Modeling In A Hurricane: A Few Things I Learned

We’d taken Friday off at my office, as that was the day that Hurricane Florence was supposed to really start affecting my area. I live in southeastern North Carolina, but far enough inland that the storm surges associated with the coast were not an issue. As the day dawned to high winds and some rain, I got right to work on my models. I didn’t know if we’d lose power, but I thought I’d better make hay while the sun was shining, so to speak. (My darling wife had “hurricane proofed” the house the day before!)

I started by finishing the assembly of a Wave 1/20 Ma. K New Rally Pawn I was working on. It’s my first kit from the Maschinen Krieger property, and I was quite excited about the prospect of moving it along. I’d already assembled many of the parts, and added some texturing, so all that was left was final assembly of the torso unit. With that completed, the model was primed, and set it aside.

It occurred to me that if the power did go out, I’d only be able to work on things that did  not require electricity or much light. Knowing that brush painting could be an option, I grabbed a few glass jars with lids and filled them up with water, for thinning and cleaning brushes. We had plenty stocked up for drinking and washing, but I didn’t want to use up that supply for my painting.

With that sorted out, I moved on to another project that was coming up, Trumpeter’s 1/48 Fairey Firefly Mk. I. I spent about an hour assembling everything that could be glued together without messing up later detail painting, and then took all the cockpit pieces into the spray room for a coat of interior green. I figured that would at least allow me to hand paint all the detail should power be out for a while.

Looking over all of the projects I had on the go, the next choice was Citadel’s Valkyrie. This one was almost finished, but it needed some weathering added. I was planning to use oils and enamels, so figuring the power would eventually fail, I applied those and set it aside. It would need several days to sit anyway, so that worked out.

Outside the wind was steadily increasing in speed, at times getting downright dreadful with its howling and shrieking.

Grabbing another kit, the Tamiya M41 Walker Bulldog, which was already primed, I loaded up the airbrush with olive drab, and started to work. As I’d get one coat complete, I’d add a bit of yellow-green to introduce some modulation. I was just starting on my last layer of that, when it happened.

There was light… and then there was dark. 

The power clicked off at 4:30 PM on Friday, September 14. I’d been up and working on models since 4:30 AM, so I’d had a good 12 hours to get some projects moved forward. (And there was lunch, and a nap in there too… 😉 )

I set up a small table near a window in my “Man Cave”, so I could get some light. There was not enough light to brush paint, so working on the Firefly was out. However… it was enough to work on nipping and denubbing a Gundam.

I looked into my stash o’ kits, and saw a No Grade 1/60th scale Gundam Exia. I’d been meaning to build it for some time, but just hadn’t gotten started. Figuring that snipping and denubbing parts could be done with minimal light and tools, I got to work. 

Despite all the chaos outside my window, it was actually quite peaceful to sit there and quietly snip parts away from the sprues, clean up the nubs, and place them into their section of my parts box. Before too long, the light had grown so dim outside that it was no help at all, and my little hand cranked lantern was just not up to the task of providing enough light.

My wife and daughter were in another room, playing cards by candlelight, so I joined them. They promptly schooled me at several games, and I decided it was time to do a strategic withdrawal to go to bed.

The next day brought more of the same… fierce winds, rain beating down incessantly, and added to it – the house was getting decidedly warm. While modern houses and their air conditioning are something I am thankful for, they are designed to have power. Without power – it’s a box with poor airflow. So we opened windows when we could, providing the rain did not blow in. There was some breeze, but the humidity went way up.

Section by section the Exia was nipped, denubbed, and even partially assembled where it would not hinder later painting. I’d assumed it would take most of the weekend. Despite its “No Grade” status, it did have a good number of parts. (For a humorous look at Gunpla Grades, read this blog article. 😉 ) However, not long after midday Saturday, I had it all nipped, denubbed, and tucked away into the various compartments in its box.

With power still out, I needed another project to occupy my time. Peering into the stash, I saw another perfect target – Citadel’s Warhammer 40K Space Marine Stormhawk. This was a perfect candidate for several reasons. First, it had no interior, so I could assemble it fully without having to think about working in stages. Second, Citadel kits generally fit well enough that basic prep of the mating surfaces should be enough to avoid gaps. 

