Model Story

by Tracie Wong, Jul 23rd 2002
Model Story part 1

Editor's Introduction: This is the first part in a series of articles that will take a look at modeling from a beginner's point of view. One of the interesting aspects of this series is that there is still no telling whether or not Tracie will continue to enjoy modeling; perhaps she will give up the hobby before finishing her first model, that would make for a very short article series. Or perhaps she will one day become a hard core modeler with hundreds of models to her credit. Two things that this is not, it is not a model review, nor is it a how to guide, so please don't read it as such.

There's this little anime product store that my husband has frequented since the age of 17 (he is now 27 years old) that also sells anime character model kits and has many models that the owner has built himself. I always thought that they were super cute, muscularly defined, or geometrically angular, whichever the case may be, but it wasn't until I asked the owner to build a model of Spike Spiegel's Redtail that I took a closer look at the art of building models.


Seeing the owner's girlfriend meticulously painting the tiny 5-centimeter Spike really inspired me. I think she actually had to hold her breath for 2 seconds in order to keep the paintbrush still enough to line the lips and draw the eyes. I thought, "This looks like fun. I love tiny things, and I was a pretty good painter in grade 7," and decided to give it a try.

My husband bought me a Sakura Taisen model kit, and left me to fend for myself. Not knowing where to begin, I started with the most logical part; removing the parts from the plastic frame. All the pieces fit together well enough according to the instructions, but wouldn't stay in one piece. Do I glue things together now? Or do I paint?

This question led me to revisit the anime store, and grill the owner on my next step. He gave me good hints, like to paint the parts that would otherwise be difficult to paint after being glued, such as the inside of a jacket, the underside of a skirt or the part of the doll's hair that is closest to the neck. However, he said, first I should take a close look at the parts and see if any of them have rough edges that need to be smoothed down before painting. He gave further suggestions of which brand name paint to use, and off I went looking for other Tamiya acrylic paint colours to complete the ones that I bought from him.

When I got home with my new brushes and paints, I sat down and started smoothing down sharp edges with the only file I had, an emery board for nail manicures. The parts I had to file were so small and detailed that my eyes began to cross after a while. Magnifying glasses would have greatly helped, but I've only got two hands.

Eventually, I started to paint. The man at the paint store told me that the paints need to be stirred to mix properly (and not shaken) and that the brushes can be washed with cold water if the paint was still relatively wet. Right off the bat, I learned many things.

Bad Brushes Good Brushes
(click on images for larger, higher quality images).

The first is that I shouldn't take my time painting because the paint dries very fast (I learned afterward that Montreal's hot and humid weather did not help). The second is to carefully choose where to hold the part so as to paint the maximum area at one go. The third is to always mix the paint properly so that when I'm retouching a piece, the colour is the same everywhere. The last thing I learned is to buy good brushes, not the less expensive ones from Canadian Tire, so that the bristles don't come off and stick to the model part. Also, next time, I'll use a finer emery board or sandpaper because the surface is still not totally smooth.

Most of my painting is now all done, I just have her boots and tiny gloves left to do. I didn't feel like painting them yet, so I thought I should start worrying about glue. I went back to the same store, and cornered the owner to ask more questions. Which glue? How should I align and stabilize the many intricate parts of the character?

The glue I bought is of medium viscosity so that it doesn't drip everywhere, and it's supposed to fill in small gaps where the parts join. The owner said something about an "X", and a drill. I went home with more paint, and wondering where I'll find a drill. Oh, yeah. While there, I also bought another little model kit of a super deformed mecha. I'm getting very ambitious with my projects.

Find out what happens next in a couple of weeks.

Isn't it cute?

All painted (almost) and ready to go.

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