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Collecting delight

February 3, 2021

Just about everyone knows how I’m kinda goofy about airplanes. Ask them and they’ll say that’s an understatement.

And any airplane nut that’s been around the sun more than a few times probably has at least one or two models of airplanes somewhere in their home. Certainly us pilots. I have over 50. And not just any mass produced snap-together plastic or tiny die-cast model.

No, these are custom, handmade models. Each one perfectly to scale. And all painstakingly assembled by a dear old friend and mentor, Ted. Kits purchased online from around the world or from the hobby store in the next town. They are special.

Every plastic piece, carefully sanded, checked for precise fit and then–here’s the tricky part–glued together with modeler’s glue. The sticky, permanent kind that reacts with the material and fuses together. Get it wrong and the result is a model that is obviously disfigured or possibly ruined. Aircraft are designed to be symmetrical. It’s easy to tell just by looking when they aren’t.

And then the painting begins. Not just with a brush–that’s usually too sloppy. With an airbrush. And masking tape. And polishing cloth. Coats upon coats of enamel so the colors are glossy and rich. Done just so that plastic painted to look like aluminum actually looks like real aluminum. This is laborious. This is the work of an artisan.

Finally, Ted applies the decals. Gossamer-thin water-soaked film with the striping of whatever airline livery or military marking I wished for. Handling these requires a surgeon’s touch, lest they tear; and a fine eye, lest they dry crooked. Symmetry, remember?

The result? Exquisite miniature replicas of aircraft that, in very specific ways, bring me great joy.

As I said, these are custom. Their assembly were each commissioned by me. I began to amass them all after visiting Ted at his home over 25 years ago. Always fond of unique aircraft on display, I expressed my interest. Himself a retired US Air Force veteran, Ted showed me some of his finished work. And of his others in various stages of assembly. The details he added–cockpit gages in minute relief or individual jet engine turbine blades, for example–were all manifestations of the pride he brought to his craft.

I recall trying my hand at building models like this in my basement when I was 12. Gobs of excess glue sticking out from between wing joints. Paint slapped on in a hurry. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have the patience nor the impetus to improve, and it showed.

But my buddy Ted sure does.

His works are works of art. They are museum quality. Each one is carefully displayed in my basement Man-Cave along with much of my other aviation memorabilia. They are all a delight to behold.

To me, anyway. A collector. An airplane geek. Just like my friend Ted.

Some objects of my delight

From → Flying, Uncategorized

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