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Metal Earth: a humiliating confession

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  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Metal Earth: a humiliating confession
Posted by jtilley on Saturday, March 14, 2015 2:14 PM

My brother-in-law, a fine gent, was waiting in line in a museum gift shop when he saw a rack of Metal Earth kits. For the benefit of those who don't know - Metal Earth is a Chinese company that produces little model kits made entirely from photo-etch stainless steel. They fit together with tabs and slots (no adhesive necessary - supposedly).

My brother-in-law picked up the Black Pearl, and gave it to my wife to give to me.

When I first looked at the two little sheets of metal I noticed two things: the quality of the etching was superb, and the people who designed the kit had no idea what a Western sailing ship looked like. I told my wife that it would take me an hour, or at the most two, to put it together, so she could snap a picture of it with her phone and send it to her brother. Big mistake on my part.

About four hours later I had almost gotten the masts together and mounted to the deck. (That's step one in the instructions.) The instructions say that a small pair of pliers will be "helpful." That's the understatement of the century. I had to use the smallest needle-nose pliers I've got (from the jewelery department at Michael's), to bend those infernal little locator tabs - most of which measure about 1/64" x 1/32". And getting them into the slots (which are just barely big enough) required a magnifying lamp, two other lamps for additional light, and a string of memorable cuss words. (The problem, of course, was my failing eyesight. I think I could have done the job with no magnification - thirty years ago.) I managed to break a couple of the tabs off, and had to resort to CA adhesive.

After two sessions of about four hours each I finally got the thing together. My wife was ecstatic with the result; she sent some pictures of it to her brother, who said he was glad I'd had so much fun with it. Hah.

No, I'm not going to post a photo of it. But here's a link to the manufacturer's completed version, which looks just like mine: 

https://www.google.com/search?q=metal+world+models&biw=1324&bih=898&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=EIQEVcHWGImWNoqSgYgI&sqi=2&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAg#imgdii=_&imgrc=WxXr1WlqD_vXUM%253A%3B14a50ILeji5jpM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fhz00.i.aliimg.com%252Fimg%252Fpb%252F710%252F825%252F213%252F1213825710_873.jpg%253Fsize%253D86791%2526height%253D750%2526width%253D750%2526hash%253Dff37e1a47fd1f0955ed4c1866ca7ab11%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.aliexpress.com%252Fstore%252Fproduct%252F2014-hot-latest-Build-Metal-3D-Models-Metallic-Nano-Puzzle-simulation-model-educational-toy-Corsair%252F1180829_1767781650.html%3B750%3B750

What the dealers don't tell you is the size of the finished model: overall length, bowsprit to stern - 4 1/4". Folks, that's small. And don't ask me who got the notion that sails look like cheese graters.

A day or so after I finished this imposing project, I paid a visit to the local Barnes and Noble. There, in all its glory, was a rack of Metal Earth kits. They were packaged in fancy white boxes (mine was in a simple black envelope); the Black Pearl comes in a box that would easily hold a model twice as big as mine came out. Does the company make two different Black Pearls in different scales? I don't know; none of the kits at B&N offered any hint of the finished model size. There were all sorts of subjects: aircraft, buildings, bridges, the Titanic, a Ferris wheel, insects, and one that did catch my attention: a box of three WWII tanks: a Sherman, a Tiger, and a T-34. I figure that if one is determined to build a model entirely out of photo-etched metal, a tank would be a good choice. But no hint of how big they'd be. At $25 for the box, I passed.

A Forum search on "Metal Earth" brought up quite a number of posts from folks who have really gotten into this line. They have my profound respect.

This story has two morals. One - if you're thinking about building a kit from Metal Earth, be aware that you're embarking on a time-consuming and challenging project. (And if you don't have good, young, closeup eyesight - forget it.) Two - beware of well-meaning inlaws.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    May, 2009
  • From: Poland
Posted by Pawel on Saturday, March 14, 2015 5:27 PM

Hello!

Well, that's the problem with those babies, the way I see it: They are hard to do and the finished model (if you want to see it as a a model) leaves a lot to be desired. OK, some of them look nice, even if they are inaccurate, but some of the ones I've seen done are plain ugly to me - I don't see a point in investing time and money in them.

