A glimpse into my scale modeling hobby

Posts tagged “reviews

I have you now

IMG_2473I am moving along at a decent rate building models, but I am abysmal at keeping up with posting about them. I have found it far easier to regularly post on Instagram among the great modelling community there than keep up with this blog. Sometimes, however, the nature of Instagram prevents longer form thoughts, so I keep coming back here to share and write. I think there is some part of me that never got tired of writing class, and this is a great outlet for that urge.IMG_2474One of the kits I finished in the past few months is the Bandai version of Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter. I originally had the FineMolds version on my shelf, but after working with so many great Bandai kits I sold my FineMolds kit on ebay and grabbed the Bandai version. As expected, this is a great kit with one glaring exception. More on that later…IMG_2475Painting TIE fighters is not a difficult task, so I used Vallejo Light Grey as a base coat and neutral grey for the cockpit frame and highlights on the top hatch. The wings came molded in a standard flat black, but I painted them to remove some of the plastic-y toy look. Here was my main issue with the kit, however. Both wings came molded as all one part, solar panels and frame all together. The colors were correct, except for a little black strip on the frame where the black panels connected to the sprue. I wish I had thought to take a picture at the time for reference, but unfortunately I was just too frustrated to think about it. On previous TIE fighter kits I have built, the frame and solar panels always came separately to make painting easy. This kit, however, was a masking nightmare just to cover all of the bumps and greeblies to prevent any paint bleeding. I survived and I still like the end result, but it could have been a lot easier. The kit came with decals to cover the little black strips on the frames, which would also have been a nightmare to use.IMG_2476With that complaint out of the way, everything else went very smoothly. I did not want to over weather the TIE based on research from how it looks in the movie, so I just used a couple layers of dark wash to make the panel lines and details pop a little more.IMG_2478It is also fun to paint tiny little Darth Vaders, and my four-year-old son especially got a kick out of playing with dad’s miniature Vader.IMG_2436Finally, I have started trying out a brief video review when I finish a model kit and sharing to a Youtube channel with the same name as this blog, Life to Scale. The quality and lighting of this video is pretty terrible, but I received a mini photo studio over the holidays and hope to start upping the quality a little more. Forgive the clear first-timer quality of this video, but I figured I would share it anyway.

Vader’s TIE review video

The Captain Said I Had To

IMG_2408.jpgI was pretty pumped about building this K2-S0 kit from Bandai because he was an instant fan favorite and a classic contribution to the Star Wars universe. As usual with the Bandai kits, everything fit well and hid big seams. I was a little worried about K2’s stability because, as you can see in the pictures, his legs are pretty thin, but the joints are pretty solid and the variety of poses allow for flexible display options.

IMG_2409.jpgAs I am finding more and more, these kits require a good paint job combined with some of the provided decals to look their best. The molded colors are often decent, but in the case of K2, I went with a full paint job for the weathering features I wanted to use. I started everything in a base coat of chrome silver enamel paint and then used a primarily flat black acrylic coat on top. The black acrylic was really easy to chip and reveal the silver underneath for a scratched look.

I used the decals on a few spots, namely the Imperial logo on the shoulder, the small details on the back, and the arm joints with the yellow band. The most difficult paint area was in the silver arm joints. The kit comes with a clear part to keep the thin arms and legs stable, so I had to do some tricky masking to keep all of those parts from being covered with the black top coat.

IMG_2411.jpgI love how lightweight this figure is, and I think it looks great compared to what you could get from the Hasbro Black Series line. The lightweight plastic allows K2 to be easily manipulated into many different display positions. My only complaint is that the neck has fairly limited movement, but overall that is a minor issue. If you can still find this kit lurking around the internet somewhere, get it! It was a blast to build and looks great!

