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Scale Modeling Tips & Tools Monthly, Issue #022-- "Modeling In Hard Times"
November 15, 2008
November 15, 2008

Modeling In A Tough Economy

If the economy is kicking you in the butt,(you lost your job or 401k funds) now is not the time to sit down and pretend it is happening to someone else. You can’t just sit there and use the time for more scale modeling.

This is a very early diorama to practice scenery techniques. The bridge abutments are scratchbuilt, the gas station is an old Bachmann Esso station, painted orange to reflect the Gulf brand, and the engines long ago ended up in the junk box. The Ramada Inn sign is from a match book cover. (photo 1988)

Diorama modeling is one way of creating detailed modeling scenes with a minimal investment in hobby materials. By not powering these models you can save the money you'd spend on power packs, motors, remote control units, DCC wiring and diecut model building kits.

Do these items add to the enjoyment of the chosen hobby? Yes, but they can be added to a still scene over a period of years as money is saved for them.

Your favorite modeling project is not something easily set aside but you don't always let it slide to the back burner just because money starts getting tight.

Heresy you say? Not by a long shot, after sustaining the loss of your major income source through job loss, retirement fund evaporation or even over extended credit, you be happy to just climb into a hole and pull the hole in after you.

No matter what your previous income level, after its loss lifestyles change and it is important to go back to the drawing board and recalculate.

I reached this point in my life and have found the field of serious Independent Contracting, in my case Mystery Shopping can get you back into income production, at least enough to maintain your scale modeling leisure activity.

Why mystery shopping?

These are quick (usually less than an hour) varied, non stressful and low energy assignments. Anyone who has shopped before can do these assignments.

Stores and restaurants all over the country have many or even thousands of different locations. They rely on Secret Shoppers to check the quality pf every location and its employees.

It is like having an ordinary customer go to each store and report back to the corporate offices on the service, cleanliness and product or food quality. Based on these reports corporate marketing can guarantee the same consistency at every store. Secret Shoppers provide a very valuable information source to keep Corporate Headquarters up to speed on all of their stores. Secret Shoppers work 'undercover', so the sales reps at the store treat them like normal customers. In this way, Secret Shoppers can provide an unbiased assessment of their shopping experience. Their reports will be used by Corporate Headquarters or management to help to improve the quality of their programs and to promote better service throughout the chain.

As a Secret Shopper, you will be providing valuable information and you will get paid very well for it!

It gives a whole new meaning to the term “counter spy”.

Anyone who has ever been shopping come with all the talent needed to be a secret shopper.

There are really no special tools required though there are computer and telephonic items that make the job easier.

I use a computer and printer-scanner, a cell phone equipped with a GPS system and a small digital camera.

Most mystery shopping assignments pay between $8 and $10. Merchandising is generally in the range of $13 to $18. Some assignments offer free meals and/or groceries either as a form of compensation or in addition to a small fee. More complex assignments pay more — up to $30 or so per assignment.

Christmas Help.

Thinking About Christmas...

Free Shipping Can Save The Price of a Gift

For the past few months we have been researching how to bring Scale Modelers Handbook regulars the best value in online hobby purchases.

We have partnered with my favorite site for buying almost anything online This dates back several years as I found it to be a favorite source for books on almost any subject.

Amazon has developed some amazing tools to help shoppers of any ilk and I have pared down their vast library of products for different shops in the virtual modeler's mall. Inside you will find shops devoted to RC Car Racing, Radio Control Boats, Warships and RC Plane and helicopters.

Turn another corner and you'll find Plastic model Airliners and Planes, a shop for plastic ship models, the Plastic Model Car Garage, and a range for plastic military models.

Duck down another corridor and you'll find the Model Paint Brush rack, a Hobby Knife shop, an Airbrush store and the Dremel Rotary Tool Crib.

My primary requirements for entry into the mall was good value for the dollar, I have gotten some good deals); a business concerned about the safety and security of customers; minimal shipping charges (Free Shipping (it works) is easy by combining orders)and effective customer service I have tried myself.

Take a few moments and wonder around the Hobby Mall.

Cheap, Killer Model Railroad Ballast

by Ty Treutelaar, Valley Park MO

Trackwork is the most visible representation of your model railroad. It does not matter if the train is even on the track, the track is still there for all critical eyes to critique. It defines from where your line is coming to where it is going.

Ballast is a key element and expense in the presentation of your track. While there are many ballast products specifically produced for model railroaders, a fine alternative is the use of masonry sand.

This sand is available in many pigments with different degrees of coarseness. You would use the sand as you would use any ballast products, but the big difference is the cost. These products are designed to be used by the building industry and are a fraction of the cost of regular ballast. The sand comes in minimum size bags of approximately twenty-five pounds, but do not be dismayed, you will be amazed at how much ballast the average railroad will absorb.

If you cannot find the exact color you wish to have on your pike, consider using the sand ballast as a base. After the base dries, use the more expensive model railroad ballast as a top coat for color.

A final note of caution. Some of these sands can contain iron which would be the same as soldering a wire between the rails. Be sure to bring a strong magnet with you when choosing your sand. Test the product. If any of it sticks to the magnet, do not use it. Pick another color.

Every now and then a neat
scenery idea comes along...

Use A Pot Topper

Finally a field grass solution that makes sense, is inexpensive and works just as well in a diorama as it does on model railroad layouts.

I had never run across a pot topper and when I found the topic in a forum, I just knew I had to share it.

As this picture shows, "Pot Topper grass" easily splice into rock and earthen scenes adding realism that is hard to match. Until now the best method has been to use static electricity.

Application can either be manual or automated with the Noch Turbostat static grass application gun. The Turbostat looks a lot like a hair dryer with a hopper for the "grass".

The Noche Grass is actually colored flock and is applied by coating the surface with a high strength adhesive. Before it sets insert a nail into the base and attach the clip. Turn on the applicator and shake the "grass" from the hopper.

The main drawback to the Turbostat is its cot ($90) vs the cost of a Pot Topper ($2.99 at Michaels Craft and Hobby Stores.

Ig you are looking for a method of adding a lot of grass that never saw a lawnmower to your scene, look a little deeper into Pot Toppers.

Here is an in depth instructional:

Using Pot Toppers

One of Ten Murfie Mandates

The amount of time it takes to build a kit is equal to the sum of the time spent in research plus the number of plan pages multiplied by the number of parts less the time it takes for the glue to dry.
a. The more un-built kits you have on shelves, the fewer kits you will actually complete.
b. Your un-built kits will expand inversely proportional to the tightness with which they are packed.
c. Reference materials, magazines and plans will increase in volume inversely proportional to the available space.

Here Are The Other Nine

Until Next Month...

Make It Your Best Effort!

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