The Abridged Autobiography – I am a born again modeller.
Like many others I nailed kits together as a kid as fast as my pocket money and tube cement would allow. Then one day, somewhere along this linear period of plastic heaven, came the advent of raging teenage hormones and an unquenchable interest in girls. Plastic modelling ceased and took its place in my childhood past.
Fast forward to 1994. I succeeded in finding a girl who couldn’t run as fast as all the others so I caught her, married her and persuaded her that she’d really appreciate the opportunity to experience child birth twice (later three times), especially as I could deliver the fun part while she got all the pain and ‘where’s the bloody epidural?’ while I stood through every agonising minute with her thinking ‘I’m glad I’m a boy, I’m glad I’m a boy’.
I’m on a train station. I need something to read and idle into a book store. Glancing over the titles of the monthly publications my attention is caught by Tamiya Magazine’s front cover. Staring back at me with a compelling and thoroughly baleful glare is a model (a very, very good model) of a Velociraptor. I temporarily become one of those irritating band of people whose adopted purpose in life is to combine together in order to throw up an impenetrable screen around news stands, thus preventing the paying public from actually buying anything from the vendor. I read the article inside. I read it again. Disengaging myself from the ‘Why-Buy-For-It-When-You-Can-Read-It-Here-For-Free’ brigade, I decided that I’d better pay for the (now) well-thumbed pages. I stand astonished by how far modelling has come in the intervening years since my childhood. Before my eyes was evidence of the magic that an airbrush could produce in the hands of someone who knew which end was which.
Like a Woolly Mammoth caught in a tar pit there was no going back - I had to have a Raptor of my own and in that short space of time my dormant interest in modelling was back ‘n burning! And so it came to pass that I pleaded at the time of my birthday that I receive rapturous (er…Raptor-ish) thanks for being brought into the world in the form of hard cash, thank you very much. So with £60.00 odd pounds sterling in my hand I snatched the last 1:5 scale Horizon Velociraptor kit off the shelf of my nearest stockist and skipped happily all the way home.
The Operating Table (non-sterile) – Now to bring the beast to life.
I cut off the moulding plugs and held the various bits up to each other to test the fit. As this was my first vinyl model I was discovering lesson one the hard way - when the parts come out of the mould they’re put to one side to cool. As they chill on the manufacturer's work bench they deform. Not a little but a lot. So the parts don’t fit even vaguely well. This is a disappointing culture shock when you’ve forked out sixty plus beer vouchers for something that appears to be a hopeless case. Still, every problem has a solution or three and on this occasion (ok, ok - as it’s been for 99.99% of my married life!) it was my wife who possessed the answer.
I cunningly left a partly opened bar of chocolate open in the house and with her guard momentarily dropped, I robbed my wife of her hair dryer (after waiting for her to finish using it of course – I do have some sense of my own mortality) and shot hot air over the ends that needed to be reformed. Suitably warm, the vinyl was pulled and pushed into shapes that ultimately mated together very well. The trick is to avoid getting it too toasting and to be near cold water so you can plunge it in (not the hairdryer) and instantly set the new form.
Before long I had a nearly complete animal. Well, the head was missing (which is a bit of a disadvantage for a dino) but for a good reason - the eyes. You see, Marcus Nicholls (editor of Tamiya Magazine) had cut out the vinyl eyes of his Raptor and replaced them with glass taxidermy substitutes. The effect on the front of the magazine was electric. The eyes simply give life to the model in a way that paint over vinyl can’t touch.
Blithely disregarding the natural fear accompanying actually speaking to one of scale modelling’s foremost deities, I rang Marcus at the magazine's office and he was very helpful and patient in explaining what he’d used and so on. I ordered a pair of identical eyes for my kit and was astounded that the effect ‘in the flesh’ was even greater than the pictures conveyed. So out came the vinyl and in they went. The Raptor grew a head and all she needed (mine’s a girl – must be some left over teenage hormones still kicking around) was paint and a base.
‘I’m home dear’, I said in the best Walton’s tradition as I came in one Friday evening. ‘Do you want the bad news or the really bad news or the tiny amount of good news first dear’? My wife looked grim but then she always did when I’d gone out wearing one of her dresses.
