’s a sensible “first model” for a kid who starts at age 4, like I did, or age 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14… Get it wrong and your gift will be uninteresting because its too simple, or uninteresting because too daunting (or requiring too many skills). Revell, Revell Germany and Testors in the USA are all promoting “easy” kits for beginners. Hasegawa once had a line of small, cheap, easy kits, and Heller had a separate “Cadet” range to this very end. With minor exceptions, the entire Matchbox model kit product line that was created in the 1970s and 80s was aimed at beginners.

Here are some postulates I think cover the decision space:

The younger the child-

the fewer pieces needed;

the lower likelihood of paint being needed;

the GREATER the need for good kit engineering and easy fitting of parts;

the GREATER the likelihood that the existence of the object depicted will be a surprise!

the GREATER importance of “play value”- moving pieces, tough construction that doesn’t break. lack of thin bits that might injure or break

So you want a high quality kit that makes a good toy when completed. The old Monogram 1/48 (aka ‘ 1/4″ scale ‘ – ie 1/4″ = 1’) airplanes; Car kits with hoods that open and engines inside, ships and boats that float (!!!). In the old days, smaller model tanks with molded rubber tracks and motors inside had pretty good play value. Lack of ‘drivability’ limits the play value of today’s scale model military vehicles.

The younger child will view building anything as aspirational, and will have all their attention consumed by cutting a dozen or two dozen pieces off the runners, matching them to the instructions, trimming and generally getting the pieces to fit, gluing it together and applying the decals with a glass of water and their fingers. They will need a Helper for the first 1-5-10 kits they build.

Tool kit:
Parent, grandparent, qualified sibling or friend, or other helper. REQUIRED.
Fingernail clippers will do for cutters and a file.
Moderate-tack/long release masking tape to hold the pieces together while the glue dries. 3M’s line of blue masking tapes are perfect.
Future floor wax. (aka Johnson’s Kleer)

Clip out the parts as needed, not all at once. The nail clipper and file is fine get the parts ready to assemble.
Fingernail sanding sticks are a nice luxury, as are diagonal cutters and a real file or two, but the whole job can be done with clippers.
Coat the clear parts with Future floor wax inside and out and non-toxic tube glue or the liquid equivalent (Testor’s blue label) can be used to firmly attach the clear stuff without messing it up. Liquid non-toxic cement is flammable but not poisonous… that’s a neat trick!

The older the child:

The more they’ll enjoy assembling larger numbers of parts.

The more likely they’ll want to paint some or all of the pieces; (HOWEVER, for a first model, not having to paint the whole things is real advantage, at any age)

The more likely they’ll have aethestic and or knowledge-based opinions about what kit to build.

50 to 100 pieces are fine for a first model for a teenager; (13 and above)

Buy a car kit molded in more than one color- white body, black and silver engine and fiddly stuff. Vinyl tires are supplied black and don’t need to be painted. In airplanes and ships, pick something appropriate to the gray or white the kit will be molded in. In the old days, kits came in white, silver, olive drab, light blue, red, yellow, orange, black, etc . Monogram and Airfix were particularly adept at this, and the late, lamented, Aurora. Lots of US car kits were molded in white because the builder would have the least trouble paint it any color they liked

Some prefer the good guys, some prefer the bad guys. Pointy planes or biplanes with the pilot sitting out in the breeze. Some kits will be an education, something they’d never seen before, but in the area they care about, they’ll know what they want.

So, OK, what do I recommend??

If you really want moving features, go for Legos. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Technic’s, Mars Mission, Underwater, sports, cars, trucks, airplanes, real Mars Rovers, Space Shuttles, cars and motorcycles, whatever. I find there is less play value in the Bionicles because mostly what they do is pose and shoot something and the relatively large pieces limit possiblities. Consider them as aimed at the under 8 crowd. Anything with hinges and the like make good basis for toys.

If you want models to play with, Revell’s tugboat is pacific in nature, floats well in a bathtub, can be painted in bright colors or left plain. The PT boat and flat-bottomed ships all float pretty well. The round-bottom Essex-class (or “Battle Of Midway”) aircraft carriers need to be carefully balasted. Lindberg or someone has a fishing boat which might once have been Aurora’s Soviet Spy Trawler…. Some big cargo vessels are out there too.

Any smaller airplane can be a fun toy in the bathtub or pool, if balanced more or less correctly (1/3 back from the leading edge of the wing). But ships are better.

Probably my fondest memories of moving parts models are

1) Revell’s 1/72 F-111A/B. Swing wings that move in and out. VERY fiddly landing gear that fold up and retract OR come out and and support the model. Crew escape capsule that can be removed from the model. Radome comes off and a somewhat generic radar dish is inside on the front of the fuselage.

Monogram (now Revell-Monogram)’s 1/48 scale
TBM Avenger,
SBD Dauntless,

Both have folding landing gear and a deploy-able tail-hook. Both have a pilot in the front and a gunner in the back, with a gun that moves. Both originally dropped their main weapons- the TBM dropped a torpedo when you flicked open the bomb-bay doors. The SBD dropped a bomb with the little displacing gear to keep it away from the propeller, operated by a tab that stuck out the bottom of the fuselage.
In the 1970s or 80s the bomb in the SBD was changed so it didn’t come off anymore. Since the torpedo just fell out when you open the doors, it may still work.

If you prefer a more peaceful working feature, paint your TBM in bright colors- white or silver with yellow, red trim,, with a big number on the tail, the wing tips and the engine cowling. Wad up a piece of very thin silk, red or pink, about the size and shape of a old school basketball player’s sock, and let it represent the “water” dropped by air-tankers fighting a forest fire.

The big differences between the kits are that the TBM has wings which might fold if you’re pretty good and follow instructions closely, and the SBD has 5 dive brake panels which opperate simultaniously. Sweet!

Tamiya’s early 1/12 cars- with a motor in the motor and a gearbox in the gear box and a suspension that works. I built the Matra MS-80 and it had two AA cells where the driver’s legs should have been. The steering wheel turned the front wheels, the suspension went up and down, the motor drove the back wheels through driveshafts with real universal joints… and the tires were hollow and smelled like real tires. AND the compltete engine and transmission could be removed from the rolling chassis.

Monogram’s (Now Revell-Monogram’s) other US Navy and other WWII planes with moving parts are: (all 1/48) F4F Wildcat,
F6F Hellcat,
F4U Corsair,
SB2C Helldiver,
Messerschmidt 109,
Mitsubishi Zero,
P-51 Mustang,
Supermarine Spitfire
Hawker Hurricane.

All but the Wildcat have landing gear that fold up, most of the Navy subjects have folding wings. The TBM and SB2C have opening weapons bay doors, the SBD, SB2C and TBM all dropped weapons originally, but that feature was disabled in the 1970s or 80s. (boo!) The SBD has opening dive flaps that all work together (5 panels) and are way cool. Later 1/48 models, the de Havilland Mosquito, TBD Devastator, bombers and jets had more details and less moving parts. An age had ended.

Lindberg’s Me-262 WWII German jet had folding landing gear and opening hatches over the cannons in the nose. They had a number of less detailed 1/48 jets with moving parts, along with a B-17, He-111, Mitsubishi BETTY and B-58 Hustler in somewhat odd scales with moving landing gear, etc. The B-58’s folding mechanism is fun to play with and you can detach the underslug bomb and fuel tank, and open the hatches for the 3 cockpits. But WWIII atom bombs have less play value that you might have expected. Monogram made a near-1/72 B-66 with a single bomb, no doubt nuclear, and it suffered in comparison to the 1/48 Navy planes.

Monogram’s 1/32 P-51D Mustang, available in colored plastic or as the Visible Mustang with a clear skin, went two better with retracting landing gear where turning a wheel made all threee legs and wheels move, and the doors open and shut. There was also a fiddly deal to hang a bomb under each wing and release them separately. The canopy also slid back, and in the ‘visible’ version, besides a motor to drive the landing gear (in the base) there was a motor in the plastic engine to turn the propeller. How cool is that?? But its hard to build, hard to make work and harder to keep working. Legos are more fun. Sigh.

Revell’s B-24 Liberator, 1/72 scale, had movable flaps and retractable landing gear, along with the usual moving turrets. Airfix’s B-17 main gear could fold-up. Revell’s 1/72 B-17 had bomb-bay doors that opened.

