Workbench Review of 2017

Workbench Review of 2017

Although we find ourselves in the first week of a new year, we can’t turn our back on the festive season without enjoying one final holiday tradition – the annual review edition of our Workbench blog. Before we begin, could we take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very happy and prosperous New Year and to sincerely thank you for continuing to support our Workbench blog over the past twelve months. We hope you had an enjoyable Christmas and are already looking forward with some optimism to 2018, some serious modelling and the Centenary commemorations of the establishment of the Royal Air Force – an extremely significant year for any aviation enthusiast.

The traditional live date for our annual review blog is the last Friday in the year to be reviewed, however due to some website scheduling issues which had to take precedence over the holidays, we have been forced to delay posting the blog until this early new year slot. Not to worry though, this is a fine way to start an important year for Workbench and we look forward to bringing you plenty of Airfix modelling news, features and updates over the coming twelve months. In this review edition, we are obviously going to feature some of the highlights from 2017, announce the winners of two fantastic competitions, as well as looking forward to the coming year, which is certain to be full of Airfix modelling action. Not wanting to keep you away from your latest model build for too long, let’s make a start on our 2017 review.


Airfix Workbench – A team effort

LIDAR scan data used in the production of the new 1/48th scale Hawker Sea Fury FB.ll


The Christmas holiday period is a time for quiet reflection, making some positive changes and certainly avoiding looking at your latest credit card statement. From a Workbench perspective, it allows us an opportunity to look back at another successful year and thankfully, an ever-expanding readership. We are proud to announce that Workbench continues to be the most popular blog across the various Hornby sites and we are grateful to both our loyal readership and those who have helped to spread the word to like-minded modellers and enthusiasts. We also have to acknowledge the fact that Workbench is a huge team effort, with the entire Airfix research and development team contributing to the success of the blog, allowing us to bring you interesting features and the latest updates much earlier than was previously the case – thank you for your help, one and all.

We are always keen to ensure Workbench continues to be something our readers look forward to receiving every fortnight and your views are important to us. If you would like to make any suggestions on how we could improve the blog or subjects you would like to see covered in 2018, please do drop us a line using our e-mail address, where we will certainly consider every submission. You may even see your suggestion featured in a future edition of Workbench.


New Year, new Airfix model announcements

We started 2017 with the announcement of our new 1/72nd scale North American B-25C/D Mitchell


We always strive to fill each edition of Workbench with interesting and informative features for our readers enjoyment, but we are under no illusions as to what you all like to hear about most – new Airfix model tooling announcements. The success of our blog has allowed us to bring you information regarding new tooling announcements much earlier than was previously possible, which always used to be linked to the release of a new Airfix catalogue. Now, as soon as the development team have been cleared to do so, we are given all the latest details of new models to share with you, which means Workbench readers have now become rather familiar with early development images and computer rendered imagery. Many of the technological terms we used to explain fully in early editions of the blog are now common Workbench terminology, but the beauty of the Airfix website is the opportunity to go back and visit any of these earlier blogs, as they remain available for viewing at any time.


Some of the research material used during the development of the new B-25


As far as Airfix announcements are concerned, 2017 started in the best way possible as we brought you the exclusive news of our new North American B-25C/D tooling in 1/72nd scale, one of the most effective medium bombers of WWII and a perennial favourite with modellers over the years. Incorporating all the latest design and manufacturing technologies, this announcement was the latest in a long line of exclusives for Workbench readers and came with pictures from a research trip to the National War and Resistance Museum in Overloon, Holland and a host of impressive computer rendered 3D images which really brought the new kit to life and showed us what we could all start getting a little excited about.


The unveiling of any new box artwork is always popular with Workbench readers


Perhaps the most important aspect of Workbench is the opportunity we have to keep modellers informed about exciting modelling projects from announcement to their eventual arrival in model shops all over the world. This allows us to take you through the various stages of new model production, from CAD development images, the first test shots from the new tooling, scheme details and decal options for the new model, followed by the ever-popular box artwork reveal, which signifies the model is fast approaching its proposed release date. The final stage is to bring you pictures of a fully finished model test build, by which time we are all beginning to clear some space for it on our respective work stations.


Computer rendered 3D images used to announce the new Wellington and Blenheim toolings




Clearly, the production of new Airfix model kit tooling is an expensive business and whilst everyone in the Airfix team would love to have more new tooling announcements to share with Workbench readers, the cost of this investment dictates that such announcements will always be restricted to a relatively small number of models each year. The huge positive is that Workbench readers will usually be the first to hear about any new announcement. Other new models announced within Workbench this year include our beautiful 1/72nd scale Vickers Wellington Mk.IA/C and the hugely impressive Bristol Blenheim Mk.IF in 1/48th scale – two new models we are really looking forward to bringing you regular updates on throughout 2018.


