Go with what you know
With airplanes it is an entirely different story. I know how an
airplane works, what the systems do and most importantly, what it is that
defines each craft. There are several things that must be there to get
the spirit of the plane across.
the right is a photo of a full scale Sopwith Camel. Its defining
characteristics are the very short
nose, the gun troughs, the large proportion of wings to fuselage and of
course, all the outlines — wing tips, tail
surfaces, cowling, landing gear, etc. A scale Snoopy is highly
regarded, but a Capt. Brown is considered to be an acceptable substitute.
If the aforementioned items are
close to being correct, then the illusion is successful. Depending on
the scale, there are many things that can be omitted without tarnishing the
A Camel will still look like a Camel without scale control cable
exits, pitot tubes, rib stitching, etc. These are diminutive details
that do not contribute to the personality of the plane —
the trees in the forest, if you will.
There are some things that are just wrong in any scale. Some designers simply have not figured out that getting the idea
across is not that difficult. Even so, it is a easy to annihilate what
could have been an effective model as evidenced by many of the "sport scale"
models on the market.
If you don't believe me, then imagine the above picture to be a scale model
and put a set of Dubro wheels on it. One poor decision ruins the
Common ways of ruining an F4U Corsair include a fuselage that is a box instead
of round or a wing having a sharp dihedral break instead of a proper
radiused inverted gull. Either of these make
the plane look silly and make me wonder why anyone even bothered.
"Scale" profile models are almost as bad but they get a little more leeway
because they are obviously not trying to be scale. Even so, you will not
see one hanging from my ceiling.
I was visiting a website having an article describing the build of a
Guillow's Sopwith Camel.
While the plane was nicely built, one item destroyed any fantasy that this
could be the real thing. The
builder chose a .15 which is simply too big of an engine for the model.
An engine half the size would be a perfect choice. Even then it would
require the firewall to be moved back into the fuselage to get the propeller
at a location closer to scale.
The builder installed the engine in the location shown on the plans (or maybe even
farther forward) which has the propeller so far in front of the cowl that
the plane looks very awkward. That may have been the easiest way to
get the short-nosed Camel balanced to fly, but I would have rather used dead
weight to balance the model and put the prop where it is supposed to be.
The Sopwith Camel was a powered kite as was typical of planes built during
WWI. The choice of engine and especially its location makes the model
look like a supersonic Camel. I have no idea how fast the model flies,
but it gives the impression that it is yanked around by the engine rather
than flying on the wing as these planes had to do because the power to
sustain a vertical hover just wasn't available in those days.
The point being that when I build an airplane model I know what it takes to
convey the illusion and what it takes to ruin it. That is mainly why I
build small models.
A small model can suggest higher realism while having much less detail. Often
a larger model has a ton of detail and still fails the realism test because
it does not trick me into believing. A vacuum-form cockpit and a saucer
eyed pilot over-power the effect of 10,000 painstakingly placed rivets.
That is the fundamental problem with large models.
The average builder would have to spend years on a 1/3 scale Corsair to get
enough detail on it to really get that illusion across. Personally, I
do not want to spend this kind of time detailing a model. I am ready for
the next project long before a project like this will ever be completed.
A passenger-seat size model can be built in 2 months while giving the
impression of the same
level of realism. I admit I am over-simplifying the situation, but hopefully you get
This brings me back to my Saturn V. When I look at this behemoth of a
realize I do not have a clue - much like those who design angle-winged
Corsairs. At some point after the model is completed
I will not even think about it any more, but the build, which should be
enjoyable, is consumed by the nagging doubt that something is wrong and I
don't know what it is.
Yes, I take my craft too seriously. I should just enjoy the building process and not
worry about it. I can do that with
some models but not with others. I'm still learning and always will be.
Model building is a journey to be enjoyed. I do not build models to
have models. In fact, once a model is complete I hardly even look at
it any more. If I do not enjoy building it then there is no point.
I guess there are two ways to go about it. Build what you know and
love and it will come through in the finished product or build other things and don't sweat it.