GETTING THE 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 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
- Choose a room with plenty of natural light. Keep your work area well lit in the evenings to avoid eye strain.
- Work on a solid flat surface.
- Protect any furniture from knife cuts, glue spills and paint splashes with an effective protective covering.
- Find somewhere to store modelling tools that is safe from prying hands.
- When using paint and glue always work in a well ventilated area
- If using solvent based materials it may be advisable to wear a face mask.
- It is also advisable when using cutting tools to wear some form of eye protection.
- When using modelling knives always keep your hand behind the cutting edge and cut away from you.
- Keep a small first aid kit on hand.
- Keep very young children and pets out of your modelling area at all times.
- Stay patient. If you hit a problem you can't solve walk away and return to it later.
2 Tools and materials
2a Basic tools:
- Side/sprue cutters. Essential for cutting parts off sprue runners cleanly and much safer than using a craft knife.
- Thin tweezers for picking up and fitting small parts.
- Needle file for filing and smoothing rough edges off plastic.
- Craft knife. The type with a retractable replaceable blade is safer for young and novice modellers.
- Medium 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:
- Polystyrene 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.
- Superglue/cyanoacrylate. 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
- PVA 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.
- Model 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.
- Enamels-oil based. Thinned using white spirit or thinners. Generally takes longer to dry but dries hard when cured.
- Acrylics-generally water based, thinned using water or alcohol based thinners. Quicker drying but thinner in consistency thus needing more coats. Generally more suitable for the younger modeller.
- Thinners-either white spirit or enamel thinners for enamels, alcohol/water based for acrylics.
- Airfix and Revell kits usually have their own paint codes listed on the box.
- For best results buy on quality rather than on price.
- Sizes 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 worth considering.
2e Other useful stuff:
- Medium/fine emery boards for filing sanding. Can be begged/borrowed off female members of the family.
- Clear 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)
- Cocktail sticks. For applying glue in small areas, stirring paint, securing models in transit and a host of other uses.
- Blu-Tak. 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.
- Johnsons 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.
- A 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.
- Kitchen towel or rags. For cleaning brushes and general wiping duties.
- Old jam jar lids. Make excellent painting 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
- Avoid rushing home, ripping open the box and committing glue to plastic. 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
- Wash the 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.
- It's advisable to paint any small parts prior to main assembly as this may be difficult to do when the model is complete.
- Cut parts off the sprues as required as you assemble using your sidecutters.
- Clean up any rough plastic using a file or wet 'n dry paper or carefully trim with your modelling knife.
- Dry fit each part as you go to check for ease of fit before committing glue to plastic. Keep the box art or pictures of the subject being modelled to help you.
- Large parts such as wing halves or box sections on tanks can be taped together to check for fit..
- Run 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.
- Join 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
- Use the size of brush appropriate to the area to be covered
- Avoid 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.
- Try 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.
- Any 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.
- Any demarcation lines, such as top and bottom camouflage colours on aircraft are best masked off using masking tape.
- Canopy 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 off
- If desired, gloss coat the model first with Johnsons Kleer.
- Cut 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.
- Eliminate 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 next?
- Check WH Smith magazine racks for hobby magazines. These have a wealth of kit reviews, hints and tips plus details of what's on the market.
- Check out a few modelling websites - Hyperscale, Missing-Lynx, ARC and Armourama are worth visiting
- Seek out modelling books that provide basic instruction in kit building
- Come to one of our club nights - check out our website www.bedfordmodelclub.co.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. So enjoy!