March 1, 2008

Understanding the "Please Don't Touch!" Rule

Part of the problem model builders and curators across the globe have is is the problem of people touching things that have a "please do not touch!" sign nearby. Now I havn't experienced this problem before but I am sure I will in the near future. So why exactly do those really nice things say "please don't touch!" on them?

Model builders put a lot of detail, time, pain and suffering into making their models (whatever they are modeling, aircraft, tanks, ships, cars). The reason that has been proposed is because models are very fragile. This is correct, however many people have always asked why are they so fragile? The answer is small parts. Small parts are adhered with the proper glue, but the key is to reduce having the glue visible the parts are glued with very minimal glue. This means that parts are prone to snapping if they are touched with light pressure. The kind of parts I am talking about, for example can be radar antannae, gun barrels or small protruding parts, the kind of stuff 1-3mm wide (or parts with a 1-2mm radius). When parts like that are broken off, sometimes they are a real pain in the butt to replace. Please respect the wishes of the builder and do not touch!

I think there is also an inclanation in the human mind to want to touch and feel the model to "see what it is made out of". Being the curious beings we are, it is difficult and tempting not to touch models on display. A great way to learn about the model (and possibly touch it) is to ask the builder a series of questions if you are very interested in a piece. The builders themselves know the strengths and weaknesses of their models and where care is necessary in handling. It's always great to wonder how model builders build what they do, but it's also important to respect that art and don't touch it!

I am a visual person and as an engineer, I like picking things up and playing with them to see how they work. Unfortunatly most delicate pieces do not come with a "I'm fragile!" tag on them and they frequently are subject to abuse. One of the worst times for a model builder is when you are relocating, and your models must come along for the ride. The only thing I can say is if you want to get into the hobby and learn how model builders build their stuff, by all means ask all the questions you want. Most are very passionate about what they do, the easiest explanation given is that we own miniature versions of certain things! It's all great and a lot of fun, but please do not touch!

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