The death of Scratch-building

I can’t be the only modeler over the age of 50 that sees not only the death of scratch-building but the hobby in general.
I say this after watching dozens of my favorite hobby stores go the way of the Doa doa Bird. Yes, amazon and home delivery didn’t help. But to me, and I have to say that, because of the POO POO-ers who troll the site just love to contradict anything and everything that didn’t come from Wikipedia. I believe the death of the industry and the hobby actually began with all the Aftermarket products that flooded shops in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Now it’s 3D printing, With the aftermarket stuff, it caused this sensation that lives on to this day, that being, NOTHING in the OOB kit is good enough. And to some degree that is true. But this blanket dismissal of the kits contents is baffling. I get the need for better decals, and to some extent tracks. But HELLs BELLs where does it end. What truly confounds me is this need for photo-etched, all of the this and that is sickening. Replacing details with FLAT photo-etched is mind numbing, it’s flat, the darn kit molded details are still better…
Whatever happed to go old fashion scratch-building. Is it a societal need for instant gratification, a need to convince oneself of being better or more skilled that one is??? What happened to working at your craft, there is a valid reason why there are skill ratings on kits. Learning how to scratch or customize figures, boxes, tools and whatnot seems to be dead on the vine.
Yes, I am of a different generation, I watched the real greats of this hobby, Verlinden, Letterman, Paine, Pfister and others at their craft.
I often harken back to that modeler many years ago who took MONTHS and MONTHS to rework Monograms T-rex into an amazing work of art. Where did that spirit go. I suppose that is yet another rhetorical question, much like why Monogram didn’t models pursue 1/32 Armour more…
It’s a shame, a low-down dirty shame.
Expensive “this and that’s” a pretty paint job and a custom bought base doesn’t make it special. SORRY


I think people who are passionate about something (modeling in particular) often seek out better options, and are willing to pay more for them. For example, if you were really interested in kayaking, why buy an inflatable when plastic exists? Realistically, this is a hobby and many people (myself included) don’t see the point in buying a highly inaccurate kit like the Tamiya T-62 when Trumpter and Takom do the same thing better. Not that there’s anything wrong with buying older (or less accurate) kits, but from my perspective I’d prefer to start with as good an option as possible. I don’t think it has to do with showing off or being special, but rather making a somewhat logical decision in a world where modeling time is limited.


Sorry, I get what your are saying but i just dont see it that way.

Now if you are talking model railroading that I get. I am an avid railroad modeler but I certainly see that the history, the power, engineering and the sheer magic of railroading no longer holds the imagination of people as it once did.

But for the aircraft, armor, truck, auto, space and fantasy modelers I see the horizons continuing to expand!

With the advent of CAD tooling design and numerically controlled milling machines now used to create the complex molds for the models, plus modern mulit-part slide mold technology I see many more large and well detailed models coming to market than we ever had before!

(Who would have ever thought the big MAZ and HEMTT 8x8 trucks would ever come to market with such a variety of variants and in such detail? Or the monster 16 wheel Russian Topal TEL missle launcher in 1/35 scale? ~ or even a B-17 in 1/32nd scale???)

I admit perhaps the interest in scratch building has wained in recent years. However there are a lot of modelers out there still plying the craft. (Including yours truely) and still plenty of Evergreen and Plastrut plastic shapes being sold to support these efforts.

Additionally that which used to be the art of scratch building may just now be transitioning to being replaced by “scratch CADing”. I would ask; why would the younger modelers, all a product of the digital age, want to build something out of little scraps on white plastic? When instead they can do their research on line, create a CAD file and then produce the part, full blown and finished, ready to paint, right off a 3D printer.

I would propose that scratch building is not dying. It is CHANGING! Now the scratch work is taking place on the computer and then being brought to life by the 3D printer!


OH YES! The good old days! How I miss them!
The days when the choices for an armour modeler was Italeri, Tamiya, the occasional Revell and Heller kits, maybe some ESCI and a few resin conversion sets from Verlinden. I remember those old Tamiya Pz IV’s with smooth bottom plates and some motorization holes to fill. Seeing the Italeri Pz IV was a revelation, jeez, is there supposed to be DETAILS underneath?!
Then came AFV-Club, I found Azimut (and that’s a customer experience roller coaster)
Late 1990’ies and Trumpeter arrived on the scene, horrible kits in the beginning and then they improved. Being used to maybe 10 new kits per year we suddenly have 10 new kits announced each month. Resin upgrades and full kits all over the place (Panzer Concepts gave us HUGE railroad guns)
Atomic Annie, big tank transporters in various combinations.
In my view the 80’ies was like living in a cave and now I am living in the space age with seemingly endless opportunities.
Details, precision, accuracy, access to information.
The innocent 20 year old glueing an Italeri Sherman using the box-art as the one and only reference material compared to the 50+ man who knows that different manufacturers of Shermans had different methods, casting marks, serial numbers cast in the steel. Casting numbers as 3D prints …

Let’s go back to using ink bottles and goose feather pens, writing was much better before the computer age …
Scratch building using various materials is still on the ‘To-Do’-list, many ships in 1/72-scale that I would like to make but time is limited. Meanwhile I will enjoy the M911 C-HET with Talbert trailer that arrived yesterday.

