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Why Scale Modeling is a Great Hobby
A Wife's Perspective


By Linda Lester - © 2009

I’ve been meaning to write this article for over 10 years now, and with a new year upon us, it’s time to quit procrastinating. So here goes. Learning to appreciate your husband’s hobby is an easier resolution to keep then that new diet you’re considering. Trust me… I know.

First, some background. John and I met online back in 1996, long before it was fashionable to do so. He left a career with the Marine Corps to marry me and move to Chicago, so the very least I could do was learn to appreciate the hobby that he so much enjoyed. At the time, John’s online presence was an AOL member page that was just a place to show off some of the models he built and share techniques that he had learned. It wasn’t until years later that I registered the StarshipModeler.com domain as a Christmas present for John and he began the transformation from a personal web page to the online community and hobby shop that you see here today.

There are so many things that I love about this hobby that it’s hard to pick a starting point. But if I have to pick one thing, it’s this: John is always home. Scale modeling is a hobby where 95% of the time spent on it takes place in your own home. He’s not out hunting for days on end. He’s not spending eight hours on a Saturday on the golf course. He’s not at a bar, drinking, and watching the game with his buddies. He’s at home, in his “man cave” quietly working on his latest project… which just happens to be the “Tree Lady” at the moment. (You’ll have to attend Wonderfest 2009 to see that one.)

I always know where he is, he’s not staying out late, and he’s here for us when we need him. If my 5 year old daughter, Sarah, needs someone to change the dress on her Barbie doll and I’m in the middle of something, John will stop for a minute and do it for her. If the laundry needs to be flipped, he can do it. Modeling is a hobby where you can stop and start a project 100 times, and it doesn’t usually affect the end result. When dinner is ready, he will finish up the part he’s working on and come to the table in a few minutes. There’s no “wait until halftime” or “I can’t stop now – I’m on Level 27 and it’s a new record for me.” And, before this part gets edited out, I’ll add that John is usually the one who cooks dinner in our house. He’s a better cook than I am.

Modeling is a hobby that can be done anytime – day or night. John works on his models when he gets some spare time. Usually, this is late at night, after Sarah has gone to bed. It’s a quiet time in the house and perfectly suited for some solitary relaxation after a busy day. Modeling has no schedule. You don’t have to worry that the “big game” will interfere with your mother’s birthday dinner. Modeling can be done year round and is perfectly suited for bad weather, unlike most sports. Its schedule doesn’t interfere with our daughter's soccer practice or her Girl Scout meetings.

Compared to other hobbies, modeling is relatively inexpensive. Don’t roll your eyes at me. Yes, modeling is a whole lot cheaper than other hobbies. Just ask my friend, Karla, whose husband goes on five or six hunting trips per year, has subscriptions to 19 different hunting magazines (did you know there were that many?), and owns too many duck decoys to count. Just ask my friend, Maryanne, whose husband has season tickets to Black Hawks hockey games and spends half his evenings at an ice rink with his brother each winter. Don’t believe me? Just ask your girl friends, sisters and neighbors. Lots of men spend way more on other hobbies than our husbands do on models. And that’s a lot coming from me, a woman whose husband owns more models than he can build in a lifetime.

It’s also a good hobby for when times are tougher financially, as they are right now for many people. Sure, it’s a thrill to work on a brand new $300 model, spending countless hours over many months to get it just right. But it’s also just as enjoyable to pull a $20 kit out of your stash and spend months scratch building the details to get it studio accurate, or so I’ve been told. So when times are tough, he can work on inexpensive kits and still enjoy the hobby just as much.

Men need time alone in their “man cave”. A friend recommended that “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” book to me years ago. Once you got past the pages of fluff, there were some interesting revelations in there. Men need a “cave”. They need a place where they can go to get away and be by themselves for a little while. When women have a problem, we talk about it. We call our sisters and gab, and we talk to our husbands until their eyes glaze over. Men don’t do that. They don’t “talk it out,” they stew about it until they figure it out. I don’t mean that they sit in the corner and think pensively. But while they are working on their models, reading a magazine or playing an online game, whatever it is that is bothering them is being worked out in the back of their minds until they either (a) figure it out or (b) decide that it wasn’t really a problem and forget about it. But men absolutely need that space and time to themselves. So if you don’t let him go into his man cave and build a model, he’ll do what my dad always did: take the newspaper into the bathroom and spend an hour in there instead. Otherwise, you may see him grabbing his coat and going for a walk or heading to the local bar instead of retreating to his “man cave” to get some time alone.

The “man cave” doesn’t have to be a separate room. If you don’t have the room for it, a table in the corner of the dining room can be good enough. It just needs to be a space that he can call his own, where he can sit, work on a model and block out the rest of the world for a while. It recharges them, so leave them alone during their modeling time. If it helps, work out in advance just how much time he can spend on modeling before household chores need to be done. Set a timer if you have to. But give him that time to himself – and let him know that you need time for a bubble bath, yoga, walk in the park, or whatever else it is that recharges your batteries, too.

I never understood sports. I know men whose only hobby is to watch sports on TV or at a game. Not to play sports – just watching them. I can totally understand how enjoyable it is to be on a softball team, hanging out with your friends, getting some exercise, enjoying the outdoors. But I don’t get how it can be fun to spend three hours at a time, watching a game on TV with nothing to show for it but a beer belly, especially when you are watching the game by yourself. When the game is over, it’s over and you have nothing but three hours of wasted time. With modeling, you are creating something to call your own.

[some models]A model is a beautiful piece of art. It takes skills, patience, determination, and craftsmanship to build a model. It is your own personal interpretation of a subject matter that you built. It’s not just a kit, even if it started off that way. I have seen hundreds of Babylon 5 Star Furies and no two ships look alike. In fact, John has several displayed in our home, each one unique.

I mentioned the “Tree Lady” earlier that John is working on, even as I write this. Imagine a tree that came to life, with bark instead of skin, moss instead of hair and roots instead of feet. I’ve been able to watch her grow, and I can’t wait to see her when she is finished. That’s art, baby.

Models can be tastefully displayed throughout your home. We have over 200 finished models displayed throughout our home. Most are in display cases in the living room, but there are some on open shelves and some mounted to bases on the wall. John keeps his modeling confined to his “man cave” downstairs. He prefers to sand pieces while he is standing over the kitchen sink, so there’s a small area at the end of the kitchen counter with some sanding supplies. But it hasn’t taken over every inch of our home. So if your husband’s modeling is all over the place, then I’d say you’ve got a good reason to complain – and a place to start compromising: He cleans it up and keeps it in one place, and you allow him time each day to work on them. Sounds fair to me and you can tell him I said so.

We have met tons of people and made lasting friendships all through modeling. The internet has made the world a smaller place. StarshipModeler is just one of many online communities that bring like-minded people together to discuss their passion for modeling. While modeling can certainly be a solitary hobby, you can also use it as a catalyst to meet new people. As an adult, it’s hard to meet new friends. Co-workers are fine, but do you really want to see them all day and on weekends too? Probably not. When John moved to Chicago, the only person he knew was me. But by contacting other modelers in the area through the internet, he now has friendships that will last a lifetime. We’ve hosted parties and opened our home to visitors from Brazil, England, Australia, Canada and half of the US. Go with your husband to the modeling shows and accept invitations to attend a local club’s Christmas party. Strike up a conversation with the other wives there. You won’t regret it.

And maybe I'll see you in Louisville at Wonderfest 2009.

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This page copyright © 2009 Starship Modeler™. First posted on 1 January 2009.