Finishing is Overrated

How many times have you seen someone beat themselves up for never finishing a model? Or abandoning a project unfinished? Who reading this, has a “Shelf of Shame”?

Let me turn that on its head: Why is not finishing kits, a bad thing?

Think about what you enjoy about the hobby, and what you don’t enjoy. If you enjoy construction and don’t finish because you don’t enjoy painting, don’t paint. The model police is not going to come knocking on your door if your airbrush has cobwebs on it.

Maybe you enjoy painting and building, but worry that your weathering will ‘ruin’ your work. Well, you have two choices: you can either let go of the idea that you have to weather, (you don’t if you don’t want to); or you can buy a cheap Tamiya, slap it together, spray it, and experiment at lower risk than some build you spent months on. When you finish that, strip the paint back off and save it for next time you feel you lack confidence, it’s now your mule.

Maybe you just like opening a new box and assembling for a while, then get bored. Maybe you lack the time to finish models. The problem is often not that we start too many models, but that we put pressure on ourselves, or perceive pressure from convention, to finish them.

I’m here to give you absolution, a get out of jail card, a free pass to the next ride:

Finishing models is overrated and you don’t have to do it.

You can enjoy your hobby any way you want. One person, one bench. Define how you enjoy that for yourself, and if you don’t enjoy finishing models, don’t finish models. You don’t owe a model kit, or anyone, anything.

“Yeah Yeah, but what if I WANT to finish more?!

Well, you can finish more if you still don’t feel happy with just doing the part you find easy to get done.

Maintain the Momentum

Most models get abandoned because we abandon them (duh Chris). Don’t. There comes a point in every build where it sucks: this is The Point of Resistance, push through it. I know it sucks, I know you might not feel confident doing it, I know you won’t enjoy it. Suck it up buttercup, because the other side of it is fun again, and the road to that finished model you want to finish.

“What if I ruin the model?” Yeah, you might. But chances are you that you won’t.
More than likely, you will overcome any problems and get a model you like a lot, and that achieve that satisfaction you wanted from finishing.

An abandoned model will never be ruined, but neither will it ever be finished. You have to decide if the disappointment of never finishing is more palatable than the disappointment of a finish you don’t like. But I guarantee you this, that if you don’t push through, you will never get it finished. You and I both know it will sit there forever, or until you bin it.


Don’t start anything else. Yeah I know, easier said than done, but if you can’t discipline yourself not to open new boxes before you finish something, you will likely never finish anything. In that case, you are better off being honest with yourself and accepting that your hobby is opening boxes and enjoying a little building, not finishing models. (And as I said, that is A-OK). But if you want to change, then stop chasing squirrels.

When you do finish a model, instead of opening a new one, try taking one off the Shelf of Shame and finishing that instead. I often do this and usually I can’t understand why I ever abandoned the project in the first place. Often the Point of Resistance on this one has been overcome by experience, improved skill, or maybe even just distance from the build for a while. At worst, a model taken from the Shelf of Shame is not far from a mule, and you probably won’t have as much invested in it as you did when you abandoned it, so the risk of finishing it is lower than it once was. At best it can rekindle your original love affair with the subject and give you a surprisingly enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Fail to Plan, and You Plan to Fail

Most projects that fail, do so before you even open the box. You need to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve before you start a project if you want to complete it. I know from my own experience that if I don’t have a pretty clear idea of what I want a project to turn out like, whether it is for a dio or stand alone, the scheme, the markings, the weathering, everything, I am unlikely to ever finish it. I have started many models because I wanted to build the kit, but never finished the project because I didn’t really know how I wanted it to look, and building out of the box is anathema to me.

Before you start, make that decisions, and make a plan. You can change it later, if you get a better idea, but being aimless is a killer. If you have a clear goal, you will know what you want and need to do at every stage of the build, and if something is going to be a challenge, (I often take on a build because it will give me a new challenge) you can plan for it in advance. If you have a plan, you will succeed.

Do or Do Not, it Doesn’t Matter

Seriously, you should not beat yourself up if you don’t enjoy finishing. You don’t have to. Embrace your hobby for what it is, not what you feel others think it should be. But if you want to finish more, try the above, and I guarantee that if you commit to it, you will succeed. All you need is confidence and I, for one, believe in you.

