Earlier this evening, our family watched the latest episode of James May’s Toy Stories on BBC America.
It’s basically a nostalgic look back on the hobbies of yesteryear, and a completely doomed attempt by a middle aged white guy to make them seem cool to the generation AFTER the Nintendo generation.
There was the model train episode, the erector set episode, and the modeling clay episode. All of which, apparently, go under different manufacturer’s trade names in England.
What? Other countries had their own versions of products? Go figure.
I enjoy the show because the inherently futile nature of James May’s quest to have kids tell him that, yes, what he did as a kid IS cool, is somehow fulfilling to me. It’s not Hamlet, but his utter cluelessness does qualify as a tragedy.
My son, on the other hand, finds this talk of toys on TV by stuffy adults interesting for it’s own sake, and we do our part by gushing over the awesomeness of what they do on the show. The model train show, for example, saw us explaining just how amazing the feat of a 15 mile working model train track was by comparing it to how far away his Grandma lives, and multiplying that by two.
Anyway, sorry. Follow the bloody link, that’ll tell you more about the show if you’re interested.
Mah point is, we watched it earlier this evening, and the topic was plastic model kits.
Well, hellfire, finally something I actually DID as a kid!
I loved putting together those damn model kits. Military planes and tanks were my subjects of choice. I was messy with glue, I didn’t have very good attention to detail, and much like Calvin and Hobbes, working canopies and landing gear, in my hands, quickly weren’t.
But that’s okay. At the same time, my other fascination was with fireworks. My stepfather sold ‘em illegally out the back of a panel truck at the local swap meet. I, at the ripe old age of 12, used to actually be the one to drive the truck on my own down to the swap meet, which as I recall was held at the time at the Hialeah Race Track parking lot. this was before he became my stepfather; at the time, he was the guy that hired me to help stock shelves and work the register at his Five and Dime store, and I got the job to support my Pac-Man habit.
You know, come to think of it, my life has been filled with things that I would never let my son do in a million years, and that if I’m unlucky could still net me, or others, jail time. Maybe I need to start screening my memoirs.
I just fact checked myself. By god, I really WAS twelve when I did that. Wow. I hope my son never sees this; ain’t no way in HELL I’m letting that boy drive my car at twelve.
Where the heck? Oh right.
Plastic model kits and fireworks. It seems so obvious to juxtapose the two, doesn’t it? Who HASN’T stuck cherry bombs and M-80s up a jet’s tailpipe? C’mon, be honest. Or taken a shitload of bottle rockets, daisy chained the fuses and hot glued them to your jet’s wings to see if you could achieve powered flight.
Who else out there found out that what hot bottle rocket exhaust mostly does is melt airplane wings?
Ah, good times, good times. I still fondly recall taking the giant sized bags of plastic army men, planting them all over a huge dirt mound at the local construction site, adding tanks, and then mining the entire area with daisy chained firecrackers (Black Cat for preference) and lobbing M-80s at the stubborn ones.
Hmm. What the hell was I talking about before I got sidetracked into making things boom?
Oh right. Plastic model kits.
Our son watched the episode, and I could see the gears turning. I asked him if he’d like to build a model.
“Of course not, father, that is much too boring for me. I’d prefer a nice biscuit and a cup of tea.”
What do you think he said? He said YES!
So, he’s seven years old, and I haven’t built a model kit since I traded firecrackers for 40mm grenades.
What I do recall is Revell made a line of snap together model kits that were for beginners, models that didn’t require glue. They even had adhesive labels instead of the water decals.
I did a quick scan for plastic model kits on the internet, wondering if this was a hobby that has gone the way of the dodo, and found to my astonishment that there are thousands of kits and dozens of companies in the mix.
Too many choices, and no good places I found to find reviews from people NOT trying to sell me something.
So, I turn to you in the hopes that I might have some readers out there that still love building models, and have an awareness of the various levels of quality and sophistication (or lack thereof).
Anybody have any personal opinions on what manufacturers or brands would be good quality and skill level for a dad and seven year old to build together, with the idea that I really like my son to take the lead and figure these things out himself as we go, with my nudges? I don’t do the “let me take that and do it all for you as you watch” thing, you don’t learn anything that way.
I saw that BanBan apparently does some snap kit Gundam mech figures that look awesome, and Revell is doing snap tite Star Wars kits, and all sorts of craziness out there. And I think there were some dinosaurs available from someone.
Seriously, anybody got any knowledge of this stuff that could give us some guidance? I’d like to have some clue of what brands or kits to look for before I drag him into one of the massive local hobby stores and see him run RIGHT straight for the $300 precision scale models designed for the professional hobbyists.
I love that line. “Professional hobbyist”. Look, I’m Gallagher!
I asked him what kinds of models he’d want to try, and the categories come down to military tanks and spaceships.
Tanks and spaceships! [sniff]
I’m so proud!
Still, he didn’t know dinosaurs or giant robots were options, so I’m keeping my mind open. Or maybe it’s just that *I* want to build giant robots.