Tamiya made a small number of 1/25 tank kits (Tiger, T-34, others?) that had operating suspensions and separate track links- super cool to drive around on wrinkled bed covers, but very complicated and expensive

Any car kit with rolling wheels has good play value- the Revell Snap Together kits in 1/24th scale are very nicely detailed and roll well when completed. The recent Hasegawa and Tamiya car kits have soft plastic retainers that trap a pin (The pin is on the wheel for Tamiya, on the hub for Hasegawa) so they can theoretically roll, but in practice, are simply movable. They can be removed to admire all the fiddly brake and suspension bits though…

For older kids, detail and scale accuracy are more important that moving parts. Seeing how its built is as interesting as Brrrrrraaaaaawwwwww play. Here’s where Tamiya’s Formula 1 and Sports Car models really shine- the ones with opening engine covers and so forth are just packed with bits and pieces, and they tend to come in a tree of body color parts, a tree of silver parts and a tree of black parts, along with rubber-like tires. No paint required!

Here are a pair of the old Revell 1/72 scale Hawker Hurricanes, the second or third kit I built as a kid, that I experimentally put together with just touches of paint here and there, and decals (the black one) ; and one with NO paint (the light gray one). I put decals on the light gray one but they all fell off!, so I used some white glue on the decals for the black one…

A pair of 1960s Revell Hawker Hurricanes

If you click here you can see the kit parts and a couple of steps during construction, including when everything is taped together and glue is drying.
More later, happy modeling!

Paint color call-outs in kit instructions, believe ’em? Mfg’s own paint #s…


“Propwash” over on the Aeroscale.kitmaker.net site asked the following, excellent, question, and I put together a pretty good reply, I thought:

Q: “I have 2 Academy P-51s, a ‘C’ and ‘D’ type, however, there do not appear to be any colour codes on one, and the other has 3 numbers (3,9,10) in triangles, but no hint of the paint manufacturer they refer to.Is this normal for Academy? I can work out the colours of course, but it would have been nice to have a chart to look at……..”

A: You’re asking some terrific questions, but the answers aren’t short!

1) Different kit-makers use different ways of identifying what color you should paint what on a kit.

1.1) Probably the most important thing to remember is that the kit maker’s instructions MAY NOT BE CORRECT! Its your model, you can accept what they say, or what someone posts on the internet, or what’s in a hobby magazine or book, or what’s on the specimen at the local museum, or what reasoned argument with your pals tells you.

1.2) Second most important is that any given kit maker will use either their own brand of paint, a brand they are ‘friendly’ with, or perhaps a range of particular pre-mixed paints. So even if they know the correct color, and even if they mean to tell you the correct color, if they’re Dragon/DML or Hasegawa they’ll likely indicate whichever Gunze-Sanyo color they think is the best match. If Gunze-Sanyo doesn’t offer a very good match to the actual color… the results are not going to be very good.

Tamiya and Revell Germany give mixing instructions (using their own paint #s) for colors not available out-of-the-bottle, but don’t necessarily give a *name* for the resulting color, just names for the elements used in the mix. When the results are normal colors which are standard and available premixed in other brands, the results make commercial sense, but aren’t a great help to the gentle modeler. (Cite examples from Revell Hurricane IIB, Tamiya Mustang GT and an airplane kit)

1.3) While kit instructions are written for each kit by each manufacturer, the real things were subject to both reality (materials such as bare aluminum, stainless steel, rubber tires, etc have the own colors) and applicable standards. For military airplanes,
United States Army/Navy (WWII US) “A/N612 Interior Green…”
Modern US: Federal Standard 595a & b “FS 36440 Flat Light Gull Gray”
US Navy, WWII (Measure 05 light gray)
British WWI (name?) “Green Drab PC10”
RAF/RN (WWII) “Sky” “Night”, “Dark Earth”, “Extra Dark Sea Gray”, etc.
German WWII: what are called “RLM” but are mostly Luftwaffe: RLM 02 Gray (this IS an RLM color), “65 Light Blue”, “66 Black”, etc.
Contemporary German – RAL #s
Japanese WWII: Named colors for Imperial Japanese Army, Imperial Japanese Navy, and specific depots and manufacturers.
Italian WWII – named colors
Russian WWII – named colors with USSR number system defining the names

Regardless of what the kit instructions say, the typical 1940s USAAF airplane either had Neutral Gray underside and Olive Drab topside, possibly with Dark Green mottle on the leading and trailing edges of the airfoils, or were Natural Metal, on the outside. US Navy aircraft from the 1950s to the 1980s were FS595a 36440 Flat Gull Grey or 26440 semi-gloss Gull Gray or 16440 Glossy Gull Gray over 17xxx Glossy White. Early WWII RAF airplanes in the UK were Dark Earth and Dark Brown upper side, with Aluminum, Aluminum, White and Black, Sky, or Sky and Black undersurfaces/.

(Descriptions and examples will be provided for the list below:)
Academy put letters (A-Z) on the plan which are defined in a simple table: A = Dark Blue, B = White, C = Steel, etc. The letters don’t corespond to any particular brand of paint.

>Airfix gave names in the old days, then switched to providing the paint numbers for Airfix brand paint. (I’ll check recent Airfix instructions and report what I find)

AMT
Bilek, a Czech outfit who re-issue Airfix and Heller molds, give …
Frog…
Heller…
JoHan…
Kiel Kraft
Minicraft (recent)
Minicraft/Academy
Minicraft/Hasegawa
Monogram were providing Federal Standard #s, very nice for US subjects, somewhat problematic for others.
Revell Germany put letters on the plan which are defined at a table at the beginning. The table uses Revell Germany paint #s, both for out-of-the-bottle (“A 111 Light Gray”) and for specified mixes “Z Blue-green: 20% 333 + 80% 222”.
HOWEVER, they also provide color names in a large number of languages for each of their numbered colors.

Tamiya use their paint numbers in the plan, X-1, XF-16, TS-26, for glossy black, flat aluminum and glossy white spray, respectivly. A table at the beginning of the plan gives names in several languages, Japanese, German, English.

2) Sooooo: if your Academy kit calls for /A and /B and /C colors and then defines them as Silver, Black, Interior Green (for example) you need to stand back and filter that:
2.1) Probably Testor’s oil-based Chrome Silver, glossy Black and Nakajima, Mitsubishi or RAF Interior Green are NOT what you wanted for a P-38 or a P-51.

2.2) Lesson one. Natural Metal Finish, aka NMF, or Bare Metal Finish, BMF, is REALLY hard to model correctliy. While there are many paths to a pleasing effect, no kit instruction I have seen in 45 years of building kits has captured what I believe it takes to make a reasonable model airplane or car model with large areas of bare metal. Its specialized knowlege and a constant source of curiosity and experiment, kinda like the guitar players “quest for tone”… ie, never ending.

2.3) For example, on a P-38, you’ll have
bare aluminum areas,
two mirror-polished aluminum areas on the inner engine nacelle that allow the pilot to see if the landing gear is down or up,
turbo-supercharger exhaust (steel/??? that’s been well heated),
I believe some fabric covered control surfaces painted with ‘aluminum’ dope
Possibly some stainless steel skinning near the turbo-supercharger
Gun barrels and air-cooling shrouds
Pitot tube
Reflectors in the landing lights
Landing gear oleo legs, which really ARE chromed
Landing gear wheels and legs which may appear to be bare metal but may be painted ‘aluminum’ or ‘steel’.

There’s nothing wrong with painting the whole business from one tin/jar of ‘Silver’ or ‘Aluminum’ or what have you. From the distance you’d have to stand back from a real airplane to see it as you see a 1/72 model at a ‘normal’ viewing angle, there probably aren’t more than 2 or 3 distinguishable colors/tints/tones to the natural metal area, and the play of light and shadow completely overwhem the small variations in ‘absolute’ color. Maybe 3 or 4 tones are possible for a 1/48 or 1/32 kit. This includes using a piece of shiny side metal foil for the landing light reflector…

If you put a dark wash over the guns and turbosupercharger, a flat or Dulcote on the fabric covered surfaces, polish or use Chrome Silver on the oleo legs, I think anyone who faulted your choices would be hard pressed to explain why. IPMS/USA rules certainly don’t speak to color ‘accuracy’ at this level because its just too subjective. They judge negatively and on craft- symmetry of shape, color, decals, square or correct alignments, kit seams and tooling marks made invisible, lack of glue globs, nothing out-of-scale visible, no tooling marks, no brush marks, no wrinkled decals, no airbubbles under decals, no dust, hair or orange-peel effect marring the paint… This knocks out about 95% of all entries, long before anything more than ‘silver’ paint is needed, in competition.

