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pete beadle

HOBBYSTORES - Stores notice

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I find myself in Japan.

Here, they have a chain of stores called Toyku Hands - they are amazing. These shops often come on several floors, each devoted to different aspects of the creative hobbies that are popular here.

For example, there is a floor almost entirely devoted to art supplies, covering everything from top quality stationary, to professional level design  instruments (think Rotring, Copic that sort of thing). Other floors have catering tools you never knew you wanted - but the Japanese have a clever way of making everything seem beautifully made and desirable.

The next floor up has all sorts of hobbyist tools and materials. It is model making nirvana! - I thought of Ric when I was there yesterday for some reason, but I think most of us would be wandering about in a daze, dreaming of the next invention, and picking up random materials for a job we are now going to find.

I bought four different kinds of rubber sheet, two that are memory foam I think, and the others are neoprene. I could have spent hundreds. Polycarbonate tube, with your chosen ID and wall thickness? No problem. Small offcuts of beautiful machined hardwood? Isle 3, sir. M2 x 14mm csk in stainless? How many packets would you like. You get the idea.

Somehow, these stores thrive in Japan - they are always busy.

I wouldn't described them as an RC model shop (these do also exist in Japan) but perhaps something like this would be a great compliment to the online shops selling servos, radio and kits that we are all getting used to the idea of, as our traditional model shop closes its doors and hires a webmaster.

If your local arts and craft shop (we still have quite a few of those) could be persuaded to stock a greater range of materials - balsa of course, among others - then maybe there will be a good solution for the future LMS, with the specialist high-value items like r/c gear, engines, moldies and so on, being supplied from the onliners.

The thing is that model making, arts and craft is perhaps getting more of a niche interest and it is difficult to see how or if things will change, if we don't encourage more people, old and young to start making things, rather than simply buying them ready-made.

However, I think young people have always been interested in the cutting edges of technology. When Frank Zaic was designing models in the forties, he did so in reverence to the then current developments of aeronautical engineering at that time. The model makers of his day and later were pioneering the ways to build efficiently and develop the early RC.

When I was building foam veneered Wot-4s in the 1990s, I expect some classic builders were tut-tutting about the use of foam and film. I of course dreamed about helicopters back then (I didn't know much!) which seemed other-worldly cool and were prohibitively expensive - how that changed!

Now we find ourselves in the drone era (plenty of discussion recently about this), when new young fliers probably want to hover about, filming everything and putting it on YouTube. Making and developing the model is of much less interest to them as these problems have been solved - making the model is not the cutting edge - and a good flying drone is a mouse-click away.

I would expect that although a young flier may not be great at making a model from scratch, he or she will probably be programming it to fly routes from a mobile phone, filming and editing material and creating art in a way that is wonderful and relevant to them. This embodies the same desire to follow the technology, as was seen in the 1940s, the 1990s and probably of all times. It is human nature to create.

As much as I would love to walk into my local town, go into a traditional model shop (inhale that special smell) and then spend an hour carefully selecting my materials, I accept that it is unlikely this will happen again. I do think however, that there will always be enough demand for our flying materials that some businesses (online of course) will survive selling them to us.

The future success of model flying (and the shops that supply its enthusiasts) relies on new blood. Perhaps we could consider the local model flying club and how we might help a little, encourage, teach and contribute, so that new flyers, young and old will keep coming back and will feel welcome, no matter if they build from scratch or just buy something (anything) to fly.

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