BEST OUT OF YOUR MODEL KIT
A guide for the novice or returning model builder
Making models from construction kits remains one of the
most absorbing, satisfying and inexpensive hobbies around. But for many faced
with a kit for the first time, the thought of applying glue and paint to a
jigsaw of plastic, wooden or metal parts can be daunting.
What follows are some basic hints to ease initial jitters
and help you achieve a better result, whether you are returning to the hobby
after a 20 year layoff, or a total kit building novice.
In preparing this leaflet we have assumed that you are
building your kit without modification from the instructions
1 Preparation and common sense
a room with plenty of natural light. Keep your work area well lit in the
evenings to avoid eye strain.
on a solid flat surface.
any furniture from knife cuts, glue spills and paint splashes with an effective
somewhere to store modelling tools that is safe from prying hands.
using paint and glue always work in a well ventilated area
using solvent based materials it may be advisable to wear a face mask.
is also advisable when using cutting tools to wear some form of eye protection.
using modelling knives always keep your hand behind the cutting edge and cut
away from you.
a small first aid kit on hand.
very young children and pets out of your modelling area at all times.
_ ALWAYS REMAIN CALM. If you hit a problem you
can't solve walk away and return to it later.
2 Tools and materials
2a Basic tools:
cutters. Essential for cutting parts off sprue runners cleanly and much safer
than using a craft knife.
tweezers for picking up and fitting small parts.
file for filing and smoothing rough edges off material.
knife. The type with a retractable replaceable blade is safer for young and
and fine wet 'n dry paper-for sanding down and finishing off join lines.
_ Scissors. For cutting decals prior to applying.
2b Adhesives and materials:
cement. Nowadays this comes with a needle applicator to make committing glue to
plastic much easier. This actually welds plastic parts together to form a bond
through solvent action.
Useful for adding strength to small parts, and for joining materials other than
plastic. Not advisable for overall kit assembly as it has no tensile strength.
On no account use it for joining clear parts as it 'fogs' clear plastic
glue. Excellent alternative adhesive for clear parts such as cockpit canopies
as it dries clear and fog free. Can also be used as a gap filler.
filler. Helps fill any wide gaps often found when assembling a kit originally
tooled many years ago. Can be sanded smooth when dry.
_ Masking tape. For masking demarcation lines when
painting, covering clear parts to avoid paint spills and for helping secure
larger parts when gluing or test fitting. Tamiya kabuki tape is usually the
best as it is virtually leakproof.
based. Thinned using white spirit or thinners. Generally takes longer to dry
but dries hard when cured.
water based, thinned using water or alcohol based thinners. Quicker drying but
thinner in consistency thus needing more coats. Generally more suitable for the
white spirit or enamel thinners for enamels, alcohol/water based for acrylics.
_ Most model kits usually have their own paint codes
listed on the box.
best results buy on quality rather than on price.
tend to be marked on the brush handle. A 000 for small detail painting, sizes 1
and 2 for general work, plus size 2 chisel edge for camouflage painting will
cover most eventualities.
_ For larger scale models a size 4 chisel edge may be
2e Other useful stuff:
emery boards for filing sanding. Can be begged/borrowed off female members of
plastic Chinese takeaway cartons. Very useful for storing assemblies when
drying or loose parts than have become detached as well as storing spare parts
or decals. (Don't forget to wash well before use or your model may acquire a
sweet 'n sour aroma)
sticks. For applying glue in small areas, stirring paint, securing models in
transit and a host of other uses.
Really versatile stuff. Put a blob on a cocktail stick and it makes painting
small parts much easier. Rolled out into thin strips and applied to a model
before painting it makes excellent camouflage demarcation lines.
Kleer. The cheapest modelling varnish you can buy. Glossing a model with Kleer
after painting acts as a solid base for decals. It's also good for dipping
clear parts to make them even clearer.
medium sized clear plastic bag. Hold sprues inside while cutting off parts. Any
part that flies off stays in the bag. Avoids losing that vital part in the
carpet and bringing your project to a grinding halt.
towel or rags. For cleaning brushes and general wiping duties.
jam jar lids and aerosol tops make excellent painting pots and mixing palettes
_ Halfords acrylic primer - grey or white. Priming
plastic helps key the final coat of paint and helps you check for uneven
surfaces or blemishes.
