[Episode 1] Proper Planning Part 1 – The Big Spreadsheet

[Updated 2002] I am re-issuing this post as part of starting my ‘do over’ – basically, a second attempt to build this kit to my desired standard (the body fitting together, etc.). I’ll make a few updates and improvement as we go along.

Firstly, let me admit that my preparation for these complex, expensive models is over the top. That said, it fundamentally provides me a way to document my research, and all my plans and ideas for the upcoming build. And I enjoy it.

My prep is mostly [re]done now for the 787B, so I will describe my approach – and explain the various documents created – in these blog posts. ALL the documentation I created during my prep (and continue to update) is avaiable on the Documentation page.

All of my prep is recorded in one Excel workbook, The Big Spreadsheet, and a few Visio files with my annotated version of the instructions, and other diagrams created from scratch.

The Big Spreadshheet begins with a list of of every part in every section on every page of the instructions, including the Decal Guide. For now, this is all based on the out-of-the-box instructions. WhiIe doing this, I also record the out-of-the-box paint colour specified for each part. Here is a sample of what that looks like:

You’ll see I have also cross-referenced this with the parts list from Page 5 of MFH’s instructions and the MFH website, and I have added in the ‘location’ of each part – which plastic bag it’s in, mostly.

So now I have a database, I can start to do some cooler things:

  • I can compare what’s in the instructions with what’s in the parts  list, and what is actually in the box. I was able to identify some missing parts: 4 x headlight bulbs, and replacements have been sent to me by MFH.
  • I can check that I understand what each part is, where it goes, and look for parts that don’t seem to go somewhere. Identifying parts can be tricky with the MFH kits as nothing is marked with a part number and most parts are seperate rather than on sprues. Along the way, I found a bunch of references in the instructions to things that weren’t supplied and in part this has led to MFH updating their instructons.
  • I can identify any extra parts (usually extra rivets) that I have as spares – this could be a life-saver later!

By the way, this time around, the kit arrived with NO missing parts. Instead, I added into my database a whole bunch of SPARE parts salvaged from my first build

One particluar thing I can do is annotate the instructions in a Visio file: now I can search for part numbers, add information, and have it all updated from the spreadsheet. Here is a trivial example where I have annotated with the part number and out-of-the-box colour code

…and a better example from my updated instructions or the right, as I found better ways of doing this in Visio. Yes, I can colour code the annotation to (something like) the correct paint colour!

In upcoming posts, I will write about really getting the use out of these documents – researching and recording the correct paint colours, adding extra detail, and ensuring parts can be fit successfully in later steps.

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