Building your first kit
Building your first plastic kit (or your 51st)
Building a plastic kit is fun and with a few tips, you can end up with a very nice model. Taking on board these tips will help you along the way, whether building your first kit or your 51st. Often the instructions give you a few tips too!
If you are in a hurry and haven’t built a kit before or it’s been a long time, have a look at these 9 points first. You may want to read the rest after.
When gluing clear parts, aircraft canopies, windscreens, headlamp and tail lamp glass use white craft glue NOT the solvent cement.
We recommend that you choose your workspace, gather some tools and consumables and get started. When you have got these organized have a look at some more of the tips and recommendations below. Happy modelling!
Choose a workspace
Find a suitable table or bench where you can work without too many interruptions or distractions. A comfortable chair or stool is a must and good lighting and ventilation is essential. Great if your workspace does not need to be cleared away each time as parts can get lost and models damaged. Often the best workspace is the kitchen table.
Gather some tools
A small number of modelling tools are essential and will make building much easier, quicker and give a better result. However you don’t need them all at once and you can easily add to them as you go.
Here is a list of basic modelling tools and what they do.
light duty modeller’s knife – cutting parts from runners, trimming parts to fit, scraping away plating and cutting decals. It has a very sharp blade that can be replaced, keeping it sharp. Also has a cover to keep you safe.
Don’t forget consumables
wet & dry abrasive papers – 400, 600, 800 1000 grit are useful for sanding, either wet or dry. A pencil rubber of the right size makes a great sanding block.
Plan your build
When you open your kit, look at the instructions (don’t be shy, they are the things that show you how to build it). Note the order of how it is put together. Sure you may not follow it exactly but just be careful as some parts must be assembled in a particular order.
Some parts you will need to let the glue dry first before they can be added to, so work out some other areas that you can go on with. Planning here means you will always have something to work on.
Match part numbers with the instructions before you remove them from the runners. Check that all parts are there and are not cracked or broken or poorly moulded.
Write notes on the instruction sheets to help you. Write in paint colours, assembly order, differences in LH & RH parts, upper & lower parts or inner & outer, what ever helps you with the build.
Identify parts that can be glued together as assemblies and then painted. This is easier than painting them individually. Other parts can be painted while still on the runners so they won’t get lost. Glue a scrap piece of runner to parts that are too small or are too awkward to hold, to make a handle for painting or fitting.
Painting? Never, before, during or after?
Yes, to all these. You don’t have to paint your model, but they look better if you do. Some models are best painted before assembly, some parts are best painted during assembly and some after you have put it all together. You will work it out when you look at the instructions and plan your build. See Modelling Tips -> Painting Your Model
Before you glue
From the instructions
make certain the parts to be glued are the right parts. Sometimes parts look right and fit but are not correct. For example, the wide inner rim on the rear wheel may fit the outer rim of the front wheel, but leaves a gap when fitted with the narrower front tyre. Spare wheels may have different hubs to those fitted on the front and rear axles.
make sure the part is the right way round. Cylinder heads, manifolds, wings, rudders and propellers can often fit both ways. Look at the illustrations, box photos, a photo of the real thing or the real thing (most of us have a full size F111, Panzer tank or Spitfire MKIIX in the backyard). Mark correct orientation with masking tape, pencil or a marker so you get it right when you glue it.
Dry fitting parts
Dry fit each part before you glue. Check how each part fits. Locating pins, locating holes, tabs and slots or special keyways sometimes don’t match up well. Pins can be too tight or too long, parts may not line up properly or there are gaps down one or more sides.
Fix these simply by drilling out locating holes, shorten or cut off locating pins, file locating tabs or slots. Make new pins or new tabs from Evergreen styrene rod or strip or use brass rod glued with CA as pins. These are all ways you can improve the fit of parts. You may have to use putty or filler pieces too!
broken, missing or poorly moulded parts or parts that are over scale, lack detail or are inaccurate can be replaced. You can make new or better, more accurate parts using brass rod or strip, styrene shapes or photo etch (brass etch) parts. You can add parts made from resin castings or parts built from scratch.
Plastic glues, Revell Contacta, Testors Liquid cement, Plastruct, Humbrol Poly are solvent based glues. They work by melting the plastic surfaces to be joined and make a strong weld or bond when the solvents dry (evaporate). You need only a small amount of glue applied with a toothpick, nozzle or a small brush. Often you use a small amount on one surface only and gently work the two parts together until they hold. They dry fairly quickly but still give time to adjust the position of parts.
Clear parts require special care. Use a white craft glue or Clearfix as these both dry clear. Use these glues for windscreens, canopies, headlights and tail lights, any part that needs to be clear. Solvents in other glues including CA fog up the clear parts and turn them milky white. Not real good if you want your model pilots and drivers to see.
Advanced modelling tools
As you gain experience and confidence with your building, you may want to add some more tools to your kit. Some we keep, some we don’t.
Dremel – hand held small power tool for grinding, cutting, shaping, drilling & polishing. 240V or cordless, your choice. Lots of attachments help you model.