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Building a Tamiya model kit

A coworker called me in a panic on Valentine’s Day. He’d bought some Tamiya model kits for his son, and quickly found they were in over their head. Would I build them for them?

I finally got started today.

The first thing I did was clean the sprues. I sprayed them with Simple Green, rinsed, and dries them with a hair dryer. This gets rid of the remaining oil residue from the manufacturing process.

Next, I sprayed the sprues down with primer. I used cheap, store-brand gray primer that costs less than $1.25. It makes the paint stick better, and brings out the detail. I think this makes it easier to assemble them, frankly. Shiny plastic obscures where everything’s supposed to go.

I then painted where necessary with acrylic paints. I always use acrylic. It cleans up easily, and doesn’t react with the primer and cause it to lift. There’s nothing worse than watching your paint job bubble away. Painting before assembly is necessary because you won’t reach details afterward. And if you paint before assembly, you won’t glue your hand to your model either. A little paint will peel off and your hand is free.

For assembly, it’s mostly a matter of following each step, one at a time, as slowly as you have to. I’m using a gel-type super glue for fast drying time, and to eliminate the possibility of modling my fingerprints into the model. I do as much assembly as I can with the main piece on the sprue for as long as practical, as that makes it much easier to handle.

It’s been a long time, so this isn’t a museum-quality build by any stretch, but I think it looked pretty good. We’ll see what he thinks tomorrow.

3 thoughts on “Building a Tamiya model kit”

  1. I build models as an obsession (I mean hobby!) and Tamiya kits are well known for their high quality molds and excellent fit. They’re called “Shake and Bake” kits by many, and people claim you can build one just by putting the glue and paint into the box and shaking until done. Building one WELL, however, requires patience and some skill. Dry fitting the pieces before applying the glue helps tremendously.

    I trust you scrape off the paint on the areas that need to be glued prior to assembly, or the joints will never be that strong. CA glues can certainly be used, but are you aware that CA glues have terrible shear strength? Better would be a MEK type glue, and reserve the CA for dissimilar materials, like photo etch or resin. CA glues can also fog (usually irreparably) clear styrene, like aircraft canopies. I use the Tamiya Super Thin cement, and it welds the joints. Tenax is another brand that works equally well. MEK is also available in some hardware store, or through suppliers of plastics and acrylics at a fraction of the cost of the hobby store brands. Adequate ventilation is important, as this stuff eats brains like zombies do.

    Another hint is to use Woolite (models be considered delicates) instead of Simple Green for washing the sprues. The mold release oils don’t require the strength that Simple Green does, and occasionally leaves a residue that resists paint and primer. Simple Green can REMOVE a bad paint job completely. Depending on which acrylics you use, an ammonia based window cleaner like Windex is terrific, and is often less expensive than the Simple Green is.

    I hope your friend and his son don’t give up and try again with a simpler kit. The Revell aircraft kits are very decent, though lacking in some details, and have the additional benefit of being cheaper than the Tamiya kits usually are. They can still be built into “museum” quality kits, with judicious application of perseverance and patience.

    Have you considered having the son come over to observe, learn and try his hand again?

    1. Another coworker used to own a hobby shop, and he suggested the same thing. But he’s just not interested. Maybe when the son gets a little older and it’s his idea…

      I’ve weighed the pros and cons of CA vs. MEK, and given the conditions here, I’m willing to put up with CA’s poor shear strength. As hectic as this household is with two really little boys, the precautions necessary to use MEK would pretty much preclude building anything at all.

  2. Models be considered delicates? Arrrr, is it time to talk like a pirate day, yet? Sure wish your comments could be edited by the poster! 😀

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