Toy Fair award for Airfix Flying Fortress

The new 1/72nd scale Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress proved to be popular at the 2017 Nuremberg Toy Fair


From the perspective of the Airfix development team and their determination to produce accurate and highly detailed model kits for us all to enjoy building, the award of a prestigious industry accolade is recognition of their talents and is something they should be rightly proud of. The annual Nuremberg Toy Fair at the beginning of February saw the Airfix team presented with such an award, as the new 1/72nd scale Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress was hailed as ‘Modell Des Jahres’ (Model of the Year) in the flight category. Clearly our development team are far too modest to comment on such matters, but our Brand Manager at the time Sarah Frame said, "We are thrilled to have received this award and it really is a great honour, as they are so highly regarded within the industry. Congratulations to our very talented product development team who designed such an amazing model!"


A fantastic accolade for the Airfix design team at the 2017 Nuremberg Toy Fair


Our new B-17G has also proved to be a great success with our most important critics, the model building public and is now available in three versions – the original Eighth Air Force release, an Eighth Air Force Bomber Re-supply set diorama classic and the new clandestine Fortress Mk.III operated by the Royal Air Force during WWII. Marking one of the most important heavy bombers of WWII, the fantastic new kit looks like being a popular addition to the Airfix range for many years to come.


Producing Airfix instruction booklets

Talented Airfix illustrator Richard Petts takes time out from producing the new Hawker Sea Fury instruction booklet


Without doubt, two of the most popular editions of Workbench produced during 2017 featured the impressive work of talented artist Richard Petts and the distinctive Airfix instruction booklets he produces. Almost as familiar to modellers as the famous Airfix brand logo itself, Richard’s instruction booklets help guide modellers of all abilities through their latest build project, even though many of us are probably guilty of taking these important documents a little for granted. Undoubtedly, they are an integral component of any new model kit release, with their production relying heavily on the skill, experience and attention to detail of the entire Airfix design team, but brought to life on Richard’s computer at Airfix HQ.


Richard’s instruction sheets help to provide modellers with the guidance they may need during the construction process


In the first instalment of this two part feature, we combined the latest update from the new 1/48th scale Hawker Sea Fury tooling with a look at the art of producing an Airfix instruction booklet, specifically as this was the project Richard was working on at that time. We saw how computers and specific software programmes are essential in the production of these instruction booklet files and how Richard will not only call upon his artistic talents when creating them, but also his modelling skills. Using one of the test sprue samples from the new Sea Fury kit, Richard builds the new model in stages to ensure the instructions he is working on are sequenced correctly and include any additional guidance which may help during construction. He has the ability to include expanded detail sections within the instructions, if he feels there is a section of the build which requires specific explanation, or to highlight components and preparations needed to construct alternate versions of the model.


This impressive vintage toy shop mural dominated the entrance to the Hornby Visitors Centre


We also looked at Richard’s love of art in general, his training and previous experience and how he came to work for Hornby Hobbies over ten years ago. This included pictures of a rather interesting project at the old Hornby HQ, which not only proved to be a showcase for Richard’s artistic skills, but also provided Hornby with a distinctive 1950s style toy shop mural for the entrance of their Visitors Centre, which was enjoyed by many thousands of visitors over the years that followed.

The second part of this feature proved to be a little more technical and focused on the specific software Richard uses to produce his instructions and the many different components he has to consider before embarking on a new project. He showed us how he has the ability to almost de-construct sections of the kit within the software, allowing him to clearly show the modeller sections of the build which could cause difficulty if not considered at a certain stage and importantly, how to attack them. We also saw how the booklet requires the inclusion of a multitude of additional information, such as paint references, decal placement details, historical facts, safety instructions and text translations. There is much more to the production of these booklets that initially meets the eye.


Powerful graphics software is needed to allow Richard to manipulate the model component views


Obviously, we could not let this opportunity pass without asking Richard which instruction sheets he enjoyed working on most and if he had a particular favourite model. He told us that as 1/72nd scale has been the most popular scale with modellers over the years, he has been involved with the production of more instructions in this scale than any other. A small model may take him about a week to complete, but some of the larger models, such as an Avro Shackleton will require much more work and may take him between two and three weeks to complete. Producing instructions for the large 1/24th scale kits can be extremely time consuming and include incredible amounts of detail and large numbers of parts, all of which require construction guidance. Work on this size of model may require over forty pages of illustrations and could take Richard two or three months to complete.

Without too much hesitation, Richard told us that he enjoys working on the latest crop of 1/48th scale models most, as these kits tend to include slightly more detail and allow him to be a little more creative with his illustrations. Importantly, these projects can be completed in around three weeks, which is much more manageable than the time he needs to spend on a 1/24th scale project – working on the same illustrations for several months can challenge the sanity of even the most enthusiastic illustrator.


A chance for Airfix immortality


The end of June saw the publication of the landmark 50th edition of Workbench and such an auspicious occasion demanded that we came up with something a little bit special. As well as exclusively announcing the new 1/72nd scale Vickers Wellington tooling to our readers, we also unleashed a competition that would befit such a significant Workbench anniversary and one which would have Airfix modellers all over the world frantically heading for our competitions page. Taking inspiration from our incredibly popular instruction booklet features and working closely with both Richard and the Airfix development team, we came up with a totally unique prize and one which had previously been reserved exclusively for members of the development team themselves.


