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Why Am I a Model-Builder - A Look Inside Yourself

March 01, 2016

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Airfield Models ( Am I a Model-Builder?

I could have titled this page with "Why am I burned out?" or "What the heck was I thinking when I spent $10,000 on model-building tools???"  This page is not the answer to those questions, but other questions you should ask yourself to help you figure out what it is all about for you.

A better title might be, "Finding your niche."

My club recently had a new member join who flew R/C for many years and put it aside for the same reasons many people do - family, career, etc.  He brought out his 20+ year old Sig Kadet after spending a few weeks installing a new radio and engine and checking the plane over thoroughly to ensure its flight worthiness.

After one flight he realized that he still had his touch and would need a more advanced aircraft soon.  He purchased a .40 powered aerobatic ARF to fly while he built another .40 powered kit of basically the same type.  He does not seem satisfied with his models.  I can tell that he is having some fun but there seems to be something missing.  Whatever it is that he's looking for he certainly hasn't found it.

When I look at the statistics for this web site, the most viewed models are the Thunder Tiger Raptor 30, Herr Pitts Special, or Tamiya F4U-1A Corsair.  One of the least viewed models is Great Gonzo.  At the field my Herr Pitts gets a lot of attention in the short term but that is about it.  The plane that continually garners attention and close scrutiny is Great Gonzo.  I have thought about this and think I have an answer which I will discuss shortly.

I usually take a sport plane such as My Stik 30 and Great Gonzo to the field.  Or I might take my Herr Pitts and Great Gonzo.  Or I might take Great Gonzo all by herself day after day for extended periods.  In fact I have taken My Stik 30 and Great Gonzo to the field the last several times I have been there and My Stik 30 sat under the table unassembled until I packed her up to go home.

Great GonzoSo what is it about Great Gonzo that keeps my attention and attracts the attention of others.  I believe the answer is simply my attitude and how flying this aircraft affects me.  Other pilots observe the fun and enjoyment I get from flying her and they want some of what I have got - whatever they think that is.

This aircraft is one that I actually fly - not only because she's easy to fly, but because she flies the way I feel flight from my heart.  I hope you are not reading this and thinking it is a sales pitch for Great Gonzo because it is not meant to be.

What I am saying is that she's a plane that I really feel connected with.  One person who has spent a lot of time observing me fly this model has commented that I "talk to Great Gonzo."  I don't think he meant that I'm psychotic, but I don't ask questions that I don't want answers to.

Unfortunately I do not have an answer for you.  In a way I stumbled onto my answer but in another way I discovered the answer because I wanted to.  I had a good idea of how I wanted an airplane to fly and I set about making it happen.  Building and flying this model took me from guesswork to a clear definition of one type of model I have wanted.

Great Gonzo is not the only plane I will ever want, but is by far the most satisfying I have owned simply because she does what she is designed to do better than any other that I have flown and I feel really in tune with the way she flies.

Flying seems to be the "ultimate" in this hobby depending on whom you talk to.  I can not say that is true for me.  What I really enjoy is building.  If I had to give up one aspect or the other I would give up flying in a heartbeat.  The more I build, the better builder I become.  The better I build the more I enjoy building.  This may stem from when I was a child and did a miserable job on my models and never felt they were "good enough."

You armchair psycho-analysts out there can make what you want of that information.  The bottom line is that I always look forward to spending time in my shop and can honestly say I have never felt burned out from building.  I wouldn't be honest if I did not add that some projects have been miserable experiences.  Fortunately with more experience I am able to determine before I start whether or not I will enjoy a project and it is been a while since I had an bad building experience.

There are many R/Cers who simply do not enjoy the process of building the model.  All they want to do is fly.  This is evident when viewing their aircraft which often times are sloppily built and not what you would call straight.  Unfortunately, this ultimately affects the person's enjoyment of the model.

Some people just never figure that part out and forever have planes that are under-achievers in the flight department.  My point is that the person loses out on the enjoyment they could have if they had done what they needed to even when it wasn't something they enjoy doing.

One reason people tend to lose their fascination with this (or any) hobby is that they do not make an effort to look inside themselves and try to find what they can and will enjoy.  When I am at the field flying a plane that I do not enjoy flying I leave feeling drained.  If I keep this up for too long I start to feel burned out.  If I am flying a plane I really enjoy I leave feeling rejuvenated.

The same goes for my building projects.  I try to challenge myself within my capabilities with each new project.  If the project is too easy then building becomes boring.  If the project is too difficult then I become frustrated.  Sometimes I am required to build something easy simply because my hangar is empty.  When I have a few reliable planes then it is time to take on a new challenge.

Here are a few keys that I hope will help you find enjoyment in this hobby:

  • Answer the question, "Why do I want to be a (model-builder/flyer/coin collector, etc.)?"  Be specific.  A vague answer will not be helpful.

  • Did you see a beautiful model built by another modeler and want to emulate this person's skill?  I do not think being a good builder or pilot is out of anyone's reach, but do you truly understand that the model you are looking at was probably not born of innate skill?

    The person who built the model most likely earned his skill the hard way.  He has a great deal of time and effort involved in the building of hundreds of models over a period of many years.

    It is good to have goals to strive for, but a realistic outlook of what you can accomplish with your personal skills and experience will go a long way in keeping you involved rather than you quitting due to boredom or frustration.

    Skills can be acquired with enough experience - it is really a matter of being realistic in regard to your current capabilities and not letting yourself become frustrated because you can not build or fly as well as you want to.  Patience and discipline are key factors here.

  • Be honest with yourself and know your limitations.  If you do not have the skill, reflexes or eye sight to keep up with a hot aircraft then your time at the field will be stressful.

  • Are you a modeler because you enjoy it or because you want to impress someone else?  Hint - doing things to impress others never works.  You have to enjoy an activity for its and your own sake.

I do not pretend to know all the answers or even all the questions but what I do know is that a lot of people jump into a hobby with both feet and then quit soon after because they wanted a quick fix and found out that success equals hard work.  Anything that comes easily is not rewarding or satisfying.



Profile of a Model Builder
Choosing A Subject to Model

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Copyright 2003 Paul K. Johnson