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Buying an Expensive Kit and throwing most of it away


pirozzi
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I hope I don't offend some builders here, but I am confused about something. Some builders will buy a very expensive kit and then throw out most of the expensive parts and supplies to replace them with scratch built parts. If they have the talent and skills to build from scratch, and they obviously do, then why not save the kit expense and just buy the plans and scratch build. I can see replacing some parts in kits, as improvements can be made here and there, but not to discard most of the kit, like lumber, metal castings, fixtures etc. By the time they are finished, there is very little of the kit left.

 

Vince P. :dancetl6:

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Vince,

I think it's fear.  The fear that they aren't "good enough".  I'm pretty much convinced that if you can build a kit, scratch some of the parts...(and don't they all have parts that need scratching?) then you can scratchbuild.  The only difference is that you don't have the classically crappy instructions that come with kits.

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I agree. I am working on a scratch built model. My first ever.  However, I do not have the talent, tools, or ability to make some fittings or small parts. Let alone anything made of brass. So I have had to order them.

 

But buying a kit, and incorporating most of that kit, especially the parts made of wood, seems like a odd thing to do. Unless you want to build the Kit, then use the Plans for a later scratch build.

 

It would be nice if they would through some of that stuff out my way.

Edited by The Old Man
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Let me help clear the fog of confusion for you Vince, at least from the perspective of one kit enhancer.

 

I simply enjoy taking a kit and making it better. Kit costs are not an issue for me and I derive all the modelling satisfaction I require from what I do.

 

Each to their own.

 

B.E.

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I entered into this hobby 6 months ago from a background of decades of model railroading and military modeling, working in plastic, resin, and brass.  One thing I noticed right away was that the quality improvements in most commercially available wooden ship kits have been non-existent or not improved at nearly the same rate as the other hobbies I've been doing.  When I selected the longboat as a first build, I was committed to building it as-is.  The results were fine, but I really wanted to work with better materials on a second build, so chose Chuck's Cheerful.  To me the Cheerful is the best of both words.  The customer buys the materials a-la-carte, so there is no wastage, and they don't need to acquire expensive power tools (and figure out where to house them) if you don't want to.  Clear instructions are also provided for those, like me, who admittedly don't know what they're doing.  :) If there weren't small, cottage manufacturers like Chuck and Crown Timberyard, I wouldn't be getting into this hobby.

 

To show a visual contrast, here is the stern lantern of the Model Shipways Essex, their newest kit, and what Chuck offers. I'm blown away that in the second decade of the 21th century, a manufacturer would actually include parts like that in their kit.

 

That said, I agree with Blue Ensign, to each their own.  Some of the best results on this forum were kits to start with, and examples of excellent modeling.

 

Erik 

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Edited by Erik W
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Leaving too-rough castings, minimal rigging line and poor blocks out of the equation, many of which you would want to change, augment or replace in any event, merely changing the hull and deck planking from basswood to a nice hardwood can make a large difference in the appearance of a model.  It could even allow you to use a wood finish instead of being forced to paint the hull.  Until the late 1700s ships were mostly payed, not painted, so having that option is a nice option to have.

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I'm with B.E., Erik, Don and Joel. While I know that I can scratch build  (I've done the Triton cross section), I have no power tools, and the thought of hand cutting all of the framing for a full ship just doesn't appeal to me. I'd rather spend my time on other aspects. For me, buying a kit simply provides a convenient way to get plans, framing and whatever else may be of use, and then go from there with enhanced wood and scratch building.

 

Bob

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I have no fear as far as scratch building, I just prefer a faster pace when building. I don't want to invest in a bunch of tools to maybe build one or two ship models in 10 years and by the time you factor in all that scratch building material extra tools and such, you have far surpassed the cost of even the most expensive kit. To me, there is nothing like getting that package in the mail, cracking open that crisp new box and see all those nice trinkets inside and smell that nice cut wood. It makes me smile just thinking about it. I just can't seem to get that worked up over a scratch build project. But then again, I never tout any of the models that I have built as being museum quality because I know without a doubt that anyone else who buys that kit can build just as nice a model or nicer than the one I build even if I change a few things on it, it's still a decrative display. Now to me most any scratch built model would be considered museum quality. But this is just my opinion and my opinion alone so don't go a hating.

 

 

mike 

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Clear instructions are also provided for those, like me, who admittedly don't know what they're doing.  

