Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Old School Modelling [The Rogue Trader]

On a recent trip with the family I ended up being reintroduced to what got me started on this hobby.  Way back before Games Workshop were trips to the Eltham Model Shop or Welling Models to pick up Airfix kits.  Every flat surface in my bedroom was adorned with plastic kits and numerous aircraft hung from the ceiling.  A friend and I even came up with some rules to control our 15mm scale Airfix WW2 Battles.  I don’t really remember them but let’s just pretend it was like 40K but better balanced.

While on vacation we visited a few places that sold Airfix kits, including the Hornby Museum.  There was an interesting experience, going to a museum and seeing favorite toys from your childhood as exhibits on the shelves.  I didn’t think I was that old.

Now back home in the US we’ve started working on some of these kits and I thought it was worth mentioning as it is a side of the hobby that people may be interested in or by able to draw from.  All my memories of these kits are through the rose tinted glasses of childhood so no comparisons there.  Instead, I’ll compare them to the more current Games Workshop stuff, or specifically the Ironclad Dreadnought my son just bought
We picked up half a dozen kits, mostly in 1/76 but also a 1/32 Spitfire MkVII I had fun assembling and painting.  Pictures of that once it is on a base which I have on order from Secret Weapon.
Packaging of the Airfix models is very well done.  They have spacious boxes in which the various sprues are in plastic bags.  They also contain extensive sheets of decals and instructions which include a short historical analysis of the kit.  The sprues themselves are a step down from the GW standard.  Every part is numbered which is a useful step but casting quality is notably lower.  I had a few slightly warped parts and a lot that needed heavy flash trimming.  There are a lot of very detailed parts on these models so trimming isn’t always the easiest.  The plastic itself was similar to GW plastic, but a little softer and more brittle.  These models would stand up to less abuse than the standard GW Ork.

Assembly is also interesting.  They rated the Sherman a 2 (easy) on their difficulty scale.  A 2 rating included one part that you had to eyeball in as the instructions had it hidden, and the requirement to drill your own holes in the turret to attach the calliope frame with no markings or guides provided.  The instructions showed approximately where one hole should go, the other was really a best guess.  Glue drying time aside though, it was a quick and mostly easy assembly.  The other issue was a couple of pieces breaking as it was occasionally hard to gets flash covered tiny plastic thing A into flash filled tiny plastic hole B.  But that is what glue was invented for.

As a comparison to GW, the kit was more complicated than an equivalent, and the pieces didn’t fit together as well.  You are much more likely to need bands and clips with these models.  Part of this is from the nature of the model.  These are scale approximations of actual vehicles, not computer generated reality that has been tailored specifically to be easy to put together.  The other part is again the casting quality which is as noted, somewhat lower.

Putting together the spitfire was a similar experience.  Lots of trimming flash, bending warped pieces to fit, rubber bands and paper clips to hold warped pieces in place, and some that just didn’t fit great.
Compared to this the GW sprues tend to be a lot cleaner and sharper.  They aren’t specifically more detailed, but the lower casting quality of airfix can hurt the detail.  The GW instructions look a little better done, but really don’t offer any more use.  The key thing is, it is apparent with GW that you are buying a higher quality, better made and more resilient product.

Lastly, the reason I was happy to pick up half a dozen of these kits as an experiment.  Well aside from my kids really wanting them, and the little ‘when I was a kid’ thing.  Price.  As much as I’ve been throwing this out as “not as good as GW”, it really is a fraction of the price.  For example, the Sherman was £6.99 (approximately $11) which puts it in the price range of…  Oh wait, GW don’t actually sell any plastic kits that cheap.

Sure, a small tank isn't really going to be much use for your ultramarines.  If you want something to practice with, try new techniques, or as a conversion source, these cheaper kits can be great.



  1. I started with Star Trek/Star Wars and Airplane models myself as a kid.

    So when I started making GW models I was surprised at how different they are set up.

    It really is like 2 different worlds.

  2. I'm going to be using a RPM 1:72 scale Renault TSF model as part of an Ork battlewagon build soon. Nothing like getting an old truck from eBay and a REALLY cheap WW2 tank model from eBay and putting them together to make something new.

  3. Your description of your childhood bedroom sounds just like mine was! I remember the collection got so large that some kits started migrating downstairs into the living room!

    As a Tau player though, I have to heartily disagree with your assessment of "not as good as GW". In terms of needing to use bands etc to hold parts together, how well the parts fit together, and the detail of the models themselves, I'd say that Airfix is much better than GW. Crisis suits, the devilfish chassis, and piranahs all fit together appallingly and require masses of green stuffing and sanding to get a decent finish - if I'd tried to make one during my Airfix years I'd have quickly come to the conclusion that GW was a rubbish brand and wouldn't have bought from them again.

    For a better example than Airfix, check out some models by Italeri - slightly more expensive than Airfix but with incredible surface detailing, and as I recall the parts always fit together extremely well.