This is a question that comes into a lot of people’s mind. Either when they’re re-entering the hobby (like myself), introducing a friend or child, or just looking to expand their horizons – to a new subject or skill level. With this article I hope to help you work out what scale is best for you and what factors you should consider.
First and foremost you need to consider your subject. Each ‘area of study’ has different main scales. For example, my chosen scale is largely 1/72, followed by an ever-growing 1/48, but also with 1/32 and 1/24 scale too. However some subjects – such as cars – tend to only come in 1/32, and some in 1/24. Ships, too, have varying scales. So before you do anything – check what you want and what scales they come in otherwise you’ll just be disappointed.
I’d say space is your second determining factor. I, myself, live in a small terrace house in the UK (for the next year and a bit anyway). I don’t have masses of space, and I can’t afford to put up a load of shelving either. Unless you’re planning on doing commissioned work only or passing on completed kits, then this really does matter.
Displaying models is a really lovely part of building them. As many of you know I focus on display team aircraft (jet trainers basically) at the moment and so these are very colourful and with interesting paint schemes. I want these on display together – like on a miniature imaginary flight line. This means for me anything above 1/48 is entirely not practical. But if you have more space – or even you make space for that one special subject – larger scales may be good for you.
Cost is another factor. Now 1/144 is nearly always cheapest. 1/72 and 1/48 follow. 1/72 and 1/48 for jet fighters, and prop aircraft can be similar prices depending on manufacturer and sales. Of course, it’s pretty much the larger the scale the larger the cost. Some manufacturers will also focus on detail more so than others – featuring photo-etch parts or metal parts or resin parts. These can also be bought after-market as well.
When you think of cost you need to think – are you building for realism and detail or just fun and personal satisfaction. I fit the latter so tend to not be bothered with extra realism parts and it means the cost is less.
Finally I’d say time management or time you have is important to consider. I make 1/72 and often can do a few kits in a weekend if I have nothing else planned that weekend. Otherwise I can do a few a week just in time after work. The more detail or extra parts you buy, the more the cost will be. The larger the scale you build, the more time it will take – generally speaking.
Hopefully this will help you work out what scale is best for you. But remember the most important thing – if you see a kit you just have to build – just do it. Life’s too short to wonder where you’re going to store the next model…besides, there’s always thread, a hook, and the ceiling.