 

Har har!   Ive seen your Longboat build Erik, and if YOU dont know what your doing then I'm a really lost cause!  ;)

 

I have probably the least experience of everyone whose responded so far, but completely "get it."    To my mind, the kits are great starting points but as is wonderfully illustrated by the stern lantern example there is always a way to make something better.   It seems like most of us are the tinkerer type and will through no fault of our own be compelled to tinker.   It so happens that this manifests itself through scratch building and kit bashing.   The amount of time/effort and tears that go into these things it is no wonder that folks will routinely opt to fashion parts from something better than what was provided.   In some instances I can see that really the kits are a way to get the plans...   they also come with examples of roughly what the parts should look like when your done fashioning them yourself.       

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I have no fear as far as scratch building, I just prefer a faster pace when building. I don't want to invest in a bunch of tools to maybe build one or two ship models in 10 years and by the time you factor in all that scratch building material extra tools and such, you have far surpassed the cost of even the most expensive kit. To me, there is nothing like getting that package in the mail, cracking open that crisp new box and see all those nice trinkets inside and smell that nice cut wood. It makes me smile just thinking about it. I just can't seem to get that worked up over a scratch build project. But then again, I never tout any of the models that I have built as being museum quality because I know without a doubt that anyone else who buys that kit can build just as nice a model or nicer than the one I build even if I change a few things on it, it's still a decrative display. Now to me most any scratch built model would be considered museum quality. But this is just my opinion and my opinion alone so don't go a hating.

 

 

mike 

So far scratch building has been very inexpensive for me. I use garage sale tools, and collect wood from the local lumber yard scrap pile. I buy a little Bass Wood from the local variety store. Scraps from the wife's sewing kit, anything else I can find in the garage. I do order parts that I cannot make. But,  my scratch build looks more like "Folk Art" compared with what I have seen on this site.   With my failing eyesight, and lack of feeling in my fingers, I may not be able to build a Kit anyway. Not with any detail anyway.

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I'm not so sure if I understand what you are talking about , is it if I replace the Kit cannons because they are not realistic, are you talking about if I replace the blocks because they aren't to scale, are you talking about replacing cleats that are far too large and bulky, are you talking about replacing cheap rigging to replace it with quality stuff that actually looks good, or, maybe it is replacing the kit supplied dowels because they are warped, or, maybe it is replacing the hull planks because the kit asks for hull to be painted and has supplied crap wood but I want it natural so I replace it with a quality wood ?

I could go on further, but as you can see it is not all by choice why people replace expensive parts and pieces it is the manufacturer supplying inferior parts and material doubled my quest to make the best model to my abilities. I would gladly pay more for a kit if I knew all parts and material were of top quality, however, as the kit manufacturer is trying to keep his costs down and the retail price within reason we will never see this.

 On my current build I have replaced 80 percent of the wood some of it for the reasons mentioned above and  other because I wanted to show my insight and taste to this ship. I think changing different things in a kit does not mean that I should be going to a scratch build I think it means that I have the ingenuity to build a model that is truly unique to me. I agree that a scratch build would do the same but could you imagine how MSW would look if we all built our ships to spec. using nothing but kit supplied material, might just be a little boring.

  So you see, my friend, there several reasons why we do the things we do.

 And as for all my left over wood and parts I'll use that for my first scratch build ;) :)  :)  

 

Hi Don,

 I think you just made my point. If you replaced all of the parts and material you just listed, that would just about be the entire kit. Why not buy those better materials and a set of plans and build a better model basically from scratch.

Please understand, I am fully in agreement with replacing some stuff that might be particularly bad, as most kits seem to need, but not find fault with just about everything in a kit. All you are doing here is paying good money to kit manufacturers and certainly not encouraging them to clean up their act.

 

I have posted build logs here of kits I have completed or are in the process and you can see that I do replace, modify, or add parts. I would not however trash an entire set of expensive metal castings, a whole set of cannon carriages or all of the blocks etc.

I use this forum to get info on the quality of various kits, and if they look that bad as to need most of them replaced, I would seek a better kit, or build from scratch.

 

Vince P. :dancetl6:

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My POV... To me scratch-building is the pinnacle of our dear hobby. It is something I have not dared to attempt....yet.

It is one of my dreams: being able to get a set of plans, and starting from there end with a fully planked, rigged ship. But at this moment, I feel my abilities are not up to par to do that. Will I ever start and finish a scratch build project? I don't know. I'm 67 years young  now and still have several kits that I really want to do: Chris' 1/64 Victory, Soleil Royale, Sovereign of the Seas... these are my dream ships. Those kits I have in my stash are OK, but they are not my dream ships. (I think I'm digressing here.... LOL. ) Anyway, at this moment I build kits. I somewhat modify some of the stuff, but I am far to consider myself a scratch builder. I feel I modify more and more things in every new kit I build, so.... maybe I will scratchbuild a ship if I have enough life and abilities to do it.

