David J. Salvin
Q. Tell us about yourself. Your age, Where do you live, Married, Kids, Occupation, Other hobbies and interests?
I am 41 years old. I am a professional trial attorney by day and a semi-professional model builder by night. I am married, with one child who is now ten (and wants nothing to do with such an “old” “boring” hobby as building models.
Building is a way of life for me. In addition to modeling, I also build furniture and engage in various aspects of woodworking home remodeling and repair.
When not building, my other hobbies involve the martial arts. For over ten years I was a volunteer fencing instructor with the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) We studied original European fighting manuals and schools of dueling arts and used those skills in full speed, blunted contact fencing matches with recreations of period weaponry. As an offshoot of that I needed armor and costumes for the events and thus got to use my “building” talents to sew doublets and outfits for the tournament field for my self as well as large Renaissance dresses for my wife.
My other Hobbies include firearm and sword collecting, competition pistol, rifle and shotgun shooting, all sorts of fishing including fly fishing, and hiking.
Q. Tell us about both your first modeling experience, and your first ship modeling experience.
My very first model was a small coast guard cutter which I purchased from a local grocery store. (one of only two kits they had in the store). Being no more than 8 or 9, I proceeded to build that kit four of five times (buying multiple kits to finally get better at it.) My kit selection was limited to how far I could pedal and what stores carried which kits. I built whatever kits (military only) that I could get. Aircraft, helicopters, tanks, vehicles, you name it. Each bought with newspaper route money.
Q. When was the first time ship subjects as a preferred genre appealed to you?
Originally, in the heyday of my building as a child (12-16 years old), it was room (or the lack of it) which prompted me to look more closely at ships. (Usually 1/700) However, ultimately, it was the level of detail and sense of wonder which drew me inextricably towards ship models.
Q. Where do you draw your ship building inspirations?
As a child growing up in the dark ages (1970’s and 80’s) (BI – before internet) my inspiration came from the few sources available. The box tops mostly. If I was lucky, the model shop might have Squadron book on the ship I was building, and I would study it at the shop (not having enough newspaper route money to buy the kit and the book) and remember the colors, camouflage scheme and as many details as possible to get it right. To this day, I have a great sense of color, and can color match by eye.
Q. Tell us about what, in your opinion, is the very best thing about ship modeling in general?
Ship building, unlike other areas of modeling involving larger models and smaller subjects such as tanks or aircraft, allows the modeler to walk the decks of his subject and thus step back in time. While there are thousands of Tiger tanks or Shermans which may have been built, there was only one Hood, one Bismarck, one Yamato. Building these ships allows us to journey on those ships in those times in a way that other models don’t quite allow.
Q. OK, now tell us about what, in your opinion, is the worst thing about ship modeling?
The only downside to building ships (at least on the smaller scales) is the obvious fragility of the end result. Most of my 1/700’s are simply untouchable once completed. The other drawback to ship models in general is the subtlety in the differences between kits and ships. Sure, we know the difference between a well-executed Measure 22 and a Measure 23 or the difference between Kure and ghost grey, but most others do not. I find that really good ship models can only be truly enjoyed by others who share the passion. (or perhaps anyone other than my wife – who still to this day calls them my “little boats”.
Q. Tell us about your all time favorite modeling era/period and why?
Of course, my favorite period is WWII. Not only are the designs the most varied and beautiful, the subjects are legendary. The names Enterprise, Missouri, Lexington, and Bismarck, will forever live in man’s lexicon. They stand for and epitomize virtue, sacrifice and bravery. While equally amazing to a true WWII buff, a P-38 or T-34 just isn’t the same.
Q. Of any and all of the modeling related awards that you have won or earned, which one of these is the most important to you?
My very first accolade (if you can call it that) was to have a few of my kits displayed in the case at the local model shop. As a small child, they were always the results to aspire to. One of those kits was the 1/700 Tamiya Yamato. One of the first I ever put PE railings on. (that was a very new technology at the time)
I generally don’t enter a lot of contests, when I did go to IPMS shows back in the 80’s, I generally won first prize. (Usually because I was one of only a handful of ship kits submitted.) My most meaningful work is building for others to enjoy. I now do most of my work on commission, and I have a few steady patrons who keep me busy with work. It gives me a greater sense of satisfaction to know someone else will be treasuring my kit and enjoying the detail. However, my greatest sense of satisfaction is when I get the opportunity to build a kit for a veteran who served on that ship. Having never served in the Navy, I can only imagine the bond that is formed between a ship and her crew. If I can help bring a part of that ship home to that veteran to remember his time on that ship, I am happy.
Q. Please take a bit of time now and tell us some of your favorite modeling "things"...tools, reference materials, or a particular ship or ship model kits.
After 30 years of building models, there isn’t much I haven’t seen. I like my tried and true Badger 200 air gun. In 1988 I packed it in a box to go away to college. I pulled it out again 10 years later and it sprayed like a champ. I like Tamiya acrylics (though they don’t seem to be being imported to the US anymore). I love the explosion of PE parts. Virtually every kit (and in some cases the majority of the kit) include PE. The level of detail possible with PE renders a new level to our work especially for the 1/700’s.