With a few hours of light remaining, I set to work. Once again, I was happily immersed in the hobby, even as the rains fell and the winds roared. Only when the light failed did I set it aside for the next day.

When there was enough light Sunday morning, I set back to work on the Stormhawk. I decided to leave a few sections in sub-assemblies off of the airframe, to make later painting easier. As with every Citadel Warhammer kit I’ve built so far, fit was good, and it simply made for a fun time as I whiled away the hours as the hurricane continued to storm.

Eventually though, I finished that one up too… I was even able to sand down a few seam lines. I considered priming it with some rattle can primer, but the humidity was so high in our garage I decided to wait on that until better weather prevailed.

The latest news on the power restoration was that it might go into Monday, or even Tuesday. Thankfully, the winds were beginning to subside, but the rain was coming down harder than ever – with no let up in sight. That was of great concern, because just two years before, in October 2016, Hurricane Matthew had devastated our area, leaving many homes and businesses flooded, and with roads and bridges washed out all over the region.

Still… nothing I could do about it. In the meantime, I would build models.

I recalled that I had planned to give a custom paint job to a Bandai HGBF Gundam Lightning Black Warrior kit. I liked the mobile suit design, but there was very little contrast on it, being all black and dark gray (hence the name! 🙂 ), so I’d primed it and given it a coat of Vallejo Mecha Color Offwhite. It had been sitting in the box, waiting for a turn on the production line. As the cloud cover had thinned out a bit, I thought there was enough light to get a bit of painting done. Grabbing a few bottles of Vallejo paint, some brushes, and my palette – as well as the water I’d set aside for just the purpose – I got to painting.

Brush painting in dim light is not easy, especially when you have old man eyes as I do. Still, I figured if nothing else I could spray it over later and start again. The point was not so much to get a great result, but to simply pass the time. I painted on various colors – dark blue, medium blue, sky gray, silver… time moved quite quickly as I worked. 

I was just  getting used to this notion of building models in austere conditions, when…

There Was Light

The view outside of our back door. Thankfully, we only had to deal with downed limbs and soggy conditions. Many neighbors lost homes… and worse.

Just like that, the lights were back on.

The rains still came down, and the winds, though diminished greatly, continued their march. Our house was not in any danger, but I could see that water levels were reaching a point close to what we’d seen in the previous hurricane – and that meant many neighbors would be having a much worse time than I did. It was somewhat bittersweet, celebrating the lights’ return with my wife and daughter, yet knowing that just a few miles in either direction of me, other people’s homes were underwater.

The time without electricity really wasn’t that long – just 48 hours. When I’d been in the Army, I’d gone much longer in austere conditions. But those days are far behind me, and I had been quickly reminded of how much I do like the creature comforts that I so often take for granted – which I should not.

Yet even in that time, I was able to enjoy time spent with plastic and nippers, paint and brushes. With nothing else to do, the time moved along quite quickly working on the projects I’d tackled. 

It did help that I had good supplies on hand which allowed me to work within the confines of the conditions. Because I use acrylic paints, odor from strong thinners was not an issue.

And though I was able to work, much of it was not “bloggable” really, so I knew that it would take a couple of weeks to fully catch up with content for this site. But given the loss around me, such a thought seems so minor that I’m a bit guilty to even mention it.

One of the most encouraging parts of the time waiting for the hurricane to pass was the wonderful encouragement from so many friends online. Because my phone’s battery life was limited, I was only able to check in a few times. Yet each time, I knew notes awaited, from all over the world, asking “how are you?” I didn’t mind answering every one I saw – I knew it was from someone who genuinely cared for my well-being. That meant a lot.

I suppose I should draw a bigger conclusion from my brief and really not too harrowing ordeal. Certainly having a few kits on hand to work on is helpful, as well as sufficient modeling supplies. I learned that more light is always better than less light. 

But more than all that, it showed me how this hobby of ours transcends regions and language and politics, and draws us together, if only in a small way, to those we encounter who have this “styrene addiction”. Though the winds and rains may swarm around us, we can know that there are others who care about us and how we are doing.

And while building things is certainly fun, I’d say the real fun is being able to share it with our friends.

Thanks again to everyone for following this blog, the Facebook page, and my work. Allowing me to be a small part of your hobby life is an incredible honor. Yet more than that, thank you for the gift of friendship. That will weather any storm.



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