IPMS LogoInternational Plastic Modelers' Society / USA

IPMS LogoInternational Plastic Modelers' Society / USA



War Wounds

Modelers determine the success of their models in many different ways. For some, simply finishing the model, for others, it’s winning an award.  And sometimes, it’s the look on the face of the old veteran you’ve built the model for. For me…it’s not bleeding. Yup…it’s not about winning or making old sailors or pilots mushy with fond memories…it’s about setting the model down for the last time and having all of my body parts still attached and functional.

I don’t think I’ve ever been overly clumsy. I will, on occasion, walk into doors, trip, stumble, or otherwise cause myself unintentional bodily harm. Remarkably, most of the time, alcohol or NyQuil isn’t involved. But something happens when I start modeling. The common sense, the OSHA guidelines and standards go right out the window. In many ways, it’s part of self-sacrifice, because making sure that model part you’ve just glued is perfectly aligned is FAR MORE important than seeing where that X-acto knife lands, isn’t it?

My ‘war wounds’ (no disrespect to any Purple Heart recipients) vary from the ‘usual’ to the ‘drastic’. We’ve all suffered our share of cut fingers, but I think I’ve developed it into an art form. Here’s an example:

It’s about 11:30 at night, and yours truly is working on a model…a Ferrari 642 Formula One car to be precise. The instructions call for gluing 2 side plates to the front of the chassis, which I did, only to realize I had them backwards, the right on the left, and the left on the right side of the car. So, with some grumbling and swearing under my breath, I started the daunting task of removing 2 pieces of flat, CA laminated plastic from the model without causing major damage. I started with the X-acto, wedged between the two parts, and slowly started rocking the knife back and forth. About halfway through, I realized that my progress was being impeded by the dull blade in the knife…so, it’s time for a fresh new (and very sharp) No.11 blade…and back to the task at hand.

Picture if you will, a person whittling on a stick…holding the stick in the left hand while holding the knife in the right. This was the method I was using on this race car…well, I immediately applied the same amount of pressure I had been using with the old blade…and ZING! The blade went right through and the part fell to the floor. I felt a bit of a sting, and as I put the model down, determined I had nicked the fingertip of my left ring finger. I went over to the kitchen sink, turned on the water, and stuck my finger under the faucet, at which time a little less than ½ inch of my finger plops off and drops into the bottom of the sink. This is also when it really started to hurt…and bleed. Hmm…this could be a cause for concern…I grab a towel, and my fingertip, and stick it back on the end of my finger…then wrap it.

I tell my wife she needs to drive me to the hospital…because I ‘uhm…kinda cut myself’. She drives me to the ER, where I’m given a quick examination and told to sit in the waiting room. Looking around, I’m number five in line, right behind the old drunk guy who fell off his barstool and cut his forehead on his gravity induced journey to the floor. It wasn’t the fall, it was the sudden stop at the end that did it.

My finger is throbbing, babies are crying, and this old drunk guy sprawled out on the chair next to be passing gas and moaning, I start think…did I clean my paint brushes before I left? Finally, the orderlies come and take the drunken Capt. Gravity to the ER, where he proceeds to throw up, making the overall situation even more wretched. I’m next…finally, it’s now 3am, my wife is asleep in the chair next to me. Just a few more minutes…when the emergency room doors open up, and two guys walk in, well, actually, one guy walked in, the other was in a wheelchair. It seems that Bob and Mike decided at 3am to dive off the 2nd floor balcony into the swimming pool at the local fleabag motel…Bob made it, Mike didn’t, hitting his leg on the side of the cement pool just below the knee, the bone popping through the skin like a steak knife through a Ziploc baggie. Bob is quite upset, but Mike is too drunk, and in too much shock, to care…in fact, he’s singing ‘Walk like an Egyptian’ and hiccupping.

Well, I just got bumped down the priority list, because Aqua-Lung decided to do a face plant into the pavement. It’s approaching 4am now, and I’m vying for the next spot with a woman who’s complaining of ‘cramps’. Listen lady, I cut my finger off…take a pill and wait your turn, ok?

