Model Car Building Tips

Helpful tips for assembly of automobile models. Ideas about the history, products and teachniques involved.

Model cars have been around almost as long as the invention of the first automobile, providing enthusiasts with a blank canvas on which to let their imagination run wild. Today, the model car comes in a variety of models, makes and can be made from any number of materials (a drastic change from the old balsa wood models that originally emerged). Are you interested in building your own model cars? Read on for some helpful hints before you start.

Perhaps the most common mistake that is made, in relation to model car construction, is that people have a strong tendency to jump in with both feet. Unfortunately, as complex as some model cars can be, this often means that many people jump in over their heads! It's important to start with the basics and gradually work your way up.

Before you start, you will want to ensure that you have a safe place to work on your model. This area should ideally give you a generous amount of work space and, hopefully, be a spot where you can safely leave your model, without having to worry about it being disturbed. Keep in mind that your model, tools and supplies should be placed well out of reach of small children and pets; many parts of the model car can provide choking hazards and supplies, such as glue or paint, can sometimes be toxic or (at the very least) create a terrible mess.

Once you have determined that your model is intact, pieces can be separated off into different sections. If you need assistance identifying them, a good tip is to write the corresponding part numbers on a piece of paper and then set the pieces by the proper numbers. This will allow the builder to dispose of the tray, paint, sand, and not have to worry about forgetting what goes where.

Most model pieces can be easily removed from the frame by bending or slowing twisting them free. Spare bits of plastic (flack) are often left over, and these are best removed with the assistance of a small, inexpensive hobby knife. Always be sure to cut away from yourself and ensure that fingers are free from the possible path of the blade; hobby knives tend to be very sharp and can quickly lead an inexperienced hobbyist to add band-aids to their list of building supplies.

Sandpaper can also be used for smoothing off excess plastic and removing rough edges. Inexpensive and easy to use, fine grit papers work best for plastic models. Once you have smoothed the edges down on your model, test to ensure that the pieces will fit together neatly, without leaving gaps and level off any parts that fail to fit nicely. Before you set your sandpaper aside, it is also a good idea to lightly buff the areas that you plan on painting; this will help your primer adhere to the model, but be careful not to sand too hard or gouge up the model. The buffing should be very light, just enough to remove any glossy sheen that might be on the plastic.

When this has done, you will want to use a flat primer to paint all of your model pieces. This will create a good base that your paint will adhere to. Be sure that your primer is safe for plastic models and always ensure that you spray in a well-ventilated area, as they tend to have a lot of fumes. Using a gentle stroking motion, spray from a distance of about 12 inches from the model and use short blasts rather than continually holding the nozzle down. The coats of primer should be very light; it is not necessary that the model be stark white, and you want to ensure that you don't put the primer on so thick that it will drip down off the model, creating streaks. Setting a shoebox on its side and then priming the model inside the box (with the bottom behind the model piece you are painting), will help keep the mess to a minimum and also helps to ensure that you get an even coating on your model pieces.

Once your primed pieces have dried thoroughly, you can then apply your paint. Painting the pieces, prior to assembly, is far easier and allows for further touch-ups, down the road. For this, it is advised to have a pair of tweezers handy, since some of the parts are so tiny that it is difficult to paint them while holding them in your fingers. Additionally, using tweezers will allow you to grip most of the parts without having to worry about fingerprints in your paint job.

As with priming, use light coats of paint rather than "╦ťglopping' it on the model parts. Allow coats to dry thoroughly, prior to adding another coat and take your time; a good paint job is as important as a well-assembled model. Acrylic paint is most commonly used for plastic models and adding a small amount of paint thinner, prior to application, will help to spread your paint more evenly, if it seems too thick. For best results, paint all of your parts according to color (i.e.: paint all red pieces first, then all silver, all black, etc.).

When all of your parts are completely painted and thoroughly dried, it's time to start assembling your model. Most model glues come in either a squeezable tube or a small bottle, but anyone who has used these will attest to the fact that they can quickly make a mess of your model. Not only do these adhesives drip or ooze all over, but they are fast-drying and can live long stringy strands when you pull the applicator away. In order to prevent this, it is always a good idea to squeeze a small amount of glue out onto a piece of cardboard or paper, and then apply using either toothpicks or a delicate brush (Don't use one of your painting brushes, however, as the glue will make them unsuitable for painting).

Models take little more than a thin line of glue at the seams, in order to assemble them. Be careful not to get excess glue on the outside of the model, and quickly wipe up any that oozes out of the cracks, when you put two pieces together. The faster you clean this off, the easier it will be to do any little paint touch-ups that you need to finish. It is also good to keep a couple of props around, allowing you to rest the model pieces against them loosely, so that they can dry in form.

Some people choose to lightly airbrush over their models or to spray them with either a gloss or matte finishing spray. Again, as with any aerosol, this should be done in a well-ventilated area. Decals may be applied after this but be sure to keep those tweezers handy, to avoid clumsy fingers from wrinkling or tearing the decals.

Once this is done, there is nothing more left to do, than stand back and admire your patience, dedication and creativity. Placing your finished model in a safe place, the wheels should be braced, so that it doesn't roll, and it should be put well out of reach of children and pets. Before you know it, it's on to the next model. You're ready for another challenge.

© High Speed Ventures 2011