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Ramblings on the state of the hobby in 1:144

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Mig88
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Ramblings on the state of the hobby in 1:144

#1

Post by Mig88 »

I'm writing to share some of my thoughts about the hobby in our beloved scale.

This week I discovered a Czech decal and resin parts manufacturer called Armycast (www.armycast.cz). They have produced some wonderful, even mouth-watering sheets for T-6 Texans, P-51 Mustangs, T-33s and F-86 Sabres among others, mostly in 1:72 but some have been scaled up to 1:48. If you take a look, the instructions are available in Pdf format and you'll see what I mean. Today I decided to inquire if they were planning to release any of them in 1:144 of if they would consider it. Martin Cerný, the man behind Armycast, has kindly replied quickly saying that he only plans to work in the aforementioned scales. A big shame but that's his choice and I understand.

Before inquiring, I was considering buying some of the sheets in 1:72 but that implied having to buy kits of those planes when I have plenty available in my stash in 1:144 which I would gladly use for several of the options offered in those sheets. Of course, the solution would be to make the decals myself but, unfortunately, it's not an option for me. A couple of years ago I made an attempt with my Epson P50 inkjet printer and it was a failure because the type of inks used (Claria) immediately caused the images to blur. I did some further testing recently but to no avail. I have done some reading on the matter and there are a couple of things left to try but I'm not optimistic. Hence my reliance on aftermarket decal sheets covering options I am interested in and I imagine I am not alone.

I can only speak for the aviation sector of our scale and the truth is it has come a long way in these past two decades. My first kits in 1:144 were handful of Revell and Mitsuwa WW2 kits in the 1980s. I liked the size but found the kits way too basic. In the early 1990s, I found a small shop here in Barcelona (now long gone) that had a hole pile of LS and Revell kits (not their WW2 sereies) and bought them enthusiastically, followed by Dragon's outburst in our scale. I must confess that I considered the scale great for modern jets and large aircraft but not for WW2 fighters... until I bought Sweet's Bf 109F and I was fully converted. I haven't left 1:72 completely behind (still a lot in my stash) but a very high percentage of my output is now in 1:144.

Many types I only wished for have eventually been released one way or another in our scale though there is still plenty that hasn't (Spitfires and Seafires for example). Although there are really delightful kits, many being well-moulded capsule toys(!!), many others require plenty of work. And despite this (as has been commented several times in this forum) we have to be grateful that they have been released at all (not everyone has the scratchbuilding skills that some are fortunate to have). Yet, although the perception has improved considerably, I can't shake the feeling that there is still a general belief that 1:144 isn't "serious", except for airliners and thus, besides some exceptions, aftermarket decals for other aircraft with the variety available in 1:72 are few in 1:144.

When Hannants (Xtradecal) released the Hunter sheet with its massive amount of options for the Revell kit I confess it raised my hopes that things would be slowly going our way. They have released a few more sheets (Tornado and Eurofighter) but when I inquired about the possibility of scaling down their well sold TSR.2 "what-if" sheet for the then upcoming Pit-Road kit they replied that they hadn't heard of it and didn't consider it. That's the main reason I bought the Tornado sheet!

I bought several F-Toys T-6 Texans and then the Platz re-release in hopes that someday someone would make a sheet or sheets covering options from all over the world since this is one type that has been almost everywhere and painted in all kinds of ways. They only offered Japanese options (I will make one or two in those markings anyhow). I bought a couple of Valom's releases too. Fortunately they offered more diverse options but still a bit of a let-down. We have seen markings for US F-16s and F-18s but little for other users. Venezuela and Indonesia apainted their F-16s in other schemes that weren't greys (apart from Israel) and Kuwait did the same with their F-18s and I have lost hope in seeing these in 1:144. We have to thank the likes of Jiri of Jbr Decals, Heroes Models, Shelf Oddity and LF Models for example for increasing our options. If I missed anyone I apologise but a big thumbs up to you too.