For your own satisfaction, do what makes you feel good. I built a 1/400 Dragon airliner kit, same size as a die-cast. I used one tone of flat aluminum for the jet engine intake lips, a shinier polished aluminum tone for the leading edges (possibly accurate for the vertical fin but maybe not the wings, on an A-320), a burned metal color for the engine ‘hot sections’, very shiny ‘silver’ for the gear leg oleos. Had it been a 737 I’d have painted the front landing gear wheels an ‘aluminum paint’ color- flatter-than-flat aluminum, maybe washed with flat or thinned white…Later I built a 1/400 widebody and used ‘flat aluminum’ everywhere. Looks pretty good too!

Back to your P-38, you’ll need to consult photos of (ideally) the plane you are modeling at the time you are modeling it. Next best is planes from the same unit at the same time, then other units at the same time or same unit different time, etc, etc. Just like one of those forensic shows on TV.

More fun comes for landing gear door interiors, gear wells, cockpits and the inside of scoops leading to radiators, intercoolers, air intakes and the like.

Some gear doors are natural metal everywhere, some painted inside with primer (yellow or green Zinc chromate) some with “interior green” which is zinc chromate tinted with black and possibly aluminum paste. Vought used “Indian Red”, as in the sub continent India, to tint zinc chromate primer on the SECOND coat inside gear wells and inside gear doors- the product was a sorta salmon color (remember, they were tinting yellow-green zinc chromate, not a darker green zinc-chromate + black). Check your photos, they’re mostly black and white so guess, ask your significant other, read online, read books and magazines. Isn’t this fun?

“interior green” is a USA Army/Navy shade numbered 612, but actually no paint of this shade was made. The 612 color was what the manufacturer was supposed to tint their zinc chromate primer to… using black and possibly aluminum paste. The reason for the tint is 1) neutral color easy on aircrew eyes 2) tinted primer makes it apparent whether the first primer coat, not tinted, has been covered completely by the second coat.
So if you’d like to get REALLY into it, get some zinc chromate Testor’s Acryl and black Acryl and tint the zinc chromate as close to ‘interior green’ as you can get. Maybe add some aluminum if you think its called for.

British interor green WAS a particular color, a paint, which had fuel-proof qualities. Every inch of the wooden structure of a de Havilland Mosquito which wasn’t camoflagued was painted with the fuel-proof interior green.
Hawker Hurricanes were *largely* painted this color but some photos clearly show the steel and aluminum tubes and brackets of the structure were painted silver (there can be NO question of bare metal on in-service WWII Hawker airframes…) Interiors of wheel wells and the like were often painted ‘aluminum’ on UK airplanes, because aluminumized laquer was great at protecting cloth airplanes and the requirements dated back to the cloth and wood era… and there were more important things and updating such. And underside colors quickly got into gear wells on single engined fighters since underside colors on fighters could be ‘silver’ (ie aluminum), white, black, ‘sky’, ‘sea gray medium’ or ‘special night’, a very, very, flat black. Specifications changed during the first 3 years of WWII and many aircraft undersides were repainted in the field- some planes may have carried all of the colors listed above.

Some of us thought, from recovered relics, that in the 1930s and 40s Mitsubishi had used a translucent blue for interior color, but it now appears that they used a grayish green, and Nakajima used a grayish green, but they were different grayish greens. The Soviets used a greenish gray, but worked under tremendous strain and so a wide range of colors could be ‘correct’. The German standard was RLM 02, a brownish-gray but they quickly added flat black above a certain waterline, as did the UK later in the war. No doubt the Italians, French, Belgians, Poles, etc, etc, etc. all had their own standards for building and for maintenance too.

And in the USA, Bell used a “bronze green” of their own devising, and Boeing and North American proposed a slightly different “bronze green” for cockpits and othe inhabited spaces.

By the way, on the P-51, the laminar flow wing that was thought to be so special was puttied and sanded and painted, even if the fuselage was bare metal, so your P-51 in bare metal has bare metal, aluminum laquer on the wings and aluminum dope on the fabric covered control surfaces.

I’ll let you or someone else discuss black, flat black, glossy black, wrinke-finish black, black tires, etc etc. Just to keep it interesting, remember that early WWII USAAF airplane propellers were ordered to be painted with a mix of glossy or semi-glossy black paint and gasoline (!) to produce a flat black finish over the previous shiny polished metal…. So black on a tire and black on a control box in the cockpit and black on a propeller blade and black anti-slip strips on the wing and black stripes or other markings are, or could be, wait for it, different colors…

Is this fun, or what?

Bill Abbott

Quick reviews of San Francisco Bay Area Hobby Shops


Berkeley Ace Hardware
2020 Milvia St #100, Berkeley, CA – (510) 845-0410
http://berkeleyace.com/ (under construction…)

(Formerly, 2 blocks away, 2145 University Ave )

For the airplane modeler, this is the Bay Area’s gold standard. Everything
from the mainstream; Airfix/Heller, Hasegawa, Italeri, Revell, Tamiya and
Trumpeter, to A-model, Anigrand, High Planes, MPM, Pavla, Special Hobby,
Supermodel, Sweet and Valom are on the shelf. Detailing sets from Ares,
Squadron, etc, are in the cabinet, as well as bagged kits from Bilek,
Pegasus, etc. The latest and greatest, particularly in model airplane kits, is
here. There is a big display of new kits on both sides of the stair-case
going down from the store’s entrance. A small display case holds local
modeler’s efforts. Also, the oldest, best and in some ways wierdest collection
of built models hanging from the ceiling. Resin kits are above the detailing parts
and paint-brushes, facing the slot car counter.

Then there are the 2nd hand relics (Airfix/Buzco/Frog/Heller/Hasegawa/Revell)
going back to the 1960s (or earlier). For example, you can buy a 1/72 Frog
F4F Wildcat from before 1975, the Novo issue of same kit from 1975-1990, the
Eastern Express re-issue (with a great decal sheet) from last year, the
Minicraft/Academy kit which was clearly *inspired* by the Frog kit’s design,
Revell or Airfix’s kit from the 1960s, or Hasegawa’s recent, and superb,
version. Or Sword’s FM-2. Want a different scale? There’s a story there too.
The armor/military selection is wide but thinner than the airplane section.

The car section is somewhere between those two, and the ships/naval section is
wide but very thin. Lots of different subjects, lots of different scales.
They stock Model Master Acryl and oil-based, Humbroil, Tamiya, Floquil, Badger’s brand of acrylics, some Gunze-Sangyo, along with tools, fillers, glues, finishing supplies, If I could change one thing I’ve have them stock Polly Scale paint but with RPM’s MSRP for Polly Scale at $3.99 and Testor’s MM Acryl at $2.99, its not hard to understand why they don’t. The styrene, wood and metal stock section is the most extensive locally, as it should be for the university students, scale modelers, and model railroaders, not to mention science-fair entrants.

The train section is vast, with a great H.O. and N scale engines, cars, track,
features, etc, selection, parts, scratch building materials, decals, etc. A
pair of H.O. tracks are suspended from the ceiling and the staff will switch
on the pair of trains, one passenger, one goods, going in opposite directions.
Upstairs in the big room, an even larger suspended track allows one train to
circulate over the main floor, and you can view it at eye level from the
Electrical department’s staircase. There is also a large, multi-loop, layout
in the front window, on the South East corner.

1/32 and H.O. slot cars are also well represented, and there are test tracks
for both sizes at the Train department counter.

Prices are normal to, “Hey, this is a great deal!” Customer service varies
from very good (some of the staff are modelers) to rudimentary (some of the
staff are NOT modelers…). The complete hardware store upstairs, the
extensive Hot Wheels display, some Gashpon, some aftermarket decals and a lot
of reference books round out the offering. This is where my wife gets my
birthday and Christmas presents…

The last thing I bought here (2010) was an Academy 1/72 M997 high mobility 8 X 8 truck- my kinda truck, I admire them when they go by with concrete pumping setups or other jumbo-size loads. Nice basis for an airport fire truck too. This is the military version and probably a real fan could cite the differences between the Commercial, Of The Shelf (COTS) item and the refined and optimized war-fighter-friendly version the Pentagon buys. Whatever. Its a cool truck, and having owned a 1970 VW single cab pickup (type 260) in oyster off-white for 10 or 12 years, I can claim some experience with Cool Trucks. :^)

Previously, 200x, a Smer 1/72 Spitfire Mk VI, made from
someone’s MkV kit by adding a tree of wingtip extensions, metal covered
alerons, a scoop for presurization and a newly tooled windscreen and canopy.

