Update – 4/25/16
Well I just happened to be looking through the page last night and noticed that my gear page is very out of date. Lots of things on here, especially paint-wise, that I don’t use any more. I’ve left tools that I’ve once used on here, just crossed them out, so you can see how my preferences have changed over the last year of building.
The tools we use can be as unique as each individual who uses them. These are some of my favorite tools that I use in all my builds. This is far from a complete list, but it gives a good idea of the way I do most things.
You can’t put a kit together without getting the pieces off the sprue. I use a few different tools to accomplish this. My main tool are a pair of Xuron sprue cutters. I use these by holding the flat part of the cutters away from the piece I’m cutting, leaving a small nub of sprue attached to the piece. After separating the piece from the sprue, I use my X-acto knife with a (usually) #11 blade to get a clean cut.
I haven’t used much resin in my builds, but my go-to tool for removing pour stubs is my
X-acto precision razor saw RB Productions Ultra-Fine Saw. It’s very thin and cuts through fast. It’s also great for cutting fragile pieces from their sprue gates.
The sharpest #11 blades don’t always get a perfect cut when removing stubs from pieces. In comes the sanding tools. The first thing that comes to mind is standard sandpaper in every grit imaginable. Everything from 100-2000. Sometimes I’ll use the sandpaper by itself, but I’ll also use it with small pieces of wood to reach into places otherwise inaccessible. I also have taken sheets of sandpaper and taped them to 4″x4″ bathroom tile for when I need a hard, flat, sanding surface.
I’ve used fingernail emory boards, but they have a habit of falling apart while using them. They can still be handy in a pinch.
Another favorite of mine are foam sanding sticks. They are like emory boards, but they hold together much better and come in a variety of grits. Generally, they come with 1, 2, or 4 grits on a stick.
I generally try to wet-sand, as I feel like I get a smoother area when finished sanding.
Ok, so now we have pieces off the sprue and cleaned up. Now they need to be glued to other little pieces of plastic. My absolute favorite glue is Tamiya Extra Thin Cement. It works by melting the plastic and welding it together. It is a very thin cement that runs into the tightest spots. TET can be used on painted pieces, but the bond isn’t as strong as plastic to plastic. So try to keep your surfaces free of paint if you’re using TET.
I also use Cyanoacrylate (CA) glue, better known as super glue. This is especially useful when gluing two, unlike materials, together. When gluing PE or resin parts to plastic, CA glue is a must. My personal favorite is Loctite Ultra Gel. It comes out of the tube in a thick gel that is easy to control and apply. To apply it, I use an old dull needle in a pin vise. Once the glue builds up on the needle, you can burn it off to renew the needle point.
When gluing clear pieces, aircraft canopies for example, solvent and CA glues can frost the plastic. One way to get around this is to coat the plastic in Future before gluing. Another is to use a PVA glue, like Elmer’s white school glue. A newer acrylic glue on the market is Gator Grip Acrylic Hobby Glue. It is much stickier than Elmer’s glue and dries faster. Gator Grip has become my go-to when attaching photoetch to my models.
Even the best made kits will have some small gaps somewhere. If these are visible, I use some type of filler. My favorite filler for large areas is Bondo Spot and Glazing Putty, made by 3M. The Bondo putty is designed for automotive applications, but works well for model building. It feathers beautifully and is just slightly softer than most plastic so it can be sanded easily. Bondo also takes a panel line scriber well, though, since it’s softer than plastic, you have to be careful transitioning from plastic to putty. Now, it is lacquer based so it will harm plastic if you’re not careful with it.
Perfect Plastic Putty is another filler I like to use for certain applications. It is a water based filler, making clean up simple with a damp cotton swab. This putty is great to use on gaps where there should still be a panel line, or in areas where access is limited.
I also use Tamiya White Putty.
CA glue can also be used to fill gaps. CA glues come in different consistencies that, when used properly, can fill some rather large holes. The Loctite Ultra Gel I mentioned earlier is great for filling small gaps and nicks in the plastic.
I paint with a wide range of manufacturers, but have switched to airbrush painting exclusively with
acrylics lacquers. My favorite is the Mr. Paint line, though Gunze Mr. Color and Tamiya both work well. If I can thin it with Mr. Leveling Thinner, I’ll put it in my airbrush
I have a bottle of Model Master Chrome Silver enamel paint that I use in certain brush painting situations. I have found no other brushable paint that can compare to the smoothness and shine of Chrome Silver.
When priming, I use
Vallejo’s black primer Mr. Surfacer 1500 Black. I’ve also used Tamiya Fine Surface Primer with excellent results.
My favorite paints for brush painting are Vallejo’s Model Color line. They can be thinned and cleaned up with water and cover very well with the brush.
When it comes to airbrushing, I switch between Vallejo Model Air, AMMO of Mig, and AK-Interactive. Most of these can go straight through the brush with no thinning, though for finer applications, thinner is necessary.
I have two airbrushes that I use: a Badger Anthem 155 syphon feed with a 0.5mm nozzle, and a NEO for Iwata CN gravity feed with a 0.35mm nozzle for finer painting. I use the NEO almost exclusively. I actually can’t remember the last time I’ve used my Badger. Not that it’s a bad brush, it’s a great brush for heavy applications, but the syphon feed makes me waste a lot of paint.
A good paint job always needs a clear coat. I always start with a gloss coat from
AK-Interactive Glossy Varnish Tamiya X-22. This gives a good base for decals. After decals I generally give my kits another light gloss coat to prepare for weathering. The final coat is always a matte coat with Vallejo’s Matte Varnish Testor’s Dullcoat Lacquer. This has given me the flattest sheen so far.
Decals are one of my favorite parts of building models. This is the part that really starts to bring a kit to life. I use a lot of aftermarket decals as a lot of kit decals are garbage, either too thick or not printed well. For modern aviation two of my favorite suppliers are Twobobs and Furball Aero Designs. When it comes to armor, there usually aren’t a lot of decals, but I like to use Archer Fine Transfers dry transfers.
As decal application can make or break a build, I use a combination of setting solutions to get decals to settle into every bit of surface detail. Microset and Microsol are good to start with. For thick or stubborn decals, Solvaset almost always does the trick.
After all of the building, painting, and decaling is finished, weathering puts the build into our world. It makes the kit look like its been in the environment and not on a desk. I use all types of weathering solutions by AMMO of Mig and AK-Interactive as well as my own mixes of pastel chalks and oils.