Anakin’s Podracer

Podracer frontWhatever your opinion of the Star Wars prequels, you probably remember the podrace scene. If you are around my age and had a Nintendo 64, you also probably have fond memories of the Star Wars Podracer game. Besides being ridiculously hard (I recently played the game again at a friend’s house and crashed into the wall repeatedly), I remember all of the cool ship designs for the various alien racers. Some of the racers in the game showed up as fleeting glimpses as the camera panned, while others, like Sebulba’s pod, were featured more prominently in the Phantom Menace. Naturally, if you are going to choose one podracer to make a model version of, the only logical choice is Anakin’s pod, although I think Sebulba’s podracer would make a wicked-looking model. So until FineMolds or Revell comes out with a Sebulba podracer model, I will give you my thoughts on Anakin’s Podracer by AMT/Ertl, hopefully with more poise and skill than I ever demonstrated on the fatal racetracks of Malastare or the renowned canyons of the Boonta Eve Classic.

A great shot of the full build.

A great shot of the full build.

What I Liked

-I loved the size of this kit. The box doesn’t mention a scale, but my guess is somewhere around the 1/32 scale range. It is the perfect scale to show a good amount of detail, particularly on the two engines.

-The final display looks really cool. The metal wire pieces that hold the kit up are very understated and help give the kit a truly floating effect.

-The parts are molded in a pretty good quality plastic.

-If you are patient, you can snag this kit for a pretty decent price on ebay. Keep watching and don’t buy the first one you see. I got mine for about $15.

The pod complete with miniature Anakin.

The pod complete with miniature Anakin.

What I Didn’t Like

-The fit for many of the parts was really bad. Nothing in the cockpit fit well at all, and I had to do some surgery to include everything (part of which was my fault for assembling something the wrong way!). Even if I had assembled everything correctly, I still think the fit would be pretty tight. The engines also had a fat seam right down the middle, which I tried to fill where I could, but the amount of hills, valleys, and crevices on the engine parts made it very difficult to sand down. Fortunately, some of the seams were covered by other parts.

The engines were a great place to add weathering.

The engines were a great place to add weathering.

How Can I Make it Better?

-Weathering is one of the best ways to improve this kit. The engine parts have so many cracks and crevices that a basic black wash does wonders for the overall look. I also used some soot weathering powder around the rear of the engines and the spinning part at the front.

-I love the technique of painting a silver enamel layer and then adding an acrylic topcoat of whatever final color you would like. This allows for some slight chipping of the topcoat to simulate the paint worn down to the original metal. I used this very sparingly on the tips of the podracer’s wings, flaps, whatever you want to call them…

-I also added some weathering to simulate sand-worn spots. Little Ani never left Tatooine, so the only place he ever raced or tried out his pod was in sand. Basically, all I did was use some sand weathering powder to dull the silver on his pod and to lighten up some of the edges on the engines.

Pod with some sand-worn smudges.

Pod with some sand-worn smudges.

-I am sure that there are many other ways you could make this kit even cooler, one being a custom sand display base. Perhaps that’s a project for the future!

Finally, here are a few more pictures of the final build. If you have completed this kit, share some of your experiences or frustrations in the comments!

A nearly full view of Anakin's Podracer. It's hard to get the whole thing in one picture and still show some detail!

A nearly full view of Anakin’s Podracer. It’s hard to get the whole thing in one picture and still show some detail!

The best shot I could get of the whole kit, looking down from the top.

The best shot I could get of the whole kit, looking down from the top.

The Time Has Finally Come

Delorean Full View

I have to admit that I can’t resist the time puns in my posts about the Delorean Time Machine. Maybe it’s the language nerd inside of me. Or maybe it’s just a really dry sense of humor…

I finally have found the opportunity to post some pictures and final thoughts on my recently finished AMT Delorean model kit. The kit was not too difficult overall, but it did include quite a bit of detailed paint work, and some of the pieces were troublesome fits. I attribute the latter to the fact that the kit is old and doesn’t benefit from the advances in molding technology.

The complicated back part of the modified Delorean

The complicated back part of the modified Delorean


  • The kit is a good representation of the car from the second film. The kit also has the option to display it with the wheels down or up.
  • The body came in two primary parts, and everything else was attached to it. This made the assembly straightforward.


