Here is the first in a series of articles on building scale models. Let’s start with the basics, selecting the right kit. The first, and most fundamental, thing is to pick something you like, that you are interested in. That way you will keep your motivation throughout the build process. If you pick, for example, a sci-fi model, but your interest is in military ships, but you buy the model ‘because it’s the only one they had’, or in your price range etc, then you will struggle to get motivation to start it, let alone finish it. The second important thing is the skill level of the kit. This varies between manufacturers – some have a better reputation for parts fitment than others. Do your research on these before purchasing your first kit. The last thing you want is to spend your money on a kit that becomes too difficult to complete, or you lose your motivation due to bad parts fitment. Don’t rush out and buy a kit that has all the bells and whistles as this will have an adverse affect, start with a basic model, with a low parts count.
So we are at the point where you have decided on the model subject, and selected the kit you are going to build, but what with? You need tools! This is where things can start getting expensive – as there are unlimited tools available for the model maker. But remember, we are starting at the beginning with the basics. You need some cutters to remove the parts, a sharp knife or file to trim the parts, glue to hold it all together, and a paintbrush (or variety) for, obviously, painting. Next you will need some paints and appropriate thinners to clean your paintbrush.
Don’t try to rush the process of building your model, you are more likely to make mistakes that way, and not enjoy it. This is a hobby at the end of the day – you are meant to enjoy it. So now it’s time to start. You have your model, you have your tools, and you have your paints. You may have seen this kit that other people have built. The last thing you want to do is try to copy them, or compare your work with theirs. This will only lead to frustration and negativity if the results you get don’t look as good. It doesn’t matter, your enjoyment and satisfaction in what you have done is the only important thing.
So let’s get to work. Start off by studying the instructions, and finding the parts on the sprues. Familiarise yourself with how the manufacturer has drawn the diagrams, and instructs you to put it all together. Go through the whole manual so you are familiar with it, and how each section fits together. If you follow the instructions step-by-step you shouldn’t run into too many difficulties, but you need to understand what they want you to do before you put the glue to it. Once you are familiar with the instructions, take each section at a time. You will likely find that each section has a number of parts in it. It is generally recommended that you wash all the parts before you start. When they are made, a release agent is used to easily take the parts out of the moulds. You want to remove this, as it can stop the glue and paint sticking correctly. Use warm soapy water for this, and rinse it off properly. Don’t use hot water as this can distort the plastic. Normal dish washing soap is fine for this.
Any parts that become one structure, such as an engine block, can be assembled before painting. Other, smaller parts, you may find easier to paint while still on the sprue. Carefully cut the parts off the sprue with either a pair of side cutters or a sharp knife. The use either the knife or file to smooth the point of removal. You are then ready to glue. There are a variety of glues available, but we will assume you are using basic polystyrene cement. This glue works by melting the plastic parts together creating a strong weld. This glue only works properly if the parts are clean and free of grease and paint. Before applying any glue, check how the parts fit together (dry fit) as a test run so you are familiar with any attachment points that require glue, and how to fit the parts. This will prevent any mistakes being made by having to redo after gluing.