Thursday, September 6, 2012

Scale Modeling: My Pre-Build Ritual.

Before embarking in any project, it would be best to develop your own pre-build system or ritual which can be consistently practiced before the build proper. This is to ensure that you consistently start things right every time to avoid unnecessary delays/frustrations to an otherwise enjoyable build.  The ritual actually starts even before removing pieces from the sprue and gluing them together.

1.         Inventory
sample Kit Box with fully packed content
a.         Open your kit box in your work station ideally with the table clear from other ongoing projects.  This should be opened carefully as loose pieces or literature in the box may fall out and get lost.

b.         Examine the individually packed contents noting the removal sequence of the plastic packs. This has more to do with your ease later on of putting back all these parts in the box every after build session. Manufacturers usually manages to fit a lot of plastic into a small box and you’ll be surprised that you can’t put it all back in the box if stuff it all back haphazardly. The bottom-line is these parts may get lost, disfigured or broken if not stored back properly every time.

c.         Examine all the parts in the sprues, decals and other items one at time as you might send the kit back for replacement with a discovery of badly deformed, broken, missing parts or poorly printed or missing decals.

d.         Review the instruction sheet or booklet.  These will have a list or diagram on what should be in the box. This should be checked against actual box content as soon as you purchase the kit as it may be difficult to have a faulty or incomplete kit replaced if it has been with you for a long time.

2.         General Planning.
sample Accurate Armour  scale models  kit supplied
with  full building and finishing instructions
a.         Go over the instructions, the box illustrations and your own reference images and have for yourself a mental picture on how the model kit would look like once completed. I believe the best initial blueprint of your build is how you would like the kit look like in your mental eye.

b.         Ideally and with a simpler kit, it is best to follow the manufacturer's instructions based on the manual inside the box.  With more complex kits and a more experienced modeler, one can always deviate from the suggested steps.  Build sequence deviation maybe due to several factors such as painting considerations (some prefer to paint a fully assembled kit or kit sections before full assembly, etc.), anticipation of steps which can be independently done, leaving out smaller details attachment (ammunition and ammunition boxes, lights, grab handles, etc.) near the end to avoid the risk of them being broken off, etc.

c.         Make notations on the instructions itself as a personal guide on your preferred plan of action.

d.         Mapping out your plan of action may it be strictly based on the manufacturer’s instruction or with preferred deviations will help you anticipate not only the steps but also material you will need to proceed.  It can be special tools, additional decals to look for or printed, paint materials, additional styrene rods, diorama materials, additional reference materials, etc.. Doing so at the onset will save you a lot of build time.

3.         Deciding on the Options
Take note of build options found in the kit literature or based on your research or preference. Making these choices now will help you identify early on any additional tools, parts, materials, paints or even additional research needed, etc.

a.          decals  or markings- alternate decals indicating different vehicles in a unit.
tank paint schemes from
b.         Paint schemes- which may identify vehicles fought in different theatres of war for example, or the racing team of a race car.

c.         Presentation build options- cockpit open or closed, aircraft undercarriage up or down, wing flaps up or down, engine cowlings on or off. Etc. 
M113A3 Armored Personnel Carrier from

d.         Vehicle version options- alternate parts can spell the difference among versions of the same basic vehicle type.  A military tank for example can be build as several versions of the same  type (M113A1, A2 or A3 models, etc.) by interchanging turrets, fuel tanks and other parts which will be complemented by different paint schemes that goes with the version.

e.         Out-of-the-Box options- one can go out-of-the-box and NOT follow manufacturers’ options. It can be as simple as using the kit itself as a “base” to build on whatever version you saw in your research not necessarily based on the kit instructions only the success of which is dependent of course on the modelers skill level. Aftermarket accessories can be sourced out to bring out the preferred version which can be as simple as changing tank tracks or to go super-detailing by replacing parts with those offered by after-market suppliers or even scratch built by the modeler. 

f.          Display options. Your plan on how to present your finished kits can be considered even in this planning stage. This can be done as stand alone on a simple base or as part of a diorama with figures, scenery, other models, etc.

4.         Washing
a.         This last step is done just before starting the build. Parts straight from the box may be thinly coated with chemicals used in removing the parts from the moulds during production-same chemicals which can resist certain glues, fillers and paints if not removed.
b.         A simple wash can be done using warm soapy water gently applied on each part with a soft brush, rinsed well with clean warm water and then air dried.
c.         Caution should be applied with this simple procedure to assure that no parts will be lost (small parts can easily break off with vigorous brushing!) and will literally go down the drain during washing and rinsing.  As an added pre caution, I usually place over the sink drain those simple small netted sink strainers which can catch these misplaced parts.

5.         Start building! Enjoy!



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