3 Getting Started
_ What kit am I going to build,? Have I got a interest in
this type of model? Have I got the
experience or patience for this kit? The internet is an extremely useful
reference tool for the modelmaker, it
enables you to research the model you have purchased and will enable to make
the correct choice of paint or decals. Avoid rushing home, ripping open the box
and committing glue to the parts. It pays to familiarise yourself with the
contents and assembly sequence first. Read through the instructions and check
the parts against the exploded diagrams. This will give you a much better idea
of the assembly sequence.
4 Pre-assembly tips
plastic parts in warm soapy water before painting and assembling, and let them
dry on a bed of kitchen towel. Washing helps remove mould release agent that
may still be sticking to the parts and
ensures that paint will take to the plastic. Wooden parts should be trimmed and
sanded and metal parts should be rust free and have any sharp edges removed.
_ It's advisable to paint any small parts prior to main
assembly as this may be difficult to do when the model is complete.
parts off the sprues or out of the templates as required as you assemble using
your sidecutters or modelling knife.
up any rough areas of material using a file or wet 'n dry paper or carefully
trim with your modelling knife.
fit each part as you go to check for ease of fit before committing glue to
part. Keep the box art or pictures of the subject being modelled to help you.
parts such as wing halves or box sections on tanks can be taped together to
check for fit..
glue sparingly along the surfaces to be joined leaving a clean gap along the
outer edges for the glue to expand under pressure. Do not wipe any excess or
spills at this stage.
lines can be hidden by sanding gently until eliminated. Any large gaps can be
filled using model filler sanded down, or PVA glue between large panel areas.
_ Some small and clear parts can be left off until final
painting is complete.
6 Final painting
the size of brush appropriate to the area to be covered
using paint directly out of the tin. Thin using the proper thinner for the type
of paint (see section above on paint). Thin down to the consistency of
somewhere between milk or single cream.
and brush in one direction to avoid marks and avoid overfilling the brush to
eliminate spills. Two enamel coats will produce a good finish, two to three for
acrylics. Let each coat dry thoroughly before reapplying, overnight preferably.
sanded areas are best primed. Either brush a matt grey or white colour over the
sanded areas or use Halfords acrylic primer spray. If you are under 14 you must
get an adult to do this for you. Whatever your age spray in a well ventilated
area such as a garage doorway. It advisable to wear a mask as well.
demarcation lines, such as top and bottom camouflage colours on aircraft are
best masked off using masking tape.
frames on aircraft can be painted using masking tape. Run tape either side of the
frame lines section by section, painting the frame lines as you go.
_ Many warship hulls can be finished using Halfords grey
primer and red oxide. Cars can also be finished using Halfords spray paint just
like the real thing. Note the safety rules mentioned earlier for under 14's.
7 Decalling and finishing
desired, gloss coat the model first with Johnsons Kleer.
each decal into individual sections and soak in warm water for about ten
seconds. Move the decal gently off the backing paper and slide into position on
the model. Use a small paintbrush to help position the decal.
airbubbles and imperfections by gently pressing down on the decal with a small
cloth or kitchen paper. Then let dry.
_ Finish off by varnishing - most military subjects need
a matt coat. This can be brushed on but also can be sprayed. Mask off or leave
clear parts off until after this has been done. Gloss or satin finshes can be
achieved by finishing with Johnsons Kleer.
8 Right, I'm hooked. What
newsagents magazine racks for hobby magazines. These have a wealth of kit
reviews, hints and tips plus details of what's on the market.
out a few modelling websites - Hyperscale, Missing-Lynx, ARC and Armourama are worth visiting
out modelling books that provide basic instruction in kit building
_ Come to one of our club nights - check out our website www.northantsmodelmakers.org.uk for
dates. You'll find a lot of encouragement to help you on your way.
Whatever you do, this hobby is inexpensive, and it's fun.
Our thanks go to Bedford and District Scale Model Club for
allowing us to use and adapt these hints and tips.