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Build great scale models, Part 2

Gather your tools: It doesn't take much to get started
Published: February 7, 2014
Most of what you need to begin modeling will fit nicely on a TV tray or a small desktop — and you may have some of it in your household already, like the coat hanger that serves as a paint stand for this 1/25 scale AMT/Ertl 1949 Mercury. Clockwise from the car: white glue (for clear parts); super glue accelerator, super glue, and (don’t forget!) super glue debonder; sprue clippers; sanding sticks; small and large paintbrushes; hobby knife; assorted sandpaper in various grades; tweezers for tiny parts; a tube of styrene cement; and putty to fill seams.
Most expert modelers prefer an airbrush, but you can get good paint finishes with spray-can paint. No matter how you paint, wear a respirator mask to protect against irritating and/or toxic fumes.

Welcome to the world of scale modeling: This is the second of four articles introducing you to a great hobby.

In Part 1, we explained a little of the hobby’s history and the evolution of constant scale. In this installment, we’ll show you basic tools that will get you started on your first model.

Choose your model, and take it easy

By now you probably have a good idea of what you would like to build. Of course, that’s up to you. But here’s some advice: Keep the first one easy. Many kits are labeled with “skill level” or degree of difficulty indicated on the box. Or, you can read FineScale Modeler magazine Workbench Reviews, which almost always conclude with a recommendation of the appropriate expertise required to build that model.

In other words, take a few practice cuts before swinging away. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a simple model well built.

Basic tools and supplies

Other than a well-ventilated room with a stationary flat surface, you don’t need much to build a basic model kit; you can see the essentials in the picture above.

Speaking of ventilation, whether you are sanding plastic or spraying paint, an OSHA-approved respirator mask is recommended. Remember this rule: If you can smell it, you’re breathing it.

Three tips for immediate improvement
Properly used tools and techniques can improve your modeling right away. These three tips go a long way toward cleaner construction.
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Use clippers to cut (not twist) parts from the sprue (parts tree). Using the side clippers, cut as close as you can to the part. Be careful: Only cut excess plastic, not molded detail or locating pins.


Supplies checklist

  • White glue
  • Super glue
  • Super glue accelerator
  • Super glue debonder
  • Sanding sticks
  • Sprue cutter
  • Budget brushes
  • Hobby knife
  • Tweezers
  • Assorted sandpaper
  • Model cement
  • Filler putty
  • Paint set
  • Masking tape
  • Thinner
  • Scissors
  • Decal tweezers
  • Toothpicks
  • Clothespins
  • Rubber bands
  • Spray paint
  • Respirator mask

Up next, Part 3: Fundamental techniques for building better models.

Remember ...

When you subscribe to FineScale Modeler magazine, you can register at and have unlimited access to bonus features, more than 1,300 kit reviews, and a database of more than 13,000 products.

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5 stars
Good article , short and to the point...Unlike my rambling comments, keep up the good work.
5 stars
As someone who has not built any models (generally plastic planes, 1/32 Scale), I am finding these articles most helpful as they are not complex and easy to understand.

Keep up the good work.
4 stars
I find the tutorials on youtube etc very helpful. I am subscribed to FINE SCALE MODELER and look forward to my first issue next month.
3 stars
it is as it says, Basic information. I like it. and it is free. keep up the good work.
5 stars
FSM I think you are doing a good thing here. Although Bob Scott feels this article contains obvious information, I don't feel the information would be obvious to a person who is new and looking into the hobby. Additionally, I don't believe FSM was gearing this article towards those of us who are experienced.

Keep up the good work.
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