Guide to Assembling Models

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It's always been hard to teach people how to assemble their little plastic men via 4chan thread. Good guides eventually auto-sage into Archive obscurity. Copy-pastas better, but not enough. Freshly-minted fa/tg/uys have always had to go elsewhere to find teachers for how to make models. BUT NOW, those days are over! Introducing the...

1d4chan Guide to Assembling Models!

Now you too can learn how assemble any models you buy, for any game system! Impress your gaming friends, the people at your local FLGS, and maybe even your parents by assembling crisp and clean models! Make mind-boggling customs that will make people online swear blind that you bought a professional commission! Or maybe you just want to learn how to make your models look like they aren't melting and crystallizing at the same time. Luckily, our guide can teach you all of this, and more!

This Guide is the result of aggregating resources from all over the Net: personal blogs, manufacturers' websites, and many many WIP threads. The Guide is roughly ordered based on the order of operations that one goes through when assembling kit models. The Customization section is even more roughly ordered than the rest of the guide.

Preparing Parts[edit]

Due to the importance of removing Sprue, Flash, and Mould Lines, very few (if any) models should be painted while still on their sprues.

Removing Sprue[edit]

Most plastic kit models made today (and many from yesteryear) come on flat Sprues. Sprue is a term for any large chunks of material which are attached to the model when you first get it, but which are not intended to be a part of the model.

Plastic sprues are roughly flat plastic scaffolds, which contain many model parts suspended within them. Sprues primarily exist due to how moulding plastic models works, but also help in shipping model kits safely to shops. They are an old invention, and have been serving modeling communities of all stripes well for over half a century. Metal and resin models also have sprues, though they look different. Metal sprues are generally small, flat tabs of metal which jut off of the model, but are not always connected to each other. Metal sprue will generally all share one or two geometric planes. Resin sprue generally looks like a large wedge-shaped block. It may have some words raised or embossed onto it, either the manufacturing name of the model or the name of the manufacturer.

Removing parts from the sprue they came in is a simple task, most of the time. For plastic sprue, use a pair of generic hobby clippers to snip the connections between the bulk of the sprue and the model. While this may seem simple, there are two complications: damaging your model's surface, and excessively detailed parts. The first issue is created by taking your clippers, bringing the flat edge right up to the model, and clipping off the sprue right where it connects to the model. This may create pits in the surface of your model, which you will not be able to file away (without further harming surrounding details on the model's surface). To avoid damaging the model's surface, clip the sprue off such that a small bit of sprue remains on the model (only 1mm or less). You should use a hobby file to carefully sand down the small bump of sprue until it is contiguous with the rest of the model's surface details. This can also be done by whittling away the sprue with a hobby knife.

Removing Flash[edit]

While this artifact of the casting process is less common nowadays, it's still valuable to know how to clean it off your models. Flash is the result of the material used to make a model oozing into the space between the two halves of its mould during casting. It looks like a paper-thin membrane that juts out of the model. Flash often merges with mould lines, since flash is modeling material breaching its way through the seam in the two mould halves. Speaking of mould lines...

Removing Mould Lines[edit]

Mould Lines are small, thin, raised lines which run across the surface of a model. They can be clearly identified by looking for a continuous running line which does not match up with other model details. They occur when the two halves of the mould aren't perfectly aligned before casting. Mold lines are to be removed via scraping with a hobby knife, sandpaper, or files. All three are viable options, and your choice of tool come down to preference. What your desired result should be is anything you do not want on the final model not being present, as the painting process will make mould lines very visible, ruining otherwise perfect work.

Cleaning[edit]

Assembly[edit]

Instructions[edit]

Follow them. It's possible (even likely) that your model has parts that will not fit if they aren't applied before other parts.

Pinning[edit]

If your model is metal and has large parts, you'll want a stronger bond than mere glue. Pinning a join requires drilling two holes in the faces of the join and inserting a metal rod, such as a length of paperclip, to reinforce the join. The pin will support the weight of any parts that might scoff at mere glue and think about breaking up with the rest.

Gluing[edit]

Unless your model is snap-fit or push-fit, you're probably going to need some sort of adhesive to stick the parts together. Regular old white school glue won't cut it here, so you'll need something beefier. There are glues engineered for adhering plastic, metal, and resin, so you'll need one that works for your kit.

Different Materials[edit]

Some models have parts made of different materials, typically metal and resin/plastic. Most glues only work with one material, so you'll need a multi-purpose glue for these instances. Pinning is also recommended, especially for larger parts; as a bond between two different materials with multi-purpose tend to be more fragile than same material with specific glue.

Customization[edit]

Many experienced model-makers (not just tabletop wargamers) find building a generic model - exactly as it comes in the kit - rather unsatisfying. If you feel the urge to spice up your models, make them stand out from the competition on the tabletop, or participate in the time-honored tradition of crafting Your Dudes: read on!

Kit-Bashing[edit]

Modifying Existing Parts[edit]

3rd Party Parts[edit]

Nobody in this hobby can be expected to be an expert sculptor, or a genius with the hobby knife. If you want a model, or better yet every model, in your army to have stand-out wargear, than you should consider buying bits from 3rd party model makers! Many businesses specialize in making body parts, weapons, and armor which are compatible with existing lines of wargaming models. These products provide a different look for your models, one which may fit better with your army concept or a e s t h e t i c. And these parts can often be bought in bulk, which means that you don't have to spend hours and hours sculpting the same part onto 20 different models!

This aspect of customization only requires slightly more skill than assembling models. Why might swapping in 3rd party parts be a bit tougher than basic assembly? Well... let's just say that not every alternate parts shop will have that patent-pending "Games Workshop Quality". In fact, none of them will. Most of these companies can only produce parts with "less-than-modern" QA standards, or worse. They often cast parts in resin or pewter, which will carry fine details better but make such parts tougher to work with than, say, the modern lines of all-plastic Games Workshop models. Expect to deal with flash, erratic sprue, and severe mould lines. If you have experience making Forge World models, play games from Privateer Press, or are a greybeard who made models for 4th Edition 40k or earlier, you can readily deal with the hiccups of 3rd party models just fine.

Green Stuff[edit]

Plasticard[edit]

Other Resources[edit]

  • Reaper Miniatures has a helpful Craft blog, with notable sections for conversion and sculpting.
Model Making
Modeling: Guide to Assembling Models - Green Stuff - Model Alternatives - Casting - Photo-Etched Brass
Painting: Guide to Painting Models - Paint - THIN YOUR PAINTS - Duncan Rhodes - 'Eavy Metal
Scenery and Technical: Forthcoming...
Related: WIP