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The meaning of craftsmanship in model building

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A lot of great comments by all.  I am sure what drives some modelers crazy if when people that know little to nothing about the hobby lump everyone in the same group - we are mostly adults playing with toys and they could not tell a mid-range die cast made in usually China (usually with nice shinny paint) compared to a well done and painted model that took the builder many hours to complete just out of the box. I have kits from twenty years ago that I have not built simply because not doing any modifications would seem too easy in a way.  I think many of us enjoy taking kits with many things that are incorrect and fixing them that 99% of people would not know were there.  The greatest compliment I appreciate (usually on Facebook) is either where did you get that kit or how did you build that.  I reply with a list of parts, decal, paint and describe what I had to do to get from what was in the “original” box to something that resembles what the “real” vehicle looks like.  What makes so many “at home” hobbies these days is being able to share our “work” and “art” with hundreds if not thousands of model builders that are at various skill levels the techniques and research that was done prior to taking on anything from a straight of the box kit to an entirely built scratch built replica to everything in between.  The any many that just will never understand the fascination and online and in person friendships model builders (not just cars, trucks, cycles, of course) cherish and in many cases with people they may never get to meet in person.  Happy building everyone.

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30 minutes ago, Snake45 said:

...I'm trying to reach the guy who thinks he HAS to add every brake line and throttle return spring to EVERY build or he's not "doing it right" and the "big boys" won't respect him. That guy is doomed to frustration and will eventually give up the hobby because he thinks he can't "keep up." I know that guy well. Hell, I used to BE that guy and wasted too many years at it. 

I'll repeat: Any way you're doing this hobby, if you're ENJOYING it and having FUN, you're doing it RIGHT. For YOU. And that's really all that matters. B)

Gotcha.  :D

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Responding to the original question.

I don't build to perfection, I build to satisfaction...my satisfaction. Like many others here, I will never achieve the skill level exhibited by the well deserved winners of the GSL but I can learn from them any time they are gracious enough to share their process and I can envy their skills and "disciplines" (learned engineering), and I will always admire what has been shared.  This should not be seen as a slight to builders that don't compete because, but everyone should consider sharing/displaying their work because you never know when energize an observer to create their next masterpiece.

I still like to include features that most builders don't do (hand sewn cloth/leather upholstery) or add some working feature as long as it "looks" close enough to the real thing to be almost indistinguishable.  And like most builders here, I have lots of my own ideas/custom creations to realize into 3d form.

Sure, it's nice to hear when people comment about my builds and I'm interested to see if people actually look at my work long enough to consider figuring out what I have done in the build, but in the end I do this for me, for my satisfaction.

 

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2 hours ago, blunc said:

Responding to the original question.

I don't build to perfection, I build to satisfaction...my satisfaction. Like many others here, I will never achieve the skill level exhibited by the well deserved winners of the GSL but I can learn from them any time they are gracious enough to share their process and I can envy their skills and "disciplines" (learned engineering), and I will always admire what has been shared.  This should not be seen as a slight to builders that don't compete because, but everyone should consider sharing/displaying their work because you never know when energize an observer to create their next masterpiece.

I still like to include features that most builders don't do (hand sewn cloth/leather upholstery) or add some working feature as long as it "looks" close enough to the real thing to be almost indistinguishable.  And like most builders here, I have lots of my own ideas/custom creations to realize into 3d form.

Sure, it's nice to hear when people comment about my builds and I'm interested to see if people actually look at my work long enough to consider figuring out what I have done in the build, but in the end I do this for me, for my satisfaction.

 

Agreed.

It brings to mind a comment that I hear often about interior work on a hard top.

"Too bad it's not a convertible so that everyone can see the detail that you added".

 

I understand the sentiment, but I don't do it because I "need" everyone else to see every detail that I've added.

I do it because I enjoy detailing interiors, and I know what I've done.

 

I figure that anyone viewing one of my models that is interested, and knows anything about the particular model I've built, will ask, and I can fill them in then.

If their not truly curious, I'm not particularly interested in trying to educate them anyway.

 

 

 

 

Steve

 

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On 6/27/2020 at 1:41 PM, blunc said:

Responding to the original question.

I don't build to perfection, I build to satisfaction...my satisfaction. Like many others here, I will never achieve the skill level exhibited by the well deserved winners of the GSL but I can learn from them any time they are gracious enough to share their process and I can envy their skills and "disciplines" (learned engineering), and I will always admire what has been shared.  This should not be seen as a slight to builders that don't compete because, but everyone should consider sharing/displaying their work because you never know when energize an observer to create their next masterpiece.

