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2007-09-29

Tips for building plastic kits

Constructing a building from a plastic (such as from Faller) can be a pleasant project. There are also many pitfalls and as I construct my kits I often develop techniques that I think may be useful to others and also an aid memoir to myself for my next project. I have therefore assembled the list of tips below.




General
  • Ensure you have a clean well lit area where you can sit comfortably
  • A magnifier light is very useful if your eyes are getting old.
  • Use a styrene glue that comes in a dispenser with a long narrow metal tube that resembles a hypodermic needle without the sharp end.
  • Use the absolute minimum amount of glue. It is very easy to over glue items and then it squishes out and makes a mess.
  • Avoid getting glue on your fingers. If you do, wipe if off before touching any plastic parts.
  • Use very small side cutters to remove parts from the sprues.
  • When parts are attached to their sprues in multiple places, cut them off in an order that minimizes the stress on the part. Stressing a part causes it to turn a paler color at the point of stress.
  • Use a fine water paper on a flat surface to remove the burs and remains of the sprue from each part.
  • Familiarize yourself with how the building is meant to look and how the parts are to fit together. Test fit each part before gluing.
  • If parts need to be weathered or painted, it is often better to do this before they are assembled.
  • Take your time and do not rush.

Lighting


  • If you intend installing interior lighting, I suggest using long life LEDs. They won't melt plastic, require less maintenance, and use less power.
  • Use different color wires for positive and negative wires for your LEDs. Red (+) and black (-) are standard.
  • Place the lights where you would find them in a real building. i.e. not on the floor! This ensure that the light coming out of the windows shines down onto the ground properly.
  • Take care to mask any wall or roof that has a light on the inside. The light shines right through the plastic if you do not mask it off.
  • In order to allow access to the interior lighting, do not glue down the roof.
  • Faller kits come with a nice paper mask that is to prevent light shinning through the walls. It is however inadequate in two respects:
a) the corners are folded along perforated lines and the perforations let light through. Rectify this by inserting additional black paper inside the building. Take care not to cover windows near the corners. If there is a large number of windows, consider painting the inside of the walls with black paint before gluing them together. Take care not to get paint into the joints.

The printed windows are usually slightly larger than the actual window frames. Light shines through the edges of the printed window and through the walls around the window frame. Rectify this by applying black tape around the edges of the windows on the insides of the walls. Mask the edges of each window before gluing the walls together.

  • Do not glue down the 'lid' of the Faller paper masks if you want access from the top.

Windows

  • When inserting window frames, do a visual check from the outside of the wall to ensure that the frame is properly centered. This is sometimes too much play and the window frame can be slightly off center. It is easy to align it properly before the glue dries.
  • I leave the white window foil cutting guide on the window foil until just before I glue the walls together. This prevents damage to the foil.
  • Mask or paint the edges of each window before gluing the walls together.
Shutters

  • If there are different left and right shutters, do one side of all the windows first and then the other side. This prevents the shutters getting mixed up.
  • Apply the glue to the building, not the shutter.
Roofs

  • Don't glue the roof on if you want to get access to lights etc. inside the building. If you don't glue it on, incorporate some weight in the roof to keep it well seated on the building. E.g. A cardboard base with some heavy nuts glued inside.