Alexander Bulimov, Systems Engineer on Scale Models

What I love the most about scale models is building something with my very own hands, without using a computer – making pieces of plastic or wood to look like a miniature version of a real thing. I also greatly enjoy the fact that I’m making something present in the physical world, something you can actually touch.

My name is Alexander Bulimov and I’m a Systems Engineer at a big IT company in Dublin. I work on various parts of infrastructure, mostly doing coding in Go and Python. Before that, I worked as a DevOps in several start-ups. I liked to code when I was in university – after graduation, by a happy accident, I started to work as an IT handyman in a small company, doing everything from changing printer cartridges to helping users set up company’s servers. Somehow, my love for programming fused with system administration; I started to automate things I could, gained more skills, and gradually moved to DevOps and Systems Engineer positions.

My main hobby is making scale models. My father introduced me to this hobby when I was a kid. I think he picked it for me because he was passionate about history – in this hobby, most of the model subjects are of some historical ships, aircraft or vehicles. I like to build things I have some sort of emotional bond to, like things I have seen in person (i.e. museum ships I’ve visited).

Depending on what kind of model I’m building (plastic or wooden), I use slightly different sets of tools. For plastic models, it’s a hobby knife, tweezers, glue, tons of different paints, paintbrushes, and an airbrush. For wooden models, I use all the things you can associate with woodworking – files, pliers, mini-saw, plane, vice, PVA glue, sandpaper, and so on.

When it comes to making plastic models, I work with model kits – so in the beginning, I have a box with parts on sprues, decals, and building instructions. Normally, instructions are broken down into a set of steps, each consisting of gluing together some parts. I follow those steps, cleaning the parts and assembling them. I almost always have to divert from the instructions, because painting the model adds complexity and makes you do things in a different order to simplify the painting process. Like when the engine needs to be painted and weathered, it makes more sense to do this as a sub-assembly, separate from the rest of the model. Things like this make the process more creative, as it’s me who chooses the paint scheme and how to implement it.

Assembly is followed by various stages of painting and weathering once the model is near complete. Weathering is the process of making models look used (and thus more realistic), like adding rust streaks, paint chips, or dust and dirt. It’s quite a complex process, normally taking around 7 layers of paint/washes – along with paint scheme, it’s the part that allows model builders to be most creative. In my case, building and painting plastic kits takes from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, working in the evenings and on weekends.

Making wooden models is quite different. With plastic kits, you have pre-moulded parts that you have to clean up and glue together. With wooden kits, you’ll have only the basic things like ship’s keel and bulkheads pre-cut from wood, with some small details like guns or deadeyes to be supplied with the kit. For most other elements, it’s expected for a model builder to simply craft all the structures from scratch (following plans) using various planks of wood that come with the kit.

Thus, wooden model building has a very steep learning curve and is generally more complex, time-consuming, and requires more skills. As the subjects of wooden kits are mostly sailing ships, the next step after building the hull and all the details on it will be rigging, which is a very complex and long process of adding all the ropes and lines and sails that make the sailing ship look so fascinating. In my case, building even small wooden ships takes several months of working in the evenings and on weekends.

I’d say that the first wooden ship I’ve built (1801 Gunboat) is the one I’m proud most of, as it was a huge jump in terms of required skills and learned techniques. From the plastic kits I’ve built so far, I’m particularly proud of Albion Refueller truck – the weathering turned out really well on it. Also, I’m quite proud of the website I built to showcase my models – My wife convinced me that the models I make are good enough to proudly post on the Internet.

I’m always working on models, and normally have at least two projects currently in work – one in assembling stage, and one in painting/weathering stage, as those require different skills and mindsets and it’s nice to switch from time to time. Currently, I’m fully occupied with my wooden ship – St. Gabriel deck boat – and have placed a couple of plastic models in painting/weathering stage on hold. I also hope to participate in the IPMS (International Plastic Modellers’ Society) Ireland show this year.

1801 Gunboat & Albion Refueller Truck

Other than both requiring engineering to some degree, there are no similarities between making models and my current job, but that’s what I like. You see, once you know how to code, you tend to try to solve everything with programming. So building scale models gives me a necessary distraction from the IT world. I personally think that having a way to switch from tech to something else you equally enjoy is very important. I even helped one of my colleagues to start building scale models, as he was searching for things to do that do not involve a computer.

Building scale models develops perseverance (building a model takes weeks or even months) and fine motor skills, which helps to exercise your brain and train the ability to focus. My advice to anyone interested in making scale models is to just start right away. It’s a very forgiving hobby in the sense that to try it, you have to spend very little money. Starter kits are cheap (we are talking about no more than 10-20 Euros) and have paint included, so all you need to start is a knife and maybe tweezers. If you don’t like it – at least you tried it and know that for sure. If you do – welcome!

To see some more of Alexander’s models and current projects, be sure to check the following link:

  • Show Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

comment *

  • name *

  • email *

  • website *