I still like to include features that most builders don't do (hand sewn cloth/leather upholstery) or add some working feature as long as it "looks" close enough to the real thing to be almost indistinguishable.  And like most builders here, I have lots of my own ideas/custom creations to realize into 3d form.

Sure, it's nice to hear when people comment about my builds and I'm interested to see if people actually look at my work long enough to consider figuring out what I have done in the build, but in the end I do this for me, for my satisfaction.

 

Yup.  You hit it right there.   I build to my ability, as nice as possible and try to enjoy most of it.  Then I post here and usually you guys will at least hand up some props for the build.   May take a day or two.  I am in awe of the quality of work by Mr Obssessive, Ace, Dann Tier, and Steven Guthmiller.   Those come to mind immediately.   Their details are incredible.   But I also enjoy Snake's simple Snake Fu projects as well - improving some less than desirable model.  I have several "spectacular" (LOL) models that will never be finished because I have either run out of skills or enthusiasm or both.  Or money to buy parts for a particular build.  Kinda like Jim Carrey's Grinch - "solve the world's problems - tell no one".  

A little further off course kinda- I finished that Fujim EM Porsche Rally car recently and it is 100 kinds of wrong. Didn't want to pay $100 for a replacement to start over.   It's missing parts underneath.  The horrors.  But I finished and was remarking to family that I had no idea what to do with it - doesn't fit theme of any of my current collection.  My son spke up and said he'd like to have it, that he could appreciate a Rally Car.   He has shown NO interest in building his own cars, but knows my passion and thinks it will be a nice piece in his apartment.  Wouldn't have happened it it were still in the closet.  

On 6/27/2020 at 3:59 PM, StevenGuthmiller said:

Agreed.

It brings to mind a comment that I hear often about interior work on a hard top.

"Too bad it's not a convertible so that everyone can see the detail that you added".

 

I understand the sentiment, but I don't do it because I "need" everyone else to see every detail that I've added.

I do it because I enjoy detailing interiors, and I know what I've done.

 

I figure that anyone viewing one of my models that is interested, and knows anything about the particular model I've built, will ask, and I can fill them in then.

If their not truly curious, I'm not particularly interested in trying to educate them anyway.

 

Steve

 

I love interiors.  At this point I use what little bit of skills I have to detail them as best I can.  Hardtop or Convertible.  To me it makes a huge difference in looking at the model.  Like I took time to find the nuances and respected that there were parts there to be detailed. 

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A lot of great lengthy replies.  For me, I'll simply say, I start every model with intentions of making the best model I can but so far always fall short of even near perfection.

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I build to satisfy the voices in my head and the few strange souls who get my work!

 

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This has been interesting to read. I think the big thing I go for is "does it look more-or-less like it's supposed to look?", and "Is it something that if it were 1:1, I would be embarrassed by if I said I had anything to do with its assembly?"

My builds are far less than perfect, usually. Most are box-stock, or box-parts-swap. Someday, I will successfully wire an engine, and I think I figured out how. I just need to find a car I want to try it with.

It's funny...as people usually look at the exterior, I'm finding myself being drawn more and more to restoring old curbside annuals, so it forces me to work on things like coachwork presentation and the interior. That's what people see, and as much as I want to be happy with my own builds, I want people to who see anything I build and be surprised or delighted by something because everyone deserves to look at something that's actually worth looking at.

But, in the end, you must be the one satisfied. You are the customer and the contractor, both.

Reminds me of a story I heard when I was in college. I don't remember where I heard it at the moment, but it was an important one.

An old carpenter was skilled and did his job well, and his boss gave him his most challenging jobs. As the time for him to retire came closer, he was getting tired, and wanted to go enjoy life, when his boss said "I need you for one more job before you retire. Do you mind?" The carpenter wasn't thrilled, but agreed to do it.

The carpenter was tired, and decided to not be quite as fastidious. A couple of corners weren't quite sqaure, structurally sound, but not square. Some of the finish work wasn't as clean as he usually worked. The exterior had a couple of minor flaws. But, the house was completed, it was sound, and the carpenter was tired and ready to rest and enjoy life with his family.

His boss came by, inspected the house, and handed him the keys. "This is for you, as your retirement gift, and as a thank you for all the years of hard work and dedication to me. Enjoy it for many years." He shook his hand, and went his way.

Suddenly, the carpenter felt not so easy, and more than a little ashamed.

Moral: you'll know what you did right and wrong. If you have to fudge something, make sure it's something you can live with.

A little something to keep in mind.