‘As it comes please’ I replied, gripping the stair rail. ‘Well you know your dinosaur thingy, one of the cats has had it off”. I reeled in horror. “One of the cats has attempted an obscene act with my Raptor? Those cataracts will have to come out’! ‘No you dipstick – the cat jumped; the dino fell – it’s a kit again – the good news is I think I got all the pieces before I vacuumed the floor’!
When I tearfully examined the slaughter I found the forearms had shattered like glass leaving head, body, rear legs and tail intact. The original parts count was around twenty-five. Feline interference had lifted this to around thirty-five....
Back Into Theatre – You know the advice experienced modellers always give – keep the sprues? Well, I had some left over from a couple of aircraft kits and these were transformed into bones of sorts that allowed the multitude of fragments and chunks to reform into limbs.
The bit that really struck me was the very clean way the vinyl had fractured, not at all as I had expected. Careful re-assembly therefore meant relatively easy clean up of the warty skin until it was impossible to believe that the Raptor’s short and unsuccessful attempt to make like a Pterandon was anything more than a bad dream.
Jurassic Park – Horizon’s Raptor is part of a series the (sadly now defunct) company ran following the film Jurassic Park. It seems they were given access to the moulds used by Stan Winston and his team in the creation of the special effects and as such, it represents the movie Raptor, not the real animal that ran (we think) in packs in prehistoric times.
The film Raptor is depicted at some six feet tall, rather than the four feet of the living Velociraptor. I guess the film makers figured man size was more scary so applied 33% artistic licence. In actual fact, Dinonychus (a relative of Velociraptor) was six feet tall with similar habits but doesn’t have the ‘Raptor’ name advantage and didn’t therefore make the cast list. However, it will always remain my favourite dino but not one I’d have liked to meet as it’s believed it had (among other talents) binocular night vision capability – now that is scary!
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
Spray Day – The lower jaw is a separate part so the mouth and teeth were painted and washed in advance of the main event before being attached and masked off with the eyes.
It is exquisitely pleasurable to report that there are no FS or RLM colours for dinosaur models so freedom of choice, born of imagination, is the order of the day.
The kit was primed with a grey acrylic car body spray and left to cure as a barrier to the Tamiya paint thinned with cellulose that was to follow. Ignore Horizon’s insistence that vinyl needs an acrylic primer coat at your peril – use an alternative and it’s odds on the kit will perish as the solvent attacks the vinyl some way down the line.
This was my first major airbrush project so I made plenty of mistakes to the point where evidence of my failure meant I was better off starting again with the top coats. Second hit was more in line with where I wanted it to be so it was satin varnished and later dark washed before getting the satin sealer treatment.
Back To Base – I’d planned a simple base that suited the very animated running attitude of the kit. With the right leg raised I visualised my Raptor negotiating a fallen Jurassic tree.
My problem was solved when I was on holiday visiting Crackington Haven beach in Cornwall. The world was a pretty okay place, especially as I’d earlier downed several pints of Sharp’s Doom Bar beer with a particularly splendid Sunday lunch. My eldest boy ran up, his arms behind his back (don’t worry – we always untie him before bedtime) before revealing a bit of battered and eroded drift wood that was as Jurassic as ever I was likely to find. ‘You could use this with the Raptor’ he said and I did.
I love children. I just couldn’t eat a whole one, that’s all.
The Verdict – At a couple of feet long Horizon's Raptor has serious presence. If you have one on the bench or find one in a model store buy some taxidermy eyes for it – these are a must!
A base of some kind is also imperative – it won’t stand up without one! A hole was drilled in the leg closest to the ground (today’s top tip…) and some threaded brass studding rod was cut to a suitable length and left protruding so’s it could be secured with a 10mm nut under the base. This arrangement meant that the base itself had to grow legs too – these are simply wooden cabinet handles.
I’ve heard the WWI fraternity protest for ages that they’re not as well served as the Luftwaffe WWII crew and that’s true – however, check out the range of available quality dino kits and suddenly the Jasta Meisters are in gravy! This is a shame so get yourself an E-Bay account and see if you can snaffle one of these great but now discontinued kits. Be prepared for your bank balance to go a bit light headed and weak at he knees if you succeed.
All told, the kit's 65 million years worth of fun – so after such a patient wait you’d better get one!
Jurassic Park (the movie).
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