Wikipedia's Scale Models entry

Got to love Wikipedia. The only reason I don’t visit it more often is a fear that I’d lose whole days to finding stuff out. Here’s the Scale Model page, with a little history, such as the origin of popular scales.

For aircraft recognition in the Second World War, the RAF selected making models to the scale of “one-sixth inch to the foot” (which was two British lines, a legal division of length which didn’t make it to America, besides being a standard shipyard scale). Although some consumer models were sold pre-war in Britain to this scale, the airmens’ models were pressed out of ground-up old rubber tires. This is of course the still-popular “one-seventy-second size”.

It wasn’t predestined to succeed; there were competitors. The US Navy, in contrast, had metal models made to the proportion 1:432, which is “nine-feet-to-the-quarter-inch”. At this scale, a model six feet away looked as the prototype would at about half a statute mile; and at seven feet, at about half a nautical mile.

After the war, firms that moulded models from polystyrene entered the consumer marketplace, the American firm Revell notably offering a model of the Royal Coach around the time of the 1953 coronation. In the early years, firms offered models of aircraft and ships in “fit-the-box” size. A box that would make an impressive gift was specified, and a mould was crafted to make a model that wouldn’t ludicrously slide around inside. Modellers could not compare models, nor switch parts from one kit to another. It was the British firm Airfix that brought the idea of the constant scale to the marketplace, and they picked the RAF’s scale.

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