Charlie Larkin

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9 minutes ago, charlie8575 said:

An old carpenter was skilled and did his job well, and his boss gave him his most challenging jobs. As the time for him to retire came closer, he was getting tired, and wanted to go enjoy life, when his boss said "I need you for one more job before you retire. Do you mind?" The carpenter wasn't thrilled, but agreed to do it.

The carpenter was tired, and decided to not be quite as fastidious. A couple of corners weren't quite sqaure, structurally sound, but not square. Some of the finish work wasn't as clean as he usually worked. The exterior had a couple of minor flaws. But, the house was completed, it was sound, and the carpenter was tired and ready to rest and enjoy life with his family.

His boss came by, inspected the house, and handed him the keys. "This is for you, as your retirement gift, and as a thank you for all the years of hard work and dedication to me. Enjoy it for many years." He shook his hand, and went his way.

Suddenly, the carpenter felt not so easy, and more than a little ashamed.

Moral: you'll know what you did right and wrong. If you have to fudge something, make sure it's something you can live with.

 

What a great story!  That “urgh, let’s just get this over with so I can do the next thing” voice on my shoulder is the one that pops up after I’ve spent too long on a project and redone the same part too many times (usually a part no one will ever see anyway, and perfectly ‘ok’, but not amazing).

Getting better at fighting that voice is making me do better work - it’s got me in the past and when I look at some of my older builds it’s those little things that only I notice that bother me about them all.

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10 hours ago, afx said:

 

One of my favorite threads on here ever.  I’d love to see that battery, and whatever other models it’s attached to!

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Posted (edited)

Another response, and hardly definitive at that...

Years ago I was drawn in to a feature within and across the pages of Scale Auto Enthusiast whereby a builder by the name of Randy Derr debuted a conversion of the 1:12th scale Revell '69 Camaro Z/28 into a same-year Penske Racing/Mark Donohue Sports Car Club of America Trans-Am sedan racer.  The  roll cage was hand-fabricated, the flares likewise, the wheels and tires were largely hand-done, while the exterior graphics were also created to suit.  To me it was something new and left me entranced given the old SCCA series was about all I cared for.  I'd tried but had largely failed to create 1:25th scale replicas of what period racers I'd desired, while the article essentially afforded me permission to renew my efforts based upon the acceptance that I'd simply have to scratch build most everything.  Humbling this - but clarifying too.  

What impressed me at the time was evidence across Derr's project of a strong willingness to devise techniques to solve problems one after other in a manner akin to the thought processes on view within the pages of a favorite book of mine, this being  Mark Donohue's racing biography titled The Unfair Advantage.  First published in 1975 and written in collaboration with Paul Van Valkenburgh, Donohue's remembrances taught me to think about engineering problems in a way that was both highly deliberative and unusually engaging.  In combination with the scale efforts of Randy Derr and his innovative labors, I felt that this was the way forward; i.e. all worries aside, if I was suitably dedicated to the topic embraced, all problems might be solved in time for studied application.  Important is was to realize that advances were made at the cost of a great many errors if not embarrassment; i.e. take the lumps, make the progress.  

On the book front, Mark Donohue's The Unfair Advantage constitutes a quiet and yet insistent lesson on studied application apart and away from the judgement of the crowd. Something works - or it doesn't, and the process needn't rely on the sometimes caustic 'regard' of others.  Mark wasn't carved out of conventional he-man racer material, and it's a lesson to make a careful review of this auto racing/race engineering diary of a sort.  While he possessed an undergraduate engineering degree from Brown University and was widely hailed as bringing something extra in terms of viewpoint and refinement to road racing circles, any review of this title will reveal someone who started with an almost complete absence of knowledge teamed to an atypical orientation consistent with learning what was needed to excel.  In sum, it's very different and certainly illuminating.  

With regards to other possible titles, do consider collecting books penned by Gerald A. Wingrove, author of a pair of works that include The Complete Car Modeller available in two volumes.  It's strictly old-school stuff, but his habits of application are total and are worthy of emulation even in small degree.  Pre-internet (to say the least), his commitment literally altered how the hobby was viewed.  And just in passing, it might also be worth your time to seek out a copy of Shop Class as Soulcraft by Michael Crawford where a writer hard at work on a Philosophy Ph. D. reconsiders his options and embraces an identity rooted in the restoration of vintage motorcycles.  A nonfiction work, the book challenges the reader to reexamine and reappraise what expertise and applied passion constitutes.  