Boss Robot Hobby
2953 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705 – (510) 841-1680

http://www.bossrobot.com

Primarily a place for RC, slot cars, and Japanese Robot / Monster /anime-themed stuff, they do have paint and finishing supplies, and sometimes, scale plastic kits. More often, just Gundams and Tamiya educational products. It has to be the smallest hobby shop in the Bay Area, and the owner is helpful and thoughtful.
The last thing I bought here was a 1/72 Italeri Lockheed-Martin X-35 JSF.

Capitola Hobbies
3555 Clares St, Capitola, CA – (831) 462-3555
http://www.capitolahobbies.com/

Tidy, small, with a surprisingly wide range of plastic kits, as well as RC, balsa and foam flying models, kites, paints and finishing supplies, games,
some toys, die-cast vehicles, etc. The total stock of kits is small but wide, Tamiya racing cars along with AMT and Revell cars, airplanes from the usual Hasegawa, Tamiya, Revell Monogram, Revell Germany, and Italeri, Minicraft, and Special Hobby (!). Model Master paints. The owner is clearly intent on staying in business, nothing is gathering dust. A fine place to support the local economy during a day off or a weekend at the beach.
The last thing I bought there was a Sword 1/72 Grumman F8F-1/2 Bearcat, steeply discounted, and some Model Master Acryl paints.

Chan’s Trains & Hobbies
2450 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94109.
(415) 885-2899.
http://www.chanstrains.com/

Very much a train store, with a small range of good-quality, mainstream, models, on one shelf out of 4 or 5. A good range of tools, Model Master (solvent based) paints, good balsa, bass and styrene stock. Some built kits hanging in the front window. The owner has been running this store for decades and the stock reflects what his customers are buying. Not so many plastic models, but some, and not junk. For a small stock, there are a relatively large number of big kits (Monogram’s 1/48 B-29, large ships, etc.) leaving me feeling that some of the sales are gifts bought by train fans for non-train-fan children or relatives.
In contrast to the well regulated plastic kit department, the trains and train accessories are a riot of new to ancient, with many cottage industry suppliers represented. If you can get into 1/87, or other railroad scales, you’ll find a lot of vehicles, figures and structure kits. Again reflecting the buyers, RC electric vehicles (planes, cars, helos) are stocked, with parts and accessories.
From the scale modeler’s perspective, this is a nice, neighborhood shop.

The last thing I bought here (2010) was a Polar Lights “2001 Moon Bus” kit- back in the day I saw the Aurora original exactly once- and relatively, the price isn’t too bad. Polar Lights also give you an accurate set of front windows- the Aurora kit windows are nice but not like the miniature or set in the movie.. Before that, Evergreen 0.040″ / 1mm half-round styrene strip stock and a pair of drill bits, 0.040″ and 0.0145″.

Dan Webb Books
331 17th Street (Between Webster and Harrison) Oakland CA 94612
510 444 4572

thru Sat 11-4**

http://danwebbbooks.com/

The best bookstore for modelers I have ever seen- so good they even have a few plastic kits on the shelves! (These probably came in boxes of books…) The primary focus is aviation subjects, civil and technical as well as military, and military and naval. An interesting assortment of automobile, railroad, civil sea-fairing and boating books and magazines are available, (more than I’ve seen in almost any other store). Stock is sorted into technically focused, operational histories, and of course there are a lot of memoirs and proper history. Nearly one wall is more typical used-bookstore items- literature, physical science, art, mysteries, children’s books, recent titles in hardback and paperback. The civil aviation section is a whole book case, right by the register, with more titles than you’d typically see in the entire transportation section of a conventional book store. Airframe and engine development are another whole bookcase. “RAF, Battle of Britain” and “Luftwaffe, Battle Of Britain” are separate shelves. In the core stock there is a free mix of rare, out of print and new, in-print works, on the shelves

The old store’s large tables in the middle are gone. Then there are still boxes of paperback references- Motorbooks, Osprey, Aircam, Kokobura, Schiffer, Airlife, Bunrin-do and Eastern European titles. I haven’t seen all of the lower turn-over boxes- the Squadron In Action series, model railroad magazines, model airplane magazines, military and figure magazines, model ship magazines. The Naval Institute Procedings, Air Force Review, rail enthusiast publications, etc. etc. But I bet that and much is somewhere, if you just ask. I’ve had a full time just looking at what I can see and not exceeding my limit in the two visits I’ve had to the new digs. This is still the place to go and the web site even has stock on line!

This is one place you simply have to set a budget for yourself before you go in, because you’ll find more than you can afford (or explain) 9 times out of 10. Mr Webb clearly loves both books and the subjects his store focuses on, and there is frequently a discussion between him and his friends, associates, and down-town neighbors going on at the front of the store. The shop does buy used books, which are inspected and valued at the front desk. Magazines are not typically bought.

Both Dan and his store are Bay Area treasures and this is, perhaps, the best place of all for the hard-core Advanced Modeler Syndrome sufferer, because you can get that reference that will allow you to finish something! The last things I bought here (2010) was a bound set of Air International, volume 8 (been looking for 10+ years for this), a couple of gifts I won’t name until they’re given and The Red Badge of Courage, for my son’s school. Before that, Squadron’s “B-29 In Action”, a paperback copy of “Is Paris Burning” and Norris and Wagner’s “Boeing 737 -100 and -200”.

 

Good, Better, Best
Mmm Encinal, Alameda. Look up the details!

This is an antique / what-not shop, which help liquidate someone’s huge collection some years back and now has a regular display out at the front of the store- 50-100 kits at any one time, from all over the Antique hunting ground the store searches for all its stock. If you think a price is too high, make an offer. Strictly second hand, but that means everything from 1980s 1/48 resin Do-17s (!) to modern mass-market Chinese kits, Tamiya, Revell and all the rest. Frog kits in Triang boxes… Gowland model cars in Revell Highway Pioneer boxes. There were hundreds of decals at one point, and photo etch and resin sets. A 1/48 vacuum form PZL-23 Karas kit. Several 1/32 Matchbox Tiger Moths. There’s also an excellent book room where everything is silly prices, $1-2 usually.

Airplanes and cars are the largest selections, a bit of armor, some nautical stuff, sometimes.  Nice people, wild selection, stuff you’ve never seen and stuff you never thought you’d see again. Highly recommended, by me.

 

GILROY HOBBYS
6901 Monterey Road, Gilroy, CA 95020
(408) 847-8799 ‎

1/24 1/25 car kits, pricy ($13-50) but wide selection of US makers – AMT, MPC, Revell, Monogram, Jo-han, Lindberg. Little bits of non-US makers: Tamiya, Fujimi, Airfix/MPC, . Many 2nd hand, all sealed, guaranteed unless stated otherwise. (Some are partial, some started, some w/o instructions, according to labels.) Pretty good selection of Hotwheels, Johnny Lightning, etc, for the collector of small, metal, cars.

RC cars/trucks wheeled vehicles looked like an active interest of the owner- lots of stuff, wide as well as deep. range. Some New Old Stock (NOS), some unused but probably bought 2nd hand.

Airplane selection thin, odd, a few newer kits at market price- (Tamiya 1/48 Mosquito, $35), older kits over-priced (Minicraft/Hasegawa EA-6B for $25? you tell me.). Fair Almost Ready to Fly (ARF) RC planes in nice boxes, not a lot of spares. Small amount of model trains. slot cars.

Bunch of arcade style video games and boxes of comic books in bags. Also antique toys- 1970 back to 1950s, maybe even earlier. Magic, Yu-gi-oh, etc, trading cards. Possibly sports cards too. Oddly assorted arts and crafts supply, some airsoft and paintball. Big Tamiya 1/28 Four Wheel Drive car track, setup for party/event use.

You’ve heard that there’s a fine line between “Hobby” and “Mental Illness”. You can see both from here. Plastic models, paint, the arts and crafts supply and flying model departments look like a mix of personal collection, other people’s collections from estate sales, flea markets, and store closings, etc.

At a guess, the owner(s) like cars, toys, models, working model, all kinds, and comic books. The only built-up items on display are automotive. Looking for a specific Mustang or Camaro or Dodge / GMC /vehicle in miniature? Worth checking. For all I know, the comic books are too. Otherwise, it may be difficult of find  something interesting to spend money on.

