GUNPLA tools part 1: Basic tools

March 1, 2020 at 21:22 | Posted in How-to | Leave a comment
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Back when I started out with this hobby, I used a nail clipper to cut parts from the runner. I’ve moved on from those dark days and have since accumulated quite an array of tools. Some of them are essential, others are there just to make my gunpla life easier. Here’s what my toolbox looks like:

1) Bare essentials:

At the most basic level, all you need for this hobby are a pair of nippers and a hobby blade.

Nippers:
You use this to cut the parts from the runner. There’s many types of nippers available, ranging from cheap ones to premium types. I’ve used several cheap nippers down the years; one got blunt while the spring broke in another. My general-purpose nipper currently is this one by GoodSmile Company:

I also have a GodHand nipper which has a thinner cutting edge that results in flatter & cleaner cuts. You can find out how I use both nippers for nub-removal here.

Hobby blade:
You can cut, trim or scrape with it, that is why it’s essential for this hobby. There’s many types of blades available; for general purposes I use this type:

For some situations, I have this flat blade:

Useful for scraping off melted plastic from melded seam lines.

 

2) Useful tools:

To go beyond just snap-fitting, these tools are definitely helpful, especially if you like to modify, kitbash or add details to your kit.

Cutting mat:
They’re like a chopping board for plastic models. The lines are useful as guides when cutting plaplate or masking tape.

Tweezers:
For picking up fine things and for handling waterslide decals.

File:
I had a cheap file that I didn’t use so often, mainly because it tends to leave ugly scratch marks on the plastic. But now I use these ones by Sujiboridou. This one is for larger surface areas:

And this 2.8mm wide file is for those narrow spaces:

T-ruler:
A steel T-ruler is very useful when cutting plaplate, to ensure a straight, 90 degree angle. Makes a good combo with the P-cutter.

P-cutter:
It’s like a hobby blade, but with a peculiar-looking blade. Good for cutting thick plaplate and also for scribing panel lines, but I mostly use it for the former.

Modelling saw:
I have two types of saws with different sized teeth. The one with the larger teeth is for cutting large pieces but it makes rougher cuts.

I have another one with very thin blade and fine teeth. Useful for making very precise and clean cuts through plastic.

Pin vise:
The pin vise is mostly used for the drill bits, but can also be used for other things, like a chisel or scriber.

Drill bits:
I have a set of drill bits ranging from 1mm to 3mm in diameter. Used with the pin vise for drilling holes, obviously.

For larger holes (2-10mm diameter), I use the step drill by Wave.

3) Consumables

Sandpaper:
I have several grits ranging from 200 (rough) to 1000 (slightly fine), and in various forms. There’s some precut strips:

There’s also sanding sponges by GodHand:

Masking tape:
Mostly used for masking. I have different size ones. Obviously you can just get one big one and cut it, but I’m lazy.

There’s also specialized tape used as guides during scribing.

Plaplate:
They come in all shapes and sizes: strips, tubes, corrugated types. There’s also ones with grids printed on them for cutting precise shapes.

Putty:
Already discussed in this post.

Glue:
Plastic cement, as the name implies, is used to fuse plastic parts. I like to use Tamiya Extra Thin Cement. Because it’s thin, it can flow between seam lines pretty easily.

There’s also the standard cement, which is thicker in consistency.

For non plastic parts (resin, metal) or when I need a stronger bond, I use super glue. This gel type from Tamiya does the job, but it tends to leave white residues after it dries.

Summary:

So these are the tools I use for building and modifying my kits. If you’re just starting with this hobby, don’t worry about getting all the things I listed here, because all you actually need is a good pair of nippers, a hobby knife and some plastic cement.
I’ll introduce a couple more exotic tools that I’ve accumulated in a later post.

How to remove nubs

February 17, 2020 at 22:28 | Posted in How-to | Leave a comment
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Before I get started, I just want to clarify some terms that I’ll use:

Runner: The plastic that holds all your gunpla parts.
Gate: The runner part that directly leads to the specific gunpla part. Typically 2-3 gates connect the gunpla part to the runner.
Nub: The leftover gate after the gunpla part is cut off from the runner.

 

With that out of the way, here’s how to remove those nubs:
1) Using a nipper, cut off the gunpla part from the runner, making sure not to cut too close to the gunpla part. If you cut too close, it will leave white stress marks on the gunpla part. Now your gunpla part should have a significant bit of nub remaining:

 

2) Use your nipper to cut as much of the nub as possible, leaving just a little bit like the photo below:

 

3) From here, you have several choices, depending on the tools you have available:
3-1) Using a hobby blade
Use a sharp hobby blade to cut off the remaining plastic. Just be careful not to cut off the actual gunpla part. Then just use the flat edge of the blade to scrape over the nub.
3-2) Using a file
The leftover nub can be quickly shaved off with a few strokes from a file. But depending on the quality of the file, some scratch marks will be left on the gunpla part. In that case, you might have to resort to sandpaper:
3-3) Using sandpaper
Start with the rough grit (200-400), then move on to intermediate (600-800) and then with fine grit (1000 or higher). When using sandpaper, it’s good to attach it so something solid like this:


Or you can stick the sandpaper to a thick plaplate or even an ice cream stick using double-sided tape

So that’s the theory anyway. In practice, this is what I tend to do:
For step 1), I use my general purpose nipper to cut the part off the runner
For step 2), I use my GodHand nipper to cut off the remaning nub. Using the GodHand nipper, I can cut very close to the gunpla part with minimal white stress marks. You can see the difference if I use my standard GSR nipper:


For step 3), depending on how clean the cut was using GodHand nipper, I might have to shave off any remaining plastic using a file or hobby blade. If it’s a very clean cut, then I leave it as it is.

Conclusion:
Nub removal is about the only thing you can’t escape from in this hobby. You can get away with neglecting panel-lining and not fixing seam-lines, but leaving nubs on a gunpla model is a cardinal sin. It’s probably the most mundane and boring step in gunpla, but a necessary evil.

How to disguise seam lines

February 7, 2020 at 00:35 | Posted in How-to | Leave a comment
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Ah, those pesky seam lines. You know, that gap between two halves of gunpla parts? I made a guide on how to remove them using plastic cement, sandpaper, and some elbow grease.
But what if you run out of elbow grease? Well, here’s some alternatives:

1. Using pla-plate

The basic idea is to cover the seam line with a strip of pla-plate, preferably ~1mm width and 0.3mm thickness. The pla-plate is glued over one half of the gunpla part. This cartoon illustrates the process, viewed from the side:

This means the two parts can be separately painted. Then after painting and final assembly, the pla-plate will seem like a natural part of the design. Here’s some real life examples:

Pros: Only glue and pla-plate is needed. No sanding or putty required.
Cons: Since pla-plate is white, priming & painting is definitely needed.

2. Using a specialized tool

This method requires a specialized tool, called BMC Danmo (ダンモ), produced by Sujiborido. The objective is to create a small ‘ditch’ on top of the seam line. Here’s the basic concept:

And here’s a real life example. The BMC Danmo has two edges; the one shown here has 0.8mm and 0.5mm widths. Other widths are also available.

Once done, the seam line now looks like a natural panel line. The look can be emphasized by panel lining with some enamel paints.

Pros: No painting or sanding necessary.
Cons: Specialized tool (BMC Danmo) is required and it’s slightly expensive (~3,500 yen).

 

Conclusion: The common theme in those two methods is the concept of disguising the seam line as a more natural-looking panel line. It might not work in all cases, so it’s up to your creative judgement on when to use it. Have fun.

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