By the time the early 1980’s came around I was around about the right age to start making model aeroplanes such as those made most famously by Airfix. Â I can’t claim to have been very good at it, but it was good fun and the finished models looked great on my shelf or hanging from the ceiling.
These kits came with all the various little pieces attached to plastic frames. Â The pieces were supposed to be removed using a craft knife and the little extra blobs of plastic sanded off. Â More often than not I just used the “wiggle it about until it falls off” technique and then lived with the plastic nobbles.
Following the numbered Â instructions carefully you got the required pieces for the step you were on, then glued them all together with polystyrene cement. Â I used to hate that stuff. Â You’d gently squeeze the tube and nothing would come out, so you squeeze harder and harder until it suddenly shot out a great dollop of the stuff all over the piece, your fingers, the table and anything else within squirting distance. Â This invariable meant that the fuselage of the plane ended up with gluey fingerprint marks all over it.
Once it was all glued together, with the little man safely cocooned under the transparent plastic cockpit lid, the next step was to paint it. Â You had little tubs of smelly paint made by Airfix or Humbrol that had to be shook up and stirred before use. Â They came in a variety of colours which were all given code numbers, and the instructions told you which numbers you needed from which paint manufacturer. Â Since the instructions were always just black and white you basically had a diagram with lots of numbered arrows telling you which colours to use where.
To be honest I hated the painting stage so I often skipped it, which meant I sometimes had some odd looking planes with blue wings and dark grey fuselage, but they still looked good. Â My painting skills are not great, so they probably looked better unpainted than painted!
The final step was the most fiddly of all, which was applying the water transfers. Â These came on a sheet of card which you had to cut up and then soak in water for a bit. Â Eventually the transfer came loose from the card and it could be slid carefully onto the model. Â You had to be careful too, as they were very easy to break or get folded up on top of themselves, which looked a right mess.
Still, I had a lot of fun making the kits, and once you’d mastered planes there were always kits of cars, helicopters, tanks, battleships and even soldiers. Â I even remember one year I got a really cool model of the human skeleton for Christmas, which sat on my shelf for many years.