Thanks for sharing your story and have a nice day

PaweĊ‚

All comments and critique welcomed. Thanks for your honest opinions!

www.vietnam.net.pl

  • Member since
    November, 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Sunday, March 15, 2015 10:12 AM

There are a number of vision aids for closeup work, from reading glasses to those fancy visors.  Don't let aging eyesigtt keep you from modeling.  This stuff is talked about frequently in the tools forum.

Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    September, 2005
  • From: Groton, CT
Posted by warshipguy on Sunday, March 15, 2015 12:57 PM

My wife got me a very nice gift for my 61st birthday a month ago . . . the Tamiya Work Station.  It comes with a foldable magnifying glass, an LCD light, a cutting mat with measurements in inches and in metrics.  This has allowed me back into modeling in 1/700. From what John has said here, I don't think that I will try the Metal Earth kits, though.  I really wouldn't trust my aging eyes!

Bill

  • Member since
    September, 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Sunday, March 15, 2015 1:05 PM

I'll curious about that.

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Sunday, March 15, 2015 1:15 PM

I've got, or have tried, just about every magnifying gadget there is: Optivisor, prescription closeup glasses, bifocals, magnifying lamp, clip-on glasses that fasten to the bifocals, "drug store" reading glasses, and probably a couple of others I've forgotten. They all work and they all help. But there's no better modeling tool than a pair of genuine, nearsighted eyeballs.

I was lucky enough to be born that way. When I was thirty-five, I could do any modeling job with no magnification (though I had trouble recognizing people across a room). People at the museum where I used to work used to joke about it: "Tilley must be getting serious. He just took off his glasses." I've talked to the optometrist several times about LASIK treatments, but by the medical profession's definition my eyes aren't bad enough to justify it. For now, I think the best solution is for me to stick to larger-scale ship models -1/96 and up. And I think I'll avoid Metal Earth.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    March, 2014
Posted by ships4ever on Monday, March 16, 2015 1:34 PM

I bought the Leaning Tower of Pisa last year, and found it frustrating enough that I haven't bought another Metal Earth kit. In the end, I found that the time I spent on it for the results I got just didn't equal out to the fun I have with regular plastic or resin models that have PE parts. Just my opinion, to each their own.

On the bench: 1/350 Trumpeter HMS Dreadnought; 1/350 Academy USS Reuben James FFG-57

 

  • Member since
    May, 2004
  • From: Mount Bretherton Model Aircraft Observatory
Posted by f8sader on Monday, March 16, 2015 2:07 PM

Thanks for taking the time to write this informative review.  Being a 'collector' I know I have seen something like this in "the collection" somewhere, given to me by my daughter's significant other.  I'll take a closer look next time it is rediscovered or otherwise goes floating by.

Don, I like your expression 'fancy visors'.  Mine is the essential tool of all that I do within certain focal parameters using reading glasses, the optivisor, and any useful magnifier available; and now I know it's fancy to boot!

Lon-ski

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Monday, March 16, 2015 2:21 PM

Buying another Metal Earth kit isn't high on my bucket list. But it seems a whole lot of people find the things highly enjoyable. (Those people must have excellent closeup vision.) To each his/her own. And if these kits get some more people interested in genuine scale modeling, so much the better.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    August, 2008
Posted by tankerbuilder on Monday, March 16, 2015 6:07 PM

Ah Proff. Tilley :

   Gotchya ! I just finished my seventh " Metal Earth Kit .It was a " Chinook " Helo . Now , Having shaped P.E. on my ships and stuff I figured I would do this to the " Chinook ' .

   Well , the darned thing turned out alright .

I have been recommending them for one main reason - If you can successfully build one of them , say ,the Mars Rover or the Lunar Lander And yes , the " Chinook " Then there is no P.E.job you can't  do !        

   Plus they make great little gifts for those you like , but who do not know  how to appreciate a job well done on a model ! Speaking of eyes  .I get my cataract surgery next year .The doc said my vision will then be as good as it was in my fifties .Cool ! I didn't need bifocals then .    Tanker - Builder

  • Member since
    October, 2004
  • From: Maryland
Posted by Par429 on Monday, March 16, 2015 6:30 PM

Thanks!

