Meet Kolkata’s Scale Model Maestro

Seven years ago, Kolkata-based artist Basu Roy stumbled across a model kit of a WWII German fighter plane from British brand Airfix, which makes kits for everything , from cars and tanks to planes. Roy saw the kit online and bought it. “I didn’t know exactly what it was but I bought it,” says the 32-year-old.

Instinctive buying spurred Roy, an electrical engineer who worked as an investor in the cryptocurrency trading market, into the hobby of building scale figurines – small but exact replicas of larger objects. fat. His favorite theme, fueled by a childhood passion, was aviation. “I’ve had a fondness for aviation since my school days,” says Roy, who works from his home studio in the New Alipore area, south of Kolkata. In the early 1990s, Roy’s father, who was in the military engineering services, was posted to Palam, Delhi. “The Palam Air Force Museum was very close to our house and I visited it often. My dad used to take me there to see all those planes.

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A year ago, he sold his first model. “That’s when I made a firm decision to make it a full-time business and started curating an Instagram page that showcased my work.” Today, Roy has a collection of around 200 model aircraft from the Indian Air Force and Navy as well as World War II aircraft. He also designs tanks, armored jeeps and trucks with beautiful precision – these kit models are made of styrene, a kind of plastic. In the past seven months, he has sold over 30 scale models, with a starting price of 15,000. His Instagram page now has nearly 8,000 followers.

Building and designing scale models takes time, patience and the right tools. The first step is to find the right kits, the bare parts of objects like airplanes. Roy imports them from popular brands such as Tamiya (a Japanese brand often considered the gold standard for model kit kits), Eduard (a European brand) and Zvezda (a Russian brand). They can cost between 20 and 50 € (approximately 1,700-4,250), plus shipping and customs duties.

The Kolkata-based artist says model building is still finding its feet as a hobby in India. But on the professional level, the demand for finished products is not lacking.


These kits are based on blueprints, LIDAR scans and 3D scanned images of real aircraft and scaled down to industry scale standards. For example, the most common scale for aviation subjects is 1/72, which means the model is 72 times smaller than the actual object. “They break it down into different parts. A kit can contain between 70-80 and 700-800 pieces,” says Roy, who assembles and paints them, using tools like an airbrush, fine detail guns and tightly wrapped cotton swabs for decals (prints decorative or self-adhesive) for the final touch to ensure the utmost precision. “With LEGO, you can just put pieces together…. With these kits, you have to apply filler, plastic cement and sand the seam lines (with sandpaper). It’s a lot of work before you get to the final product.

Roy makes sure each model is painted as precisely as possible, combining colors from his 250 bottles of acrylic paint and, occasionally, lacquer. “A US Air Force plane, for example, can be painted two different shades of gray, which is different from the RAF (the Royal Air Force) or the Soviet or Russian air force. J I have over 20 shades of green, blue and gray alone,” he adds. an airplane or vehicle.This includes a faded paint effect, showing dust and mud on a vehicle’s body or wheels, etc.

Roy makes sure each model is painted as accurately as possible, combining colors from his 250 paint bottles.  Seen here is a scale model of the Antonov An-32.

Roy makes sure each model is painted as accurately as possible, combining colors from his 250 paint bottles. Seen here is a scale model of the Antonov An-32.
(Courtesy of Basu Roy)


To ensure the accuracy of his models, including armaments and cockpits, Roy searches for reference photographs of aircraft online. He keeps in touch with other modelers on online groups and forums, people with experience in the aviation industry, and draws on his large collection of aviation-themed books. Online communities of modellers around the world, instructional videos on YouTube, and digital resources have helped him become a self-taught artist. “You can refer to it as much as you want. But you have to keep training,” he said.

Roy says model building is still finding its feet as a hobby in India. But on the professional level, the demand for finished products is not lacking. The majority of his customers are collectors who have their own die-cast collection and often come back with more requests. Aviation is hugely popular, Roy says, and collectors often have unique requests. “One of my clients’ father was in the navy. He therefore often opts for objects on the theme of the navy. Lately, young people, in the 20-30 age bracket, have shown interest as they intend to start building their own collection of these figurines,” he adds.

The 32-year-old now plans to diversify his portfolio, building dioramas, model ships and vintage automobiles from the 1950s-60s.

The 32-year-old now plans to diversify his portfolio, building dioramas, model ships and vintage automobiles from the 1950s-60s.
(Courtesy of Basu Roy)


The popularity of these products presents its own challenges. Since Roy works alone, it can be difficult to keep up with orders. “A customer can expect a model in 45 to 90 days at best, depending on its complexity. With some customers, it’s a long-term business where I make six to eight planes for them over a period of time,” he explains.

Roy, who also maintains a collection of ready-mades, now plans to hire more artists or interns and diversify his portfolio, building dioramas, model ships and period automobiles from the 1950s-1960s. “I plan to expand in the near future. The biggest challenge right now is scaling, not lack of demand. »

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