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Handy tips for model building

Things I’ve found out along the way

I’ve been building models most of my life. Some big, some small. At this point, I have built 60 1/43rd models for myself and others. One thing I have learned is that many useful things can be found outside of normal hobby channels that make my life easier and more economical.  Herewith some handy tips for model building.


dupicolor primer Handy tips for model buildingI routinely use Tamiya spray paint for my models. While I have had used airbrushes many times over the years, buying and mixing paint is often expensive and storage can be a problem. It’s not always easy to obtain the color mix you want without great experimentation and copious amounts of leftover paint never to be used again.

One of the ways I’ve saved some cash is to bypass Tamiya primers and use automotive spray primers. They are available in larger cans in many colors and can be easily found at your local auto parts stores. I like Duplicolor primer. The spray heads give you a fine and even mist while covering very well.

I always have white, grey and black primers on hand to compliment whatever shade of top coat I’ll use. They are lacquer-based and work well with both enamels and lacquers. They generally cost less than the small cans of Tamiya primer too!

Mounting mirrors the easy way

modeling clay Handy tips for model buildingOne of the hardest things that I do when building a model is mounting the mirrors without going crazy. It’s hard to hold those small mirrors steady while waiting for glue to dry. I found a really good, cheap and easy way to do it.

Try using non-drying modeling clay to hold the mirrors in place. Available in most craft stores and/or art stores, the clay can be formed into any shape and can be used over and over. I usually form a larger piece of clay into a Z shape, with a heft piece forming the base. The clay base will stick to most surfaces and stay in place. Just slightly embed the side of the mirror into the clay at the top. While the clay probably won’t do damage to your decals, etc., it’s best to keep the middle piece of the Z slightly away from your model. Leave the mirror in place until the glue has dried and then slowly and carefully pull the clay away from the mirror.

You’ll get the hang of this pretty easily.

I’ve also found that the clay makes a nice way to hold many model pieces while painting them. I use this for steering wheels and the like. The clay rarely sticks to a piece after the piece is removed. If it does, it’s pretty easy to get any residue off.

Keep it clean!

latex gloves Handy tips for model buildingThe easiest way to mess up a model is to have dirty hands. Fingerprints can embed themselves in paint or pull off loose decals. The solution to this is fairly easy.

Powder-free latex gloves. Available in a wide array of colors and sizes, they will fit your hands snugly. Generally made for a single use in food handling or medical use, when modeling that’s not an issue and so can be re-used. After you pull them off your hand, they will go inside-out. Simply put your hand back into the glove and pull the glove off again. Inside in and ready for another and another use until sullied by paint or it finally rips.

I use them for general model handling and also while spray-painting models. Keeps your hands clean in this use.

Available in boxes of 100 online and in beauty supply stores. Should you have a latex allergy, vinyl gloves are useful as well, but repeated use is somewhat harder as they rip easily.

Keeping it together

5 minute epoxy Handy tips for model buildingThis one is commonly found in hobby shops, but sometimes also can be found in craft stores.

Most folks who build models use 5 minute epoxy or superglue. I prefer epoxy because you can adjust parts while they are drying and also like that you can generally pry things apart if you have made a mistake or the like.

I only occasionally use superglues because of the short working time you have after the application of glue. However, where ultimate strength of the bond is important, I will use slow drying superglues.

My favorite epoxy is the Zap Z-Poxy brand. It works well every time. The cost is reasonable and the 2-part epoxy lasts for many, many models. Don’t forget to stock up on toothpicks for applying the glue. I use coated cardboard stock to mix the epoxy on. Hint: USPS Priority mail letter envelopes are free and are perfect for mixing epoxy. simply cut the envelopes up into many smaller pieces. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone….

So there you go….

These handy tips for model building should save you some money, keep your models and hands clean and make the building process somewhat easier. You’re welcome.

For more great modeling ideas, click here.

For even more model fun, click here.

The rest is gravy, so click here.