Chattanooga Model Con 2019: It’s all about the intangibles.

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This impressive 1/48 Vindicator won “Best Aircraft” of 2019

Of the shows that I have attended, or attend regularly, Chattanooga has the most unique judging methodology. In most other shows models are entered into general categories (aviation, armor, ships, figures, cars, etc), then divided into sub-categories (scale, time period, type, etc), and then judged against each other, usually by a team of judges. After judging, the top three builds of each sub-category are given awards, then from those winners, the top build of each category is given a “best of [category]” award, then there is a “best of show” award chosen from those winners. For lack of a better term, this is competitive model building. It is sport for artists.

Chattanooga does it differently. Model Con begins like most other shows by dividing models into categories but then disregards all sub-categories. Each model within a category is judged by a three judge panel. Awards are given (or not) for each build insofar as that every build is ostensibly judged against a perfect version of itself, not against other builds. The judges are allowed to award 1-5 points for build quality (5 being “near perfect”) and 1-5 points for finish (5 being “near perfect”). Then, the judges are allowed, but not required, to give up to 1 point for “intangibles”. Intangibles, as defined by the club itself, are a “reward for extra effort for tackling what [the judges] know to be a difficult kit, or for adding a significant amount of extra detail, or for making significant corrections to an inaccurate kit…or for presentation…or for ‘something special’.” The three judges scorecards are averaged and an aggregate score is given that correlates to an award.

  • Gold: 9.8 to 11 points.
  • Silver: 7.89 to 9.79 points.
  • Bronze: 6 to 7.88 points.

The judges at Chattanooga, regardless of this scoring system, are therefore explicitly given the leeway to choose the kit that will win the “best of” category (requires an average of a score of 11 based on all three judges giving the build 5s for both build quality and finish but also all adding a point for “intangible”) based on their subjective knowledge of the kit’s construction, or difficulty. This is the only show where I’ve seen an attempt to quantify or qualify what is otherwise known as “judge’s discretion”.

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All of mine were gold, but none went to 11.

All that said, the most interesting thing about the Chattanooga format is that the scorecards are returned to the modeler as feedback. For each build you can see how the judge scored the kit on build quality, finish, and intangible, often with notes.

Where other model shows are competitive, Chattanooga is, when at it’s best, a clinic. Not only is it a great gauge of the quality of your models, but the feedback can help drive your quality to the next level. I’ve found that in general their scoring system is indicative of how models will place at other shows that I attend and therefore it is a good barometer of how my skills are evolving. I give them 1 point for intangible for that effort, but a 4 of 5 on the quality of their experience otherwise.

The only negative comment that can be leveled against the Chattanooga show is that it is very long. The show itself is a two day affair and registration cuts off at noon on the second day. It is typically well after 4pm the second day before the awards are given. In fact, by the time awards are announced many, if not most, vendors have even packed up and left. As a man who loves everything about the hobby, and who spends a great deal of time looking through the various vendors tables and other entries, this show wears me down to attend. I am very ready to leave when it’s over.

That said, the quality of the entrants was, as per usual, high. I spent a great deal of time perusing the and admiring many of the builds (check out my full album of the event here). Below are a few of the builds that caught my eye:

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I give the award for “Most Ambitious” to this impressive 1/32 B-25 with lights and a spinning prop.
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The award for “Hardest to Transport” goes to this movie quality Millenium Falcon in what I can only guess is 1/32 scale?
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This 1/48 Spitfire with invasion stripes, spot on weathering, and beer barrels, gets my award for “Historically Accurate Intangibles”.
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My award for “Best Finish” goes to this Ford and Trailer. I marveled at that for a long time, and I don’t generally give cars too much attention.

In all it’s another great effort by the Chattanooga club, and the participants. I am looking forward to attending the IPMS Nationals that Chsttanooga will be hosting in August. Let’s hope I can get my P-61 finished in time.

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IPMS Middle TN, 2018

My fourth year back in the hobby, and my fourth year at the IPMS middle Tennessee show. The guys and gals that put on this show every November do a stellar job; it’s consistently organized and efficient with logical categories, fair judging and a great atmosphere. I have to give a great deal of credit to this show specifically for reigniting the flame I have for this hobby.

