Spiro-graph! Dexterity and Patience Required

other than the rip in the paper, this turned out pretty good
I remember as a kid being fascinated by some of the stuff my sister had.  She is very much into arts and crafts and had lots of stuff like that.  She had a glass making kit and a candle making kit.  She had a wood burning set and even a jewellery making kit.  The best part was that she was actually able to use most of it and she produced some pretty good pieces.

One day she showed me her Spiro-graph kit.  That was pretty cool.  She was older and had greater dexterity, so she was able to actually make the stuff they displayed on the box.  I probably didn’t hurt that she also had a lot of patience and was a bit of a perfectionist.

I was never able to create the kinds of things that she did.  I certainly didn’t have the patience or the manual dexterity.  That, however, did not stop me from trying.  In the end, if I messed up bad enough, she probably took pity on me and made a good version herself.

For reasons unknown to me, the thought of her Spiro-graph kit came back to me a couple of weeks ago.  Even more peculiar, the idea took hold in my brain and I had a hard time shaking it (kind of like a song you hear on the radio and can’t get out of your head).  I went so far as to look up Spiro-graph kits on Amazon and see how much they cost.  I even had one on my wish list for a couple of days.

Rather than go that route, though it is often my go to route, I decided to poke around an art store.  The clerk, who took pity on me, or was just really helpful, told me that they didn’t sell it, but that she had seen the same kind of thing at the dollar store.

two dollars is a good price for a box of fun.

Short contemplation reasoned that maybe this was the better way to go.  I doubt the thing could hold my interest for very long–it’s not as if years and maturity have really solved the patience and dexterity gap–who’s kidding who?  Maybe one or two dollars was better than twenty.

Surprise, surprise, they did indeed have a Spiro-graph knockoff at the dollar store.  So, to get that monkey off my back, I plunked down two dollars, plus tax, and brought home my very own not actually Spiro-graph, Spiro-graph.

It was kind of fun, and the designs are cool, but it was harder than it looked to make a perfect design.  the gears keep slipping out of cogs….or the cogs slip out of the gears, or….you know what I mean.

One week later, I think I have put it behind me.  It is no longer an obsessive need, but a curiosity in the jack of all hobbies scrapbook.  I am left wondering though, is there an app that can do this for you already?

New Nanoblocks Now (Please)


It has been several months since a new nanoblocks kit has come my way.  Come on world, what are you waiting for?  I want new kits and I want them now.  NOW!  I don’t want to have to wait until some holiday (Christmas is 9 months away), or special occasion.

I can see by using the magical internet that Japan has a whole bunch of new and interesting nanoblock kits, but I have none.  There is really no way for me to categorize that as fair.  No way at all.

Too much in life requires my patience.  I have to wait in lines.  I have to wait for the next movie from Marvel.  I have to wait for my coffee to brew.  I have to wait for the defrost in the car to win the battle against the Great White North’s great white winters.  I have done enough waiting.  Give me nanoblocks or give me……some other hobby to occupy my time (if you thought I was going to say death, you were wrong)

I am waiting world.  Don’t expect me to have much patience.

Too Much vs Not Enough

If I didn’t include the vast amount of “things Japanese” that I am interested in, I would have to say that building things (plastic models, nanoblocks, etc) is my hobby.  I built cars, motorcycles, trucks, military vehicles, planes, ships and even buildings.  I think model kits and the like are just fantastic.
I am wondering, though, what exactly is “enough”.  I have watched some great TV programs (plamo tsukuro–a Japanese model program that you should be able to find on YouTube if they don’t delete it, which is truly fantastic) and been to some shows to see the expert work of some people.  In the show I mentioned they labour for a long time over small details.  They spend vast sums of money on detail parts.  It is truly incredible.  As stated before, I have never completed a model I was truly satisfied with.  I have had one or two really good paint jobs, one or two good ideas, maybe even one or two of my decals has actually gone in the right place….. but never anything approaching expert level.

Is it because I am not enough of a perfectionist?  As already demonstrated, I get bored easily, and quickly change to other hobbies and interests.  I don’t really want to do the same thing for too long a period of time.  I have had a couple of models on my workbench, and I am thinking that I would rather just chuck them out, than complete them (though that won’t happen, they may have to go back in the box for a while).

One of my friends is a perfectionist.  He will spend a lot of time on one model.  He has been working on one warhammer figure for a long time now. (I won’t tell you how long, because in all fairness, I have no idea)  Needless to say, when he gets done, it will be fantastic–show worthy.  When I get done, I am not sure if it is even personal showcase worthy.  Sometimes, I just chalk them up to a “personal experiment.”  Which is probably a euphemism for mistake.

