Last modified: Saturday, January 6, 2001 6:20 PM



There's a point at which "attention to detail" can seem excessive, obsessive, and maybe even a little neurotic... When you take a relatively insignificant item-- let's say... a walkie talkie? --and turn it into a week-long detailing project, you have to wonder. It's not that the project was planned that way, it's the pattern of thinking you've finished it, noticing another level of detail, and repeating this pattern until you're burned out. In that regard, it's like sculpting. You work from the general features to the specific details, and your level of fussiness goes up each step of the way. Maybe that's why most of my projects are "unfinished" (at least in my mind).

Walkie Talkie: "Handy Talkie" (unfinished) It's a model BC-611-C,E, or F, although the differences are probably technical specifications and things like the screw details at the ends. Details were culled from a variety of pictures and a trip to the museum, so this is likely a conglomeration of different models. One thing is clear from the following commentary: there's no substitute for seeing or handling the real thing, and pictures can only tell you so much. Part of modelling involves knowing how the 1:1 thing actually works, so that you can figure out the purpose of the detail. In this case, I've blundered through detailing, figuring out stuff gradually based on clues from pics. I finally decided to visit the museum to verify some construction details.

This piece came from one of Formative International's Soldiers of the World accessory sets. Although a lot of their stuff is cheap junk, occasionally there's a nice, fairly accurate looking piece of equipment included (--if you buy for a single piece, then their stuff ain't so cheap!).

I sanded down as many parting lines as I could and repainted it. The strap retainers (not visible) looked to be oriented along the wrong axis, so I first replaced them with metal ones. That's not really accurate; I've since noticed that the retainer (on one model at least) is two projections from the main housing bridged by a strap-retaining pin. A visit to the museum showed that the strap retainers also function as the hinge for the top and bottom access panels. (To date, I've only recreated this detail for the bottom panel. The top panel has a retaining screw, so I'm not likely to recreate a functioning version of that!)

The plastic antenna seemed too thick so I replaced it with extremely thin brass tubing, which allowed me to give it the telescoping feature. Originally (1st pic), I wasn't able to drill deep enough into the solid plastic body to make it concealable-- however, after cutting off the bottom (3rd pic), I was able to hollow enough out to insert a tube housing for the two telescoping segments. It's a neat "action feature", but isn't too sturdy. The ends of the tubes are slightly crimped which gives a slight resistance as the rough edged inner piece travels near it, but doesn't prevent you from pulling the piece out.

It took me a while to figure this out, but the cone is actually the antenna's cover which screws over the retracted antenna for storage. From pics, it has a retaining wire and would fit over the forward nub (by screwing on) when the radio is in use. I can't make screw threads that small so it has to pressure fit over the slightly exaggerated nub-- not a really secure connection. (I've since redone that detail as shown in the pic and moved the "nub" off center, without the larger surrounding ring.) For what it's worth, the retaining wire doesn't wrap around the parts as the picture shows; it connects to a small tab on the top near the antenna, and to a small tab off the side of the cone. Future improvements?

The perforated ear & mouth piece were a problem. They have a distinctive pattern of tiny holes which radiate from the center with an incrementing count: 1, 2, 3, 4... I only made it to 3 before I ran out of room. Like I said, they're really tiny and positioning them with a pin in the putty tested my manual dexterity (I failed).

Of course, you can't help but notice the "Signal Corps" tag. It's absurdly small-- I had to bump the contrast way up and set the image resolution to 600 dpi just so it would print. You can't read it with the naked eye (well, I can't), my camera can't either, so you can only appreciate it under magnification... in which case, all the other flaws (brush & glue marks, sculpting imperfections) are grossly apparent. This is a case of mismatched level of detail.

I thought it would be fun to fully grind out the interior to insert the vacuum tube circuit board & batteries. As I mentioned above, I had to mill out a portion anyway to attach the antenna. In fact, I've already made the bottom openable. The clamp detail (slightly oversized) swivels outward, and I redid the bottom strap retainer so that the cover is hinged at the back. It would be impossible for me to duplicate the detail exactly since the clamp uses a screwed-on knurled knob. I may be satisfied with making just a portion of the interior circuit board and batteries. Just like the antenna, each bit of anal-rententive detail you put on makes the unit slightly more fragile and difficult to use as a prop.

Afterword (03/05/00): As Ron P. pointed out, the Handie Talkie appears to be undersized... bummer! I hadn't really noticed. While it's true that the different models of the BC-611 radio were different lengths, mine is guesstimated to be about 3 scale inches shorter than the shortest model I've seen in a photograph (assuming about 15.75" for the tallest model), even though all the basic "landmarks" appear to be fairly proportional. This is a case of not taking care of the most general modelling aspects first, which is sort of like checking to see if a piece of equipment is plugged in before you decide it's broken and start taking it apart. To be honest, the museum reference piece wasn't much help in this regard since behind glass, there's no easy frame of reference. The biggest clue should have been pics of a person using the device-- but since the mouth and earpiece were positioned at a reasonable position for Joe's use, I assumed that everything was hunky dory and concentrated on the detailing. So there's another lesson here-- you just have to remember all these stinkin' lessons!