Caricature pilot representations were previously reserved for members of the Airfix development team


The prize awaiting our lucky winner was quite simply Airfix immortality – the opportunity to have a caricature representation of their face included in the official Airfix instruction booklet of a forthcoming kit release. We had to stress at the point of announcing the competition that the prize was for our winner to have their caricature representation on the instruction booklet itself and not the plastic pilot figure in the kit, but nevertheless, this is a significant prize and resulted in many thousands of entries from Airfix fans all over the world, each one hoping to secure instant modelling fame.

We are pleased to announce that the winner of our Workbench 50th Anniversary edition instruction booklet caricature competition is ….. Mr Aiden Palmer - Airfix Illustrator Richard Petts is poised to begin the immortalisation process, helping Aiden to take his place in Airfix history. Congratulations to Aiden and thank you to everyone who entered our competition, helping to make it such a huge success – our most successful competition to date by some significant margin. We look forward to bringing Workbench readers regular updates on Aiden’s instruction booklet transformation throughout 2018, as this project heads towards its exciting realisation later in the year.


Another lucky Airfix winner

We marked the end of British Summertime with our ‘Dark nights’ competition


A slightly more recent Airfix competition attempted to lift the spirits of every modeller over the October weekend which marked the end of British summertime, by focusing on the fact that the impending dark nights allowed us all the opportunity to get stuck in to some serious modelling activity. With an impressive haul of Airfix kits available to our lucky winner, we once again saw a phenomenal response from our readers, who clearly shared our sentiments and were looking for a hectic winter build schedule. We are pleased to announce that the reader who will probably be busier than most over the coming few months is Steve Baldwin from Suffolk – congratulations on your success. To use a slightly tenuous naval reference, clear the decks, a veritable aerial armada of models are on the way!


Onwards into 2018

The new Royal Navy Phantom will be a popular addition to the Airfix range


The start of any new year is a time of great optimism and hope for the future, as we all open our new diaries and begin planning for the months ahead. The Workbench team have great things planned for 2018, building on the successes of the previous few years and ensuring that we continue to bring you interesting and engaging modelling related content. As well as the exclusive announcements and project updates we know you all love, we will be launching a series of features focusing on some of the UK’s plastic modelling clubs, societies and Special Interest Groups, many of whom we have already been in contact with. We will also be out and about at several of the country’s model shows, bringing you reports from each one we attend, complete with exclusive pictures of the modelling delights we discover for you to inspect.

We are also building up a growing network of readers who are keen to supply us with build reviews and model features, keen to show their work to a wider Workbench audience and hopefully providing some inspiration to fellow modellers of all abilities. We are always keen to receive this kind of information, so please do get in touch using the contact details below if you have something you feel may be of interest to fellow readers. It is already clear that 2018 is going to be a significant year for modellers and aviation enthusiasts alike, as the RAF prepares to commemorate their Centenary year in some style, ensuring that aviation receives plenty of media attention over the coming months. This will also be a fantastic opportunity for the modelling world to potentially attract a new audience to our beloved hobby and Workbench will be looking to feature any project that attempts to achieve this during 2018.


Reader David Gaspur sent us details of his spectacular 1/24th scale Hawker Typhoon build


We would like to end this special review edition of Workbench in a similar way to which we started it, with some exciting news for the New Year. The new 2018 Airfix model range will be live on the Airfix website from 10am on Tuesday 9th January and will include a spectacular new tooling announcement that will definitely be of interest to many Workbench readers. Unfortunately, we can’t give you any more information than this for the time being, but the Airfix website will certainly be expecting plenty of traffic on that particular morning.


Unfortunately, that’s all we have for you in this special 2017 review edition of Workbench, which we hope included some of your own highlights – we also hope that we managed to get you a little excited about the modelling year ahead. With the impending launch of the new Airfix 2018 model range, the next edition of Workbench will not be published until Friday 12th January, but will include an overview of the new 2018 model range and exclusive images from a very special new tooling announcement.

We are always keen to hear from our readers and there are several ways in which you can contact us, which include our dedicated e-mail address and of course the Workbench thread over on the Airfix Forum. If social media is more your style, you could access either the Airfix Facebook page or our Twitter channel, using #airfixworkbench where you will find plenty of modelling news, views and discussion. Whichever medium you decide to use, please do get in touch, as it is always interesting to hear from fellow modelling enthusiasts and the projects you have on the go at the moment.

As always, the Airfix website is the place to go for all the latest model release information, with our New Arrivals, Coming Soon and Last Chance to Buy sections all accessed by clicking on the above links. As updating the website is a constant process, a quick search through each section of the Airfix web pages will reveal new information and updated images in many of the product sections and this is always an enjoyable and rewarding way to spend a few minutes.

Finally, could we please just send one last thank you to everyone who has helped in the production of Workbench throughout 2017 and to our readers for making the blog such a resounding success – thank you all very much.

The next edition of Workbench will be published on Friday 12th January.


The Airfix Workbench Team


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