CARING FOR YOUR BUILDUP MODEL - PART 1: GOOD WORKING HABITS
CARING FOR YOUR BUILDUP MODEL - PART 1: GOOD WORKING HABITS
Building a scale model is a labour of love. Hours are dedicated, often over a period of many months, fixing components together, poring over plans, and tweaking details until everything is just right. All with the added complication that in the modelling world, you’re effectively a giant. With all this time and effort going into your project, it deserves the right care and maintenance.
Taking a few simple steps during the build of your model can help you dodge pitfalls further down the line. Having to strip down your model to make a repair, or worse still, having an accident that causes irreparable damage, is a recipe for frustration and disappointment. And it’s just as important to care for your model after completing your build, to extend its life and keep it in tip-top condition to enjoy for years to come.
My advice on model care comes directly from my personal experience – the painful mistakes, lessons learned and also moments of inspiration. Hopefully, this guidance will help steer you in giving your model the care and attention needed to stay looking at its best, whether you’re new to buildup projects or an old hand looking to pick up some new tricks.
This first part is about how to manage your workspace and handle your model generally during the build. Over the coming weeks, look out for more posts which will delve deeper into the many aspects of taking care of your model.
Preparing your work surface
Before commencing your build, it’s essential to check that your work surface is clean and tidy. This might sound like the simplest of steps, but it’s all the more important when working with scale models as even a minor scratch will look exaggerated, and a spillage or dent can wreak havoc.
Clearing the workspace is a ritual I try to follow before tackling any new project. Keeping rogue screws, wandering driver bits, glues, paints and the occasional cup of tea well away from your model as you work is never a bad thing. It seems obvious, but it will help to prevent any unfortunate mishaps.
Plus, having all your tools organised beforehand will most likely save your sanity and a lot of cursing too. Rather than scrambling and searching for that particular tool you could swear you saw only moments ago, it’ll be right where you need it.
Personally, I like to work on self-healing cutting mats. These will help to protect your work surface and are great to work on when cutting, gluing or painting. They’re usually double-sided too, with metric and imperial grids printed on them – which often come in handy for quick measurements. I would recommend getting at least an A2-size mat, as you’ll be grateful for the additional space.
Screws and organisers
Ever dropped a screw and discovered a glitch in the Matrix? For me at least, they tend to disappear, even when I thought I saw exactly where they landed. Yes, dropping or losing screws during a build is always frustrating and can hold up your build if you’re not careful.
A magnetic screw mat or magnetic bowl are great solutions to keep screws secure and in one place, and worth investing in if you don’t already own one. Also, having a 36 or even 64-piece grid plastic storage box (often used for beads or jewellery) can be hugely helpful for storing spare screws and small parts between issues.
If you do lose a screw to the carpet monster, take a good vacuum cleaner, place a sock over the extending arm, and run it over where you think the screw fell. The sock will prevent the screw from being vacuumed up – allowing you to rescue it from oblivion and quickly continue your build.
With most builds, spare screws for each stage are provided and it’s a good idea to keep these in a safe place. It’s easy to damage the paint surface on black screws, for example, particularly when driving into metal parts. Spares come in helpful here if you decide that you’d like to replace some unsightly screws.
Spare screws can also be useful for when plastic parts don’t quite hold together as tightly as they should. This could be because a part has been assembled and disassembled multiple times during installation or maintenance, for example, making the original hole larger than it was. In this situation you can search through your spare screws for a marginally thicker screw which should grip better. All reasons to keep those precious spare screws in a safe place!
Handling your model
Towards later issues in your build, when your model is getting larger and closer to completion, you’ll find that you’re often required to turn it upside down, or on its side, to attach parts and to access difficult-to-reach areas.
Being 1:8 scale and mostly constructed of diecast metal, partwork models soon get heavy, and inevitably become more challenging to handle and manoeuvre about. Throw some tools and model parts into the mix and you’ll soon find that you’ve run out of hands and need to rest your model down. These are dangerous times for your model and often when accidents happen.
If you’re building a scale car, windscreens and windows should be a particular area of concern and should be treated with additional care and attention. On partwork models of this scale, these parts can be pretty large and can easily attract scratches – resulting in potentially hours of work to strip down the model if you need to replace them.
To help protect delicate parts like these, you can use some low-tack masking tape, such as Delicate Surface Frog Tape to cover them during your build process. Alternatively, I offer pre-cut static-cling screen protectors for some models, which help to protect the windows during the build process and can then be removed once your build is ready to display.
When it comes to turning your model upside down or on its side, it’s a good idea to secure all the doors shut with masking tape, including the bonnet and any other hinged parts, to prevent them from falling open and slamming against your work surface.
Plan ahead and prepare your work surface with some padding to rest your model on – such as some folded bathroom towels, a pillow perhaps, or some sheets of packing foam. Pipe insulation, sometimes known as pipe lagging, is also a good option, as you can easily cut it into lengths and position it around delicate parts of the model. Strategically placing some pipe insulation either side of protruding parts on your model can help to keep them off your work surface and will avoid putting weight on delicate items such as wing mirrors and door handles.
Whatever time you take to prepare your model and surface before undertaking any work will undoubtedly save you time and possible heartbreak later on.
I hope that this advice, gleaned from my own journey in partwork modelling, provides some useful ideas for protecting your model and maintaining an organised workspace. Look out for my next article on model care in the coming weeks, where I’ll share my insights into how to work with the different materials you’ll come across during the build process.
Mike Lane creates bespoke, hand-crafted upgrades and accessories for a selection of partwork models, including the DeLorean Time Machine, Ghostbusters Ecto-1 and Aston Martin DB5 by Eaglemoss. You can see his work at mikelanemods.com.