Last thing I bought here – Revell Germany  1/72 RAF  pilots & ground crew. $1 MORE than msrp. But I could use them, hadn’t seen one before and believe in supporting the locals

 

Hobbies Unlimited
937 Manor Boulevard, San Lorenzo, CA
510-351-7112

A broad-based, general purpose hobby shop, deepest in plastic scale models, trains, RC and slot cars, flying models, lots of airplane, ship, military and train references. Solvent-based Model Master and the full line of Tamiya acrylic/alcohol-based paints, some Tamiya spray paint, Floquil solvent based railroad and Polly Scale large-bottle railway paints are stocked, but no Model Master Acryl. Paint and finishes for model rockets, RC cars, planes and train layouts available as well. Lots of glues and specialized tools.

Of course they stock the Aristo-craft 130, 140, 260 and 280 size utility electric motors for science-fair projects and the like. Also Dumas boat motors and lots of power boat propellers- the plastic ones are cheap, the metal ones are NOT cheap. Big RC car tires and wheels aren’t cheap either ($10-20 for 2-4 wheels, 2-4 tires) but modern, rough and tough stuff.

In car kits, a large selection of domestic USA kits, Tamiya, some Hasegawa, Fujimi, Italeri, sometimes Airfix or Heller. Lots of sports cars and Grand Prix cars, besides the US muscle cars and dragsters.

In airplane kits, Monogram/Revell, Airfix, Heller, Hasegawa, Tamiya, Accurate Miniatures, Minicraft as well as short run kits, resin, photoetch and vacuformed detaling parts are in stock. All scales, from 1/18 display models and 1/24 kits down to 1/144, 1/350 and 1/700 are available. Emphasis is 1/48 and 1/72 kits but this is consistently the best place for 1/144 kits in the Bay Area.

Naval and military/armor builders are also well served, lots of 1/35, some 1/7x and the new 1/48. Large selection and many choices. The owner displays large kits at the end of the aisles and up on the walls, a lovely effect.

21st Ccntury Toys products are well stocked, both the pre-built 1/18 planes and the 1/32 kits. Resin, photo-etched and vacuformed accessory and detail parts for airplane and car models are also well stocked.

For the flying model builder, balsa wood in 3 foot and 4 foot lengths is available, along with all the fiddly bits, high quality contemporary stick and tissue kits, gas and electric kits, and intro/easy flyer stuff. RC gear, motors, etc.

At their old location, of all the shops I visit, this was the one where you were most likely to find other scale modelers standing around talking. Sometimes even about models. With flying models, trains, scale kits, references, paints, RC cars, planes and boats, slot cars and magazines for all the above, all under one roof, they may be strongest ‘general’ hobby shop shop left to us. J & M would come in second, and Talbots, Franciscan and Fremont Hobby Town would tie for third. I hope this tradition continues at the new location.

The last things I bought here were (2010) An AMT ’62 Ford Thunderbird and the recent Fujimi Ferrari 330/P4. Previously, a set of True Details 1/48 resin tires and wheels for the AMT 1/48 F7F-3 and the new Squadron US Attack Submarines book,

Hobby Company,
5150 Geary Blvd San Francisco, CA 94118 –
(415) 386-2802
http://www.hobbycosf.com/

Plastic kits have shrunk down to ‘local’, a few of every category, not a lot of anything. Still a fairly good range car and airplane kits, some armor/military/figures, ships, spaceships and fantasy figures. A special display of Revell/Monogram Hot Rods for a contest to be judged later in 2011. All mainstream, with the usual US and Asian brands, Revell Germany, BUM and Italeri. A largish collection of magazines and some hard and softback reference books too. The paint and finishing material stock is extensive, with Model Master solvent and Acryl lines, Tamiya and Gunze-Sanyo. The arts and crafts side has a huge range of brushes, along with extensive art paints and supplies, craft stuff, RC plane & car supplies, doll house supplies, etc. Some train stuff but much smaller than static scale models.

They don’t stock complete lines of models, but its not hard to find something of interest, and the stock turns regularly. A nice display case built into the front counter shows lots of car models from the local modelers. If I needed a mix of modeling and arts and crafts item this would be my first choice, in San Francisco.

The last things I bought there was (2011) a tube of Rub-and-Buff  “Silver” metalic finish, and some 3/16″ X 1/2″ basswood. They’ve got some of each of the whole range of Midwest’s hardwoods- maple, mahogany, cherry (!), walnut, along with bass and balsa. Previously (2008 or possibly 2009) a Tamiya 1/48 Sherman Firefly IC, a hardback on the Lockheed Constellation with extensive color profiles and a bottle of Gunze Sanyo paint.

 

Hobby town USA
Concord, CA

Once of the larger Hobby Town USA shops in the bay area, with a slowly decreasing selection of plastic models. Not nothing, good, interesting stuff, but not a wide selection for browsing. That said, if you have something in mind I’d bet you could order it for about the same as any regular mail-order plus postage. Last thing I bought here was another example of the Revell Germany Golf II Coupe. Maybe a race-car, maybe a steel-wheel economy car, its a VW and one I used to own, so I feel good about it. Sure wish Revell GMBH believe in brakes on models as much as I do…

Hobby town USA
840 W El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
(408) 900-8202

Hobbytown Sunnyvale is compact but offers a wide range of hobby supplies – plastic airplanes, cars, military vehicles, etc, along with finishing supplies, references, etc. RC airplanes and cars, flying rockets, and a host of other hobbyish stuff is available. Staff are very nice, Selection included some new kits and some classics, not exhaustive but they can order lots of not everything. The power of the franchise is they share purchasing and use multiple distributors.

I bought a 1/32 snap-together car and something else in the small end of my range, got a 10% discount for their July 4 sale or something like that. Good stuff! Its a long way from my home but I’d check them every once in a while, for sure.

 

Japantown Collectibles – Japan Center Kinokuniya Bldg.,
1st Floor, 1581 Webster Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
Tel: 415-563-2970

Oriented toward the anime and Japanese culture fan, plastic kits are only a small part of their stock, but they take them seriously. Lots of movie and TV theme car and plane kits that you’d otherwise only seee at Hobby Link Japan, as well as non-marketing-tie-in stuff that isn’t normally sent to the US market, like Toyota Leven 86 drift racers and the Honda Beat micro-super-car.

This is the first place I have saw the Airfix TSR-2 on the shelf, and they stocked it because a look-alike was in an anime movie/series! Airfix has now re-released the kit with extra parts and decals for the anime and historic versions. With Airfix and othernon-Asian brands in stock, you’re looking at a wide, wide, assortment of kits here, and the staff is both enthusiastic and informed. Its hard to predict which Drift Grand Prix, Space Battleship Yamato, Gundam, etc, kits might be in stock, but of you’re interests go that way, this is definately a place to try. If you’re after something specific, call first. The last thing I bought there was an Aoshima Honda Beat convertable.

J & M Hobby House
1660 Laurel St, San Carlos, CA – (650) 593-5019

Up to the minute stock with the comprehensive and warm environment of the old-style Hobby and Crafts store. Hobbies are in the back, Crafts up front, and the husband and wife team that run this place have been there for 30+ years. The building is an old dear of Art Deco style, worth a trip just to see itself. Stock is varied and fresh, mostly mainstream but with some cottage industry/short run stuff.

Naturally they have the Aristo-craft 130, 140, 260 and 280 utility electric motors in stock, along with several different assortments gears, Tamiya’s very nice gear-boxes, larger motors etc, for the inventor/tinkerer/science-fair participant.

Among plastic scale models, planes, cars and ships get the most shelf military vehicles but less than, say, Hobbies Unlimited or Berkeley Ace Hardware.

Full range of Model Master and Tamiya paints, Squadron books, Huge selection of RC planes, helicopters and boats, an amazing selection of HO slot car hop-up parts,a substantial train department and operating ship models. Far from living in the past, they listen to their customers, clearly know quality when they see it, only have one or at most two of anything in the wall of kits.

They sell a lot of RC Electric stuff to hardcore fliers, hop-up parts to slot-racers. The counter people sound like they know what they’re talking about. If you visit only one store that’s new to you on this list, this should be it. Then the rest.

The last things I bought from them was an ICM 1/48 Supermarine Spitfire Mk VII and a Lindberg 1/32 1936 Ford Coupe.

