HANCOCK — Of the more than 12,500 Vought F4U Corsairs built between 1940 and 1953, only about 45 of the fighter planes remain. But look at Larry Horyna’s incredibly detailed 1/32-scale model, and you can almost picture these high-performance aircraft in flight.
Horyna is a member of the Downeast chapter of the International Plastic Modelers Society (IPMS). He and the other 15 or so members build it all: planes, tanks, cars, ships, sci-fi figures. Once a month, they meet at the Hancock Volunteer Fire Station to hang out, talk shop and show off what they’ve been working on.
“So we’ve been doing this for pretty close to 10 years now,” said club President Marc Dupuy. “What happened was [Hancock Volunteer Fire Department Chief] Chris Holmes sent a letter to FineScale Modeler Magazine, which I saw when I went to the old Craft Barn [former craft supply store in Ellsworth]. It was signed Chris Holmes, Hancock, so I thought he can’t be that far away. I looked him up and it just kind of snowballed from there.”
At the society’s monthly meet-up, a diverse number of scale models are on display. The aforementioned Corsair, Grumman’s first fighter plane, the F9F Panther and a replica of the German battleship the Bismarck. Gouldsboro resident Herb Smith built an exact replica of his blue pickup truck complete with a yellow snow plow.
“It’s a really good artistic outlet. It’s very relaxing, when you get good at it you can do some pretty amazing stuff with the technology that’s out there compared to when I started out in 1987,” Dupuy said. “Now you can even make your own parts at home with a 3-D printer.”
The average plastic model has certainly come a long way from the old $5 kit from Revell or Airfix that you could glue together in a couple of hours. Today’s models are much more detailed, with intricately constructed parts made from resins and poured plastic. Some can comprise thousands of parts and sell for $200 to $300. Peek inside the cockpit of a replica World War I Airco DH.2 fighter plane, and you’ll see a perfectly rendered recreation of a wicker seat that’s the size of a fingernail.
Everyone in the club agrees that they started when they were 8 to 9 years old.
“I remember helping my dad build something after he had surgery,” said club member Ross Whitaker. “It was the old Revell kit of the S.S. United States, the famous passenger liner. That must have been 1956.”
Dupuy’s first model was the black Pontiac Firebird from the NBC TV series “Knight Rider,” which ran from 1982 to 1986.
“The typical story for most people is that you get into high school and college and you meet girls and you stop building for a while, then eventually everybody comes back to it,” Dupuy said. “I started back into it about 12 years ago and now I’m building constantly.”
Whitaker notes that most modelers have more kits than they could ever build. Dupuy estimates he has built about 400 with a couple of thousand un-built kits in his stash.
Building a scale model is a painstaking process using Sprue cutter pliers, X-Acto knives and files. Each individual part must be painted and slowly glued together. Sometimes a model can take up to 100 hours to finish.
“In order to get the really realistic or artistic finishes it’s all air brushing,” said Dupuy.
After all of that work, it’s time to put their pieces out for scrutiny. Most serious modelers will have a case showing off some of their best work.
“Generally you don’t want to handle the models too much because of how fragile they are,” said Holmes.
A couple of times a year, the club will take their scale models to contests like the Granite State Comicon in New Hampshire. There are various categories such as civilian cars 1/24 and up or multi-engine jet aircraft 1/72 and smaller, and the Downeast chapter has been known to win its fair share of awards. Some members also attend the national convention hosted by IPMS.
“This has always been a solitary hobby for people, that’s what everyone pictures when they talk about building models. Sitting at home in your bedroom or your basement,” Dupuy related. “IPMS really got people out of the basement and gave people clubs like this. It’s a very different thing when you have people to interact with.”
At the monthly meeting there is plenty of banter, members will flip through old issues of modeler magazines or talk about what got them into building models in the first place. For some it was comic books, the great space race or just seeing the artwork on the box of a model kit.
Dupuy said that there also is a sense of nostalgia and history that comes with recreating these planes, trains, boats and other things from the past.
“When we get together to build models together someone will crack open an old bottle of Testors enamel paint and you’ll see people’s heads perk up because they remember the smell,” said Dupuy. “All of a sudden you’re 8 again.”
The Downeast Chapter of IPMS is open to modelers of all skill levels and types of models. For more information, visit its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/IpmsDownEast/.