Words have meaning. For example: we’re repeatedly informed that scratchbuilding is “too hard”, that “nobody scratchbuilds anymore” and that scratchbuilding is a “waste” of time because there’s so much ready-to-run available. Three mantras that you don’t have to look very far or hard to find.

Let’s break this down.

What, precisely, is “too hard?” (Insert the theme music from the Final Jeopardy portion of the TV show here.)

Hard is a relative word. As used above it’s a whiney excuse used by people unwilling to try something new or different. What we’re actually talking about is degrees of difficulty.

If we’re speaking of things that are difficult, we must acknowledge that what is difficult for me may be simple for another due to innate ability or more experience and practice. As applied to basic scratchbuilding, cutting a straight line is difficult, until you’ve learned how and practiced the technique a few (dozen) times. What is difficult initially, yields to time and practice, a simple formula that’s true regardless of the skill level you apply it toward. Kind of takes the wind out of that “it’s too hard” sail wouldn’t you agree?

Nobody scratchbuilds anymore
Really? Absolutely no one? I guess the folks exhibiting at the RPM meets didn’t get the memo. Maybe fewer people are scratchbuilding now than in times past but NOBODY? Calling that bluff  and enough said.

And finally (trumpet fanfare please)…

With all the ready-to-run product available at the mere swipe of a credit card, why would anyone possibly want to waste their time scratchbuilding? I mean geez, come on dude get a clue, I’ve got an empire to build.

Why scratchbuild? Maybe those wonderful benevolent manufacturers can’t make a profit on the obscure prototype I enjoy modeling. Maybe I’ve chosen a scale and era combination that doesn’t attract a commercial interest, oh, like say, for example, modern day in P48. Maybe, just maybe, I’m an old school dinosaur who still enjoys working with my hands and learning a new thing or two? Maybe my sense of personal satisfaction from a scratchbuilt structure or car is just as important to me as that ready-to-run enabled triple deck empire is to you?

Back to the top
If we accept the concept that words have meaning is true (and I do), then it stands to reason that the words we use to define things will influence our view of and response to those things.

On this blog I deliberately use the terms craft or practice instead of hobby. These words reflect an intent and speak of a different mindset. This strikes me as important because such language evokes a different set of expectations.

I chose to think of scale modeling as a craft, and yes, even as an art form. I strive to bring a craftsman’s mindset and ethic to the work and an artist’s eye for grace, form and simplicity, because I don’t see any difference between scale modeling and other traditional crafts such as woodworking, scuplture or pottery. Craft is craft, art is art, creating is creating.

When I use language like this, people’s eyes just roll and glaze over because the power of those words chaff against their comfortable meanings and traditions and soon the battle cry will be sounded: “Whoa now, let’s all settle down and remember, it’s just a hobby!”

Well, so what? My question is: why do we insist on such a narrow and increasingly shallow definition for an activity that has such unlimited potential for enriching our lives?

How does it enrich our lives? I can only provide my own answers.

As with painting or drawing, in approaching a subject for scratchbuilding I quickly realize how little I truly know about it and how shallow my observation has been. Like many I tend to settle for mere surface impressions without going deeper into understanding the true nature of a subject. However to build an accurate model, I need to immerse myself into the nature of that subject. Many questions must be answered, some obvious and others less so. Such inquiries  reflect a spirit of curiosity that permeates my approach to life.

Scratchbuilding reveals how quickly I get frustrated and it destroys any pretense about my abilities. This is more than a matter of temperament, it’s a reflection of insights and teachable moments about personal integrity.  An edge is straight or it isn’t. A part is accurate or it isn’t. These stubborn facts show me how quickly I’m willing to compromise or not. These moments and dozens more all grant an opportunity to learn and exercise different patterns of thought, which in turn lead to better outcomes.

Let’s consider a different tack, was history boring in school? Is researching the line you’re modeling boring? It’s called self-directed learning and scale modeling/railroad modeling is an outstanding classroom and opportunity we’re squandering because of how we’ve defined it to ourselves.

What do you want?
Why do we derisively sneer at and belittle such thinking? Why do we so freely, loudly and enthusiastically proclaim this hobby is the greatest thing since sliced bread; declare our undying love for it and then so freely, even proudly compromise the hell out of it because, as some insist, it’s just a hobby? Isn’t there enough compromised shoddy crap in the world? I simply can’t understand why people willingly embrace such a mentality.

I’m not here to dictate to others, nor do I give a wit about the vacuous intimidation tactics of those who have no argument or defense for their position. I believe this craft amply rewards whatever you bring of yourself to it and the more you bring to it, the greater the rewards.

In the end I decide what this work is to me and the meaning it brings into my life and you get to decide the same.