Kit & Caboodle the Hobby Shop – MOVED! NOW:
3675 Main, Oakley, CA – 925 625 6000
10-7, Tuesday-Friday, shorter hours Saturday
http://www.kit-and-caboodle.com/

FORMERLY:
425 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706 – 510 524 9942

The former local hobby shop north of Berkeley, in Albany, near the BART station. Kit and Caboodle (Note, K, then C, and the web address has embedded “-” dash characters) seem to have moved to Oakley. I haven’t visited them there yet.

In the old days, they had the most depth in RC (at a guess RC airplanes) and trains, with an interesting selection of plastic airplanes, some cars and some armor/military/ships etc. Some of the stock was clearly new, some quite obscure (Pegasus WWI subjects, Aircraft In Miniature vac-kits of transport aircraft in 1/72…) I think a some of the airplane kit stock must have been second hand, there are only a few of the 1/48 Monogram/Revell/Hasegawa/Tamiya/Academey kits that set the pace for plastic modelling today. So you might have found an old dear by Airfix, Hasegawa, Heller or Monogram, Italeri or Frog, in 1:72, or you might find the latest Revell Germany or Tamya kit.

Model Master and Polly Scale paint were in stock, and extensive paint and finishing tools and supplies. (Railroad influence probably) A large range of spare and repair parts for outdoor planes, cars, rockets, etc, and sage advise for beginnners, was available. All of the staff appeared to be even older than this faithful scribe, which may explain why everything was so orderly and neat. They were very nice people and could doubtless order anything that’s available through normal channels.

The last thing I bought, at their old, Albany, location, was a set of Model Master photo-etch part clippers- similar to plastic part clippers but about twice as expensive, with hardened blades.

Nor Cal Hobbies & Raceway
30600 Union City Blvd, Union City, CA – (510) 324-5700
http://www.norcalhobbies.com/

Aimed at the RC Car fan, they have one shelf unit of scale models, a fair selection of Tamiya, Hasegawa, Dragon, Revell, Academy, Italeri, planes, and military, some cars, motorcycles and naval ships. Almost all good stuff too. Tools and supplies are mostly RC oriented, but the vibe is good and though it moves slowly, the stock is fresh, since they opened several years ago. Prices are suggested retail, not jacked up, as sometimes happens. Odds of finding exactly what you’re looking for are low, but you can get a good kit for a present or make a lucky find. It’ll be interesting to see if they re-stock or just let it run down. The last thing I bought here (2008? Earlier?) was the Tamiya 1/700 Russian Kursk waterline sub.

RC Unlimited
RC Unlimited Hobby Shop
Slot Cars and Hobbies
Slot Cars Unlimited Raceway
Speedway
Castle Hobbies
14910 Camden Ave, San Jose, CA – (408) 377-7760
14918 Camden Ave, San Jose, CA – (408) 377-3771
http://www.rcunlimited.net/

All gone to points south, Gilroy/Morgan Hill under the name “Andy’s Hobbies” Look ’em up!
They have a variety of names, but the 5 digit address on Camden is common. A full-range RC Car shop, with some RC airplane and scale modelling stock. They had an old, commercial, 1/24-1/32 slotcar track and lots of cars, parts, historic stuff, etc but have released that part of the store. Some modern 1/32 home slot car stuff as well. An employee there told me they bought-out the last of San Antonio Hobby’s stock, at least in plastic kits and RC Cars. They have SA’s sign.

The plastic kits don’t turn very quickly, but they maintain a stock in cars and some planes. Tamiya Acrylic and Testor’s Model Master oil-based paints are both stocked, brush and spray types. Lots of brushes and other finishing supplies. Last time I was there I was looking for Metalizer but they didn’t have any in rattle cans. Last thing I bought (2009) was a set of replacement rotor blades for a small IR control helicopter. Earlier, Tamiya static model car spray paint.

 

Slot Car Magic and Hobbies
104 Parrott St, San Leandro, CA – (510) 357-8514
http://www.slotcarmagic.com/

Primarily 1/32 slot cars, parts and accessories, and a lovely 4 lane track for same. Computerized timing shows 6 or maybe 8 second laps, which is a long time for a modern, spot-magnet-equipped, 1/32 scale-looking car from Scalectric, Fly, Monogram, etc. There is a selection of car and airplane static scale models in the back, and a modest selection of paints and adhesives. Cars tend to be US muscle cars from the 1960s and ’70s, airplanes are a small range of 1/144, 1/72, 1/48 and 1/32, almost all military subjects, but recent stuff and not junk. Open late Friday and Saturday night for racing, this might be the place for a quick purchase at 8:30pm. The couple that owns this place work hard every day and its got a big heart. Naturally, they can order models and supplies.

The last thing I bought here was Testor’s dark metalic blue, rattle-can and brushing type, and some 1/16″ masking tape stripe for airline models..

Sheldon’s Hobbies
2130 Trade Zone Blvd, San Jose, CA – (408) 943-0220
http://www.sheldonshobbies.com/

The bulldozers got their old building on Old Oakland Road, but they’ve relocated. Sheldon’s carries a small selection of static kits, but also a full line of Model Master, Tamiya and Polly Scale model paints, epoxy and solvent-based putties, brushes, sanding sticks, tools, scale references (mostly aimed at flying models), balsa, carbon fiber, basswood, hardwoods, aluminum, steel, brass are all in stock. And, of course, their main business of flying models, RC, U-control and free flight, and RC cars, on-road and off-road, with finishing supplies for cars and planes. They have an indoor track for RC cars in the back of the building. Three guys were drifting their cars around faster and I could when I was there last, and more were arriving as I left.

The last thing I bought here was a tube of Tamiya rubbing compound, a carbon fiber tube and a wide roll of fiber reinforced strapping tape, for use on a tape-reinforced styrofoam gliders and powered planes.

Talbots Toyland
445 S B St, San Mateo, CA –
(650) 931-8100
http://www.talbotstoyland.com/

Between Talbots and J&M there used to be some kind of time-warp is at work on the San Francisco Penninsula. To J&M’s classic old school hobby shop, working in the 21st century, Talbots was an old school downtown toy story doing the same. Well, with time, the space devoted to plastic kits has decreased, with more trains, airplanes and die-casts. Kits are all mainstream, stocking is fair, some variety, and the magazine shelves includes both periodicals and Squadron and other references in soft cover. Kits are mostly cars, airplanes, some armor/military, some ships, the usual formula. Trupeter, Revell Germany, Italeri, Monogram Revell, Hasegawa, Tamiya, AMT/Ertl, etc, are the main kit vendors.

They have Model Master and Tamiya paint, some aftermarket decals. A small number of very nice models are displayed in one case. Other “hobby” items include trains, RC cars and planes, rockets, etc. A very large selection of diecasts at the front of the hobby section will make you want to build better looking models from plastic kits.

The last thing I bought here was the Tamiya 1/72 Supermarine Spitfire MkV/Trop, and a set of U.S. star with yellow circle decals.

Toy Safari
1410 Park St Alameda, CA 94501 (510) 522-1723

I shouldn’t tell you about this place, but I will. This is a very nice, local, toy shop, with a small, *very* eclectic model department. Everything from two new 1/72 TBD Devastator kits (Valom’s new tooling and the recent reboxing of Airfix’s 35+ year old effort) to a 1960s issue of Airfix’s venerable 2 pounder and Bren Gun Carrier. Star Wars kits, AMT and Fine Molds, are very well represented. No paint, glue, or tools displayed. The ancient and collectible kits have market (high, but fair) prices. The stock is too small and too greatly varied to count on finding anything in particular, but its not going to be boring! Some is clearly second hand, perhaps estate and garage sales are the primary source. The last thing I bought here (2009) was a Valom Douglas TBD Devistator. Earlier, the original Bandai boxing of the two person gunship from Miyazaki’s “Princess Nausicaa”.

>Viking Hobby
Sacramento, CA>

Finally got there. A terrific sto, overflowing with no more than one of every kit, a vast set of role playing game accessories, airplanes and scratch-built spaceships hang from the ceiling. No time to write more tonight but absolutely worth a visit. Last things I bought were a Dragon U-2R/TR-1 in 1/144, and a Lego/Airfix Spitfire, 1/48ish. Molded in dark earth, dark green and Sky, with black odds and ends.

———-========== * # * ==========———-

Places I haven’t visited yet:

Brentwood Hobbies
160 Chestnut St, Brentwood, CA – (925) 240-7111

Hobbytown USA
Sunrise Plaza, 638 Blossom Hill Rd, San Jose, CA – (408) 229-1972

Hobbytown, USA,
Petaluma

———-========== * # * ==========———-

Not-really-static-scale-model-places that I’ve visited:

Games of Berkeley
2151 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA – (510) 540-7822

No static plastic models. A wide range of game figures and figure painting supplies

R C World of Planes
520 Lawrence Expy 307, Sunnyvale, CA –
(408) 732-9029

No static plastic models. RC Planes, a bit of balsa wood and carbon fiber for the scratchbuilder.