Q. What is your all time, number one, modeling acquisition, or most favorite ship kit ever?
To tell you the truth, I really don’t have one. I’ve built them all from the tiniest 1/700 patrol boat or sub to the 1/350 Tamiya Enterprise complete with air wing. I’ve done most every ships, tank, plane or vehicle from WWII and even most of the space ships from Stars. Recently, I very much enjoyed the retooled Fujimi Nagato and PE super detail set for the Takao. I enjoyed pairing the Takao with the Nagato in Brunei Harbor before the battle of Leyte Gulf. These kits exemplify the height of the art reached in PE fusion with plastic.
Q. What's your best or most recent ship kit purchase? Details please!
I don’t purchase much for myself anymore. I get kits from modeling sites such as Model Shipwrights and others to do reviews on and often to build reviews on them. The bulk of my modeling, as I said, is on commission. I am a humble player and I pipe the tune called for by my patron. While I don’t get to build the WWII subjects I love the best, I do get to build modern ships that I never would have done for myself. Recent highlights include the Orange Hobby kit HMS OCEAN which is a fantastic kit. Very detailed and very thought out. I also recently finished another Orange Hobby kit the Juan Carlos, a Spanish LPD. I am currently working on the THIRD kit of the Sachen class German frigate for a patron. The last kit I actually bought (and still haven’t touched) is the HMS Dreadnaught. I resin kit with full PE which awaits a lul in the commissions.
Q. Time to get a little deep...What are your thoughts, opinions, and overall evaluation(s) of the ship kit industry?
Overall, I am thrilled with the level of detail and work being put into the ship kits these days. When I left the hobby in 1988, I never thought I’d be back, and I never thought it would ever be this big. Though I still worry for the hobby’s future. Children of the newest generation (like my son) have no interest in building “little boats”. Frankly, one of the main reasons I ever got into the hobby was that there wasn’t that much else to do by yourself in 1980. Memories of the great ships of WWII will fade with the number or men who served on them or even who had family serve on them. Perhaps newer ships will replace the older ones in the modern lexicon, but frankly, most people couldn’t name 5 modern aircraft carriers today if they tried. Much less smaller ships, and fewer still will ever see meaningful action in wartime conditions. (we can only hope- right?) Q. If you could model one ship, any ship, what would it be (May or may not be available in kit form!) And why? Well, there aren’t many I haven’t built. Perhaps a large scale model of the Arizona (like the 1/200 just out on the market)
Q. What, in your opinions, would be the all-time modeling “no no’s" ?
Modeling no-no’s as far as they apply to building ships? First in my mine is perhaps scale, scale, scale. I cringe when I see a 1/700 with a lot of work put into it with flags that are ridiculously large, or when a builder uses thread to rig the ship (that would be 2 feet thick in real life) If you can see the rigging on a 1/700 scale ship from a distance – it’s too big. If you can see the weathering from a distance, it’s too big!
As for no-no’s for manufacturers- it’s think about the result. Your job is to make this hobby fun and allow us to get the best result possible. DO NOT put unnecessary deck seam in (you know the ubiquitous one right in front of Arizona’s A turret) especially when you go to the trouble of etching the deck with individual boards etc. Place seams at the corner of superstructure parts at a 90 degree angle so they are easily concealed and sanded. HAVE SOMEONE WHO DID NOT WRITE THE INSTRUCTIONS BUILD THE MODEL WITH THEM BEFORE YOU PUT IT ON THE MARKET. How many times have we seen kits put out by major manufacturers where the numbers on the spruce are wrong or non-existent? Construction steps are out of order or missing. If you make a kit, give it to any experienced builder to build first BEFORE you put it on the market and make sure the instructions you give are accurate and useful. ( You know who you are Midship Models)
Q. OK, mate, now tell us one (or more!) of your own modeling secrets.
Secrets.. ok well first, if you are going to build 1/700 (which is most of what I do) get an air gun. It is very hard (if not impossible) to get a good paint job with a brush. Remember, a brush stroke mark in 1/700 scale is a foot thick or more! Next - masking. I start by spraying the bottom of the hull black, then use 1 or 2mm tape to cover the boot topping. Paint the hull and attached parts grey, then use scotch tape to mask the vertical structures. Much more clean than trying to paint that by hand. . (see pic)
Decals – to avoid silvering spray the entire ship with gloss coat. Apply decals then spray with Testors dull coat. (also good to seal on your pastel weathering)
And the biggest secret – seam filler… use Elmer’s water based wood putty. Any excess can be wiped away with a wet finger or q-tip. No odor or mess, and it’s sandable. But best of all, in areas like a scribed deck where you don’t want to sand, you can fill with putty, and “wet sand” the excess away with a wet q-tip and not have any damage to the scribing.
I would like to thank David for his time in putting this together.