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What Are the Best Tips for Model Building?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

The popularity of model building has stayed fairly consistent over decades. Model builders can hone their crafts using a variety of techniques and materials, so a person new to the hobby may want to consider focusing on one type of model building to start. Plastic model kits are perhaps the most popular because they are generally easy to work with, inexpensive, and readily available for purchase. A trip to a hobby shop will give the new modeler an idea of what supplies are necessary to complete the job, and the supplies should be purchased before the building process begins.

Most new hobbyists have a significant amount of difficulty with painting, and since painting is such a big part of model building, the new builder may want to consider getting advice from an experienced hobbyist. Hobby clubs and other groups may meet regularly, and the new builder might benefit from finding such a club meeting locally to get tips and support when building the model. Painting techniques in particular are valuable bits of information one might glean from such a meeting — some models don't require paint at all, but rather other materials or substances that can enhance the look of the model.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

It is advisable to work only with quality tools when model building. Working with flimsy or cheap tools can quickly ruin a project or make it much more difficult to complete. Hobby knives should be sturdy and sharp, and the blades should be easy to change out quickly. Paintbrushes should be high quality, and the fibers should not splay easily or otherwise detach from the brush. Be sure to buy the appropriate paints for the model, as some materials require certain types of paints that will adhere better than others. Primers may be necessary as well.

Gluing and filling are perhaps the two most common actions one will undertake during model building. If the builder is building a plastic model, the plastic pieces should be washed lightly with soap and water to remove oils and films that will prevent glue and putty from adhering properly. Glue should not be applied straight from the tube; the builder should instead place a dollop of glue on a piece of cardboard and apply a thin bead to the model using a toothpick or other small piece of scrap material. Putty can be applied the same way, though more putty may be necessary, as it needs to be pressed into cracks and holes.

Discussion Comments


I have been building all types and brands of scale models since the beginning of the hobby in the early 1960s. Back when Renwal, Monogram and Revell were the kings with Lindberg and Aurora close at hand. In the 1970s Tamiya and Italeri started to appear with some success as the 1:35th scale became over powering to the misused 1:32 scale which was often inaccurate to begin with.

In the past several years, I have expanded my collections of World War Two based 1:35th armor, figures and combined dioramas, 1:48th scale aircraft and many accessories into a vast world on the social media stage. I have many avid fans of my work that can be viewed mainly on Hobbies in a Barn, Stormthecastle, Amazon (product reviews) as well as many websites in the hobby realm.

I sincerely believe in encouragement, reinforcement and strong favoritism toward realistic models and at the same time keep in mind that as anyone who started out in the hobby is a novice in need of encouragement. I hope to see that all of you have visited my pages and other sources of the hobby for the reasons that you choose. Thank you all.


@JimmyT - I'm with you. Ships are a lot more fun to build in my opinion. Like you said, though, they are quite a bit more intricate than a car or plane.

A tip I would add on for anyone building a model plane is to make sure the top and bottom of the plane match up right before you start to glue them together. Sometimes, if you don't have all of the wings and other pieces in exactly the right spot, you'll have trouble getting it to fit together right. If you start putting glue on without checking this first, you'll either end up with a plane that has gaps between the top and bottom, and/or you'll have a gluey mess to scrape off before you try to put them back together.

Along that same topic, something else I have found to help with the process is that, when you're sure you have the two sides lined up right, glue them together and then put some rubber bands along the width of the plane to keep them from separating until the glue is dried.


@titans62 - It's good to hear you son is interested in model building. Like stl156 said, it is a pretty interesting and relaxing hobby that you can do your entire life.

Models come in different grades depending on the difficulty. Level 1 is normally the models that you can snap together. They are recommended for beginners, but in my experience, they don't really fit together all that well, and it can be kind of frustrating. It might turn him off from modeling. I would suggest doing a level 2 project. Choosing a car or plane really just depends on the person. They each have their own subtleties. Personally, I like model ship building, but that might be too advanced.

As far as paints go, I would suggest sticking to the model paints for convenience. You can use any paintbrush, just make sure it's high quality to avoid brushstrokes.


My son was telling me the other day that he might be interested in trying to find a model car to build. I am just wondering if a couple people here can answer some basic questions about it for me.

I remember when I was younger, I worked on a couple, but I never really got too interested in it. I figure things have changed over the last 20 years, too. Is it better to start with cars or planes at first? Also, are there any brands that are better than others?

The other thing I was wondering about is whether you can use ordinary paint, or if it is best to buy the little model paints. I know they sell special paint brushes for model building, but surely you can use normal paintbrushes from a dollar store or somewhere, right? Besides paint, is there anything else that I should be looking for along the way? Thanks in advance for any help.


I have been building plastic models for quite a while now. It really is a nice hobby to get into. The only downside is that it can start to get a little pricey after a while. I usually build cars, and once you get into the higher level ones, they can start to run around 30+ dollars. I don't build a lot of planes or anything, but I think some of them can be even more expensive.

I always find it kind of relaxing to sit down for a couple of hours and work on a model. I guess part of it might have been that I was an only child, so model building was always something I could do in my free time when there wasn't anyone around to play with. I also had the added advantage that I didn't have any little brothers or sisters to tear the models up once they were built.

If you're going to get really involved in building something like model cars, you had better start freeing up some shelf space, since you might be overwhelmed after a while. I've got a bookcase in my bedroom where I keep most of them, but I have others scattered in various other places.

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