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Why do any research at all because models are always accurate right? Sure they are and hey by the way I have a bridge to sell ya. The reality is that there are no completely accurate kits out there. Tooling costs, molding constraints, and poor manufacturer research all contribute to inaccurate models. Having worked as plastics part designer for 15 years I can tell you some things just can’t be done. The process is getting better, but still challenges remain. A lot of the kits we build especially from the older manufacturers are using tooling that is pushing 40 years or more. They may add some new parts to spruce up the kit and release it again, but for the most part that Monogram B-17 is still the same mold they were using in the 1970’s. Manufacturers do this to save cost. Fifteen years ago a four cavity tool could cost $100,000+. A lot has happened in that time but as you can attest kit prices are not going down. It costs a lot of money to bring you your one off paper panzer. The point is unless it says “all new tooling” you can expect some of the parts in the box have been run before and if those parts were wrong the first time they are probably still wrong. The question is how do you know they’re wrong? Answer research!

One of the first things I do after selecting the kit is to find out as much about the subject as possibly. I try to break down the research process by the different steps in the kit instructions. So if it is aircraft I will look for information about the cockpit or engine whichever is step one. For me the research process may be on going all through the build depending how much I already know about it.

Pictures….pictures……pictures! I want pictures of the real thing. Over the years I have accumulated pretty large reference library, but there are still plenty of holes in it. So I turn to the internet. There is information about just about anything you might be doing. Don’t be afraid to be specific with your searches. I put in “1974 diamond reo rear air brakes” and came across several pictures I could use. There are all kinds of “walk arounds” on the net. There are plenty websites dedicated to just that Prime Portal be one. So spend some time surfing.

Read the history! I read up on the subject because it’s not just about how it’s made for me, rather how was it used, how did it work. While working on DH2 (still under construction) I noticed that there was just one return spring on the rudder controls. I thought that was odd until I read that because of the spinning engine the plane was difficult to control without it. So read there may be a reason why Sherman crews tied logs to the side of their tanks.

Start building your own library! There are all kinds of books, cd’s, dvds, etc….etc.….out there and some are very expensive, but (not to plug Squadron) the Squadron “in action” books and now the “walk arounds” will give you pictures and history on most military subjects for not a lot of money. For cars I use good old plain “hot rod” magazines. They are a great source for pictures and often show car broke down to the frame.

Study the real thing! I am always looking for reference material. I carry a camera and most of you have them as part of you phones. When you see something you are working on take a picture of it (with permission). I nearly wrecked the car while looking at the details of semi next to me (don’t do that). Be a reference collector. Sherman18 is particularly good at that and has posted many many pictures on the forum.

From a contest standpoint IPMS is rather vague on research, but it is mentioned over and over particularly where paint and marking s of concerned “models with unusual colors should be supported by confirming documentation”. I would assume that any other unusual aspect of your model should be documented as well and that documentation be provided with the entry. In the IPMS rules there is an extensive section on accuracy that I think all modelers should keep in mind and in perspective when competing.

“Judges take lots of hits from modelers who know some minute aspect of a prototype and mistakenly believe that judges must also have that much detailed knowledge and more. It’s simply not possible for all IPMS judges to match, model for model, the expertise developed by our disparate and incredibly knowledgeable membership. Don’t assume that the judges know all the details you know. Help them and help yourself by putting a little time into the entry sheet or any other display material you put out with your model. Judges do read that stuff, and it could make the difference for you.”

AMPS rules provide .5 of a point if you do research and provide it with the entry. The rules are specific.

“Optional Research Bonus (0.5 point)

There is an additional bonus of 0.5 points for Research, which may be awarded by the judging team. To obtain this 0.5 point bonus, the modeler must document to the judging team the link between the research they performed and the finished model. This documentation need not be extensive (two pages or less), but must address, at a minimum, the following areas:

Description of Research: The modeler should provide a short description of the research they performed to build the model. The modeler must describe in his presentation how or why his model looks, either directly or indirectly, like the vehicles mentioned in the research. The model could look like the research by applying some of the following: similar paint schemes, markings, weathering, stowage, field modifications, or by using technical drawings to create the model displayed. The modeler can use pictures as part of this description.

Research References: The modeler should list the research references they used while building the model.

If the modeler provides a brag book or other description of how they constructed the model, without providing a description of their research in the format above, they will not be awarded the 0.5 point bonus. The link between the research and the model is established by replication and presentation of one, all or some of the following on the model being judged: paint schemes, markings, stowage, weathering, historical context, descriptions of similar vehicles or the use of technical drawings to create the model – based upon the research documentation provided.

Examples of acceptable research format are attached at Appendices 1 thru 3

Judges Note: Based on the information provided by the modeler, the judging team should ask the following questions.

1. Does the model, either directly or indirectly, match or look like the description(s), text explanations and/or pictures provided in the research? (paint schemes, markings, stowage, weathering, historical context, descriptions of similar vehicles or the use of technical drawings).

2. Is the research documentation format requirements met?

If the answer to both questions is YES, the judging team will award the 0.5 bonus. The Table Captain will add the 0.5 point research bonus after the total score has been determined. This score then becomes the official score for the model entered into the AMPS scoring system.”

Seems like a lot work, but I’ve seen entries win gold or silver by .5 of a point. To be honest I rarely do this and if you watch most don’t, but there is always that one guy. If you are doing something unusual I would strongly suggest submitting your references.

So what have learned? Research for modeling serves really two purposes 1 it helps you know and understand the kit you are building. This in turn helps you build a better model. 2 doing a little research may give you a leg up in a competition.

When we were kids we didn’t much care about the details, but if we are going to be serious modelers we need to put in the time to know what we’re doing. So do a little research! Learn a few things! I think your modeling will be more satisfying if you do.

Ok class I bet you thought you were going to get to build now right? WRONG! Your homework assignment is to research the model you have selected. Your next posts are going to be about documentation. I want to see pictures, written material, and history. If you plan to use aftermarket items I want to know why. If modifications to shapes are required I want to how you plan to do it. These are the things judges will be looking for and the thing that will make you an expert on the subject you are modeling.

Next installment "CONSTRUCTION"

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