Review by Justin Skrakowski
I know there are people out there who can take their skills learned from armor modeling and apply it right over to building model aircraft… I am not one of those people.
Not at all.
I sort of see building aircraft as a highly detailed version of modeling the main armament barrel on a tank, at least when you are dealing with the kits that come with the barrel in two halves instead of one single aluminum barrel that most kits are either coming with these days, or most modelers buy as their first aftermarket accessory for whatever tank they are making. And to me, nothing is harder than getting that damn fuselage to come together, same reason I’ve bought plenty of aluminum tank barrels before I’ve even gotten my hands on the next tank kit I want to build.
And that’s just the beginning of my woes with aircraft modeling—and before we get any further, let me just state that I am in no way disparaging model aircraft. In fact, I think it is way more difficult than building any tank model I’ve ever gotten my hands on.
And that’s how MIG AMMO’s new Encyclopedia of Aircraft Modelling Techniques has come into my life. After my third Me-262 that I’ve ripped apart mid-build I decided to start at the very, very beginning. And I know that one can own the best tools, have the best education of any subject in the world, the most expensive aftermarket accessories, etc., but when it comes time to start putting the model together, all that other stuff can go right out the window (along with the shoddily put-together models themselves in my case) if you don’t know how to apply the use of any of those above mentioned resources. So, just the mere fact of reading some of the best books on the subject does not a great modeler make… but it sure can’t hurt now can it? And that’s what I like about this series of books is that for each subject undertaken, they take you to the very beginning. I like to use this familial anecdote when discussing things of this nature: So for years people had been trying to show my Dad how to use a computer. Not in the most earnest of ways, but in that way where we would sort of click the mouse around on different things, then get real frustrated that he wasn’t getting it, then everyone involved would walk to opposite ends of the house so we wouldn’t choke each other. Now, the problem did not lay with my Dad being impatient, it really started with us starting from too far a point down the computer road for him to be able to even get what was going on with the thing. This was until I saw some video or read somewhere about how difficult it was for people of the generations before mine (I’m 33, so whatever generation I’m considered to be in, the generations of people just older than me and then my Dad’s age and older) to understand computers given that they’d never worked with any machines that stayed on for the most part of their (the machine’s) lives. Think about it, up until about 15 years ago, there was no such thing as ON/STANDBY for machines, it was always an easily delineated ON & OFF. So the article or show (or whatever it was) that taught me how to teach older people about computers said to start with showing them how to turn the thing on, and then by telling them that under most normal operating conditions, you never touch that button again, especially to turn it off!
And this is where this encyclopedic set starts in similar terms for models: Removing parts from the sprue (this is actually in the first volume of this book series dealing with cockpits, but nonetheless, if I see something that actually starts from the beginning-beginning of something, then I feel like the authors have proven to me that they are not just pedantic authors about to write some overly technical treatise that will ultimately end up being useless and nothing more than a difficult read wherein I would have rather spent my time at least practicing my modeling skills on a real model, rather than just reading about it in something that I can hardly understand anyway.
And, maybe to go back a few steps, let me also say that I am a huge sucker for “How-to” books, especially when it comes to models, and especially when they are fun to read. And already having read a number of MIG/AMMO books on many different subjects at this point, I was ready to dive into this set of encyclopedias as soon as I heard of its upcoming release, given that the MIG/AMMO “How-to” books that I have already purchased have been invaluable to my growth as a modeler up to this point, and if they can help me not want to Hulk-Smash my next outing with aircraft models, then the quicker I can get my hands on each volume the better!
Now, the only things I have problems with when it comes to these MIG/AMMO books is that they are obviously not originally written in English, and a lot of times the text seems to have been clumsily typed into Google Translate, and then not gone over by a single native English speaking person before going to press, and this to me is just lazy and even somewhat disrespectful to the customer. I mean, a lot of books on model-building are full of typos, spelling/grammatical errors, and just plain crappy writing a lot of times, but sometimes in these MIG/AMMO books I have to actually read some of the lines with a Spanish accent in my head, trying to imitate the way I think someone from Spain would try to say these lines as they are written, simply for me to be able to understand the point they are trying to get across. Amazingly, it works, even if in my head it sounds like, “De pirst athing to athink ov wheng assanding jour mottel ees to”—you get the idea. But for the price they are asking for each volume of this series, I shouldn’t have to make my head sound like Ricky Ricardo half the time just to understand what they’re trying to get at. Luckily, the pictures and information are so tremendously helpful that it actually (somehow) manages to overcome this annoyance.
And, maybe the greatest reason to purchase this book in particular (Volume 2), is that it is the single greatest book I have ever read on the subject of scratch-building, hands down. In fact, I think the subtitle of Volume 2 should be “An Introduction to Scratch-Building” instead of “Interiors and Assembly.” And I’ve looked for books specifically about scratch-building before and have come up short every time, so to find such an in-depth and easy-to-follow guide to scratch-building hiding out in this one book was seriously like getting two books for the price of one to me.
So even if you feel that you don’t need the whole set of five volumes in this encyclopedia series, each one (as of reading the first two) are amazing stand-alone volumes, on top of the fact that Volume 2 doubles as an indispensible reference for “Interiors and Assembly” as the cover says, but I’ve also learned more about beginning scratch-building from this one book than I have combing the internet day after day, and that is quite a feat for one book to outdo the internet!
All the best,