Victors Hobbies Inc
39269 Cedar Blvd, Newark, CA – (510) 796-8049

No static plastic models. RC Planes and cars, balsawood, basswood, and carbon fiber for the scratchbuilder.

Aeromicro
1655 S De Anza Blvd, Cupertino, CA – (408) 255-5566 –
near SCOTT in SANTA CLARA NOW

No static, plastic, models. Nice flying model ship, pretty much all RC electric.

Legends Diecast & Collectibles
790 Laurel St, San Carlos, CA –
(650) 508-8588

No static kits. A VAST stock of diecasts. But I prefer to build my own. I’ve never seen them actually open but looking through their window is a treat.

Gator Games & Hobby,
4212 Olympic Ave, San Mateo, CA –
(650) 571-7529

Not really a kit builders place. Game pieces, figures, paint and finishing supplies.

Hobby Engineering Store
180 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA –
(650) 552-9950 (650) 552-9925

The place to get parts for the robot or other complex, technical, thing that you’re building at home. Nice people, neat stuff, though not cheap. Scale modelers can get latex mold and resin-casting supplies here, as well as parts for working features, sensors to detect triggers in the environment, etc.

Arch
99 Missouri St San Francisco, CA 94107 –
(415) 433-2724

Listed as a hobby shop, they’re an art supply store, with lots of airbrush, X-acto knife, finishing tools, etc. But no kits, as such.

Cliff’s Variety
Castro, San Francisco, CA

Reported on the Internet to have models and hobby supplies, the nice fellow I spoke with on the telephone checked and came back to say that they didn’t have any such stock at the moment.

———-========== * # * ==========———-

Games, Trains, RC, other specialists, but not plastic kit sources:

R C Tech
1618 Sullivan Ave, Daly City, CA – (650) 992-7600

California Hobbies LLC
1702 Meridian Ave I, San Jose, CA – (408) 448-1449

RC Airplanes.

Games Workshop
925 Blossom Hill Rd, San Jose, CA – (408) 226-6325

Figures, paints and supplies. A source of paint, brushes, etc, if you’re close or their hours fit you.

Grandrc
2235 Grant Rd, Los Altos, CA – (650) 962-0400

Games Workshop
1466 Stoneridge Mall Rd, Pleasanton, CA – (925) 463-1481

Loco-Boose Electric Train Shop
260 Main St D, Redwood City, CA – (650) 368-1254

Nor Cal Trains
2791 Depot Rd, Hayward, CA – (510) 887-7115

R C World
4088 East Ave, Livermore, CA – (925) 960-1158

Welly USA Inc
23759 Eichler St J, Hayward, CA – (510) 782-8198

Caboose
1225 Laurel St, San Carlos, CA – (650) 508-8669

Starwood Scale Models
17 Starwood Dr, Woodside, CA – (650) 851-9027

Uppa Valley Lines
PO Box 60613, Sunnyvale, CA – (408) 733-8772

Digital Bay Control Systems
17950 Hesperian Blvd, San Lorenzo, CA – (510) 276-2710

Kwok Silas Helicopters
1909 Valdez Ave, Belmont, CA – (650) 591-0888

Gary Mathews Enterprises
14297 Wicks Blvd, San Leandro, CA – (510) 351-3503

Epic Adventure Games
222 Mount Hermon Rd, Scotts Valley, CA – (831) 438-2032

Peninsula Channel Commander
22300 Cabrillo Hwy, Half Moon Bay, CA – (650) 726-1452

Tom’s Trackside Trains
1675 Rollins Rd B1, Burlingame, CA – (650) 692-9724

Homeroom Racing Cafe
Now back on Park St, Alameda, CA – (510) 865-1575

Big, fast, track. Nice people.The attached restaurant is really, really, good!

Clawson Cassidy
3110 Porter St, Soquel, CA – (831) 479-1680

Toy Train Depot
1951 Bywood Dr, Oakland, CA – (510) 444-8724

All Speed Hobbies
230 S Spruce Ave, S San Francisco, CA – (650) 692-6180

———-========== * # * ==========———-

No longer in business: Sigh.

 

D & J Hobby Inc.
Now at a new location:
” 5205 Prospect Road, Ste 160, San Jose, CA 95129 ”
[
formerly 96 N San Tomas Aquino Rd, Campbell, CA]
(408) 252 1266
379-1696
http://www.djhobby.com/

Did not survive to Christmas New Year season of 2015. Alas.

 

Franciscan Hobbies,
1920-A Ocean Avenue San Francisco, CA 94127-2745 –
415 584 3919
http://www.franciscanhobbies.com/

They’d been there forever. But got old, a little strange, and stopped being generally profitable at some point…

 

Gee-Bee Hobbee <== RIP Closed
234 Golf Club Rd Pleasant Hill, CA 94523 (925) 798-5133 <== RIP Long Closed

Had just changed owners and when I last dropped in, I need to go back. I’m told they’ve re-stocked with Revell-Monogram and Revell Germany, and other manufacturers. They had been very RC intense, which would keep the doors open and pay the bills, but also had a wide range of flying models, craft stuff, mainstream plastic models, some trains, and decades of ‘hobby shop stuff’- tools, adhesives, specialty stuff. Model Master, Polly Scale and Tamiya paints, along with airplane dope and RC Car body paints, and a good shelf of Squadron books.

The last thing I bought there was an A-Model 1/144 UH-16 Triphibian, priced a bit over market, a Hobbycraft B-47, priced a bit below market, and a Revell Ferrari 612 on sale for $10.

Hobbytown USA – Fremont – CLOSED 8/2011 <== R.I.P.
39152 Fremont Hub, Fremont, CA – (510) 796-2744 – CLOSED  8/2011  <== R.I.P.
http://www.hobbytown.com/CAFRM/ – CLOSED   8/2011 <== R.I.P.

C L O S E D  M I D –  A U G U S T  2 0 1 1 ! ! ! Sidewalk traffic down after Borders closed, I hear the corporate Hobbytown people wanted the owner to get a 10 year lease… So a new store under different management may appear…

My favorite Hobbytown, of the several that I’ve visited, since the old Milpitas store closed. A friend from Silicon Valley Scale Modelers says the Concord store has even nicer management, so consider both.

Well stocked with Model Master, (acryl, military and automotive), Tamiya (bottles and spray cans) and Polly Scale (aircraft AND train lines) paints, also Vallejo’s full line of acrylics in squeeze bottles. Tools and adhesives of many kinds.

A large stock of Airplane, Ship, and Military kits get about a facing shelf unit each, separated by an aisle, Cars get a wall display across the end of the aisles. A good range of mass-market kits, but little cottage industry stuff, no airliner decals, SNJ or Alclad, etc… Some Resin and photo-etch accessories, for aircraft, armor AND cars, is behind the register right next to the finishing products. Not the one that’s in the RC department.

Osprey and Squadron books are in stock, and a decreasing selection of Aeromaster decals, mostly 1/48 fighters (duh). They are a volume outlet and the stock turns over pretty well. Tamiya, Hasegawa, Revell/Monogram, Revell Germany, Academy, Minicraft, Testors, Airfix, Heller, Trupeter, ERTL/AMT and some Aoshima Japanese drifters are all in large supply. A LOT of die-cast collectors stuff in traditional modeler’s scales also get a pair of facing shelves, and Japanese Gashpon trading kits are available.They also carry RC, trains and slot cars, arts and crafts stuff for kids. Things that move too slowly get marked down with bright green ‘sale’ stickers, 25% off, typically. There used to be a ‘sale table’ but recently the bargains have been left out with the general run of products, so browsing is well rewarded.

Its a big store, and they seem serious about serving the local customers. But plastic scale models isn’t something that any of the staff I’ve met actually are interested in, so the result is somewhat out of a cookbook rather than from the heart.

The last things I bought here (2011) was a bunch of Polly Scale paint at the going out of business sale. :^(

Hobby World: San Jose <== RIP Long Closed
6148 Bollinger Rd, San Jose, CA – (408) 873-2109 <== RIP Long Closed

I have to believe this was an offshoot of Hobby World in Gilroy. They were big on 1/28 Tamiya racing, with comic books, collectables and trading cards, lots of RC cars, some RC planes, and a somewhat wierd selection of plastic kits. Closed now, and empty. The last thing I bought here was the Lee 1/144 F-14A kit- yet another bad F-14, not even a copy of any of the existing bad F-14s.

