Modeling for Competition: The Details

Parent Category: Reviews and News
Category: Finishing
Created on Friday, 18 September 2015 21:45
Last Updated on Monday, 12 October 2015 08:22
Published on Friday, 18 September 2015 21:45
Written by MrT
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All modelers have, to some degree, AMS (Advanced Modeler Syndrome) when it comes to model building. This can manifest itself in many ways from adding simple small details all the way to scratch building whole assemblies to correct a dimensional issue. In extreme cases it can cause some modelers to declare that a model is “unbuildable” and prevent them from building at all. While making detailed models is our stock and trade those extreme details may go unnoticed in a competition especially when judges don’t care how many screws are present on panzer IV turret roof. In fact we should not expect them to know the specific nuisances of any model we make. We add those details more for our own pleasure and satisfaction. In this article let’s look at what IPMS and AMPS consider to be “details”. We may find out that our ideas about details are somewhat different from what judges are looking for.

Ok let’s start off with the IPMS rules on “details”

Details for Aircraft:

1. Thick parts should be thinned to scale or replaced; e.g., wing trailing edges and similar surfaces, ordnance fins, landing gear doors, edges of open panels, etc.

2. Wheel wells, intakes, scoops, etc. should be blocked off to prevent a “see-through” effect.

3. Gun barrels, exhaust stacks, intakes, vents, and similar openings should be opened.

4. Details added to the model should be in scale or as close to scale as possible.

5. External stores should be built to the same level of quality as the model to which they are attached. Stores/weapons combinations on a model should represent only those combinations actually carried by the real aircraft.

6. Aftermarket parts (photo-etched, white metal, resin, etc.) should integrate well with the basic model. Photo-etched parts that require forming should be precisely shaped and any surfaces that require building up to a thicker cross-section should be smooth and uniform.

Again we see that IPMS rules tend to focus on construction and symmetry while only one alludes to any historical information required. I can tell you that we judges assume you know what you’re doing from a historical stand point. So unless you present some documentation to the contrary we will only look at how it is made. You will also note that no special consideration is made for using aftermarket items. In fact adding those items has the potential to multiply the opportunities for errors. So be very careful adding aftermarket items because if not done well they may hurt more than help. A poorly built model is still poorly built no matter how much extra work you have done to it.

Ok let’s look at the armor side of IPMS.

Armor/Military Vehicles

1. Parts that are thick, over-scale, or coarse should be thinned, modified, or replaced.

2. Weld marks should be simulated where applicable.

3. Extra parts should be added if practical, with references used to confirm their existence on the actual vehicle. Such parts should be as close to scale as possible.

A. Add (especially on conversion or scratch-built models) the small detail parts (rivets, nuts and bolts, etc.) usually found in standard injectionmolded kits.

B. Add tarps, bedrolls, chains, fuel cans, etc., but be sure to also add some method by which such items are attached to the vehicle (hook, rope, tie down). Jerrycans are not attached to real tanks with superglue.

C. Aftermarket parts (photo-etched, white metal, resin, etc.) should integrate well with the basic model. Photo-etched parts that require forming should be precisely shaped, and any surfaces that require building up to a thicker cross-section should be smooth and uniform.

4. Molded-on parts such as axes and shovels should be undercut or removed completely and replaced. This is especially true of molded screen, which should be replaced with real screen.

5. Track “sag” on tracked vehicles should be duplicated where appropriate.

6. Windshield wipers should be added where appropriate.

7. Headlights and tail lights should be drilled out and have lenses added.

8. Cable and electrical lines should be added to lights and smoke dischargers.

9. Valve stems should be added to tires.

10. Instrument faces on dashboards should have detail picked out and lenses added.

11. Gas and brake pedals should be added to openwheeled vehicles.

12. Road wheel interiors should be detailed (this is especially necessary on the Hetzer).

13. Molded grab handles and hatch levers should be replaced with wire or stretched sprue.

14. Underside of model, if viewable, should be given the same attention to detail as the top; e.g., motor holes filled, paint applied, weathering on the inside of the road wheels consistent with that on the outside. If the vehicle being modeled was weathered, normal wear and tear to the bottom of the hull from riding over the usual rocks, brush, and other obstacles should be visible on the model.

I have heard a hundred times from aircraft modelers how tough they have it when building aircraft kits and how much more skill it takes, but would you look at that the armor guys have over twice as many rules to consider then those poor over worked wingnuts. Just a little jab there. As we can see the detail considerations are much more numerous when it comes to military vehicles, but still the focus is on construction. Still the detail considerations are more technical then historical. So don't get your undies in knot if the judges don't know the difference between a Panzer IV ausf. L and a H.

How about automobiles


1. Parts that are thick, over-scale, or coarse should be thinned, modified, or replaced.

2. Exhausts, intakes, vents, and other objects that have openings should be opened.

3. Additional detailing added to the vehicle should be as close to scale as possible. Such items could include door-lock buttons, tire valve stems, dashboard gauge detail, fabric surfaces on interior components, etc. Aftermarket parts (photo-etched, white metal, resin, etc.) should integrate well with the basic model. Photo-etched parts that require forming should be precisely shaped, and any surfaces that require building up to a thicker cross-section should be smooth and uniform.

