Plastic Model Making Tips

Written by gary powl
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Plastic Model Making Tips
The first consideration before building a model kit is the subject. Beginners should choose a model that suits their skill level. (model aeroplane image by Julija Sapic from

Building a plastic model kit can be a relaxing, creative pastime or an exercise in frustration, depending on the hobbyist’s skill level and tools available. Beginners should be aware of a few considerations and gather all the necessary equipment before sitting down at the kitchen table to build a model. Doing so can lead to hours of tension-relieving activity ending in a scale model car, plane or monster to happily display. Failure to do say may end with an expensive, incomprehensible gathering of small plastic parts haphazardly stuck to each other.

Start with something simple

The expensive model spaceship in the big box on the top shelf, with a sticker on the front boasting 150 parts, generally is not for the first-time model builder. Beginners should seek models made for them, which come in smaller packages and cost a lot less. They can be found in hobby shops, thrift stores, Internet auctions and sometimes in large discount stores. Examine the packaging to find out the kit’s skill level and age range before buying.

Wash the parts

Plastic model kits will have residues from the manufacturing process that can cause problems with painting. Before starting work, scrub the plastic parts with a toothbrush and dish soap to remove the residues. Allow the kit to dry thoroughly before continuing work.

Read the instructions

The instruction sheets that come with models are written and illustrated by people who have been through the process of building and painting the kit. They know what every part is for and the problems that can arise if they’re not attached at the right time. Even expert kit builders should look them over before going to work.

Use the necessary tools

Use a small pair of wire cutters or a similar tool to remove the model’s parts from the sprues. A sharp hobby knife is essential to trim excess plastic and for other tasks. Fine-grade sandpaper will make rough surfaces smooth. A decent selection of paintbrushes is essential for painting large areas or fine details.

Select the proper glue

Styrene cements cause a chemical reaction in a model kit’s plastic parts, temporarily melting the parts where they connect and creating a powerful bond. Nontoxic cements are available if fumes are a concern and they are particularly good for young hobbyists. More hazardous brush-on welding cements create a stronger, nearly seamless seal.

Use the proper paints

Unless familiar with airbrushing, beginners generally should use a combination of spray and brush-on paints. Spray paints will work best for the exteriors of models such as cars to mimic the smooth finish of real vehicles. Brush-on paints are good for vehicle interiors and figure kits. Inexpensive craft acrylic paints are available in many colours at craft stores and work well on models.

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