   I received on of these kits for Christmas this year.   The Himeji Castle.   One of the better looking ones, I think.  (Relevant since my sons live in Japan).   I haven't started it yet, but it's nice to have some idea what to expect.

Thanks again,

Phil

  • Member since
    November, 2009
  • From: SW Virginia
Posted by Gamera on Monday, March 16, 2015 7:34 PM

Yeah I was looking at the stuff Metal Earth Mogul posted here and it seems the stuff with the more angular design like the LEM seems to come off better. Stuff with lots of curves like an aircraft fuselage or the hull of the Star Trek Enterprise is a little more problematic.

My local craft store has a big rack of them but so far I haven't tried one. I hate PE enough as it is without trying to build an entire model out of the stuff!  

"Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed." -G.K. Chesterton

 

  • Member since
    June, 2014
Posted by MrBlueJacket on Tuesday, March 17, 2015 8:09 AM

We sell Metal Earth here at BlueJacket's gallery.  I built the Black Pearl myself, and although I didn't find it as difficult as you describe, I did have particular trouble with the bow shape.

I have a unique pair of glasses to model with.  I had my Optometrist make a prescription where the overall was my reading glasses, and the bifocal area was additional 2x magnifiers.  Works great!

  • Member since
    January, 2013
Posted by BlackSheepTwoOneFour on Tuesday, March 17, 2015 8:18 AM

I've always wanted to get one of those Metal Earth kits myself. I'm up for a challenge anyway. I have seen the 3 tank kit and I wanted that one. LOL!

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: Greenville, NC
Posted by jtilley on Tuesday, March 17, 2015 8:22 AM

Nic, that's an interesting idea. I'll talk to my optometrist about it.

I found the bow the trickiest part. That's where I busted off the two tabs.

Youth, talent, hard work, and enthusiasm are no match for old age and treachery.

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: Central USA
Posted by qmiester on Wednesday, March 18, 2015 8:32 AM

John, just went on line to see what you were talking about.  You most assuredly have much more patience than I would have if faced with that challenge.  I did find what I would consider  (Not!)  There is a dealer on Amazon which is offering not one but two Metal Earth sailing kits packaged together for $16.16 (and apparently free shipping). They're the Black Pearl and the Golden Hind.  Thought you might like to know!

Quincy
  • Member since
    March, 2005
Posted by philo426 on Wednesday, March 18, 2015 10:00 AM

I was at Barnes &Noble yesterday and they have a full line of Metal Earth kits including the Titantic,,BlackPearl and Golden Hind.They also had a 3 pack of WW2 tanks that had the Tiger 1,Sherman and T-34.

  • Member since
    March, 2005
  • From: West Virginia, USA
Posted by mfsob on Thursday, March 19, 2015 9:34 AM

I have tackled one of these things - the P-51. Yes, when finished it looks like a Mustang, when held at arm's length.

And I also had to dig out the PE shears, file to remove all the numbs, and several sets of pliers. But it got done!

  • Member since
    November, 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Thursday, March 19, 2015 10:25 AM

Par429

Thanks!

   I received on of these kits for Christmas this year.   The Himeji Castle.   One of the better looking ones, I think.  (Relevant since my sons live in Japan).   I haven't started it yet, but it's nice to have some idea what to expect.

Thanks again,

Phil

I bought that one awhile ago to build for my wife, who has visited Japan.  I asked her to choose whether she wanted it shiny like kit, or should I paint it in real castle colors- she hasn't decided yet.

Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    November, 2008
  • From: Jefferson City, MO
Posted by iraqiwildman on Thursday, March 19, 2015 11:00 AM

Your experience reminds me of when a friend printed me a paper model of a rabbit. He was big into building paper models, so I gave it a try. Think that it might take 30 minutes, but over 2 hours later I was just finishing up. It was not as fun as building a real kit, so I have not done another.

Tim Wilding

  • Member since
    August, 2008
Posted by tankerbuilder on Monday, March 23, 2015 5:08 PM

Well , I gotta tell you .

     I do recommend them to folks thinking about spending ninety or a hundred bucks for P.E.for their Tank this or ship that and they've never used P.E. before . Twelve to sixteen bucks is cheap to learn if you can do this extra operation , Especially if you have a low self confidance , confusion and anger threshold .