4. Engine and chassis detailing should be done to a level consistent with detailing on the rest of the model.

5. Working parts, if any (e.g., opening hoods or doors), should match the level of workmanship on the rest of the model. Such parts should operate realistically, and the operating mechanism(s) should be in scale if visible.

Now ships.

1. All small parts (including masts, bulwarks, splinter shields, railings, and rigging) should be as close to scale as possible.

2. Small details sanded off during construction should be replaced with scratch-built or aftermarket material.

3. Gun barrels and vents should be drilled out whenever possible.

4. Sailing ship rigging and lines should be correct for the era being modeled.

5. Deadeyes should be right side-up, and rigging lines and blocks should be in proportion to each other.

6. Photo-etched parts:

A. Nubs and burrs where parts are removed from sprue must be eliminated.
B. Parts should not be unintentionally damaged or bent.
C. Glue marks and buildups should not show.
D. Parts (e.g., rails and stanchions) must not overlap.
E. All railings should be straight when viewing the model bow to stern (no wavy railings).
F. Railings must line up horizontally and vertically where they join.
G. Corner seams created when parts are bent to shape should be filled.
H. Paint should cover brass completely, including areas at bends and cuts.

No matter where you look in the IPMS rules it’s all about construction.

Now let’s look at AMPS. AMPS rules establish different levels of modelers based on the modelers approach to model building. AMPS rules have a promotion system. That is to say sometimes a modeler will be promoted to a higher level after having received gold medal a number of times at their present level. Example: I tried to enter a model at the intermediate level and was informed “no you are advanced” so promoted. The AMPS approach to details is really about the additional skills or add-ons items you have used to enhance your model. Let’s look at the different AMPS skill levels and see what we can glean from them.

BASIC – modelers new to the hobby or with basic modeling skills. The BASIC level is the introductory level to the AMPS system. Modelers at this level generally build their models with minimal tweaks, and often have never competed before or are new to the hobby. It allows members who are developing their modeling skills to be evaluated and encouraged through the feedback provided by the AMPS judging system. As with all other entrants, BASIC Level entrants are encouraged to volunteer for judging.

So AMPS basic level is generally what we would call out-of-box. Let’s move on.

INTERMEDIATE – modelers with average to above average skill. Modelers at this level generally make some modifications or conversion to their work or use commercial upgrades. INTERMEDIATE modelers may have been promoted from BASIC, won awards at other shows, or chose to enter at this level from the start. An INTERMEDIATE modeler is someone to whom some or all of the following apply:

Adds photo-etched and/or resin details

Uses aftermarket conversion kits

Scratchbuilds details and makes modifications to accurize kits

Uses reference material for ideas and accurizing

Improves models by cross-kitting

Builds full resin kits

Displays models on complementary bases or with figures

You will notice AMPS emphasizes aftermarket items and that complexity is what separates basic and more advanced modelers. You can also see that detailing pointed out by IPMS is assumed by AMPS at this level “makes modifications to accurize kits”. The AMPS intermediate level requires skills that many in IPMS would consider advanced such as “full resin kits”, kit bashing or “cross-kitting”, “kit conversions” etc. You can also see the basics of dioramas are introduced here. This looks daunting when you look at, but remember it not how much aftermarket you buy it’s how the aftermarket is applied that makes the difference. Now let’s see what “advanced” looks like.

ADVANCED – modelers with more highly-developed skills, whose entries are heavily reworked, accurized, or include non-commercial parts or modifications. The evaluations of this class are more strenuous. An ADVANCED modeler does most of the things expected of INTERMEDIATE level modelers plus some or all of the following:

Scratchbuilds, using references

Casts own replacement parts

Builds and paints at a high skill level

Presents models on elaborate bases, sometimes with accompanying information

Uses materials and space artistically

At this level if you have not used aftermarket, converted, or used resin then don’t bother because that is “expected” here. The expectations here seem to be a little more subjective, but still more advanced techniques are expected like scratch building and casting. At this level the “wow” factor enters in “paints at a high level”, “elaborate bases”, and “uses space artistically”. In the intermediate and advance levels historical context is considered, but it's not an overwhelming factor. If you want the judges to know what you have done and why then you still need to provide the research materials. That's why they give you and extra point in the scoring.

You can see by just our brief overview that AMPS expectations are much higher in the area of modeling techniques, but remember the basics still apply here as well. You’re still gonna get dinged if the wheels don’t touch the ground. Reviewing these rules makes me wonder what an aircraft version of these rules would be like. I’ve heard it said that the best way to medal at AMPS is to buy a ten dollar kit and then add two hundred dollars’ worth of aftermarket. That’s probably not fair, but it does seem that way. They just view an advanced modeler as one with all the skills and used the maximum amount of materials available. AMPS assumes you know what details you need to add.

A lot of us here do many of these things and most are learning new skills and techniques all the time. Our goal should be to get better at what we do and I think these clubs do that with the rules for judging they use. By knowing what’s expected we can be more successful. Besides who doesn’t want a more detailed model.

Alright you slackers back to work! Ok now where did I put that Typhoon?

Next up "Finishing"

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