-

What thin professional (or paraprofessional) background I bring to scale models are the habits of application consistent with my having been an academic librarian.  In short, I start with slender or no knowledge, although I do have habits that will, after a time, yield results in relation  to what is researched and discovered.  This goes for unearthing technical aspects of what is being attempted in-scale, and also applies to working up means and methods to secure a result in terms of what is being recreated in miniature.  In particular, if I read that 50,000 man hours was required to build a particular 1:1 racer, needless to say I worry less if something isn't magically finished in short time.  

I care about seeing projects through, but in essence I'm working on my own unspoken schedule that doesn't strictly mate or mesh with what others perceive as right progress.  Given I'm not doing contract work, what does it matter?  I also work in what others would regard as a goofy scale in disreputable 1:18th diecast, something that sort of designates me as an outlier.  This can be both good and bad, but if this habit or proclivity allows me to exist somewhat outside the sharp focus and scrutiny of the contest elite, is this bad? It's also a lesson to look afield and review techniques established and expanded upon across other disciplines; i.e. weathering is better understood and practiced by both military and railroad modelers.  

Although I just have some basic tools and supplies versus a lathe or milling machine at the ready, I view what results are achieved through the lense of a formula; i.e. what was possible given the sophistication, or rather lack of sophistication of the tools, materials, research and techniques applied to a situation or circumstance?  Other things that help in a mild sense is to have duplicates and triplicates of all the parts and assemblies intended to go into a project.  Akin to racing, if one isn't breaking parts, one isn't learning.  To limit oneself to single copies of this or that delicate part, even at the cost of stretching what might be a thin budget indeed, is to ramp up felt stress when things go wrong - and things most certainly will.  In a manner of speaking, a certain degree of waste is expected and would be unnatural not to encounter.  For a certain acceptance of this reality, felt pressure subsides...

To me scale model work constitutes a surrogate for what I might otherwise have or operate; i.e. a 1:1 vintage race restoration facility or at least the option to call at the shots and make all the judgments consistent with overseeing research, fabrication, fettling and final finish work on topics of personal importance.  Greater focus and expertise can be developed for the embrace of a limited number of topics - or even one topic.  Not everyone can be an all-rounder or strictly embrace all topics - and why should we?  Isn't it more satisfying to look over the shoulder of a specialist engrossed in his or her, indeed, craft?   Reviewing the results of years of application and skill refinement evidenced by another shouldn't be viewed as threatening, although boorish behavior experienced in clubs and at contests sadly is a common experience.  Some possess the skills and tact to be exemplary ambassadors to the hobby, although a fair many simply fall down in this regard.  

Even if precious few of my efforts see completion, some satisfaction is gleaned from establishing and extending contacts amongst and across the 1:1 vintage racing community.  I wouldn't project as a top-flight model car person in relation to technique or skill, although the embrace of a particular race series and period and expanding awareness of both the vintage scene and techniques to work up what is necessary in-scale,  I'm good enough.  People know that I respect the topic, and that contributions made and constructive criticism proffered won't go to waste.  Maybe it's enough...

Does all this equate to craft?  Of this I'm not certain.   I do know that things improved a bit for me when not really knowing how to do something in terms of technique wasn't perceived as some unbridgeable barrier.  Sharper topic focus for specialization helped, collecting ever larger stacks of research material helped.  Networking and sharing builds across threads to communicate enthusiasm and solicit feedback helps.  Affording reasoned advice and not tearing the work of others to bits is only good sense. Working to a personal standard to achieve a personal best is advised, while nothing prevents us from selling or moving on what disappoints.  Often a reconstituted collection of just a few cherished models will be better loved as contrasted to having mass less quality.  Make whatever topic you embrace your own, accept the amount of work that challenge constitutes, and labor to never less then generous to others.  Good luck!

Mike K./Swede70

Edited by swede70

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What a wonderful, well written post Mike - I really enjoyed reading your take on this topic!  Thank you for sharing!

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Posted (edited)

In my view this is a very good Thread for so many reasons. When i read all posts i take away that craftmanship has many different layers and definitions to many people. My thoughts are not completely defined to just one and only one way of thinking on this subject but I always take in consideration that there are many different categories of how i will build certain type model kit and will always give each and every model its due attention and detail to the best of my abilities and knowledge. Meaning for instance if i am tackling a more costly kit i would be more likely to dedicate extra time and techniques that i am practiced and perfected at verses a kit that is cost effective and is easily found i will try new techniques and experiment. I think good craftmanship is learned by trial and error and is not just immediate. I had a conversation recently that was close to  the mark but had to do with how everyone's eyes see and experience a different reality then the one you see. I have quite a few interactions with random people because one of the cars i have built and drive. It is a nostalgic hotrod with many flaws to my eyes but one interaction had me surprised and baffled. I was gassing the car up one day and a brand new BMW pulls alongside, a lovely dressed to the nines blonde says out the window "it's Beautiful" i was taken back how can this lady think that this car that has 93 years of dents and bruises mismatched and cobble together with old hotrod parts be beautiful? Through her eyes and perspective she see's something i do not see. She is viewing the car i see when it is complete and finished.  As any builder, artist or maker of things your project or piece of art will never meet your expectation completely because you and only you will see its flaws but that is what should drive you for a new level of greatness and craftmanship on every piece you create using what success's or failures you had experienced on your past projects.

