How to Build a Vinyl Model Kit

Written by gary powl
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Vinyl figure model kits were popular among hobbyists in the 1990s, with a range of characters available from companies such as Horizon, GEOmetric Design, Screamin', Revell, AMT and Billiken. Production of the kits stopped in the early 2000s but they are still widely available from hobby stores and online auctions. The process of assembling a vinyl model kit is different from, and probably easier than, assembling a plastic model.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Heat source (blow dryer or hot water)
  • Hobby knife with fresh blade
  • Super glue or five-minute epoxy
  • Model putty
  • Sandpaper
  • Filler
  • Primer, not enamel-based
  • Paint

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  1. 1

    Wash off the mould release residue with dish soap or a cleanser. Give the parts a good scrubbing with the cleaner and toothbrush; rinse and let dry.

  2. 2

    Heat each part to make it pliable enough to cut off surplus vinyl. If the model is in its original packaging, the instructions probably indicate what should be trimmed. If using a blow dryer, aim the blower at the part for about 30 seconds. If using hot water, submerge the part for at least 30 seconds.

    Cut off the excess vinyl with a sharp hobby knife. If cutting becomes difficult after working a while, simply reheat the part and continue.

  3. 3

    Use heat to repair misshapen parts if necessary. Warm a part to make it flexible, work it back to its proper shape with your hands, then allow it to cool.

  4. 4

    Fill the lower parts of the kits (legs and feet) with a heavy material such as plaster or water putty. This gives the model more stability. Mix the material in a cup, pour it into the kit parts and allow to dry. Fill the upper body with a lighter material such as plastic grocery sacks, foam packing peanuts or newspaper, which you can push into place with an unsharpened pencil or similar tool.

  5. 5

    Apply a thin coat of super glue or five-minute epoxy and hold the parts together until they bond. They should adhere well enough to release them within a few seconds. Applying too much glue will prevent proper adhesion.

  6. 6

    Fill visible seam lines and gaps. Tube putties (for example Testors or Squadron Green Putty) work great for repairing small flaws; two-part epoxy putties (for example, Aves Apoxie Sculpt or Wonder Putty) allow kit builders to address larger problems.

  7. 7

    Apply a primer to prepare the model for painting. Two to three light coats should be sufficient. After spraying on the primer, check out the model once more to see if the coating has revealed seam lines or other flaws that were not visible before. If more putty needs to be applied, use sandpaper to remove the primer before making the repair, then reprime.

  8. 8

    Paint the kit.

Tips and warnings

  • Vinyl model kit parts are hollow and may distort or sag over time, particularly in hot temperatures. Filling the parts before assembly will prevent this.
  • The legs and feet of many vinyl model kits are cast as one piece, so it's not difficult to fill the entire lower body with one quick pour of plaster or water putty.
  • Make sure parts are dry before filling them.
  • Enamel-based primers and paints will not dry properly on vinyl model kits, so make sure to check the label before applying. Most "sandable" primers work well on vinyl.
  • It is possible to put an enamel-based paint over the primer on a vinyl model, but beginners should consider inexpensive, easy-to-use craft acrylic paints. Seal with a matt lacquer to protect the paint and give it a more realistic finish.
  • Parents should supervise children building these models.
  • Do not use a dull blade or neglect to heat parts before trimming excess vinyl to avoid cutting yourself.

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