 

Bye

 

Ulises

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Ulises Victoria,

 

We are about the same age. I have never attempted to build a Kit before. I know nothing about them. Due to my limitations, I doubt I could complete a Kit. However, with no experience at building anything, I started a Scratch model of a 1803 ship. Sure it's a little rough on the edges, but it was not that difficult to do. I say GO for it!

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Janos,

 

It would appear that Chuck is doing this.  The Lumberyard offers "timbering kits' where you buy the plans and select your wood.  So far, those and maybe Bob Hunt of whom I nothing of his current operation but he did in the past,  have been the only ones doing this.

 

What I got into in my previous build was heavy kit bash... It just pointed me to scratchbuilding since the kit was heavily modified.  

 

It's really a pity that the kit makers don't consider this or offer this.  Or maybe offer something like plans, metal parts...  and the modeler supplies his/her own wood.   

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I would turn the question around: why don't kit suppliers sell 'semi' kits? I mean kits for the hull only plus plans. I think this would be beneficial for us modellers at least by 2 reasons. One is that with this semi-kit we could get that proper material for the hull which otherwise would be nearly impossible. Secondly - and this is my weak point. When I start to build a bigger ship, as soon as I am ready with the hull, that's it, enough, interest gone, drive gone. No energy remaining for the more interesting part of the build: deck furniture, decorations, masting, rigging. I wish I could start with a semi kit... am I alone with this?

Janos

Janos. I may be at an advantage here. The part I enjoy the most on building a ship is masting and rigging. This keeps me going past the hull planking and deck furniture, which I like the less. The wish to get to the "meaty part" of my building is what keeps my interest going. :)

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The single most expensive element of the shipmodeling is the modeler's time. Take your average overtime wage, multiply by 0,5-1 hour daily times 5-10 years spent on the model. Several hundred $$ spent on the kit is just peanuts in comparison. So replacing every substandard piece of the kit (and actually saving the time it would require to bring it to acceptable quality) makes sense in economic terms.

Edited by Mumin
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Ever tried to take up a hobby like golf.  It is just as expensive.   If not more.  Its all relative.  Folks always start with kits and then some move on to scratch.  Its the way its been for 75 years.   It just depends on how much you like it.  If I spent 600 bucks on golf equipment and didnt want to spend more on the better stuff.......its very common.   Those that really get into it spend 1000's of dollars each year.  Some never get to that level of play however.  Same is true for for our hobby.

 

Chuck

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Model Railroading as well.  You can spend $700 on one engine and even more on other stuff.  So its not as unusual as some say.  Spending $750 on a good quality ship model kit is not outrageous at all in comparison.  Its just a smaller group of people and its tough to make a profit regardless.   The overall question is that most beginners and intermediate builders feel better when they know they have received everything in one box.  But for those who have done it for a while are more comfortable with buying a timbering set or just portions of a project.  

 

I know nothing about golf....which clubs....which balls....what gloves....if I were to spend a ton of money as a beginner I would just buy a complete package or set that was not at all top of the line quality.  If I really got into it,  then maybe I would buy more expensive single clubs and accessories.  Same is true for model railroading...I can buy a small in expensive set in one box where you get a tiny circle of track and then after a short time maybe start buying more stuff thats better......its all relative.

 

Some will never do it or see the need to, and they are quite happy with a straight out of the box kit project.  Others want to do better and dont mind paying for the extras later as they develop an eye for what is better....and they dont mind throwing away the crap that usually comes in a kit....the last stage is to just build it all yourself...and anyone can do that if they are so into the hobby that they have now spent money on the tools etc.....just like the other hobbies.  Its no different.

 

Every hobby has its share of crappy products directed at the begginer which are cheaper...its just the same old typical beginner introduction to any hobby and it progresses from there.

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Its not about offending anyone...its just that a beginner needs time to develop the expertise to recognize what is better or what is sub par.  This only happens with the passing of time and learning.  The other ingredient is passion.  The willingness to want to "upgrade" has to do with how passionate one is about the hobby as they progress...as well as budget.   You would not believe how many times I am asked by a beginner why my blocks have two holes and not just one.  Most dont yet realize or ahve not learned yet that its because the two holes simulate a sheave. It more accurately reflects the true shape and function of a block.  Once they learn that they can make a better choice as to whether it is worth the money for increasing accuracy and the overall look and feel.

