Rivet Counters

(I’ll skip the intro. If you don’t know what I’m talking about–Bless Your Heart.)

We see these forum arguments about whether model builders should be concerned about this or that “inaccuracy” in a kit, and then somebody posts something smarmy about “rivet counters” and everybody feels better, except for the chump who got caught in the Rivet Counting Witch Hunt. That guy is unhappy. He has been labeled “a problem” but the problem lies elsewhere. It lies in the failure of kit makers to take responsibility for their mistakes.

When we call somebody a “rivet counter” we allow the kit industry to neatly avoid all responsibility. Even in the information age, they still act as if they are toy makers, and a few customers have gone off on a crazy tangent, attempting to build “real models” out of plastic kits. It’s like they are saying “Don’t blame us if you get hurt using this product in an unintended way!” Well, “the unintended way” is the primary way now. It’s no longer a small minority of wacky “serious modelers” annoying Mattel or Disney with nutty demands. What once was a minority is now the majority. But kit makers are deliberately pretending that we are not–in order to maintain the power relationship that existed in the past. They want that relationship to stay perpetually locked in 1980 (or 1960)–when plastic kits were children’s toys and adults who “played with them” were suspect–and powerless.

It’s not all the kit maker’s fault. Some of us builders see 1980 (or 1960) through rose-colored glasses. It was fun being “under the radar” because anonymity brings a kind of freedom. Old FROG, Airfix and Revell kits could be “re-worked” into real models, and it was fun. Nobody was “in charge” because nobody cared about it. It was so quirky it was beyond any regulation or control. It was fun, but it had limits. The adults involved were rivet counters, but they also knew that there was a limit to the counting. After all, you can only put so much in a 1/72 scale kit, right? The technology limited what we could expect.

Fast forward to The Future ™. Now.

We see that the after-market world and the computer world and the plastic kit world have joined together to create plastic kits where “the sky is the limit.” Nobody seriously suggests that “you can’t do that in 1/72 scale.” Of course you can! You just have to pay the man and include your working turkey feathers or whatever.  Exact replicas, with ALL detail, are now the norm.

The entire hobby, and the entire business of hobby products, has changed. The opening of the world to new possibilities means that serious modelers in Bangkok and Cairo are causing the numbers of “serious modelers” to climb up while the number of children playing with plastic kits has plummeted.

As this has occurred, our old hobby of adding bits of this and that, and accurizing poorly-done kits into miniature marvels has gone away, to be replaced by an entirely new hobby, where perfection has replaced accurizing. This is not rivet counting. It’s just a new hobby in a new world.

Rivet counting isn’t the problem. “Rivet counting” is just the term we use to express our future shock–our discomfort at having our hobby change before our eyes. Instead of using the term “rivet counter” as an insult, we should all start counting rivets and asking the kit makers to do the same. Then, a dialogue between the kit maker and the kit builders could begin. Then, we will no longer need to argue about “rivet counting.” The responsibility for the finished model will still lie with the builder, but a true partnership between the makers and the builders will flourish as new technology reinforces the fact, which was true from the beginning, that each of them needs the other, and they should be working together toward a common goal.

Well, I can dream, can’t I?



3 Replies to “Rivet Counters”

  1. We may all dream but as long as there is the undergrowth of cottage industry or real industry of aftermarket stuff to make your model into a scale replica why trash your moulds! If peoples are still buying then continue production. 😉
    Of course we should ask the kit-makers to modernize and be more accurate but I would expect it to be as easy as manouevring a Super-tanker in narrow waters. Though if some companies choose to do so the rest should at some time follow suit.
    Frankly I for one can live with the inaccuracies of rivet numbers and panellines. The overall measurements being right is enough.
    Actually its all the colour discussions over again – which is right and when is right right?
    We are all different fish. I don’t mind building an old Airfix or FROG kit but have done Hasegawa, Tamiya and Special Hobby as well.
    Really what I resent is the remarks on forums of why build an old kit which you have to apply all the tricks in the book to make into something worth looking upon when you can get a shake and bake kit for five times the price which just go neatly together without issues and you may go on to the real thing painting with the airbrush.
    For one I’m learning from building old kits. I’ve been out of the hobby for decades and its a pleasure to live and learn. Second I’m a builder not a painter so that process is really to my liking mostly so if I may be able to cut stuff up and adjust and fill and…. 🙂

  2. I am more of a painter myself, but still don’t mind panel lines, etc. I applaud the efforts some go to in scratchbuilding so many different parts on models, but I am not fussed enough to worry, so long as the model comes out as a decent representation of the real deal.

  3. Splain me this —

    Why do kit mfrs go to all the exquisite work it takes to make modern molds and include inaccuracies and mistakes?

    What is their Zeitgeist with all the high tech drawing wares, cutting wares, softwares, 3d wares, materials science and lifetime underwear’s, that leaves me thinking their socks are too tight? Are they afraid not to leave some problems for us to enjoy fixing? They seem to have access to all the accurate info for perfection. Must they create madmen? I do get mad when I think of folks paying $50-$100 in reserve notes, worthless though they are, for kits that are almost perfect. For 20 $ bucks I don’t get quite as mad and can walk away from the vortex.

    Great essay on the subject, keep up the good work. Be Hapski, don’t vorry.

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