Harrier modeller Graham James concludes the story of his hobby…
At the time I started, I had a limited choice of kits which has only recently been expanded. Airfix, who I’m sure everyone knows, produced a kit for the GR3, FRS1 and FA2. Monogram had produced kits for the AV-8A, AV-8S, AV8C and GR1. Hasegawa has produced kits for all the second generation Harriers. Monogram had produced an AV-8B and Revell re-boxed the Hasegawa GR7/GR9 kit. Kinetic Models, whom the Harrier SIG have worked with on their kits, has now introduced a modern interpretation of the FRS1 and FA2 and has brought out a kit to make any first generation trainer. The Harrier SIG (Special Interest Group) mastered a conversion set for the second generation two-seater and as a result we can build any production Harrier in 1/48th scale if we wish. Kinetic will be producing a GR1/3/AV-8A/C/S kit in 2019. We’re hoping to persuade them to continue with the second generation Harriers and ultimately even the P1127 / Kestrel. Tamiya has produced a GR1 and FRS1 but they are not very accurate in shape and I’ve chosen never to make one. Naturally all these kits include sets of decals to make individual aircraft but there is a wide range of companies providing alternative decal sheets, conversions, fixes, paint masks, etc that give you a broad choice of build options. If you have your own PC and inkjet printer, you can produce your own stencils and markings. In theory, any Harrier in any scheme is within the remit of the model maker.
Once I started my own research into schemes and options, I quickly
found that this was often more interesting than making the model. I’ve
probably bought nearly every book that I know of that has been
published on the Harrier, collected tens of magazine articles and
trawled hundreds of sites bookmarking information, photographs and
other model makers’ models for reference material. The Brooklands
library and archive has also been very useful on occasions, as has
Chris Farara’s encyclopaedic knowledge of all things Harrier. Indexing
of all these references is always my issue - you can often recall
seeing or reading about something, but the memory does not always tell
you where. Occasionally it does lead to new discoveries when searching
for these previous nuggets. Sadly, it doesn’t always get the models
made and time can quickly disappear. However, I always remind myself it
is a hobby and I’m under no obligation to make models! The only time
this is not true is when I’ve committed to make a model for the Harrier
SIG display at a model show.
The choice for which aircraft I make is not regimented. I try to find one that has a “story” or can be paired with another or simply has a scheme or squadron that would not otherwise be represented. As I’m reminded on occasion by my commanding officer, they can “all look a bit grey and boring”, so I’ve tried to represent all of the different schemes that have been applied to Harriers and cover all the squadrons or units which flew it. As I mentioned earlier, the original scope has now been broadened and I’m aiming to do one of every squadron and one of every two-seater. This should keep me busy for many years to come!
Kits today are of much better quality than during my youth, not unnaturally. The same applies to paints, glues and decals. Items cast in resin (replacement parts and weapons) and photo-etch can now add incredible levels of detail should you wish to invest the time, money and effort. Equally, you can simply build them “out of the box” as we say, just from the parts and decals provided. I mix and match as required, depending on the choice of aircraft. I brush paint in acrylics usually, though enamels have to be used for some colours and occasionally you can use paint in a spray can. I do not use an airbrush, though I recognise that would give me more flexibility. I make my own decals when necessary, particularly for aircraft serial numbers or codes. Glues used vary with the need and the material, as do the tools. Floor polish is used on cockpit canopies, and occasionally toothpaste and ear-buds. Coffee stirrers have also ended up on one of my models, so not everything used is found in a model shop!
I’ve made enough Harriers now not to need referring to the instructions, but we in the Harrier SIG have put together guides for those model makers who rarely or have never made a Harrier model. We also provide research information and I’ve been involved in the production of much of this over the past few years. In fact, as a result of my Harrier model making and the Harrier SIG, I’ve met Harrier pilots, engineers and designers and attended numerous events which would not otherwise have been possible nor likely if I’d have chosen other subjects.
I’ll not delve into the details of how I go about constructing the models - there’s nothing special in what I do and anyway it is probably best demonstrated. There are hundreds of videos on tools and techniques on the web to get you started and I’d recommend you join a local club. There’s no substitute for face-to-face discussions and you can also go with the club to model shows where you can see models, buy kits and products and talk to even more model makers about your specialist subjects.
Many people ask me how long it takes to do a model and the answer is I don’t know. To me it’s a hobby and irrelevant. There’s no point in forcing yourself to do a couple of hours because you have the time, you need to want to do it to get the best results. Equally, it takes you a month and someone one week, so what? Suffice to say it’s more than a few hours! I’m also asked if Harriers are the only models I make, and the short answer is no. I’m a member of two other IPMS SIGs - the Great War SIG and the Special Schemes SIG. The former I hope is self-explanatory and the latter covers any aircraft (though it tends to be jets) that has or were painted in special markings for whatever reason (squadron anniversary for example). One of my favourite subjects is “eggplanes” because they are simple, fun and intensely annoying to “serious” model makers who think they have no place in the hobby. In effect they are cartoon-style models of real aircraft and simply embody the oval shape of an egg in their structure. All will be made clear once you look at a few in my gallery at my model club’s website … http://westmiddlesexmodellers.co.uk/
Model%20Gallery/Graham%20James. My Harriers are included in the club gallery, but here’s the link to where you’ll find a few extra photos of each https://myalbum.com/album/B2EWz1l4mCHM.
As you will see, I’m now up to 32 Harriers at the time of writing this article. A T10 and T12 are currently under construction. Storage space will one day be a serious limitation, but for now I have some 3 Ikea display cabinets that allow me to show the collection to home visitors. Some other models have already flown into the loft, though they do get the occasional outings at model shows.