Tuesday, September 5

Read n' reviewed: AK Learning 15: Modeling from Scratch...

AK Learning 15: "Modeling from Scratch" by Chris Meddings invites the reader into the world of scratch building in an easy to follow and accessible book that we hope to learn a lot from. What did we think? see in our review...

Read n' reviewed: AK Learning 15: Modeling from Scratch 
Author: Chris Meddings
Published by AK Interactive
SKU: AK527
88 pages. Soft cover.
Available in English or Spanish languages
Price: 10,95€ on the AK Interactive Website
We have reviewed plenty of the AK Interactive "Learning Series" of books. They are small books, normally around 80 odd pages and full of either techniques in painting and weathering, or in this case, of how to make and improve your modelling. Penned by Chris Meddings, AK Learning #15: "Modeling from Scratch" wants to show us how to open our eyes to another way of improving our models, and how to make whole new creations from "scratch".

The book in its physical form:
At a thin and accessible eighty-eight pages, bound in a soft, shiny cover, this book comes in either English or in Spanish language versions. The book is slightly smaller than A4 at 240mm x 170mm. Inside, you will find six main chapters cut into smaller sections of a few pages each, and some examples of the work put together in the last pages of the book.
Page by page:
We start the book with a homely introduction by AK Interactive's president, we get straight into the book's introduction.

The long list of contributors to this work are listed in the front of the book...
The concept of scratch building, the materials and the functions that this style of model making presents is explained briefly over a few pages here. We get a general introduction before the real book begins and we start earning.
In this first section we look at many of the materials that are used (and could be) used in scratch building. I say "and could be" as the author suggests some alternate to the products sold on modelling websites. Plastic /styrene/ABS, brass and metal stock, wood, paper, putties, foams and the "found materials" that i know I hold so dear when I find something that I just know can be used in a model are all here and explained in depth as to their uses and their different types and incarnations.
The second chapter shows us the tools most commonly used in scratch building. From the basics, like rulers, knives, blades, set squares & nippers, tweezers, scalpels & scribing tools, pin vices, saws & measuring devices like calipers and jigs. The author gives us a good shopping list to acquire before or even after you set out on your scratch building adventures. He explains the importance of a jig to ensure the work is square and measured out correctly.
We get tips on the correct punches, mire cutters and circle cutters and rivet makers. along with the many adhesives that literally keep your work in one piece.  Cyrano, ABS glues (and accelerators), along with tapes that  we use to hold parts together and as a scribing guide. We also look at the base of the work in the form of your basic cutting mat and sanding materials. The author gives us a helpful chart as to which glue to use with each different material you are constructing or putting together. We briefly also look at something that leads us into the third chapter, the use of power tools like rotary tools, vacuum form machine and most interestingly a cutter/plotter machine.
Chapter three is concerned with our safety - as we sometimes forget to worry about it ourselves. A valuable and much needed chapter  on a subject that many of us sometimes forget or ignore. Two pages, but much needed pause before we start on how to not hurt yourself or turn your new project into a red mess!
In Chapter  four - "Basic techniques for Styrene" we learn pretty much that, from the ground up. Block text with annotations to show what the author is talking about in the photos present along with simple diagrams showing how-too and how not-too approach the plastic types on offer. From sheets, rod and tube. Techniques like snapping plastic after it has been scored are shown here as an example along with the use of a cutting square to produce angled cuts. 
The process of planning the subject is next (maybe this could have been put before the chapter previous?) as we read about the use of our major sources of information: Technical manuals, plans & original photographs to envisage and grasp the dimensions and requirements for your next project. There are some great tips in here and the author gives us a good closing remark to motivate the hesitant scratch builder also.
So when/where do we start? Now - in chapter six, where the author puts down the theory and starts us on our scratch building adventure with a few different exercises. Making a simple box, the building block of it all, then detailing that into something you actually need in your dio. We then make a ladder and some angled steps, then on to texturizing plastic to make wood and water surfaces realistically. A great start to the process. We are only at page fifty by this point. So there is plenty of learning and examples to follow for the reader from here on.
As it says on the chapter tittle, we get serious now, with "complex projects & tricks for common parts", in which the author shows and tells how to make complex shapes out of simple components and processes. We learn how he creates a tank hull from several simple shapes put together, then detailed. Simple processes are explained, like making eyelets & duplicating flat parts into multiples. 
We learn how to make nuts, bolts, buttons and rivets for all jobs. The author shows us a step by step on the making of towing shackles and an enclosed circular ladder, grab handles and towing cable from metal. We also learn in step by step how to create a few different types of exhaust systems for vehicles. The difficulty is notched up at a sensible pace that most modellers could follow and replicate. Very good learning to be had here.
In the final chapter called "examples", well, what do you think we look at? Again the author takes us from the simple, and ramps up the difficulty in small but easy to identify difficulties in a didactic manner. He is a good teacher and knows his subject very well. Not only that, he has the gift of being able to explain his work in a way that is easy to follow.
Seven examples are shown. From creating a WWI trench, to the side of a building, to a corrugated roof, door and wall section, a ruined wall section with a wooden door, cracked rubble and wood, the corner of a building with a wooden and then tiled roof that has suffered a lot of damage, the basement of a building with plenty of metal, pipes and rivets, a large extractor fan, piping and electrical elements are all shown. Each with a step by step explanation that put together, will cover most of your diorama and machine scratch building.
We also learn about vac forming and how to troubleshoot your progress before we lastly look at a complex example of a beautiful Zündapp KS 750 bike and sidecar. The author takes us through his enhancements to the base (very basic) Revell kit in 1/9th scale. The enhancements especially tot he engine are a real icing on this learning cake. Read and re-read like I did, and I might just have the courage to try this. I know that I certainly would have the skill if I followed the many lessons within this book. Talent is another thing though folks!
That is all he wrote!

OK, so what do I think? The book is a short and therefore accessible read. Too many books nowadays try to be everything to everyone - this book just cuts to what I want to and what I NEED to know. Simple lessons ramped up one step at a time help the reader develop their skills and learning if followed at a comfortable pace for their own needs.

I like it that this book isn't just a sales catalogue, it is a real learning tool, and I guess that is what it set out to do. Job well done.

This should be one of the first tools you pick up before any scratch building adventure.

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to AK Interactive for sending this book to us to review or you. This book is now available on the on the AK Interactive Website