   I have seen folks working on a plane or ship destroy the whole thing because of the P.E. . I don't think folks should do that . Enter " Metal Earth "

  • Member since
    May, 2008
  • From: Wyoming Michigan
Posted by ejhammer on Monday, March 23, 2015 7:54 PM

I bought a couple kits and gave one to my 12 year old grandson. Mine, I had to fiddle with, but the kid - he breezed right through it! Pretty amazing.

I agree, working a kit or two of something in your interest will certainly hone your PE working skills, inexpensively, something I needed for sure.

EJ

Completed - USS ESSEX 1/700 Hasegawa Dec 1942, USS Yorktown 1/700 Trumpeter 1943. In The Yards - USS ESSEX 1/700 Hasegawa 1945, USS ESSEX 1/700 Dragon 1944, USS ESSEX 1/700 Trumpeter 1945, USS ESSEX 1/540 Revell (vintage) 1962, USS ESSEX 1/350 Trumpeter 1942, USS ESSEX LHD-2 as commissioned, converted from USS Wasp kit Gallery Models. Plus 35 other plastic and wood ship kits.

  • Member since
    June, 2012
Posted by arnie60 on Monday, March 23, 2015 8:27 PM

I have spent literally hours on the rigging for one cannon, with 24 to go, but lack the patience for these things. My daughter had to finish the red baron fokker for me.

  • Member since
    August, 2011
  • From: Earth, for now
Posted by BashMonkey on Tuesday, April 07, 2015 11:00 PM
I have one of these, the Brooklyn Bridge, found in a thrift store, will get around to it one of these days. Good to know some of the quirks of these before I begin.

 ALL OF YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US!

  • Member since
    August, 2008
Posted by tankerbuilder on Thursday, April 09, 2015 12:28 PM

Phil ;

   You will enjoy this kit if you don't rush it . I spread mine over four nights . An hour or so here and there . It came out quite nicely . It has a lot of confusing join places though - so be careful !

  • Member since
    March, 2005
  • From: West Virginia, USA
Posted by mfsob on Thursday, November 03, 2016 1:13 PM

I've decided to take the plunge into Metal Earth, to try and reignite my 1/700 ship model building in earnest. So far their P-51 is going together fairly easily, but -

- I had to dig out several of my smaller pliers to fold and crimp tabs;

- the Tamiya diamond needle file is getting a workout to take care of the nasty fret attachments remnants.

- No. 12 Xacto blades aren't the best for separating the components but it's better than a razor blade.

Still, at the end of the day, it's a model. And if a grandchild gets hold of one of these, my first reaction won't be to scream!

  • Member since
    May, 2016
Posted by Raulduke on Thursday, November 03, 2016 1:26 PM
I have several of those things in my stash,and that is where they will stay. Way too tiny for me
  • Member since
    June, 2014
  • From: New Braunfels , Texas
Posted by Tanker - Builder on Sunday, November 06, 2016 5:26 AM

Hi John ;

  I forgot to give some information to folks doing these .Get a pair of very small art or surgical scissors to cut the parts of the sprues .Use a fine triangular file for smoothing and use Stamp tweezers to fold the tabs .

    You have to understand one thing , although I never thought I would admit it . I am driven since childhood to explore new realms of crafting . Being that my first models were built from twigs .

 We started out as Farmers and Fishermen .There was no time for store-bought toys . In my beloved Granma's words . "Them store - bought toys are too dear and they don't look well made either !"

    For those of you who are under 35 " Dear " is an old , old term meaning " Expensive ." Even if that expense was a dime or a dollar !

  • Member since
    November, 2003
  • From: State of Mississippi. State motto: Virtute et armis (By valor and arms)
Posted by mississippivol on Sunday, November 06, 2016 9:03 AM
Saw those in a local store with a sign stating that it would be a good idea to include one in an "Operation Christmas Child" shoe box. I could only imagine the reaction once they try to start one...
  • Member since
    June, 2014
  • From: New Braunfels , Texas
Posted by Tanker - Builder on Monday, November 07, 2016 8:33 AM

Operation Christmas Child ?

 I don't think so . These things are not really difficult but definitely not for Children under a certain age . My neighbor's boy was given one , "Himeji Castle ". He did a passably good job , he is thirteen .     T.B.

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