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From the opposite end of the workbench

…the twisted ramblings of a ship modeler.

There are times when you just don’t feel like building. This hobby we subscribe to provides with us all with hours of entertainment, relaxation, and, at its most basic level, therapy. When I feel the mood strike, I build, or I write. Today, I’m writing about building. Actually, I’m writing about OUR hobby. And when something irritates me, inspires me, makes me laugh, or teaches me something, I’m going to write about it.

Today, in my little corner of the world, it’s cold…damn cold. Not exactly Alaska or Iceland cold, or even upstate New York or Canada cold, but still, it’s cold.

Today has been one of those days, much like all the others. I got up, got the kidlet ready for pre-school, fed the dog, and headed off to the office. After a day at work, I reverse the process and end up standing in the living room at 6pm, asking myself…what’s next?

I could build for awhile, or just sit and watch television. I could log on to the Internet and chat with fellow ship modelers. I could do a kit review, or I could just go to sleep. Today though, I’m in a weird mood, and I’m not sure what I want to do…I want to do something with the ship models, but what? Since I’m not in the mood to build, paint, weather, photoetch, or write anything that requires research, it’s time seriously analyze what motivates me to build ship models.

So I head for the shop…and there’s HMS Sheffield, my 1/350th scale red-headed stepchild. After 4 years, she’s got paint, some rails, and masts. She mocks me still, like a pretty girl in a bar, looking quite perfect sitting there…(wavy line fade to next scene, to the Fall of 1998)  When you opened the box for the first time, you think to yourself, “ she’s going to be beautiful when she’s done.” But, like most pretty girls you meet in bars, nothing is further from the truth…she fought, kicked and resisted every attempt I made to make advances on her (can’t you just FEEL the irony here??). Finally, after struggling, replacing parts, cutting, grinding, sanding…I have something that resembles HMS Sheffield. Kinda depressing when you see her there, bare naked, with no paint…hmm…some ladies actually look better covered up.

Then comes the primer, and wow, maybe it’s not so bad after all…then comes the decision to ‘go for it’. Overall 507a? No way…it’s Admiralty Disruptive time!! Waves, curves, blues, grays, yea, now we’re talking…fire up the compressor, rummage through the drawer until you find the blue masking tape… 3…2…1…here we go…and the next 5 hours are a blur.

…The shop is eerily quiet. The CD has stopped playing, and aside from the sound of the air leaking from the bleeder valve of the tank, all is quiet. The smell of Tamiya thinner permeates the air. There are big piles of crumpled blue masking tape stuck to various parts of the workbench, covered with varying shades of paint. Sheffield has several shades of paint, and is completely covered in masking tape… removing it piece by piece reveals that my now-covered lady is actually beginning to have some personality. (wavy line fade to next scene, to the Winter of 2003)

Sheffield tonight? Nah…what else is there to work on? Well, there’s the Tauro 1/400 Gorizia. She’s sitting on the top shelf, and her paint is perfect. Her superstructure is attached, as are her main guns. I reach up and take the box down…and for a brief moment I actually wonder why she was never finished…then it hits me, like a 2x4 to the head. All those braces on the bridge, none of the holes lined up…the bridge is now twisted, almost warped. I shudder, kinda like watching a train wreck, and put her back on the shelf, awaiting a day when I’m aggressive enough to start tearing the layers of levels from her bridge…

What else? Hmm…I wander past the shelves filled with resin and plastic kits from other worlds…tanks, planes, artillery pieces, even a couple of 1/43rd scale race cars. Nope, not tonight. Actually, not for many nights. In the old days, I’d build everything…then something happened…maybe I fell and bumped my head, maybe it was too many airbrush vapors…but now, the tanks, planes, and cars don’t really do anything pique my interest…it MUST be a ship.

What else is here? I wander over to the ‘Gold’ shelf…ahhh…sanctity at last…here’s my treasure trove…of the nearly 2500 kits I own, these are my chosen ones. Bland cardboard boxes with their names written in Magic Marker on the box ends…and resin and photoetch inside.

Atlanta and  Juneau, the Gulfstream Houston, the BWN Akizuki. Classic Warships ’42 San Francisco, Tom’s Modelworks USS West Virginia and Arizona, Gulfstream’s California. ISW’s Prinz Eugen, a ’44 San Francisco. On top of the large shelf, are the smaller subjects, Tamiya Fletchers, a BWN Aaron Ward, and APD-1s, APD-37s, and PC-461s from my former endeavor, Accurate Image Models. On top of those are the 1/700 kits I’ve decided to keep, my Regia Marina Vittorio Venetto, a Christmas present from my wife, the Russian Battleship Potemkin, and the HP SMS Lutzow of 1916…

Then the plastics…Tamiya’s Bismarck, Prince of Wales, and King George V. Then Tamiya’s Musashi, and Trumpter’s Hornet, with 4 boxes of additional aircraft. There’s Sovermenny, patiently waiting for me to fund a WEM PE set. An Entex Lusitania, hoping to be converted into her sister Mauretania, as a WW1 troopship.

To the right, the Island of Misfit Toys…errr…misfit ships. My 90% complete, half-scratchbuilt USS Essex from Tom’s Modelworks, one of his original prototypes, that many modelers will soon be adding to their collections in the form of the new Trumpter Essex. And of course, Sheffield, Gorzia, and a German 1936A destroyer from Iron Shipwrights.

I look back towards the shelf, and there, up on the very top, is a box with no label on it. I search my memory banks trying to remember what the identity of the kit is…as I reach up to pull the kit down, I see the entire shelf of boxes lean and start to fall toward me…and at that instant, as the boxes and shelf come crashing down and pin my legs to the floor, a dreadful thought occurs to me …have I become… a COLLECTOR?!?!?!?!? Could it be?!

NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (fade to black)

It’s 3am…and the room is dark. I can’t move my legs, because my 100lb. Labrador Retriever has jumped into bed and plopped himself down across my knees. He’s already snoring, and he isn’t too happy that I’ve had to wake him up. Thank goodness he’s not a Rottweiler or Doberman. I stumble downstairs into the shop, and turn on the light…yup, everything’s still there…the shelf with the kits, the Island of Misfit Ships. And there, in the middle of my workbench, looking like the pretty girl in the bar, is my red-headed stepchild, HMS Sheffield. Next to her, a sheet of photoetched rails, some rigging line, and 2 boxes of pastels…From here, she looks great…her paint is fresh, the brass finials shine in the light. I walk over and turn on the big overhead lights, and the entire room becomes as bright as Texas at high noon. I sink down into my modeling chair. Not just any old modeling chair, this one is from the old Control Tower at Newark Airport in the 1940s-1950s, a big, tall comfortable chair with a history…I sit there for a few moments, look up at the clock…it’s 3:12am. I’m awake, and I gotta work tomorrow, actually, today. Ah, what the hell…pick up the compass and measure out an empty section of Sheffield’s deck…match a piece of photoetched rail…and start cutting…I can get a few hours of work in before the wife and kidlet wakes up…

Collector? Bah, I‘m no collector… that was just a bad dream…

Are you a builder or collector?? Send us your photos and PROVE IT!!! We want your photos of your workshop and model stash. Email them to Tim or Jeff. You really didn't think we'd let you get away without sending us something, did you??

Jeff Herne,