So you sit down to decide on your next project. What to build, hmmmm. You go to your shelf of doom and start to look up and down at the dozens, errrr, hundreds, errrr, thousands of kits that you have accumulated in hopes of having one speak to you. Letís face it folks, you are looking for divine intervention or some message from God telling you to ďBUILD THE ZEROĒ. But God, which one? There are a dozen or so models of the Zero, which one do I do? ďSHUT UP AND BUILDĒ. Oh, the A6M5, model 52, thatís what I was thinking too.
Hey, the word has come down from on high, so you must build it. Yup, Iíll build that A6M5 Model 52. But wait, I need to check my references first. Ok, letís see, I have one, two, three, ummm, thirteen, eighteen, geez, twenty-two references on the Zero. Twenty-two! I guess thatís ok, more stuff to pull from, right? Wrong!
The first reference I look at tells me that the cockpit should be Aotake. Well, I know thatís wrong, but it has this crayon drawing in the book of a scheme that I havenít seen anywhere else and Iím sure itís right (even though the book is written in Polish and I canít tell what the caption under the drawing says). Maybe I should search the Internet for someone that is Polish to translate for me. No, I must stay on task.
So I decide to look a bit further. What I find next is a bit more troubling. The second book says that the cockpit should be Aotake (that clear blue/green color) also. But I know that isnít right. Finally the fifth book has the right color in it, I can tell because it has a photo of a restored aircraft, we all know how reliable those are. I really should look at the rest of the reference material I have before jumping into this project. Iíll just casually look through all twenty-two books before I start.
A few days, maybe even a week passes. I have now looked at twenty-two books, each more confusing than the next. One shows black landing gear, the next shows aluminum colored gear. One shows a gray zero, another shows one in American markings. Another one shows a tiger striped Zero, hmmm, that looks interesting, but the picture that supports that drawing shows the aircraft under camouflage netting, so Iím pretty sure that the drawing isnít right, but whoíll know? Two other books tell me about the ďpurple RufeĒ. Well, weíve discussed that one several times and know thatís wrong. What to do?
So, what sources do you believe? Easy answer, the one with the pictures or drawings that will help me make the coolest model of course. Heretic! Whatís that you say, donít search for the truth? No, say it isnít so! Bad historian!
Ok, let me recant on that just a bit. Iím not saying throw history completely away, but I am saying that we shouldnít get carried away either. You will never determine what color an aircraft was from a black and white photo. You wonít be able to tell what that unit marking is from a blurry 60 year old picture and you sure wonít be able to decipher what the other side of the aircraft looks like by staring at a picture. So, make up your mind, do a bit of reading and get to work, after all, whoís going to prove you wrong? One other thing about this approach is that youíll actually have a completed kit that people can point at and talk about. Right, wrong or otherwise, it is far more than most people. Build, enjoy and show it off and to hell with the critics!
All that said, I felt it may be important to recognize the early warning signs that your references have gotten out of hand.
1) If you canít find a photo that is in one of your books because you canít remember which of the twenty-two that itís in. For that matter you canít find four of the twenty-two books that you know you have.
2) If you have more books on a subject than the sum of the total aircraft of that type produced.
3) If the collective weight of the books on a single subject out-weigh the researcher looking at them. In my case thatís a lot of books!
4) If you have to keep your books in a database to make sure you donít double order them and you have to buy a new computer because the database is too large for your old one.
5) If the public library calls you to borrow books, just like they call other libraries in the Dakota County library chain.
6) If your ďgangĒ nickname is ďThe LibrarianĒ.
7) If the University of Minnesota wants to name your book room as an ďannexĒ to their library system.
Now go build something!
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View Past Editorials
Is Accurate Miniatures Alive? (Original posting date: 06/07/02)
The Assembler ( Original posting date: 07/18/02)