About Chris

I'm Chris Meddings, Modeller, Author, Publisher of Modelling Books, Podcaster, and armchair wannabe thinker
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29 Responses to Finishing is Overrated

  1. Bruce Culver says:

    Well said…..I usually have grand plans for the models I want to build, but as age has caught up with my eyes and senses, I have gone for personal challenges and not concentrated on the final result. If I get to the point of finishing a model, I know pretty much what I want to do with it. I enjoy doing the nutty things that drive others crazy, like building 1/32 armor models…..:-) This provides many challenges, as all those kits are OLD and the tooling a bit sketchy, not to say all that accurate (though I have been pleasantly surprised how close some of the castigated older armor kits are). I do build some 1/35 and have a stash, but 1/32 and 1/48 (BIG stash) will be my valedictory model musings until I (gracefully?) depart the scene. I’m 82, so best get started now.

  2. Peter says:

    I always failed in planning what to build next and finish the current project. Like you say, we don’t have to. I just “finished”:a seven year old shelf queen.. . it didn’t make me happier. I guess giving her to the to bin would have been more honest…

    • Chris says:

      life is too short to make yourself do parts of the hobby you don’t enjoy, but at the same time, pushing yourself can yield growth. Its a tricky one

  3. Damian says:

    My Scalemates profile tells me I have 39 started builds. Every single one of them was shelved for a reason. Lost interest at the time, lack of skill or knowledge on how to resolve a problem, squirrel, whatever! I know my knowledge and skill level has improved so I am revisiting that list regularly and working over them again. Quite often they take a couple of steps forwards (or sometimes backwards 🤣) and get shelved again, but more often than not the enthusiasm has returned and they get completed. Either way I’m enjoying my time at the bench tinkering and that’s what counts.

  4. CHUA SEK CHUAN says:

    You talk a lot of common sense here. My challenge is that sometimes I ignore my common sense. I also yield to the bright shiny objects. Magpie. Me. I do have to discipline myself to stop taking out the new thing and to push through and complete the abandoned builds.

  5. This is an interesting post because I’ve bee saying for years that *finishing* a model is the most under-rated thing in scale modeling. So we’re saying the opposite.

    My context is a bit different however. I’m coming at it from the perspective – *if* you want to complete more models to a high level of finish, actually *completing* models 100%, (not 99% – I mean every last wire, antennae, lightbulb, stencil) gets you the skills needs to achieve that goal, and nothing short of completions will move the needle forward.

    Completing the base color stage on a 1/48 jet – you’re only half way through.

    Practicing related and foundational skills on many kits will not get you to aquire the last skills needed to make completions. They are different skills. So maybe you’re the expert on seams, or welds, or photoetch, but until you’ve completed a dozen or more models to a high level of finish, you’re still missing out on a big part of what is needed to finish models.

    That all said, completing is not everyone’s goal. And certainly an unpainted model can be considered completed in it’s own way. Some are actually beautiful in an unpainted state.

    • Chris says:

      thats actually the one caveat I forgot to include, Thank you for saying it so well John. If the point of resistance is finishing, you have to overcome your block by making yourself do it

    • Tim Campbell says:

      “Practicing related and foundational skills on many kits will not get you to acquire the last skills needed to make completions. They are different skills.”

      *Blinding flash of light*. This is a really good point John – very well stated. It’s actually very related to my own lack of completions, so it’s given me some food for thought. Great stuff.

    • Ramon says:

      I like your perspective on this John.

      I tell my wife I have a plan for each and every kit in my stash, especially the ones I have multiples of. That is mostly true and I aim to finish every one to 100% completion. However, being short on bench time I sometimes scale back what “100%” means to me once the kit starts to fight me and win. Once things start to slip from my control or abilities and it stops being fun then my goal becomes to just get it over with. I am of the belief that it is better to finish something imperfectly than to not finish at all since I am continuing to learn and grow and level up my skills. What I am extremely proud of accomplishing today may be a cringeworthy eyesore to me 5 years from now. That is not only ok, it is a great sign that my skills have improved a lot.

      This is not to contradict what you or Chris wrote. Actually I think I bounce back and forth between both perspectives with my perspective. thank you both if you have made it to the end of my babbling. Cheers!

      • Chris says:

        the only problem with stopping when it becomes hard, is your skills advance most under pressure

        • Ramon Lomeli says:

          Stopping, yes. I agree about skills. I also believe that I have learned more from my fails than my easy builds. I still finish them though because I hate wasting money, but also because that frees me to just go for broke and try things I wouldn’t try otherwise. Once I get it finished enough I can apply lessons learned to my next attempt. A lot of the kits in my stash are meant to be do-overs.

  6. Tim says:

    For myself, I’m more of a “plan as you go” type of person. I can see the value of planning before opening the box but often I start a kit and ideas seem to present then themselves as the build progresses. I liken it more to water running downhill. When I encounter an obstacle, I simply flow around it. I do like the squirrel warning. I find myself having to say, no, there’s such and such on the bench. Work on it. That said, I do have several going at one time so that when I hit a roadblock, I can switch to another.