Does anyone remember when the only trucks in 1/35 were Italeri Opel Blitz and GMC 2½-ton and Hellers GMC 2½-ton. The Dodges from Airfix were so-so.

I was 40 years younger 40 years ago but I don’t want to go back to that time in modeling history.
It would be nice to be 19 again IF I could have access to everything I have now.
The model building industry has matured just as we have. Model railroading is dying and they used to blame the RC-hobby. RC is also diminishing since kids and teenagers have other things to do (TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram et.c on their mobile devices. Facebook is losing their grip on the young, my daughter says that Facebook is for old geeks and pedophiles, the times they are a’changin …).
Let’s all go back to unsynchronised manual gearboxes, back in the days when it took real skills to drive a car using BOTH feet (gas, brake, clutch) at the same time and coordinating with both hands (steer and gear lever).

Afterthought: There is ABSOLUTELY nothing preventing any model builder from scratch building. There are lots of raw materials, styrene and metal profiles available. Some modelers on this site create astonishing builds.


Two of my scratch built turreted vehicles from the late 90’s to the early 2000’s. Lots of sheet plastic stock went into the turrets. One of them is now a kit (isn’t that always the case). Several months went into building both turrets.

As aftermarket items come out, or real photos appear covering all angles keep showing up that would/will allow me to update these vehicles, my re-do in adding those details to these vehicles continues. Still to this day, both will need to be tweeked and have been pulled from the contest circuit…but at least I tried!


The hobby is not dead. It’s just changed. If you limit your definition of “the hobby” to the techniques and kits that existed at a certain point in time, then sure…it died. But I think that would be too narrow a definition for most folks.

I’m willing to bet I’m one of the youngest members here and I’m currently in the middle of planning a major scratchbuild/conversion of the Mustang prototype. Lots of research, looking through histories…it’s fun stuff. The finished model will have more personal value because of it.

But I also appreciate a well-made and designed kit, which is why most of the new stuff I’ve replenished my stash with since getting back into the hobby are the wonder-kits. I have limited time to build…why build substandard stuff.

Every hobby has people who claim it died when it changed with technology and culture. Some would say that the OP is too late and the hobby died when it became an adults game and not something for little Eugene to throw together on his kitchen table in 1952 before going outside to play in the sandlot. It’s all perspective.


I marvel today at all the many choices available especially in armor soft skins (my favorite) and aircraft.
Technology has allowed for a drastic reduction in the time required (and expense) for tooling of a new model. The industry has responded (not with lower prices) but with greater depth of detail and a MUCH greater selection of products.
At the same time if little Bobbie wants a venerable (and relatively inexpensive) kit to try his hand at, there are still the Tamiya Pz. II, III & IVs, Halftracks and Stuarts that build up quite respectably even now with their decades old tooling.
Given the rise of 3D printing technology, the day of the truely one of a kind, (one off) totally custom model is fast approaching. (Or is here already!)


Way to many new releases pouring into the market for the last decade plus for the hobby to be dying. The Pacific Rim area seems to be the driving engine in production, innovation and purchasing of new kits or aftermarket. Followed by Europe which also seems pretty active. In America, the model hobby has been on the back burner sputtering for decades in many aspects but doesn’t represent the overall condition of the hobby.

Given the population of key Pacific Rim countries are aging very quickly per demographics, we may eventually reach a point when the cascade of new kits & parts slow. However, most kit purchasing seems to be by adults with deep pockets so the kit boom probably has years of life in it.

As for scratch building, I can do a fair amount, but find it a very boring endeavor of last resort 99.9% of the time. I’d much rather buy given details and tweaks to keep the project moving forward at a brisk pace in most cases. I’m happy to admire someone else’s scratch building effort.

Likewise, I agree, scratch building has been evolving into scratch CAD/3D printing.

What’s really cool in my opinion is so many of the older kits are still around if one wants to flex the scratch building muscles. Really the Era of the Styrene Buffet with so much choice.


I agree with the others. The hobby is not dead nor dying, just changing. With all the options today, you can build just about anything you want. Scratch-building isn’t dead either, just changed as well. Many of us still scratch-build and include 3D printed parts and resin parts as part of the scratch-build.

The hobby is far from dead.


I am pretty young myself (at 29) and I am in the middle (okay I admit I need to pick it up again) scratch building the entire interior of a Churchill from Dieppe!

I don’t think scratch building dies with 3D printing but rather opens up way more opportunity. Some parts are really hard to scratch build, 3D printing makes it way easier


This hobby, is a hobby. Some just like to scratch build stuff. To what level varies from person to person.
On one side are the complete scratch built models.

The other end is the OOB build.
It all goes to what you enjoy about the hobby. I like to build the most accurate model I can within my skill limits. I buy photoetch but only use part of it for the same reasons you said. Some kit parts are more accurate than the PE. I like indy track and metal barrels. I am happy to make some parts if they are not in the kit. Some builds are OOB and some are extensive, just depends on the mood. You can set your own goals in this hobby. It is part of what makes it enjoyable.
Then there is the non build enjoyment portion of modeling such as the research and procurement of parts. At heart I think we are closest museum curators.


