For the longest time I was addicted to GunPla.
GunPla is just short for Gundam Plastic, meaning Gundam Plastic model kit.
Those Japanese, they like to find short forms for everything ^_^

During that addiction period, I learned a few things about models and assembling models.
And now, I would like to pass this information onto you.
That, and it was requested by ^_^
I’m going to stick to what I know, and that’s Gundam models. Most of this stuff will apply to all plastic models, but any examples I use will be Gundam ones.

Once you remove the model from the box and bags that they were in, you’ll want to wash it.
Now, this really only applies if you plan on painting the kit.
But why wash it?
Simple, there’s a releasing agent on the plastic. This was used to release the plastic from the mold. However, this agent can also make it a little hard for the paint to stick to the plastic.
This could be done at virtually any stage of the assembly process.
And it’s nothing fancy, don’t have to break out the scrub brushes or anything.
Just find yourself a big bucket, fill it with warm water and dish soap, let it soak for a bit, then rinse it off.
You’ll actually feel the difference in the plastic.

There are some basic tools that you’ll want to have.
Sprue cutters.
metal files(narrow ones)
wet sandpaper
liquid glue

Sprue cutters are great for getting the pieces of the sprue. Sorry, nail clippers just don’t cut it(get it, cut? Moving on…). They don’t allow you to get far enough away from the piece.
With the cutters, you want to make sure that there’s some sprue left on the piece so that you can file it off later. If you cut too close or directly at the piece, you run the risk of damage.
The metal files are great because if you use sandpaper, you end up sanding more than just the sprue bit.

So now you have all the pieces off the sprue. Just snap them together right?
Sure, if you want gaps all over the place.
Even with snap together kits(and all Gundam kits are snap together) the tabs and slots aren’t perfect, or it won’t hold properly, and you’ll get movement at the seams.
Movement leads to gaps.
Gaps are ugly.
So, what to do? Glue it.
I use Mr. Cement, mostly because it’s a brush on glue and a whole let less messy than glue in a tube.
There’s also a thin brush glue, can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s good for after snapping the bits together.
See, you just dip the brush in the glue, and touch it to the seam, and the glue fills in the gaps.
Wicked cool.
The putty is also used to fill in gaps. I use the Tamaya grey putty. It’s thinnish and dries nicely.
Once it drys, you can sand it.

OK, I kinda covered this in the tools section, but let’s go over it again.
Cut the bits off the sprue with the cutters. Make sure not to cut too close to the piece itself.
Use the files to sand off the sprue bits.
Now, you can either trust that the tabs and slots are correct and slap the bits together, or you can trim off some of the tabs.
Using the glue, brush the glue to the flat bits of the pieces. Plop a little into the slots as well. That’ll make a nice strong fit.
Clamp the halfs together with the clamps you bought.
But wait!
You now have glue seeping out of piece. No worries, let it dry, then sand it off.
Once the glue is dry, and you’ve sanded off any excess, check the seams for gaps.
Sometimes the glue fills in the gaps(handy that) and sometimes it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, use the putty.
You shouldn’t need a lot of putty, so apply it with a hobby knife or something like it, and pretend you’re putting butter on toast.
Let this dry and then sand. I use a sand paper that’s designed to be wet. It leaves a very nice smooth finish.
I can’t remember the actual grit, but get a few, they’re cheap.
Also, cut the paper into smaller strips. They’re easier to manage.
After the sanding, you should have a nice part, gap free and ready to paint.
There is a thicker putty available, Miliput I think it’s called.
This is useful for actually filling in large gaps. Or molding parts. It’s a two part epoxy putty and it’s not great to use for smaller gaps.

There are a couple schools of thought on the best painting method.
I was never good with an airbrush, so I go with spray paint and manual painting.
Also, the spray technique is in question. I’ve seen some books where they do all the major painting right on the sprue. I haven’t tried that yet, but I can see it’s advantages.
Spray painting some parts after assembly can be tricky.
I think doing the base coat and major part colours on the sprue would save you a lot of time in the end.
Also try to stick to one paint company, and get normal paint the same as the spray. If you sand off any of the base, you can use the same to do the touch-up.
For paint brushes, I find that Citadel makes some fine brushes. I think they have a starter set with 5 brushes. That’s all I use.
Top coats can be useful for protecting the paint. I’ve used it only once, but the paint still looks good ^_^

So that’s it, I think I covered everything.
If you can, try and find some GunPla books, or Mooks as they’re called. Most of the ones I’ve seen are from Hobby Japan, which is a great model magazine.
The Mooks are all in Japanese, but they have some really good pictures that show you how to do everything I’ve described here.
I don’t know the exact one that I have, but here’s the ISBN:4894251728
It’s something like GunPla Master Vol1. Anyway, it’s a whole of 5 bucks(in Japan anyway) and shouldn’t cost you too much.
They’re great tools all by themselves.

But what if you want to begin with Gundam Models, what’s a good start?
There are plenty of different Grades out there, all at different levels of difficulty.
If you’re not sure if this is the right hobby for you, but want to try anyway, I would start with the HGUC line.
That’s High Grade Universal Century.
I have a few of these. They’re in the 1/144 scale, so a little small. But they have some really nice detail and look good all painted up. You won’t be disappointed.
They’re also cheap. I think they start at about $10/$15 each. Trust me, that’s cheap 😛

You could then move on to the Master Grade line. Little more expensive, but also a larger scale(1/100).
Oddly enough, it’s almost easier to work with these than the HGUC mostly because they attempt to incorporate the seam lines into the design of the model.
Meaning that the seams are on naturally occurring groves and the like, so you don’t have to work as hard to make them invisible.
They also have a lot of really cool and fun gimmicks, like properly jointed fingers, under panel detail, that kind of thing.
The largest so far(at least in plastic) is the PG or Perfect Grade kits.
These are expensive, but again a larger scale, 1/60.
I have two. And they cost me $120 and $145US each. I’ve put one together, and it’s amazing.
It’s hard to describe in words, but it just doesn’t match the smaller grades in detail and complexity.

So there you go.
That’s pretty much everything I know, and could remember, about GunPla.
Hope that’ll help ^_^

Edit: Panel Lines. That’s the phrase I was looking for last night. The Master Grade kits try to put the seams on Panel Lines, so they’re supposed to be there.
Doesn’t always work, but at least they’re trying.

I’m also considering doing some kind of quick video guide to this. Any interest in that?


  1. flying_squirrel

    Woot! Thanks.

    I’m not as big on the Gundam (mind you, if I ever find a Lumber Gundam, I’d be all over that), but most of the Japanese plastic models I’ve tried run along similar snap together rubber ball-socket joint lines. Which is cool.

    So yeah… now that I’ve officially given up on the novel, I think I’ll get back to building my Tachikoma soon. 😀

  2. sidekickca

    Yea, Bandai really set the standard for most of these robot kits, so they all pretty much work the same.

    Sorry to hear about the novel, maybe next year ^_^

    And I really want to get one of the Tach kits, they look rather good.
    Mind you, I only have about 20 other kits to build first !_!


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