The first gunpla build gathering hosted by the collective that would later be known as ThoseGundamGuys, had fairly humble beginnings starting July 21, 2007. It was born from comments and discussions after panels at Anime Expo as well as from several gunpla hobby forums. The basic idea was to gather the local gunpla builders to create a community focused on learning gunpla building skills.
I had known that there was a decent number of gunpla builders in Southern California just based off attending local IPMS shows, Anime Expo, and online discussions with members of various hobby forums. I had learned most of my building techniques from reading and stumbling through some good and plenty of bad experiments. Attempts to add to the collection of English based online references for building worked well, but it didn’t completely satisfy my lofty goals. So these monthly model build gatherings started. I believe our first one was 4-6 of us, some meeting for the first time, other’s I had known previously from local model contests and from AX.
The first couple of months continued with about the same number, slowly growing by one or two every month; mostly gained from members of the various online hobby forums. Then word of mouth started to spread, friends of friends, people that had known others through online interactions outside the hobby forums I frequented, and soon we were hitting numbers of about 15 or so . This was awesome, as we needed to expand form just collectively building on my dinning table to adding more tables and chairs and building in the living room as well as the dinning room table. Things truly took off after the 2008 Anime Expo model building panels. The group expanded even further and far beyond my imagination and we were hitting numbers of 25-30 at each gathering.
So what exactly is this monthly model build gathering? What does one who has never been to such a gathering to expect? The simple answer is folks gathering with the kits and tools and building. Be it sanding, snapping, painting, applying decals, panel lining, scratch building, or just sitting around discussing future/current project ideas; the whole scope of model building is reached. Most new attendees don’t have any idea on what to expect when they decide to come, so it is interesting to see they timidly walk in, and just observe. Some will bring a kit, but most of the time, they just want to get a feel of the atmosphere. Preconceived ideas that the gatherings is a collection of anti-social nerds discussing the most minute proportional flaws in the latest gunpla release in the basement of some leader nerd’s parent’s basement hopped up on Mt. Dew are almost immediately shattered. Though there exists some level of nerd discussions that delve a little too deep, such things are a minority over the the reality. A good number of first timers return the following month with tools and kits and completely fit in with the rest of the group as if they’ve always been there.
The atmosphere is relaxed. If you want to learn, someone there will teach you exactly what you need and then some. If you want to watch and chat, pull up a chair and watch your fellow model builder and join the conversation; we then to joke around a lot so nothing is taken very seriously. If you want to sit down and try to snap and sand a kit, sit and snap away. If you want to hang out in the family room at watch Cantonese soaps all day… this really did happen at the most recent model build gathering. In reality, most folks can stay at home and build, they’ll have all their tools with them, it’s their own comfort zone, they can build completely butt nekkid if they wanted, and they wouldn’t need to drive over to the build gathering location be it 5 miles away or 100 miles away (there are folks that come up from San Diego once in a while). But sanding alone is still just that, sanding alone.
There is something to be said about seeing how another modeler does even the most simple task of sanding; that one can actually learn something from such a simple skill. To see what another modeler builds and how they approach their model. Sure, plenty of modelers post up pictures and videos of their projects; but to see everything unfolding live is an experience beyond anything you can get from the online experience.
These build gatherings, as of the most recent July 20, 2013 gathering, have been going strong for 6 years now, that’s about 72 build gatherings to date. Life changing relationships and some amazing friendships have birthed from these gatherings; but not only that, modelers have grown in skills and ability in much shorter time than when I first returned to the hobby.
Below are some pictures taken from the most recent gathering that happened this past weekend. We build, discuss ideas, and try suckering some of our significant others into the male dominated hobby. Sometimes we are successful; most of the time, we’re just glad that our significant others willingly come with us to these events.
A quick shot of the living room as the Model Builders’ Wives club holds their monthly meeting to plot out how best to thwart their significant other’s plans to hang out daily to build gunpla. In reality, they’re watching an older Cantonese tv series (some Canto soap). Looking closely at the picture, one can see the attempt to continue work on an R2D2 Lego kit. Yes, some of the wives have join the hobby in the form of Lego’s. But apparently the force was strong with the Canto soap, as the position and number of bricks on that R2D2 never changed once in the course of the build gathering.
A great deal of what happens at the gatherings is sanding. It’s a mind numbing task that is best done in a social environment. The task seems less laborious and also moves along much faster than if one was doing this alone.
Kits and tools are laid out ready to do everything from scribing, puttying, gluing, or just cutting parts off trees. The typical modeler needs a few basic items in their tool box that is easily packed up and travel-able – the hobby knife, the sanding implements, the side cutter (nippers, dikes, diagonal cutters, etc), glue, and putty. A full day at a build gathering may employ almost all of these items.
More elaborate, one will have scribe tools, primer, files, and saws included in their traveling tool box for work on resin kits. Or a gundam marker for work in panel lining.
For me, I work slow now, and I got a good amount of an MG Gundam Heavy Arms sanded and snapped as a project I want to fininsh by November so that I can have something for this year’s SCGMC special theme. Angel’s been working on some HGUC Sinanju’s as a commission project for the local gunpla distributor for an upcoming contract they have with one of their customers.
This group is constantly growing, and although not all the folks on my notification list cam make it to the gatherings, I’m glad new friendships are still being made and there seems to be a genuine interest in keeping the hobby alive, at least in Southern California. For anyone in So. Cal interested in joining these gatherings, please do not hesitate to contact me via email.