Spending a lot of time and money on a hobby isn’t really bad.  When you figure the dollar value versus the time you spent, there are certainly other interests that cost more.  An hour or two at the pub costs more than a model and paint.  Which one takes more time….well for me, the model will last months.

The question remains.  How far should you take it, and what are you willing to settle for?

Ghosts of Christmas Past (part two)

One of the coolest kits (which was also quite educational) that I received for Christmas many, many, years ago was Capsela.  This toy was so cool that I have never been able to part with it, and the photos from this blog contain the actual kit I received on that cold (and possibly snowy) Christmas morning of my youth.

After checking Wikipedia, I found out that Capsela was created by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company.  So, surprise, surprise, another cool toy came from Japan, though this one came from an era when Japanese toys were more pedestrian.  It beat out Tamagochi by at least 2 decades.  Apparently, these days, Bandai from Japan has re-released these toys and they go for staggering amounts on EBay, or ship from far away places in Asia.  I had seen them at a science store–but that store is now closed.

Capsela was a rather unusual toy.  It was a motorized toy that didn’t come in traditional shapes and forms.  I think its science fiction look also was part of it’s appeal.  In addition to that, there were things you could build for the bathtub–and nothing could be cooler than that (add some superfoam, a few boats, and you had the making of a fantastic sea battle–probably better than that Battleship movie.)
the back of the box–detailing the parts included

The toughest part of the toy was understanding gear ratios.  Trying to build beyond the instruction booklet was rather difficult.  You couldn’t put things in any order you wanted, because it just wouldn’t power everything correctly.  Having only one set, and no internet bulletin boards for help, I really couldn’t stray from the instructions (though I tried many times).  These days, things would most likely be different.  Looking back on it, I had probably been too young when I got the present to really understand that, and could have saved myself some frustration.

There must be cool things like this today, but they are probably more geared toward use with an iPad, rather than a stand alone construction toy.  At least, I hope there are toys these days which are about building and operating.  I know there are still RC helicopters and cars, so besides Lego, there must be stuff like this–let me know what is out there.  I’d love to know.

It was definitely a cool toy.  Someday I will check out the new version, and that will probably be pretty cool too.

Decals…..My Nemesis

I am not going to boast about my modeling skills–mostly because I can’t.  I am stuck in the intermediate phase and seemed destined to stay there forever.  On one of my current projects–Jacques Villeneuve’s Formula One car I had been making good progress until I met my nemesis.
My nemesis at car modeling that is…. my sink nemesis is this guy named Martin, and my bus seat nemesis doesn’t have a name, but he has sharp elbows that seem to stick me whenever he is texting someone…. whish is ALL THE TIME!  I seem to be digressing.
My nemesis in car modeling must be decals.  I have lots of good equipment. I have a good set of knives.  I have a steel ruler.  I have a really cool self healing cutting mat (not entirely sure what that is, but it sounds cool).  I’ve even got a full range of tweezers and some setting solution for the decals.  What I don’t have is patience for getting them on strait, judgement to know when to remove them from the water, and delicate fingers to stop them from ripping, folding or disintegrating.
I have, in the past, managed to get the decals on license plates, dashboards, air cleaner covers and manifolds.  As for this car, I have ruined a few, and now feel dejected.  I am not sure I want to finish this model, even though it started out with such good progress.
I wish I could blame the decals.  They seem very thin and fragile.  Maybe they are defective.  If I could comfort myself with that lie, I could probably tell myself the dozens of others that politicians and pseudo academics try to foist on me on a weekly basis.  Sadly, I cannot do that.  It is probably less about principles than practical honesty.
I had such high hopes for this car, but sadly, it may go back in the box to rest for a while.  A long while, if I can’t shake this funk and feeling of frustration.
I used to hate painting car bodies, but the airbrush has made that somewhat easier.  Of course, choosing the right colours and thinning the paint appropriately has also helped that, but I would rather thank the airbrush.  It is just simpler that way.
I used to hate taping walls and baseboards for painting, but the new tape (frog tape I think it is called–they must be competing with duct/duck tape.) has made that easier.
wiring up train tracks and lights used to be a pain, but that has been solved.
So basically, why can’t they make better decals for car models.
On a side note, as an ESL teacher, I am amused by the word decal.  Do you pronounce it /dee-kal/ or /deckle/ ?
these turned out relatively good

Deals and Disappointments

There is nothing better than a great deal when you’re involved in a hobby.  I have twice been fortunate to have some spare money and the knowledge that a hobby store was going out of business.  I was able to make some buys that I normally would have been financially out of reach (No! Not the highly desired Pocher kit).  It was sad for the hobby shops (only one has since re-opened) but great for me.