  • The parts that facilitated the movement of the wheels were flimsy, and one of mine broke after it was assembled. It was next to impossible to fix this without taking apart a good chunk of the assembly.
  • Lots of detailed hand painting. I only used my airbrush for the base color of the car. Everything else was done by hand. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be tedious.
Lots of nice touches on the interior, including a clock sitting on the time machine panel.

Lots of nice touches on the interior, including a clock sitting on the time machine panel.

Some final thoughts:

I did not do a lot of weathering on this kit, mainly because the car in the movie is not too banged up. I used small amounts of weathering powder to show spots of dirt and rust, but beyond that I left the kit as is.

I know there are some newer kits out there that are aligned with the specific versions of the car from each movie, but if you can find this kit for a good price on the internet (I paid about $15 on ebay), it is not a bad little purchase. It took me a long time to build because life has been busy and because cars (even ones from movies I love) just don’t have as much appeal for me as other types of vehicles. Overall, however, I am pleased with the final outcome, and it will add some nice variety to my collection. Enjoy some more pictures!

Delorean Front View

Delorean Back View



…And They Have a Plan

A Formidable Opponent

A Formidable Opponent

In the intro to the show Battlestar Galactica the narrator and the screen text always end with the words, “…and they have a plan,” but it has taken me a long time to finish this kit, largely because I didn’t have one. I was waiting for some wing decals to return to stock at the Starship Modeler Store, and I got them a couple months ago but I just did not have the motivation to work on the kit because I had no plan for it. I debated buying the masking set online, as I had heard good reviews on it, but I could not drop the money to pay for it. Finally, I decided to try out a couple of the metalizers lying around my work area. I started with a dark gray metalizer, thinned pretty heavily, and I used my airbrush to cover the entire ship with varying gradations of the color.

A good close-up of the wing. The small green symbol is the decal set I ordered.

A good close-up of the wing. The small green symbol is the decal set I ordered.

After the dark gray coat, I tried out a gunmetal shade the second time. Once again, I heavily thinned the paint, and then used the airbrush to highlight certain areas that I thought should have a darker tint. After those two coats, I was really becoming pleased with the results.

Finally, I added several black washes to the whole ship, in order to fill in a lot of the deep cracks with the simulated dirt look.Rear View B/W

My decisions resulted in a very burnished metal look, which felt appropriate to the BSG universe. I used very little of my weathering powders, because I was already satisfied with the way it looked. I did add one spot to simulate a bullet burn mark, but overall the metalizers and washes created a very realistic looking piece.

Some final thoughts on the kit. This Raider looks great next to my two Vipers, although the size of the Raider surprised me. Either the scale is slightly off, or these fighters would have been some scary suckers to stare down in the middle of combat. The quality of the kit is the typical high quality of Moebius Models. Seams are fairly well-hidden, although I had to do a good amount of filling on the ship’s underside. I chose to sand off the raised logos on the wings and go with the decals from the Starship Modeler Store, and I like the look that they are painted directly on the ship.

One Scary Toaster

One Scary Toaster

Overall, this kit is at a great price point ($25-$35), is high quality, and looks great. If you enjoy Battlestar Galactica, I definitely recommend that you add this kit to your collection.

Raider wing

Staring down fear!

Staring down fear!

Quick Speeder Bike Update

My original paint job on the engine. Eventually changed most of it to black.

My original paint job on the engine. Eventually changed most of it to black.

I have been hard at work on the AMT Speeder Bike, and I decided it was time for an update and a few thoughts. After spending a good chunk of time on this kit, I now know why I got so frustrated as a kid. There are lots of small parts, and the fit on some of the parts is subpar, at best.

A few thoughts at this point in the build: I really like the way the kit is turning out. I have used a few references for the kit, including my speeder bike toy from the 90s and the book From Star Wars to Indiana Jones, which showcases models and props from the Lucasfilm Archives. I mainly used these references because the painting instructions for this kit were worthless. The suggested c0lors ranged from 5 different shades of grey to black, and that was not how I remembered the speeders in the movies.