 

It takes time and kit companies know this.   So with the overwhelming majority of builders being new or intermediate they cant possibly get folks to try and take the initial plunge if all the kits were filled with exceptional parts.   For those who do have the expertise and grow to be passionate enough about the hobby....there are places to go...like the Lumberyard and Syren.   Its a much smaller group of customers.  Both have their place...its no different than any other hobby.  The typical larger kit company will never produce a kit with parts like I make....it cant be done.  They wouldnt be a large company with so many customers if they did.  Thats why I am a small company with many less customers.  

 

You can sell 500 kits of the Sultana per year or 35 Cheerful packages......different audiences at different levels of the hobby .  Its the same for all hobbies.  I could have made one phone call to Model Expo and sold my Cheerful Kit design in a heartbeat.  But my guess is they want to sell more than 35 per year and what you would end up getting would be much different than what I currently offer....for the same reasons.  Its nothing to be shocked about.  Its just the way it is and always will be.  :)

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My thought when I started on Bluenose was to use everything that came with the kit and replace nothing.  I paid for it and I was going to use it all!  The kit has a lot of stripwood and a fair amount of scratch building of components is required, so even though it is a kit, it is not just a collection of parts to be assembled.  I have repurposed some stuff along the way, for example the walnut veneer that was supplied for the second planking became planks that I laminated and used for the main cabin roof and for hatch covers.  After rigging around the bowsprit with the kit-supplied "rope", I have since purchased Chucks rope as replacement and I will finish the rigging with that.  The sailcloth that comes with the kit is useless for the purpose and will also be pitched.  I pestered some of my quilting friends to come up with something more suitable, and I may use their stuff instead.

 

At the moment I consider myself a kit builder, and will probably stay that way for the foreseeable future.  My serious hobby money goes to my astrophotography addiction, and not for modeling tools.  Having someone else provide a POB framework for the bones of the hull is attractive to me, and I can generally work with whatever else is in the box.  I did pitch the dowels that came with the kit, but only because they were warped beyond salvation.  Rather than get ME to replace them I thought it better to go to the LHS and buy some stuff I could see in person.  Who knows, in the future I may laminate some square stock and shape the masts myself.

 

I feel that this hybrid approach gets me the best of both worlds - if what's in the box is OK, I will use it.  If not, I won't.  I get the joy of scratch building deck fixtures, with out the tedium (for me) of having to prepare a framework for the project from scratch.

 

Bob

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One thing as a consumer I appreciate about the small size of this segment of the hobby, is the interactions between modelers/customers and these small manufactures (who are also modelers), are more personal.  Ship modeling definitely has more of a family feel to it.  That's one of the things that appeals to me.  Ask a manufacturer a question, and you'll quickly get an answer. 

 

That said, I am conscious of the fact that if we all constantly email Chuck, and others, that it takes time away from them making great products for us!  :)

 

Erik

Edited by Erik W
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I took up this hobby about 3 months ago. Why? Because I am too crippled for sports like golf. I am on a limited income, so that eliminates railroad building, coin collecting and just about everything else. Starting out was not expensive. I collected my tools from garage sales, friends, and my wood from the lumber yard. Sure, I have spent some money. But I have been busy with my new hobby. Working 2-3 hours per day on it.  Sure, my model looks more like folk art up close, but at ten feet away, it isn't bad for someone who doesn't know what they are doing.  Will I continue with this hobby? I don't know. Will I ever buy a expensive Kit? I don't know. All I know is that I am enjoying myself, and keeping busy.

 

A person starting out does not need to make a large investment. Looking back in my life, every time I started a new project, I always thought I needed to buy the best of everything. I'm too old to make that mistake again.

 

Should I chose to build a Kit in the future, I do see advantages for replacing parts and wood. Tools? They seem to always collect themselves.  Right now I'll just go with flow, and see where it all ends up. It is a hobby you know.

 

 

 

 

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People often see my ships and many times they ask me "how much a kit like this costs?"

 

When I tell them that a good kit for an experienced modeler costs around 1,000 dlls, they usually rise an eyebrow and say... "Wow, that is expensive"

I then make them do the following arithmetic: Cost of kit = x, hours invested in building thus, hours of fun = y  x/y = z... z is usually lower than the cost of going to a movie.  As has been said, all is relative. 

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