Personally I believe that “scratch building” is moving towards “scratch printing”.

I have SolidWorks and two resin 3D printers. Now when I design a part I can make it the scale I need ( I try and design at 1:1 than reduce for printing.

ALSO! Research materials are so much better than in 1970. It is a shame because in the '60s and '70s one could still find 1:1 examples of the armor we wanted to build.

All that said, I am still impressed by the work people do via the “old methods”.

Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work!


FWIW, I’m very positive about the current and future states of the hobby.

I still take all the time I want to research and build. I still use as much scratch-building as I want to do or need to do to get the level of detail or accuracy that I want. I’ve been using PE to add detail to my models since the late 1980s - nothing new there except that more kit makers include it instead of my having to buy it separate. I have learned to do basic CAD to use a 3D printer to create my own 3D parts which I use mostly to supplement my own scratch-building.

I appreciate and look forward to new kit releases, grousing about the ones I want that haven’t been released and still wishing that kit makers would stop releasing newer, more accurate and better detailed kits of the same subjects instead of those kit that I want… LOL! Nothing’s changed with all this since I built my first model more than 50 years ago…

There’s been an explosion of new finishing and weathering products (most of which are pretty much the same basic materials as the “old school” stuff, just packaged and marketed to modelers who now learn about them much faster than I was able to…). I still mostly use the “old school” products, but I don’t have any real heartburn over, say, Abteilung 505 having their own line of artist oil paints which doesn’t affect or hinder my own use of the same oils I’ve had for decades. The same can be said for things like branded “weathering” pigments - no affect on the bottles of “artist dry pigments” that I’ve been using forever.

Heck, today and right now, we’re all here on the interweb sharing in near real time modeling skills, techniques, tools, and materials that in the past might take us - individually - years to discover in some monthly or quarterly hardcopy magazine or deduce or solicit from works and modelers that we see at some modeling show. The speed with which the modeling community can share information and the growth of that community as connected by the internet is something those of us in modeling clubs stuck reading magazines 40 years ago couldn’t have even imagined.

I do get the OP’s laments up to a point, and there is something to be said for having the motivation and dedication to learning, developing and applying the skills needed to build models that are more realistic (although I don’t like that term, really), more accurate, and more detailed than what anyone else can do right out of the box.

However, I would argue that today that challenge simply takes even more effort and dedication on the part of the modeler seeking such perfection, not less. As the kits become more precise, with more detail and accuracy, it takes more skill on the part of the modeler to raise his or her work above what anyone else can do. Scratch-building is not dead. If the modeler desires to create work that’s still above and beyond, then well-developed skills and talent are even more critical than ever. Modelers today have to work harder, not less so, to really stand out.


WOW, was that really necessary :upside_down_face:

Too many words?
I had some to spare from last week and I borrowed a few from tomorrow and Saturday
so it all worked out in the end
:wink: :grin:


I’m a bit confused, didn’t you initiate this conversation as the OP ?


Hi Whitney,
I can understand the frustration when seeing hobby stores closing and all these not so helpful/constructive criticisms and feedback come and go on this site. I do note that you have valid points.
If I were to add a bit more to what has been already said, I respectfully disagree that scratch-building is dead - it is just changing. I apply both the old school scratch-building and 3D printing. With the advancement of technology, it’s inevitable.
I’d also argue that hobby stores closing is not so much caused by these changes in how we approach this hobby. Brick and mortar retail in general are not doing so well. On-line shopping is flourishing on the other hand.
As to the death of the hobby and industry? Maybe if you only consider the North American or European markets. I even have doubts about those markets. That view misses entirely what is happening in Asia, where the market is like 100 times bigger, which has always been the case and almost all new kits from that geography. I went to three gigantic hobby stores in S. Korea this past summer - occupying the half the floor of a mall, and they were busy. The industry is not dying. It may be growing in the rest of the world.
I am sorry to see your frustration, but I do not think it’s doom and gloom.

Kind regards,


This hobby, on the other hand, is very close to dead:

Hoops can still be found online though so all is not lost:

A reasonably skilled woodworker could probably scratch some from wood
laying around in the workshop.
Bicycle rims can also be used, they can be a bit capricious though since they have two edges to roll on …

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When I first got back into the hobby in the 90’s the few forums that existed on the web had numerous threads proclaiming “the end of the hobby” Mostly based on the lack of young builders who 'had so many distractions such as video gaming etc. The debate went on throughout the late 90’s and into the new century. Now lets look at what transpired to scale modeling during that period…
Dozens of new model companies
Hundreds of new aftermarket companies
Hundreds of new kits
Numerous online modeling information sources (armorama, missing-linx and others that have come and gone)
I could go on and on…
Hobby dead or dying? ask me again in 20-25 years when inevitably this question will pop up in whatever is being used for like minded modelers to communicate in 2042



I’m sure someone will offer a 3D printed hoop and stick sooner or later, just keep ckecking Shapeways…