I finally get into the ER and I’m met by a little doctor (about 4’2”) who says (no kidding), “My name is Dr. Agastya Bohatu-Kohli, but you can call me Doctor Tom" Uhh...did I miss something here? Someone slip something into my fruit juice? Ok Doctor Tom, my name is Jeff, but you can call me 'Lord Zyborg, Ruler of the Universe.’

So Doctor Tom takes one look at my finger and says (no kidding), "Oh my goodness. You have cut your finger off”. Thank you Archimedes, here’s your Nobel Prize, can I go home now? Of course he opens up the bandage, and promptly grabs hold of the tip of my finger and pulls. ‘Here, pull my finger’ (remember the old joke?) I fart. And scream. Blood squirts all over like a bad scene from MASH.  He’s holding my fingertip like it’s a piece of popcorn, looking at it, then turns and throws it away. ‘Excuse me, that was my finger. I’d make a fist and punch you in the face but it hurts too much.’

I’m informed that there’s not enough there to warrant sewing it back on, and besides, it’s been too long anyway, I should have come to the ER sooner and they would have been able to re-attach it… I’m given a shot of something in the tip of my finger, which goes numb…ahhh…relief. Why couldn’t you do this 4 hours ago???? Fifteen minutes later, my fingertip, or rather, what’s left of it, is cleaned up with stitches. I’m informed the tissue will grow back with minimal scarring.

The sun is now coming up, and I’m tired. When I get home…I start to investigate the accident scene from the night before. I’d better clean up the sink, since there’s blood everywhere. As I look down into the sink, I notice a little bead about the size of a BB laying on the bottom…I pick it up, and realize it’s not a bead, it’s the bone from my fingertip…round on one side, nice clean cut on the other…I still have it in my modeling toolbox…ironically, in an old X-acto blade tube.

Hindsight should have told me to just not worry about it, bandage it up and move on…which is basically what I do know when X-acto related accidents happen…so far, there’s been 3 serious cuts, 2 thigh punctures, and 3 foot punctures from X-actos rolling off the table and plummeting towards some part of my body.

Then there’s the Dremel mishap…Did you know that a run-away Dremel tool with a carbide burr bit can really tear up human flesh?

Not all war wounds are related to mishaps with tools and not all have happened to me…(this is a true story)

I used to teach a 4-H group about plastic modeling. The kids ranged from 10 to 15, and met every Saturday from 9am to noon. About 7am on Saturday morning, my phone rings, and there’s a very distressed parent of one of my modeling kids on the other end. “Billy” (his name has been changed) has super-glued himself. My first concern are for the eyes. “Did he get any glue in his eyes?” No, thank goodness…he’s glued his fingers…”not a problem, here’s what you do…go and get some finger nail polish remover, or acetone, and really soak the area. Then start trying to move the fingers apart with a twisting action, don’t pull because you could tear the skin”

I’m asked to wait on the line while he does this procedure to his son…a minute or two later I hear a blood-curdling scream… I’m yelling into the phone to try and find out what the problem is…unless the skin is broken, finger nail polish remover or acetone shouldn’t cause extreme pain like that.

His father finally comes back on the line…and informs me that it worked…”What exactly happened? Why did he scream like that??” Then the truth comes out…

?Well, ?Billy?  got up early to finish some parts before the meeting. He was working on the model when he got superglue on his fingers?not realizing he had glue on his fingers, he does what most males do in the morning?he scratched himself?and promptly stuck his fingers to his?uhh?you get the idea?

Too embarrassed to give all the details, Billy’s father insured me he hadn’t glued anything to his eyes, but rather to his fingers. Of course he neglected to tell me what had been glued to his fingers. And to add insult to injury…Dad poured acetone on his son’s privates. Now there’s a father-son moment you’d rather soon forget….to this day, I shudder when I recall that phone call.

As I sit here and look across the room at my newly completed model, I am pleased to say that the only injuries I have suffered has been a loss of sleep (and several small PE parts that have escaped into the carpet of doom). Of course, there are others, waiting, conspiring with implements of destruction to inflict bodily harm on me in their quest to remain unassembled parts…but that’s another rant.

Now go build a model…safely!!

A.L. Lehron
The Modeling Miscreant

Copyright © IPMS/USA - February 2004