  7. Diego says:

    This is gold, Jerry! Gold!
    My hobby is like chasing squirrels, I know. I enjoy that, actually.

  8. Planning things in modeling struck a nerve with me. I never planned for decades. I just wanted the vehicle. The building and searching, usually gives more knowledge about the vehicle, and my squirles are digging into vehicles beyond buildable and to the edge of facts known about it.
    Still I managed to keep most of my unfinished projects and finish a lot of them after decades. They’re glass ceilings, hurdles to overcome and learn from. My none happy thing in modelling has always been painting. I found some shortcuts, and am happy with it.

    Biggest learning in the last decade: Perfect is the enemy of done. (Thank you Bas!)

    A great post, Jerry, I’ve learned from it (as always) but most of all: it’s a fun read!

    Thank you!

  9. Rob says:

    Love this post, so much of it speaks to me! I work in 1/72 mostly and happily go through phases of building or painting. I’ve learnt to follow my muse and ignore the “to do list” of things that at that moment don’t bring me joy, which is sitting at my bench and unplugging from the world. I do like the idea you raised of pushing through the point on resistance you mentioned though – maybe that’s my next project?

  10. James Morando says:

    Really loving your new blog Chris. Your articles are very thought provoking and enjoyable to read.

  11. Dennis Loep says:

    Squirrels. Squirrels everywhere!!

    But the good thing is that a lot of my projects are for the biggest part already finished.

  12. Tim Campbell says:

    I love this post for many reasons. I -say- I would like to have more finished models, but my modelling practices, including lots of WIP (love tinkering with different things), frequent stall-outs, traffic jam in the paint booth, frequent loss of confidence in getting to completion, being overwhelmed by quality of models I see on the internet, etc… clearly demonstrate otherwise!

    So I’ve started to work on two fronts – 1) acceptance that every model (especially a stalled-out one from 20 years ago which was built with lesser skills than I have now) might not be completed (and could/should be binned) and 2) putting the WIP models I actually want to finish into some sort of completion queue/order based on smallest amount of work needed.

    Because at the end of the day, notwithstanding my typical work process (as follows), I would still like these finished subjects off the Shelving Unit of Doom™ and into my display cabinet. And occasionally to a show/contest.

    1. See cool photo – squirrel!
    2. Get relevant kit for (1)
    3. Realise I don’t have the right decals, paint, some other part
    4. Pick up something from Shelf of Doom™️, look at it, decide “too hard”, put it back
    5. Pick up something else from SoD, look at it, don’t know how it ever made it to SoD, work on it until…
    6. Decals/paint/part arrive for (1). Yay!
    7. Start working on the new project
    8. Get stuck on some minor thing, get completely disheartened and filled with self loathing.
    9. Relegate kit to SoD
    10. Think about quitting hobby (again)

    1. See cool photo – squirrel! etc…

  13. Martin Drayton says:

    Great subject! I’m definitely a planner and absolutely relate to that part of your post Chris. Scale modeling strangely enough, is probably THE most organized part of my life.
    I write out a super detailed step-by-step for the entire build and try not to even start it until I have every piece of aftermarket that it needs to complete it.
    So far in the 3 years that I’ve been back building, I have two shelf queens: one is a kit that is badly fitting, the other is a diorama that I entered the main vehicle separately in competition, and now seems too ‘separate’ from the original diorama, if that makes sense.
    As long as I can get past the construction phase, my least favorite, I know I’ll finish the build, hence the reason for my first non-completion.
    To finish a kit or not, to paint or not, I don’t judge. This thing that we do, is different for everyone, as are our reasons for doing it, and as such, I don’t think we should project our personal goals onto anyone else.
    Thanks for another thought provoking blog post!


  14. Raphael says:

    A while back the topic of Shelf Queens got under my skin and I called in to Small Subjects about it. Barry B is so awesome for his attitude to this. (I could have left off the last half of that sentence.) No one else cares if you have half-built models. It’s only you who is shaming yourself about the *Shelf of Doom*.
    Someone on the Mojo called them “Running Starts” as in “when you are ready to return to it, you already have a running start of the kit.” I have adopted that term for my own half-built kits.
    Anyway, thanks Jerry* for your perspective on this and to everyone else for some great replies.

    * – Does that make Will your Kramer?

  15. I don’t know about others but for me the best part of making a model is looking at it when it’s finished and being happy that I got it to that stage. In most cases something has gone wrong somewhere along the process at which stage I have to decide whether to continue with that model or bin it. In most cases I continue knowing that the final model is not perfect. If I only finished models that were perfect I still wouldn’t have anything in my display cabinet (not that I actually have one).

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