It's also thanks to several small producers that we get accessories, resin parts, etched frets, etc that before were hardly available two decades ago (big thumbs up to those involved too) and giving it some thought, it is only thanks to the internet that much of this (and decals) has been possible. I wonder how much this scale would have evolved without it?

Anyhow, these ramblings seem to have rambled along I no longer know if I'm making any point (or sense) other than giving some impressions on my thoughts. Considering how much has been done so far in our scale, it's possible (and we must hope) this next decade may bring wonderful surprises and maybe a step closer to a "full" recognition of 1:144 modelling.

Maybe I'm wrong with my thoughts and I'd be glad to hear yours in these matters.

Miguel

P.S. Maybe I just have to wait a couple more years to get a sheet like Armycast's in 1:144 for my Texans. Fingers crossed ;) .
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Re: Ramblings on the state of the hobby in 1:144

#2

Post by Tim R-T-C »

Unfortunately I doubt 144th scale will ever be recognised in parity alongside the bigger scales and indeed with increasing technology available to make bigger parts, such as on the 200th scale Titanic and 24th scale Airfix Hellcat, I suspect 144th will continue to be an afterthought for many firms. Even airliners and transport planes are now more likely to be in 72nd scale.

Not that this is necessarily a terrible thing. Part of my enjoyment of the scale is the relative difficulty in finding kits, adding an interesting challenge, and in making up decal options from other sets when none specific exist.

But I do worry that the peak may have passed for the scale - Eduard for example produced some of the very best models, but nothing new for a couple of years now except the rebaggings. Similarly Sweet and maybe even Platz and Valom are not making any new injection products. Even Mikro-Mir's new releases are now in bigger scales too.

So for new injection product that are not just 'big' planes, we largely have Armory, Mark 1 and Miniwings.

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Re: Ramblings on the state of the hobby in 1:144

#3

Post by Mig88 »

Sadly, you may have a point Tim. There certainly has been a trend on the downside.

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Re: Ramblings on the state of the hobby in 1:144

#4

Post by ajmm »

It's an interesting discussion - I think the market for 144 has always been small but I do think it has grown quite a bit in the past few years. On balance, I think that in 2020 we are still in a much better place than 6 years ago, when I got back into this hobby.

But then you both make a very good point that there are fewer new, smaller 144 kits being produced (add to your list of manufacturers Heroes Models and Brengun by the way). I also wonder what impact the Covid recession will have. Most of us haven't really, truly felt the economic pain of this yet, and I am sure that model producers will be as affected as any other business. So it would perhaps be natural for them to fall back on the safer markets of the larger scales. I can also see aftermarket producers (whose margins must be even tighter) scaling right back on 144 releases.

I feel all is not lost, though. Reasons for hope:

- Reissues are good and could lead to greater things. I do think that even if Eduard haven't tooled anything new in 144 themselves, they have still made a big commitment to re-issuing Platz-Bego kits to a wider (non-Japanese) audience. Don't forget their etch sets accompanying each issue. This, I think, is promising. They clearly see a market, and it could lead both to wider interest in 144 (what better gateway drug than an Eduard/Platz P-51?!) and potentially new Eduard 144 toolings down the line. Likewise the Platz-Bego own-brand reissues. 

- That larger kits are still being tooled in 144 is good to see. Top of my head: new Vulcan from Trumpeter (re-entering the market after several years not touching 144), re-issues and new releases from Academy which has been largely out of 144 for a while (B-47, B-58, B-1B and B-52). Dragon is getting back into 144 too with their B-1B. While Roden releases have their issues, it is still putting out a lot of new, otherwise unreleased 144 styrene - their Convair 440, Boeing 347s and C-131s are all very nice and fill gaps otherwise occupied by expensive resin kits. With their Condor just issued and an He-111 on the horizon, I don't think their commitment has slowed. While Mikromir's recent releases have been larger scales, it still has a number of 144 projects on the go and last year saw two new-tooled 144 releases by my count (KC-10 and early Victor). And Minicraft... well, let's see what that B-50 looks like. Anyway - all good news, I think.