The flipside of the coin is the bad deal.  Nothing makes a hobbyist cringe more than seeing a lower price for something that you wanted and either happily or reluctantly shelled out your hard earned cash for.  You might have thought you got a pretty good deal, but then, suddenly you know you didn’t.  It can make you scream.

I am not talking about time sensitive things.  Certainly, if you wait some things inevitably come down in price.  If you are collecting a TV series,  (some people still do that) if you wait until the next year, you can certainly save a lot of money.  Of course, that isn’t always true.  Some things in the hobby world go up in price, sometimes quite rapidly.  I knew a guy who waited to purchase his first edition copy of Watchmen–well, we all know what happened there don’t we.

Having the patience to wait something out is not easy.  Desire and spending money are by nature on a collision course.  If you see it, and you want it, no appeal to your economic well being could persuade you to wait.  If that were true model builders wouldn’t have more kits than they can build in the next two lifetimes.  Car collectors wouldn’t have multiple sets of multiple companies of one season of cards.  Lego people wouldn’t have enough blocks to build a full size replica of the CN Tower.  Toy soldier people wouldn’t have enough to stage the civil war two times over.  When it gets right down to it. waiting makes sense, but it doesn’t make the kind of sense the heart listens to.

In the old days, this kind of thing probably happened less.  Stores had a more limited selection and the number of stores a person could frequent was probably less.  There weren’t the huge number of on-line retailers for the obsessive compulsive price checkers (guilty).

I should note that my argument falls apart a little because I saw a vintage issue of Model Railroader that had more than ten train shops in Toronto.  So, if you lived in a big city there were probably more stores to visit–I guess less time in front of the computer could mean more time at the hobby desk.

Back to price tag shock…… I feel for anyone who gets burned by this, but it happens to all of us.  We get some great deals, but we have to pay sometimes.  Everything balances out in the end.  Good luck, I hope you get a great deal.

A Puzzling Development

You’ve probably heard that old cliché that Japan takes something and makes it better.  While I am a big Japan fan (as you might have guessed from previous blogs) and I think Japan is much better at presenting me with hobby opportunities I don’t buy into that cliché wholeheartedly.  Nonetheless, where jigsaw puzzles are concerned, they have made it better.

I know what you’re thinking.  Ridiculous.  There are great jigsaw puzzles available in North America (and I suppose Europe–though I have never checked) so how could Japanpossibly have made this better?

You’re right.  They haven’t made the jigsaw puzzle better.  It is still just a picture on cardboard.  The subject of them might be different (there are a lot of Mount Fuji puzzle pictures in Japan, and some fantastic Ukiyoe puzzles) but beyond that a puzzle is a puzzle.

What they have made better is the building of puzzles.  Maybe it is because they treat it more like a hobby, and less like a diversion.  This has been done in two ways.

Each puzzle usually contains the puzzle (of course) advertising for other puzzles, the ability to send away for a puzzle catalogue,  a service card that tells you how to resolve any problems that arise from missing pieces (quite ingenious actually–you have to trace out the piece and send it to them, and they will send you the piece you are missing), glue for making the puzzle permanent and a small sponge to apply the glue.  All and all, a pretty complete package.  They even have a point system whereby if you buy enough puzzles you can get one for free.

The other thing that they have done is make puzzles in standard sizes–a lot of standard sizes.  The result is that on the puzzle box they will print a number (like B6) which corresponds to a frame that will fit that puzzles– and fit it well.  These frames are available at a reasonable price where you buy the puzzle.  What makes these frames useful is that they tray the puzzles sits on has a lip, so the pieces will stay in place, and can be used in the construction phase to keep everything together, and define height and width of the puzzle.

Granted, my experience with puzzles involves getting them from Zellers whenever I see one with a train theme, so maybe there is this kind of thing available here or in other countries, but Japan just seemed to make it easier.

I have done a couple of puzzles in Canada (as I mentioned, a CP train crossing a river in the prairies)  but it wasn’t quite the same.  I have the glue, but no frame.  I want to put it in the train room (eventually) but I am not sure how that is going to work.

I have seen some high end puzzle at a game room store–I think we only have one in Canada.  The puzzles looked cool, but once again no frame.  I guess the internet will have to provide a solution for this too.