This article is aimed at providing assistance in finding a good place to buy models, tools and materials. It is mainly aimed at the beginnner, since more experienced modellers will have already have a list of favourite suppliers that they go to.
The article gives general advice about how to find suppliers and things to look out for, it is not intented to point the reader to a specific supplier. However, at the end of the article is a list of some of the more well known suppliers where products can be bought over the Internet.
Main Sources Of Scale Model Products
Sources of scale modelling products mostly fall into one of the following categories:
- Local shops
- Model shows
- Internet suppliers
1. Local Shops
If you are very lucky you will have a dedicated model shop near you – if so, then you should treasure it and support it because they are becoming as rare as hen’s teeth. In a good model shop you can spend many happy hours browsing tools, materials and models. Better still, you can get advice and chat to the shop assistants who are very likely to share your interest. You may even be able to take a look at what is in the model box before you buy – although you should always get the permission of the shop keeper before you start opening boxes. In one visit you can not only buy your next model, but at the same time get all the paints, fillers and anything else you need to complete your project.
Even if you do not have a model shop in your vicinity you may find a large department store, or toy shop that has a modelling section. This will not have the same range of stock and it is doubtful that the store assistants will be able to advise you, but nevertheless they can be useful sources when you need a particular pot of paint in a hurry.
Another type of shop that can be useful is a general art and craft shop. Although these will not have specific modelling products, they will have craft tools and basic supplies such as artist’s paints, brushes, Milliput filler and glues.
The only down side in buying from a local shop is that the price is likely to be a little higher than over the internet. However, this is a small price to pay for the convenience and free advice.
Finding Your Local Shop
Your first stop should probably be your local telephone directory or Yellow Pages. Ideally, if you can attend a meeting of a local model club they will surely tell you of any retaillers in the vicinity. Most shops will advertise in the pages of scale model magazines and you may also get lucky with an Internet search. If all this fails then you could try to post a question on an Internet modelling forum such as Missing-Lynx .
2. Model Shows
Model shows take place regularly in many countries. Sometimes they can be fairly small and sometimes they can be really massive taking up major exhibition halls. These are great places both to see world class models, but also to buy all manner of model kits and modelling supplies. Many major modelling manufacturers and retaillers will be represented at these shows and there are often bargains to be had.
This is a good place to find the very latest models that have only just been released and also models that may no longer be in production. Many shows will have vendors selling second hand models that may have passed through several pairs of hands without being built and these may be hard to get any other way.
One point to be aware of with buying at model shows is to make sure that the vendor can be contacted after the show. If you have problems with your purchase, whether it be a model kit or an airbrush you will need after sales service.
Finding A Model Show
Many model shows are hosted by the IPMS, or a local branch of it, so if you visit the IPMS web site for your country you will probably find a list of upcoming shows. Many modelling magazines also provide a list of upcoming modelling events and even if they don’t, most of the major shows will advertise in them. If you can link up with any fellow modellers locally, they will probably be able to help out and you may be able to visit a show together which can add to the pleasure.
3. The Internet
The Internet has probably become the major source of supplies for modellers. There are many good sites which offer thousands of products at very keen prices and a fast delivery. Some sites specialise in either models or tools/materials and others will provide just about everything. Some internet sites are in effect large retail shops selling a wide range of products from many manufacturers. However, some producers also sell direct, so if you are after a particular product see if you can get it direct from the manufacturer.
Although some producers of models are large companies like Tamiya, Dragon and Revell, the hobby lends itself to small specialist producers who concentrate on unusual subjects with a limited production run. These products can often only be found on the Internet. If you really want to make a model that is a little out of the ordinary then try one of these. A good example is Accurate Armour which has a good range of British military subjects and their site is well worth a look if only to see the sort of product that is available.
There are a few disadvantages with using the internet such as:
- Although the prices are keen, the postage can be expensive unless you make a big purchase. It is not always practical to order a single pot of paint, or tube of filler. Many sites have a minimum size of order. Before you place an order make sure you are aware of the postage cost and delivery time. Check that you cannot get the same product from a more local source.
- Browsing on the internet can be frustrating. It can be difficult to find what you want and the descriptions and photographs of products can be inadequate. This is where modelling magazines can be useful as they regularly review new models and products. The best sites will have either a telephone number or email address where you can get further information about a product before buying it. Check out the returns policy in case what you receive is not what you expected.
- The time delay between ordering and receiving your purchase can be frustrating and there is always the risk of the product being damaged or lost in the post. Check out the company’s terms and conditions and find out the process you will have to follow if a product you ordered never arrives or has parts missing.