 

Edited by MINIARE DELUXE
spacing was messed up.

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On 6/6/2020 at 11:18 PM, Straightliner59 said:

Even so, I try to add in a new technique, or improve a specific aspect of my modeling with each project.

I saw Eric Ritz, a builder I admire a lot and learn a lot from, say something very similar about how he approaches a build.  It really stuck with me!  Great tip!

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Within limitations, I try and do the best I can do. I like odd stuff which is why I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to make a decent model of Trumpeter's Hong Chi CA 770. Redid the suspension, redid the engine. Now I want to make another one because I am not happy with the body as built. Kind of going down the rabbit hole so to speak....and how many Johan Mercedes have I built through the years since the 70s (high school) til now? Or that attempt at making a 69 Beaumont out of a Chevelle. Still working on that and still take it out of the box to fiddle with it...and now I see Revell's new tool Chevelle and think Oh darn, now I have to start over. But it's fun and I like the challenge even though I do not have much time and space to do it. BTW, My boss bought a 1962 Rolls Royce, so I'm also working on a replica of that car. Easy enough to do , right. What with the Minicraft Rolls kit out there...but noooo, his car has the longer wheel base and I cannot just use a Minicraft kit because of the body issues, I have to find a Hubley version of that kit si I can avoid massaging that body at the door to front fender area. Although I did use a Minicraft kit to saw out a 1/4 inch slice to lengthen the Hubely body. Still working on adding the extra quarter window at work during break with the actual car living in the next room. Can't fault good reference material and if that is the actual 1/1, more the better. Point being, it's all fun for me to accept the challenge of learning new skills and technique. Hopefully I get that done before I retire in 8 months...LOL

 

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I have been taken to many places with this thread and have a couple of thoughts.  The first is from Bill Gould's article. "I think the most important attribute to becoming a Craftsman is the desire to make things exceptionally well." and the second is the carpenters story. 

Distinguishing "craftsmanship" from the mundane is hard to evaluate in yourself.  Those who build to a "good enough" standard are many.  They have a hundred reasons for this.  They build for themselves, they don't build for contests, etc.  I don't disparage them, because they are getting a lot out of this hobby and enjoy what they do.  What they don't have is "the desire to make things exceptionally well" when it comes to their models.  They are fine with a house that is not quite square and plumb. 

They may never understand the pleasure of the "craftsman" who "makes things exceptionally well."  That is an entirely different mind set.  It is not for everyone, but there are those out their that adhere to that.  There are several on this web site.   Somehow they have a different mind set when they sit down to the bench.  If they are building something "box stock"  any flaw in the paint or poor masking line or other flaw seen or unseen is reason to redo it.  If they build a highly detailed model, everything has to be there and correct.  In many cases this is not in a effort to "win a trophy" but is their desire to "make things exceptionally well".  

  Don't misunderstand.  I am not being critical of anyone who gets pleasure out of this hobby.  I applaud those who just want to have a couple of hours alone with some plastic and paint and no one will ever see their models.  I encourage those who seek to improve their skills and learn new ones.  Enjoy the hobby, but don't be critical of those who are craftsman.  They are not trying to put anyone else down.  They do it because of an inherent drive that is as much a part of their life as breathing.  To me, that is what defines a Craftsman. 

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21 hours ago, CabDriver said:

I saw Eric Ritz, a builder I admire a lot and learn a lot from, say something very similar about how he approaches a build.  It really stuck with me!  Great tip!

I got that from Don Fahrni. But, there was and is something in me that drives that, too. I just have more fun when I am trying new stuff!

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5 hours ago, Pete J. said:

 ..."the most important attribute to becoming a Craftsman is the desire to make things exceptionally well..."

...Enjoy the hobby, but don't be critical of those who are craftsman.  They are not trying to put anyone else down.  They do it because of an inherent drive that is as much a part of their life as breathing.  To me, that is what defines a Craftsman. 

Yup. 

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Hopefully builders of all philosophies can enjoy each others work. The modeling world is too small to be divided into us against them.

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