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Scale Spacecraft Modelling

By John Lester - images & text © 2007

Type: Softcover, 208pp, ISBN: 1-86126-774-6, by Mat Irvine
MSRP: $29.95 USD (~$35.05 CAN/€ 22.80 EUR) available from general booksellers, Amazon or direct from Zenith Press
Overall Rating: 9- A very good intro filled with lots of useful advice

Mat Irvine is well known amongst factual space modeling circles and has had a long career in visual effects for British television. He is the author of Creating Space: The Story of the Space Age Through Models, which documents all the space model kits there ever were. His latest book is a comprehensive guide to the art of building models of spacecraft, both real and imagined.

What You Get

The softcover book is 208 pages long and includes 350 color photos/illustrations. After a couple of brief introductions by Nick Argento (Glencoe Models) and the author, the book is divided into the following ten chapters:

  • 1- In The Beginning: This contains a brief history of space modeling, the growth of garage kitters, and a discussion of various model scales.
  • 2- Out of the Cradle: This covers traditional plastic kits built straight from the box.
  • 3- Space - As it Should Have Been: Conversions and minor scratchbuilding are covered
  • 4-The Final Finish: This is mainly concerned with decal application
  • 5-Dream Machines: Working with resin and multimedia kits is discussed
  • 6-Paper Projects: This covers basics of paper/card modeling
  • 7-Fact and Fiction: Various weathering and surface detailing techniques are discussed, along with metallic finishes
  • 8-Man in the Moon: This covers astronaut figures
  • 9-Desolate Vistas: Dioramas are the focus of this chapter
  • 10-Life on Mars: Designing and scratchbuilding a spacecraft model from start to finish.

A fairly detailed Reference section and Index complete the book.

Each chapter covers a set of related techniques, as illustrated through the building of representative model kits (for instance, the chapter on resin/multi-media uses RealSpace's Soviet N-1 and Unicraft's White Knight/Space Ship One kits). Topics are presented clearly, in a conversational style of writing that is easy to follow and easy to “digest”. Occasional sidebars present useful advice related to the discussion in the chapter. The Reference section has a comprehensive list of websites, model kit companies and specialist retailers that cater to space modelers.

Models used to illustrate techniques are almost exclusively of factual spacecraft, or the designs for factual spacecraft from the fifties and sixties (ie, lots of Apollo, no Star Trek). This does not detract from the presentation of techniques, since Mr Irvine is really writing a general guide to building models rather than a specific guide to building specific model kits. The book is aimed at the more novice kit builders, but there is certainly plenty of useful information for experienced model builders as well.


I own a lot of model building guides, both general and specific to one genre. This book ranks among the better of them. It's well-organized, well-written and comprehensive, and uses models that interest me in particular to illustrate the topics being covered (as opposed to a book on, say, airplane modeling which may cover the same basics but as applied to Me109s, which don't interest me in the slightest). And it's a good general guide to building models, rather than a series of essays on how to build a group of specific models. I would have liked to see more discussion of scratchbuilding, but that's a minor quibble, especially since this book is aimed squarely at the general hobbyist.

Highly recommended.

Many thanks to MBI Publishing for providing the review samples. Manufacturers and retailers, interested in getting your wares reviewed and publicized on a site averaging 3500+ readers a day? Contact us!

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the reviewer.
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