Striking a different sort of pose

Posted 31st July 2023

We are usually told that bigger is better, but there is at least one group in Milton Keynes who would strongly dispute that, and Milton Keynes Scale Model Club (MKSMC) members are out to shake up any stuffy preconceptions you might have about the hobby too. Pulse’s Sammy Jones learned more from club secretary John Willshere and keen member Andy Mc Glashan.

MKSMC certainly has staying power – it’s been a permanent fixture in the town turned city for more than three decades. Members range from 12 years old to one chap in his 90s. How’s that for all encompassing?

But before we get lost in jargon, what exactly is a scale model club?
“It usually involves building, customising and painting a boxed plastic kit, like Airfix, Revell and Tamiya, and often setting it onto a base relevant to the subject,” explains club secretary John Willshere.

John has been involved since 2016: “I was modelling on my own but really enjoyed the banter at the club, which led me to try lots of different modelling subjects.”
The pandemic ate into every part of our lives, and even had an influence on the numbers who have picked up the hobby and joined the club.

“Many adults found their childhood interest reignited during the extended lockdown,” he said, “We have three founding members still active in the club and this year a few younger members have come along with a parent. The skill range is from the enthusiastic starter through to national champions and professional model builders and review article writers.”

John’s first foray into the ‘other’ world of modelling was as a keen seven-year-old when he pieced together an Airfix Spitfire.

“…I then got into Wargames and modelled for that hobby until I was 14, then it all went into the loft for three decades when I started making models with my children, and that got me into serious model making. I think this is a frequent pathway, although many of our members have consistently made models or have a crossover skill to engineering.”

Another MKSMC member whose interest was piqued as a wee lad is Andy Mc Glashan: “I did the Airfix kits when I was a kid. I dipped in and out of it as I grew up, and then got back into it while working as a prototype engineer, producing one-offs and utilising the skills I had learned from the hobby.”

For John, there are many positives to be had from his hobby: “The mindfulness of concentrating in a focused way on the detail of model making; a passionate interest in the history surrounding the model being built; and the personal endeavour to improve my skill, invention and artistry. I spend about half of my time researching the subject, reading up about who made, designed, drove, rode or fought in, or on, the subject.”
You might have visions of rooms in houses being taken over by parts and boxes and glue and all sorts of modelling paraphernalia, and while that is sometimes true, it needn’t be the case.

Andy says: “You can work off a tray or a small area, although some of us older members do have a studio in a spare room, or a workshop in the garden…”

And don’t go knocking Andy for spending hours in the creative workshop: “It can be quite labour intensive but it’s good to keep in mind that it’s a hobby not a job – you can lose hours and evenings working on things, but that’s the same with every hobby,” he says, “I’d rather that than lose a night watching tv – this you can do with a bit of music on in the background.

“The next build is always a great challenge to push yourself further and gain a new skill set along the way,” he says explaining the allure, “Aside from the social aspect, you learn problem solving and engineering skills that can be taken into future careers.”

Over at John’s place, he works from a small utility room which his wife has declared ‘the hutch’!

Modelling mightn’t be as sexy as some hobbies, but ‘don’t knock it till you’ve tried it’ could be the unofficial motto of the MKSMC.

“Think what subject might inspire you – maybe a model of your favourite Ferrari, or a tank that your father served in and give it a go,” urges John, “Have a look in a proper model shop like Al’s Hobbies in Wolverton at the range of kits or even try Hobbycraft to see the variety of subjects available.

“You are always welcome to pop along on our club night and see what goes on – you don’t need to stay or come again, just stick your head round the door to see what we’re up to. The offer is there for the inquisitive newbie or anyone who has been making models for a while, but didn’t know about the club.”

Andy adds: “Everybody’s got their thing, and a hobby is good for mindful wellbeing. Try it, and still think it’s boring, then I’ll respect your opinion, but it’s a good hobby for younger people who may be on the spectrum as they can produce super detailed work and get a sense of satisfaction from the completion.”

If you think the extent of modelling is miniature planes, car models and tanks, you’d be wide of the mark. Of course they are still popular choices, but how about the figurines of the most famous cat and mouse duo, Tom and Jerry? Perhaps a miniature Schwarzenegger as The Terminator? Or some downsized Ghostbusters characters?

And rather than sinking money into a full sized VW Camper that you’ll have big ideas for, but leave to rot, why not opt for the small, more cost effective version? It’s what smart people would choose to do. There are model kits for all, no matter what your passion.
As with any hobby, there can be peaks and troughs though.

“How long is a piece of string?” John replies when asked how labour intensive the activity can be, “Some modellers work on a single large passion project for many months or years. Others knock out a model every couple of weeks or so. These things have to fit around other commitments and also depend on the prevailing ‘mojo’. Sometimes it’s all consuming, other times it’s hard to get or stay motivated.

“It’s an absorbing pastime with a sense of achievement in artistry or construction that fuels and feeds off interest in many and varied topic areas,” John promises.
And, while it might still appear to be a male dominated hobby, Andy says that the tide is changing.

“There are definitely more girls and ladies joining the hobby…there has been a big resurgence in kits from Marvel and Star Wars franchises, which are popular with everyone.”

Scale modelling isn’t without risk though – and the occasional model might accidentally be painted blood red. There are disasters.

“Mostly involving sharp blades and fingers,” John adds, “It is very difficult to handle plastic parts with plasters on fingers!”

> MKSMC meets on the fourth Wednesday of every month at Ousebank House in Newport Pagnell.
For more information search Milton Keynes Scale Model Club on Facebook.