Marsten’s Crafts and Hobbies   <== RIP Long Closed
Hacienda Gardens Shopping Center, Meridian and Hillsdale Avenue…
<== RIP Long Closed

My childhood favorite, full service, plastic models, trains, balsa, slot cars. Huge stock, brass trains, unpainted, in the window, packaged their own line of craft supplies. Gone for at least 25 years now… The last thing I clearly remember buying there was a Tamiya 1/48 M-60 tank, possibly a Hawk Spitfire Mk 24.

Pepeno’s Hobby <== now closed or never existed…
3016 Macarthur Blvd, Oakland, CA – (510) 482-3300 <== now closed or never existed…

Found in recent internet searches. There isn’t a hobby shop any more at that address. A zombie name and address from the past? Its in the current phone book…

Root’s Hobby Hut <== RIP  CLOSED
Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, CA <== RIP  CLOSED

This closed store front stood empty for years, with the sign unlit but still
visible. 1960s vintage? The sign is now painted out and its a tattoo parlor.

Scenario Game & Hobbie Shop <== RIP CLOSED
37757 Duvall Ct, Fremont, CA – (510) 792-5468
<== RIP CLOSED

No longer in business, they couldn’t make their old business work in a new, rented, building, so they’ve closed. The last thing I bought here was a can of airbrush propellant.

Wold’s Hobbies    <== RIP CLOSED
7100 Village Pkwy, Dublin, CA – (925) 828-5350
<== RIP CLOSED

Was a great place, now closed- the owner retired. They’ll be missed. A full range shop with coin collecting and some scouting stuff as well as RC, scale kits, trains, slot cars, books, paint & finishing materials. Very nice. They’re missed.

The last thing I bought here was the Minicraft 1/144 R4D-5 “Operation High Jump”
C-47/C-53 THIS boxing has had better engine cowlings, engines and propellers
added, Bravo Minicraft! Now if they’d just fix their L.188 Electra’s horizontal
stabalizers (in the wrong place!), Then could you convince Revell Germany to fix the horizontal stabalizers on the 737-800 – swapped left and right! If you mountthem so the tab holds them at the right dihedral, the airfoil is upside down. If you mount the airfoil correctly, they have anhedral, not dihedral, like an F-4.

Yannis Hobbies   <== RIP  CLOSED
4846 El Camino Real suite 10, Los Altos, CA – <== RIP  CLOSED
(650) 965-2113   <== RIP  CLOSED

Where the action is in super-premium scale modeling in the Bay Area- think Ben and Jerry’s. The latest kits and reference material, from a wide range of sources, for airplanes, cars, military, some ships, and some die-cast. Here’s where to find books you never knew existed, where to see with your own eyes some kit that just appeared in the Squadron catalog, where to find magazines that aren’t on any other shelf within 2000 miles. Tamiya and Model Master paints, some tools and brushes, some decals. Airplane and military/armor selection is very broad but not exhaustive; anything can be ordered with a 2-4 day turn

In many ways this was a better replacement for San Antonio Hobbies than San Antonio itself was in it’s last decade(s). I’ve walked in and seen something I *must* have on almost every visit. And Yanni is one of us- a modeler, intense, someone who really digs a cool kit, or the one kit of a cool original. And there was nothing snooty here- you didn’t have to wonder if you qualified.

The several, small, display cases around the shop showed a range of local modeler’s talent, from stuff I only imagine doing to things that were clearly works of enthusiasm rather than skill. Shelves, tables and the counter were overflowing with kits, magazines and other desirables. It was like Christmas. There were a few inexpensive kits, but typical prices were MSRP, $12-25 (and up).

The last thing I bought here was a Hobby Boss 1/48 T-34/76 kit, which is a scale-down of the Trumpeter 1/16 kit from a few years ago Comes with complete interior and engine, $19.95!

Hobbytown USA – Sunnyvale  – CLOSED 201? <== R.I.P.
585 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA – (408) 738-9600  – CLOSED 201? <== R.I.P.
http://www.hobbytown.com/CASUN/  – CLOSED 201? <== R.I.P.

A smaller Hobbytown (they’re a franchise…) with one shelf of airplanes, cars, armor/military, ships, Model Master Acryl and oil based paints. Lots of tools and adhesives and figure painting paints. Obviously the big turnover for them is RC and stocking spare and repair parts for RC cars, planes, helocopters. I’m sure they could order static scale stuff through normal distributors.

The last things I bought here were two sets of 1/72 figures, (Lewis and Clark expedition, British 8th Army), four bottles of Model Master Acryl paint and a really great red sable brush.

Next time I looked for them (9/2011) they were gone.

Riverside Hobbies,
5141 Folsom Blvd, Sacramento, CA. Phone: 916-455-3747

Out of business the end of December, 2011. Good part, the couple who own it are retiring and they seem OK with it.  Better to retire than fly it into the ground.  This was a full service hobby shop, old school, all kinds of stuff, LOTS of plastic kits, paints, etc, as well as RC and other stuff I’m not that focussed on. So I dropped in the Saturday after Thanksgiving and they’ve got a 50% off sale going (!) and a lot of the store is bare. All the back walls RC stuff is cleared away, mostly plastic kits and some gaming stuff, and books, are whats left.

Of course I took advantage to buy some totally cool kits for the holiday gift exchange we put on in Silicon Valley Scale Modelers – The minimum standards for the exchange are $12-$15 retail value, no junk, no Lindberg, no over-wrapping (no figure sets in a refrigerator box…) Club officer’s decisions are final. Someone who puts a wrapped but unworthy object into the gift pile may have the item(s) returned to them and be asked to leave. All gifts are tracked by giver and an ID, until the wrapping is opened. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a problem, to tell the truth. But a 50% off sale (or a 2nd hand dealer) is the perfect place to stretch $15 to $25 for something seriously cool. LOTS of gifts given exceed the minimum, which is part of the fun. Some people are constrained and $12-$15 is is a real limit for them. Unless I ever run out of models, I figure its better to give than to receive!

Riverside’s prices were in the reasonable/market range and they offered some excellent specials… half off that meant a Hobby Boss 1/48 T-34 for $10,  $0.75 for little bottles of Testor’s acrylic (NOT Modelmaster- this is a line I’ve never seen anywhere else… works, nice, non-military, colors) $17 or something for a Hasegawa 1/48 F-104S in Tiger Meet colors. ESCI 1/72 A4s were $4 or so. Works for me!

In Yelp and other places you can read negative reviews of the counter people, but I had no such problems in my two visits. Judging from the books that show up for sale, used, somebody’s politics are seriously to the right of mine, and conservative talk radio wouldn’t surprise me. But the young guy with the shaved head was polite and helpful both visits I’ve made, and the owners were talking with their long time customers the way most owners who are retiring talk to long time customers… Since the 1960s, I’ve made it a point to NOT judge people by their hair cut, can you dig it? ‘Nuf said.

One on-line review recommended Viking Hobby, and while they were too far away to try this time… NEXT time I’ll give ’em a go. At 50% off, there were bargains to be had at Riverside, though I expect it may empty out pretty quickly. Call first, to make sure they’re open.  Go see if they have’t that kit, paint, etc, you’re looking for. Come 2012, they’re gone.

Not there anymore Alas. Positively reviewed by someone else in 2010. Drive by in November 2013, no sign of them. 😦

Gunnings’s Hobbies
538 San Anselmo Ave, San Anselmo, CA 94960-2614 – (415) 454-3087
http://www.gunnings.com/

A local hobby and craft shop out by Red Hill in the middle of Marin County. (Well away from highway 101.) Two facing shelves of plastic kits, mainstream and good quality, Evergreen styrene stock, I can’t remember what paints they had. Also doll-houses, trains, RC airplanes, cars, etc. All in a small shop, everything somewhat on top of everything else. Like Chan’s, think ‘local’ rather than ‘gigantic emporium’ and you’ve got it right.
Very nice staff, neat neighborhood if you don’t have to put up with the traffic every day.

The last thing I bought there was a bag or two of Evergreen styrene tubing and a Revell Germany 1/144 Airbus A-319. Revell Germany have Danny Coreman (DACO/Skyline) do a lot of their decals and he did the British Airway’s and the extensive detail markings that come with this kit.