- When looking out 10 years, I also hold out hope for 3D printing. While still very expensive from Shapeways, I think that 144 is particularly well suited to this medium and (with increasing printer resolution) could well lead to much more being 3D printed as actual kits in the coming 10 years - perhaps much like Triple Nuts or Fox One do it, i.e. a 3D printed model, packaged with decals and a transparent resin canopy... I also think that the precision of 3D printing has great promise for conversions to existing kits (I'm dying for someone to do a 'gun-nose' for an A-26 for instance, pretty easy to do).

So I think it's too soon to tell whether we are past 'peak 144.' But I agree with you, Tim, that this scale will never be taken as seriously as the bigger scales. Not that I particularly mind. It's too small and fiddly for many people (too much like hard work for others) and for the accuracy obsessives, you simply cannot get the level of scaled detail into a 144 kit that you can into a 1:48 or even 1:72 kit (not without some serious time and skills, which many on this forum have in abundance).

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Re: Ramblings on the state of the hobby in 1:144

#5

Post by smeg1959 »

I think the future may lie somewhere between Miguel's and Angus's views. The market for 1/144 will always be a fraction of that for 1/72 and, for that matter, the "new black" (in terms of popularity, of course), 1/48. I just look at what appears on display tables at our annual (but not this year) Model Expo, and it's the airliners that still prop up the numbers in 1/144.

I suspect some of the lack of interest in 1/144 scale stems from that long-held misnomer that small means lacking detail. Despite issuing a number of "modern" aircraft kits that are very good, Revell perpetuated this by re-releasing the ancient (1973/4) range of WW2 fighters under the "Micro Wings" banner a few years ago. The only update was the inclusion of Cartograf decals. Minicraft, too, added and keep adding fuel to the fire with repeated reissues of Crown moulds again dating back to 1973. Again, the decal sheets are updated and the odd "new tooled part" included, but otherwise it's Blast from the Past time.

Of the newer boys on the block, Sweet's kits are the bees knees IMHO, and their quality has been recognised in big circulating mags like SAMI and FSM. But, with the exception of the earlier releases (Sea King, Hurricane, Saetta and Wildcat), everything's been IJN ... and, until recently, variants of the Zero only. Nice aircraft though the A6M is, it will never garner a significant general following outside Japan. Platz and Eduard aren't too far behind in the quality and ease-of-build stakes, and the new Eduard packaging strategy is definitely a positive. Whilst we 1/144 devotees are happy to buy multiples of the one aircraft, the fact remains that many larger scale modellers buy the one example of a particular bird for their collection. Whilst maybe a little on the expensive side at times, releases from Mark I and Mikro Mir have also bolstered the ranks in recent times.

Angus is spot on that we don't know what the effect the COVID-19 crisis will have on 1/144 or, for that matter, models in general. There are those of us old buggers who remember the world oil shortages of the '80s and the impact it had on the modelling industry due to the scarcity of appropriate plastics. True, we now have resin and 3D-printing, and both of those have really helped buoy up the 1/144 market. And one of the reasons I chose the scale was limited display area, but if the trend I'm seeing with older single-storey homes being bulldozed and replaced by huge 2-storey monsters often with underground parking, then space may not be an issue for at least part of the modelling fraternity. Lucky $^%#@s!

Putting the crystal ball to one side, what I can say is that in the period since I got into 1/144 back in 2006, the number and variety of kits has multiplied significantly. Yes, it may tail off for a while - particularly in terms of injection-moulded kits - but there's plenty to keep most of us well nigh occupied for some time to come. Although I'm STILL waiting for a really decent Spitty Mk I ... :roll:
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Re: Ramblings on the state of the hobby in 1:144

#6

Post by JBr-Decals »

Miguel, I know Martin from Armycast in person and I can say that some of the decals they did in 72 or 48 will eventually see the light of day in 144 too, just from a different producer... nudge nudge wink wink :)

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Re: Ramblings on the state of the hobby in 1:144

#7

Post by bluedonkey99 »

It's always tricky.