Nevertheless, despite these disadvantages, the sheer convenience of being able to browse thousands of products from your home has made the Internet the source of choice for many modellers and the vast majority of Internet modelling suppliers do give an excellent service.
There is one other source of models and supplies via the internet – Ebay. It may be difficult to find specific model kits, but you may get a real bargain and find subjects that are not available from conventional retailers.
Finding Internet Suppliers
The most obvious method is to carry out an Internet search and this should produce some results. Try to be specific with your Internet search, because if all you enter in the search field is ‘models’ you will just get a list of sites connected to the fashion industry.
Most of the big suppliers will advertise in modelling magazines and this is one of many reasons why you should subscribe to one of these. Once again if you can link up with any local modellers they will be able to advise you on good Internet sites.
Table Of Internet Suppliers
To help get you going, the table below lists some internet suppliers. These are all suppliers who have been established for some time and have a good reputation. Note that suppliers will each have their own policy about supplying goods overseas. Some suppliers only deliver to their own domestic market and even if they do deliver world-wide, the postage costs and delays in delivery may make using them impractical.
It is your responsiblity to check before ordering that the product is what you want, that you know the full cost including postage and packing and that it can be delivered to your address. The old maxim ‘Let the buyer beware’ applies here.
All companies in this table offer to delivery world-wide unless stated stated otherwise
|Accurate Armour||UK||Based in Scotland. Supply their own range of resin models and figures plus products and accessories made by other companies.|
|Archer Fine Transfers||US||Wide selection of rub-down dry transfers|
|Cammett Ltd||UK||Airbrushes and accessories, tools and materials.|
|Comet Miniatures||UK||Specialist supplier of sci-fi and movie model kits|
|Grand Prix Models||UK||Specialist model car suppliers|
|Hiroboy.com||UK||Model car and bike kits plus aftermarket accessories and materials.|
|Historex Agents||UK||Wide range of kits, tools, materials and books|
|Hobbyfan.com||US*||Range of models, tools and materials. * Contact address is California but everything about the site looks Japaneese/Far East.|
| HobbyLink Japan
||Japan||Large range of kits, tools and materials.|
|Hannants Ltd||UK||Large range of kits, tools and materials.|
|Internet Hobbies||US||Large range of scale, R/C and railway models and tools|
|Just Kits & Models||UK||Wide range of kits, tools and materials. Good website but as at June 2009 only ships to UK addresses.|
|Little-cars.com||UK||Specialises in car kits but also stocks tools. materials and paints|
|Megahobby||US||Large range of kits, tools and materials.|
|MIG Productions||Spain||MIG productions produce their own range of modelling supplies and specialist resin kits which have earned a good reputation with modellers.|
|Military Hobbies||US||Large range of kits, tools and materials.|
|Mission Models||US||In addition to model kits and tools Mission Models make their own range of specialist tools.|
|SBX Model Shop||UK||Good range of models, paints and tools with a friendly and helpful service. Unfortunately, many products on the website lack photos or descriptions.|
|Shesto||UK||Large range of tools and materials|
|Squadron||US||Large range of kits, tools and materials.|
|The Modellers Choice||Aus||Specialising in aftermarket products, also tools and some kits|
|Uptown Sales||US||Large range of kits, tools and materials.|
Do You Really Need That New Kit?
Most modellers find that it is much easier to buy kits than to build them and soon build up a large backlog of ‘must have’ model kits stored away to be built some time in the future. It is very tempting to order a new model that has just been released and you may have seen reviewed in a magazine. It is also easy to get over-enthusiastic at model shows surrounded by hundreds of fellow modellers with their arms full of bargains.
The problem with this is that modelling tastes change and the model that you were desperate to build a couple of years ago when you bought it, may no longer interest you. Some modellers start building one genre and after a while change to something completely different, finding themselves with shelves of models that will probably never be built. This is one reason why there is such an extensive trade of second-hand kits at model shows.
Apart from the waste of money buying kits that will not be built, there is a danger that a pile of unbuilt kits may become a mental burden and they will feel like a chore. You may feel that you have to build a kit because you have already bought it even though you may have lost the enthusiasm for it. Is it not much better to wait until you are ready to start a new project and buy a kit at that time? There is no shortage of kits to choose from or places to buy them, so there is no need to stock up in advance. If you are ready to build a new kit as it arrives in the post you will probably get much more enjoyment from it and be able to tackle it with full enthusiasm.
The sensible approach is to plan ahead. You know how much time you can spend modelling and how fast you will complete models. If you complete only four or five kits a year then there is no point in having more than that number of unbuilt kits awaiting your attention. Unless a particular kit is a real bargain, or likely to go out of production, resist the urge to buy a kit if you are not able to start it within a few months.