Ken Middleton’s Scale Modeling
Aviation photography is a passion of mine, particularly military aviation. So, coupled with that, I also build plastic scale model kits of aircraft. As a kid, I built World War 2 planes, tanks and ships, and also cars and semi-trucks. As the teenage years approached and went on, other things grabbed my attention…school, cars, etc., so my scale modeling came to end.
After getting married in 1991 and settling down, the Gulf War / Desert Storm rekindled my interest in doing models again. It had been a long time and the hobby really changed. There were so many choices and now there were many aftermarket parts made of resin, metal and thin sheets of brass. Today, the vast majority of scale modelers are adults.
I continued with aircraft, focusing on the ones flown by the local military units. Most that I built were just OK, and collected dust on the shelf after a while. In 1998 I decided to pretty much build for others, either as gifts or commissions. About this time, I really got connected on the internet, and research material and connecting with modelers around the world really took off. So, since about 1998, I have not built a model for myself.
I focused primarily on modern military subjects in 1:48th scale. In this scale, 1 inch on the model equals 48 inches on the real subject. I occasionally would also build 1:72nd scale. As I get older, my eyesight and fingers sometimes struggle with the small parts in 1:48th scale. I have done a couple 1:32nd kits and those prove to be a challenge fitting and working with on the workbench. I have even done some briefing sticks for units, which were really fun projects.
The most rewarding scale modeling I have done to date are the Pilot for a Day models I did a few years ago. I would build 72nd scale F-15s to be given to seriously ill kids who would have a special day at a base. The child would get a tour, rides in Humvees, see the aircraft up close and sometimes even a launch. I met a few of the kids after their visit (I was never present for their visit, it was their day, and I just wanted them to have a model to take with them) and they were amazing. Sadly, some passed away shortly after I met them.
My photography has helped in another way to scale modeling – I have provided research photos to aftermarket decal manufacturers, and numerous water-slide decal sheets have been produced with the help of my photos. Many times I then can build a model of a specific aircraft that I photographed.
For years, I would model in the evening, but found it was taking time away from the family and most times I was tired. I now model primarily in the morning, with about 30 minutes each day during the week before getting ready for work, and 2-3 hours each weekend day, before the rest of the family gets up. It’s my quiet time, and doesn’t take time away from the family, which by the way, fully support my hobby.
A typical kit takes about 25-30 hours, spread out over a few months. I have multiple kits going at once because sometimes you work on a kit and the glue or paint has to dry, and this allows me to work on another one. The usual progression of as kit goes from removing the parts from the plastic styrene “trees” (they are connected to these as part of the injection modeling process). I test-fit the parts to see if sanding or trimming will improve fitting and reduce or eliminate the use of putty filler on seams. Painting is done next, usually with lighter colors first, and then darker. Paints can be applied with an airbrush, spray can and brush. Once the painting has been completed and dried, the waterslide decals are applied next. The decals cover the unit markings, stenciling, serial number, stars and bars, crew names etc. Decals should be applied to a glossy surface, to improve adhesion and appearance of the decal. Most military subjects have a flat finish, so a flat or dull coat must be applied afterwards.
Just about every model is mounted to a wood base, either in-flight with clear acrylic rod, or parked with gear down. I can bend the clear acrylic rod to the shape I want by using a heat gun to slowly heat it up and soften it. I then add patches and/or a custom label to describe what the aircraft is. I had been asked by so many people how I did my display bases, I had written up an article and put it on my website. If you would like to see the techniques, feel free to check it out by clicking here.
As I mentioned previously, many, if not most, of the models I have done have been gifts to either individuals or units. Sometimes it is thanks for a photo visit, or a way to build a relationship with a unit, and help show their history in scale form. Additionally, building for myself I would see another subject I would want to work on and probably never finish anything.
All of the photos provided are from the past 6-8 years, and I tried to include a diverse selection. I have done so many models that I don’t even know how many, so I have included the unique ones.
I hope this article gives you a bit of insight into another hobby of mine, which is really an extension and co-hobby of my photography. Thanks for reading!