By John Lester - images & text © 2007; updated 2010
There comes a time in almost every model builder's development when you realize that no one will ever kit your most desired subject, at least not in the size/scale or with the level of detail that you want. (I long for a 1/32 scale SAAB J-21A3 myself and no one will ever kit that. Too esoteric.) If you're like me, it starts to haunt you. You find yourself spending hours online tracking down photos and drawings, buying books, sketching doodles and then you're stuck.
Sure, you could grab a bar of soap and start whittling, but you want a dimensionally and proportionally accurate scale replica, not a caricature. But how do you get from your pile of references to a model?
Enter Charles Adams on his white horse, riding to the rescue with his first book: Model Design & Blueprinting Handbook.
What You Get
Charles' book, the first in planned series, is 266 pages jam-packed with informative text, diagrams and drawings. His stated intent is to present the theory and practice of developing your own construction plans and patterns necessary to build a model (physical or digitally) from scratch in an easily-understood manner.
He succeeds admirably.
The book is laid out like a typical college text, complete with sidebars, glossary and appendices. After a brief introduction, the book is divided into the following sections/chapters:
Section One: Creating Blueprints
Section Two: Making Construction Patterns
Specialized information is presented in three appendices:
The 2nd Edition now includes a comprehensive Glossary as well as an Index.
Each chapter starts with an overview of the information that will be presented, followed by an in-depth discussion of theory and techniques, trailed by a recap. Everything is presented in an easily-grasped, almost conversational manner. Terms are explained clearly when first used.
The material is presented in a logical fashion, and in exhaustive detail. It's written with the requirements of a modeler in mind. I have an engineering degree and four years of drafting experience, but none of that is needed (and truth to tell, those things are in my distant past - I need so much refresher training anymore I may as well be a new recruit). The presentation is geared to the novice, but even those with experience will find new, and useful information. For instance, there's a discussion in the very first chapter about perspective and the distortion inherent in every photograph that I have never seen addressed so comprehensively. And though I had to read the discussion about the intersections between planes and prisms (Chapter 7: Transitions) three times to wrap my head completely around the subject, it is something I've never been able to do before.
This second edition has more illustrations than the first, and more in-depth information on 3-D (computer) modeling. Just about every chapter has been expanded with further information.
If I have any quibble with the book it's the way everything is geared to using a computer to prepare your plans. Of course, that's exactly what most everyone who reads this book in this day and age will do: use a computer program (whether illustration software like Photoshop or CAD like AutoCAD). I'm old/ancient/antediluvian school: I use a drafting table, T-square and a pencil. A very sharp #2 pencil, at that - no fancy plastic tibe with super thin "lead". Even so, there's very, very little knowledge presented in the book that I can't apply directly.
It should come as no surprise that I enthusiastically recommend this book - the first edition was great, and the second only makes it better. And it's just the first in a series --- I for one will be picking up EASY PROJECT MATH: A Problem-Solving Guide for the Craftsman, Hobbyist, and Do-It-Yourselfer when it's available.
The hardest part about scratchbuilding, contrary to conventional wisdom and the bloviating of certain practioners, is not the execution: patience and good tools are what you need, just as with kits. No, the hardest part of scratchbuilding is turning those pictures you googled into a set of plans you can measure twice and cut once against. If you have any interest at all in doing that, get this book.
Run, don't walk. You need this.
Blå Niklas, here I come
This page copyright © 2007 Starship Modeler.
First posted on 20 February 2007.
Last updated 23 June 2010.