The market seems to be cyclical in nature and though originally centred around Japanese output with models, gashapon and collectables ruling the roost. It has now expanded with the western producers increasingly issuing kits.

1/144 for airliners is established and i don't see that changing, military aircraft still drives the demand for much of 1/144 i think from the larger producers/

The vehicle market is relatively the poor relation to the aviation market, with the aircraft market being much stronger in range of kits and increasing quality. Aircraft still drives the demand for 1/144 on the whole it would seem.

The interesting factor that appears to emerging over the last few years is the Chinese market in terms of production (in all its guises....)and consumption. There is a lot of interesting content generated around modelling and collecting that was just not thier or (perhaps to be more fair) accessible on social media.

Clearly as 3D printing goes from strength to strength with the barriers to entry keep reducing (i.e less technical knowledge required, cheaper printers and cheaper materials) this should lead to people being able to print high quality on demand with little fuss or thought as they can at present with printed materials. It will open up new areas of demand/

There was a time when i thought, maybe one day i could own an example of every 1/144 item out there.... Thats, long since gone by the wayside. I no longer have the storage, diversity in the range of products and of course the cash - especially with current exchange and postal rates!!

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Re: Ramblings on the state of the hobby in 1:144

#8

Post by Mig88 »

JBr-Decals wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 15:37
Miguel, I know Martin from Armycast in person and I can say that some of the decals they did in 72 or 48 will eventually see the light of day in 144 too, just from a different producer... nudge nudge wink wink :)
Hope springs eternal! Jiri, you have just made my day :D !

I had missed out the matter of 3D-printing in my ramblings and, yes, I do agree that the future may very well lie there. Let's face it, a high percentage of (aircraft) kits available in 1:144 is in resin. After my first experience with a 3D-printed kit a few years back, I stated here in the forum that I could clearly see it replacing resin very much in the way that resin has replaced vacformed kits.

Another concern that I missed from my first post was the matter of future pro-environment anti-plastic legislation. I wouldn't be surprised if, at some point in the (near) future, this could end up having some impact on the plastic model industry too. I try to do my part for the environment and the planet and here I am messing with plastic kits with all its residues :oops: ! Anyhow, food for thought...

I have almost 2000 kits in my stash, more than I will built in my lifetime (I'm 52)! I somehow managed to bring them all over when I moved to a much smaller flat a year ago and the shocking reality really hit me. Since then I have seriously curtailed my purchases. Whereas before I was more carefree now I think about it and restrict what kits I buy and how much considerably. My last buy was Roden's Fw 200 since I only have Anigrand's kit which covers transport versions and I've always really wanted a maritime recon and anti-shipping variant. 1:144 is an ideal scale for me in terms of space but the fact that I often ended up getting various of the same type to make different options or even subvariants ends up defeating the advantage! I still don't know how people can build a B-52 in 1:48 scale! I've seen unbuilt kits of the B-52 and C-5 (I think) in 1:72 and they are massive.

If it's a consolation, after decades of plastic modelling, the Seafire only became available in plastic in 1:72 in all its sub-variants just earlier this past decade!!! One would have thought this would have happened much earlier!

Thanks for your opinions and comments
Miguel
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Re: Ramblings on the state of the hobby in 1:144

#9

Post by Tim R-T-C »

It will be interesting to see if plastic legislation has any effect, but kits couldn't really be defined as 'single use' since they are usually displayed for decades so I hope they should be safe. The main concern is disposable plastic ending up in water courses where it can last centuries.

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Re: Ramblings on the state of the hobby in 1:144

#10

Post by smeg1959 »

JBr-Decals wrote:
Wed Jun 24, 2020 15:37
Miguel, I know Martin from Armycast in person and I can say that some of the decals they did in 72 or 48 will eventually see the light of day in 144 too, just from a different producer... nudge nudge wink wink :)
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