I once again used the hard silver enamel base coat with a softer acrylic top coat. So far, the results are proving even better than my Corporate Alliance Droid kit. Also, I went with the Tamiya flat brown for my top coat. All my memories of speeder bikes cry out brown, and I could not do this kit in any other color.

The kit has a good amount of detail overall, but some of the parts needed some extra love to fit properly. For the speeder element of the kit, there were not too many spots that needed filling, but the Scout Trooper was another matter. I will talk about him in a future post…

Top: 90s speeder bike toyBottom: mostly complete model version

Top: 90s speeder bike toy
Bottom: mostly complete model version

My biggest complaint with this version of the Speeder Bike kit is the in-flight stand. I had many near-heart attacks, broken pieces and angry words while trying to insert the speeder into the small hole in the plastic disk. In addition, the stand would take up a huge amount of space on my shelves, of which I have precious little. Ultimately, I decided the frustration and potentially ruined model were not worth the trouble, so I put the kit on the backburner and ordered a new stand for it.

On the positive side, I really love how the scratched brown and silver undercoat have turned out. I tend to over-weather, and I think I found a good balance on this kit.

I am still working on the Scout Trooper, and hopefully I will get my stand order sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I am returning my focus to the Cylon Raider. Final pics coming soon!

Speeder is finished, while the Scout Trooper awaits some attention

Speeder is finished, while the Scout Trooper awaits some attention

Ready to Join Rogue Squadron

I am going to put all my cards on the table right away and say that the 1/72 X-Wing Fighter kit by FineMolds is absolutely fantastic. I finally finished putting this one together even in the midst of the beginning of the school year and all of the chaos that goes along with preparing for that.

The X-Wing is both one of the most beloved vehicles in the Star Wars saga and also my absolute favorite ship in the Star Wars galaxy (many hours of playing Rogue Squadron for N64 and Gamecube cemented this snub fighter firmly in my consciousness). Because of this high standing, it was incredibly rewarding to construct this little thing of beauty.

I will begin with some very minimal negatives about the kit. The display stand is a little boring. It provides a good resting position for an in-flight look, but there is nothing particularly flashy or unique about it. As a result, however, I feel challenged to create a better stand, and I hope to do something that combines the X-Wing with the TIE Fighter in some sort of combat position.

One other suggestion that I think could be cool. FineMolds should produce a slightly higher priced set that includes enough for 2 full X-Wings. They already have all of the decals included for Red 1-5, and who wouldn’t want a Luke and Wedge, or Luke and Biggs flying in formation in their  display cases?

Close-up of the backside

Now, onto all of the really great things about this model kit. The detail is really superb for the small scale. Everything from R2’s dome to the small marks that cover the sides of the ship make for an incredibly realistic final product.

The overall build was appropriately challenging, with a few complex parts that required careful attention, but nothing that caused frustration or anger! The decals, on the other hand, were occasionally tedious, especially some of the small black marks that cover parts of the torpedo wells and the sides of the fuselage.

A close view of R2 and the cockpit

One of the biggest challenges of the kit was giving proper homage to the worn look of the X-Wing fighter. These guys have seen quite a bit of battle action, and they need to look the part. In the past, I have tended to over-weather some of my kits, so I tried to live by the mantra of “less is more” this time. I gave the whole kit a dark gray wash and then went in with some snow weathering powder for edges and soot for areas around the engines and exhaust. I think I struck a pretty decent balance this time around.

As I was reflecting on the kit, there were a few things I want to improve for the future. One, I wish I had done some more sanding and filling to take away some of the lines. Two, I would like to do some more experimenting with washes. I like what I have, but I would like to try some different mixes depending on the project and the story I want to tell with the kit.

This was a long post, but there are so many things to talk about with this kit. If you are considering buying this one, do it NOW! The retail cost is quite reasonable (~$30), and the overall quality of the kit is outstanding. Enjoy and May the Force be With You!

One of my favorite views of the X-Wing