In the spirit of new year humility, I have been reminiscing about some of the great moments of disaster, incompetence and failure that have punctuated the many years I have been enjoying this hobby. Like all good doctors, I have of course buried my worst mistakes, but I remember fondly the rocket launcher from an Airfix Bf 109 that was dropped into a jar of solvent, and the happy hours spent searching for an irreplaceable piece of an Esci Marder that I dropped and never rediscovered. More recently, I savour the memory of basing hundreds of Napoleonic figures for a set of rules that nobody plays, as well as moments of casual stupidity like buying the Italeri Napoleonic Prussians despite the fact they were obviously rubbish.
Here are five stuff-ups that have survived to irk me still.
1. Matt Base is not the same as Matt Varnish
This was probably the first base of figures I ever painted for wargaming, back when I was about 16. I remember researching the shield designs on the Bayeux Tapestry, and meticulously painting the 15mm Essex figures. When they were finished, I gazed at them with pride, if not hubris, and tried to varnish them with Matt Base. They of course turned chalky white, and I had to frantically dunk them in turps to clear off the mess. I had to repaint a number of them - the figure in the middle here was saved, but still bears the scars. When you think about it, the whole incident mirrors the Greek tragic cycle.
2. Look at the decal instructions carefully
Lovely kit - the Roden model of Carl Degelow's Pfalz, with its very classy black and silver finish and personal markings of the hind leaping forward....oh bugger.
3. Gaze into the Eyes of a Horse
Horses don't have eyes like us. With very rare exceptions, they don't have white surrounds and a dark irises. They are all very dark browny-black, despite the evidence of several hundred of my cavalry.
4. Getting the Blues
So I sent away for some quite expensive but worth every penny Art Miniaturen Prussian Uhlans. I carefully researched the uniform colours. I spent a lot of time painting them, albeit stuffing up the horses' eyes. But somehow, I painted them the glaringly wrong shade of blue. I knew that uhlans wore dark blue/black tunics, but still painted them in a light blue, then failed utterly to notice the error until someone politely pointed it out on Benno's Figures.
5. Green is not Grey
I couldn't find the offending model, but it still exists somewhere. The last model aircraft I tried to super-detail, back in the 90's, was an Italeri FW 190 A8. I spent ages on the cockpit, modelling the seat restraints, controls etc etc. I was surprised to read in the instructions that the correct colour for the cockpit interior was a rather lurid green. 'Oh well', I thought 'seems odd, but if that's what's accurate..' Of course, I somehow read 'green' for 'grey'. The resulting cockpit would make any pilot feel ill before they even fired up the engine. The model languishes in a box.