I don’t understand why this show doesn’t have significantly more entrants given its proximity to a major market like Nashville. That said, there seems to be a core group of attendees that consistently enter the quality of work that would be competitive at any of the “bigger” shows I have attended. Beyond them, there are always a few new people attending that bring their work from other major markets. Yesterday, for instance, I overheard a group of modelers say they had driven the four hours from Atlanta to attend.

One of the things that impressed me was the amount of youth involvement. The youth table was unusually full when compared to any show I’ve been to. This was further evident by the number of grasshoppers I saw during the awards announcements. I’m happy to see that interest in the hobby is growing among the younger crowd as I know how important this hobby was to me at their age. Even at my age it still gives me a sense of challenge, accomplishment, and a connection to history that was as equally important to me then.

For the second year in a row, and by some unbelievable miracle, I won best aircraft. Last year the 1/32 Tempest Mk V won, this year the 1/32 FW190A-7 took the prize.

All of the entries were great, some were outstanding. Here are just a few that caught my eye for any number of reasons.

Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I will definitely be back for the 2019 version of this show.  Apparently 2019 will be the 40th anniversary of the Middle Tennessee Model show, and as that will also be my 40th year on this planet, I don’t think I can miss it.

Congratulations both to the IPMS Middle TN chapter for their hard work and a successful show, and to all of the modelers who put their work on the table to be judged.   Great job everyone!

Huntsville Plastic Model Society Show 2018

Today I made the trek to Huntsville, Alabama, to participate in their 42nd annual model show. It was my second time attending. I had almost decided not to waste a good summer Saturday with a trip down into the gaping maw of the Crimson Elephant, but I’m glad I decided to go. This experience was far better than my first sojourn to the Rocket City in 2017.

The official announcement, last I heard, was over 500 entries. The skill across the board was as high as I’ve seen in my tri-annual circuitous route spanning from just outside Nashville to Chattanooga to Huntsville. I’m now in my 4th season into the world of “competetive” model building, and have made several pleasant acquaintances and recognize some familiar faces that seem to be travelling the same circuit as I.

Huntsville, at least in my experience, is a relative oddity when it comes to judging. The aircraft categories are grouped into 1/48 and larger, or 1/49 and smaller. This means that 1/48, 1/32, 1/24 and even larger builds will be grouped together based on being divided into columns such as “single engine, axis” or “single engine, other”. If it’s not readily apparent, my feeling is that the categories, especially the ones I’ve listed as examples, are both too narrow and too broad simultaneously.

With the amount of entries, it seems Huntsville could follow a more generalized pattern of 1/72 and smaller, 1/48, 1/32, and larger than 1/32 (or other) categories. The eye for detail, complexity of the build, and the ability to obtain realism where those factors intersect, seems to me to vary greatly between those common scales.

Regardless, I was lucky enough to take home a gold medal for my Trumpeter BF109F-4 “Yellow 14” as flown by Jans-Joachim Marseille. My 1/32 Revell Mk IIa Spitfire and 1/32 P-40N didn’t make the cut. C’est la vie, say the old folks.

That said, there were a few builds that caught my eye for any number of reasons.

First was this fun scene from Top Gun. It certainly got a chuckle out of me. Notice Goose keeping up foreign relations.

Next was this ambitious monster showing off the internals of the Nazi’s “bat wing”. Very well done from my glancing birds eye view.

Third was this paper space shuttle. It really was jaw dropping in scale, and its paper. I guess that’s what the P stands for in IPMS? I’ve been doing it wrong!

Next was this 1/32 Mosquito. I didn’t look to see if it was the HK or the Tamiya, but I believe this is the first big Mossie I’ve seen on the tables.

Finally, in reality, there were just too many good builds to try to list all of the eye catching workmanship. Browse through the photos and see for yourself.

To those that spent the time organizing the contest, you should be proud. The turn out was great and the atmosphere pleasant. Thanks for having me.