How to build a Gundam Model Kit (Gunpla)

Introduction:

Gundam Model kits (Gunpla) is based on the Anime: Mobile Suit Gundam Universe (franchises). These are models made from styrene plastic injections into frames. Frames in which you cut and build. These kits are made by Bandai in Japan (or China). These kits have become popular among anime fans and scale modelers.

Categories: (General) arranged based on difficulty, price and time required to build.

  • 1/144 (FG) First Grade – Easy (Starter kit), Cheap. Limited detail and Limited articulation. Takes only minutes to build.
  • 1/144 and 1/100 (HG) High Grade – Easy to Normal, Less limit on articulation, a bit of detail.
  • 1/100 (MG) Master Grade – Normal to Hard, More articulation, More detail (Internal Skeleton/Frame + Outer Panel)
  • 1/60 (PG) Perfect Grade – Hard and expensive, Highly detailed than MG. Really takes a long time to build.

See: How Bandai create these kits. (Thanks to: feichunwong from Youtube)

’nuff said…

Back to Topic:

[Basic] Things you’ll need:

  • Bandai (FG, HG, MG, PG) Gundam Kit.
  • Tamiya Modeler’s Side Cutter
  • Tamiya Modeler’s Knife
  • Tamiya Sanding Paper (400, 600, 800, the higher it is finer it gets)
  • Tamiya Polishing Compound (Coarse/Fine)
  • Tamiya Tape 40mm
  • Cotton swab (Qtips)
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Cutting Mat

Step1: After opening the box, 1st thing to do is to check if the kit is complete using the instruction manual. It is in Japanese writing but the pictures are descriptive enough you don’t need to learn Japanese to figure it out. Check how many frames you have on the instruction manual and what’s inside the box. Use scissors to open the plastic of each frame. (Because I use the modeler’s knife exclusively when needed on the plastic part)

Step2: Back to instruction manual. Each frame is organized as A-B-C’s… and within the frame (each parts) are numbered 1-2-3’s… Cut only when needed by the instruction manual! Cut the runners using Tamiya Modeler’s Side Cutter.

Step3: Sprues (tiny plastic that you cut to get the part out of the frame). DO NOT cut the sprue close to the part. Doing so may damage the part. You may cut near the frame.

Step4: After cutting a part from the frame, you may remove the sprue sticking out from the part using the modelers side cutter, any excess not accessible by the side cutter, use the modeler’s knife with care. Use the sanding paper to even out the plastic. Using a cotton swab, apply a pea sized amount of polishing compound and rub it on the sanded part. This way the discoloration from sanding will even out to non-sanded part.

Step5: Follow the instruction manual’s directions. Cut when required. Carefully remove the sprues using the side cutter, modeler’s knifer and sanding paper. Snap build. Follow the instruction manual. Until you form the Head, Leg, Torso, Arms…

Step6: Stickers or decals may come with the kit for an added detail. Simple stickers are factory cut, so you may use your tweezers for accuracy. Make sure that the area that needs the sticker is clean and free of dust. (I clean my kits using a toothbrush with dish washing liquid on water, dry then wipe using a piece of cloth.) This lessens/removes the bubble on the sticker when it is applied.

Rub on decals require cutting using a modeler’s knife on cutting mat with ruler as they’re not factory cut. After cutting the decal out from the decal set, use the Tamiya tape on each end of the decal and put it on the plastic that needs the decal so the decal won’t budge or move when you rub it. Rub evenly, apply a little pressure without tearing the decal. I use a pencil (unsharpened) to see the progress of what I rub on.

Water slide decals are like rub on decals but it needs water. Difference is to use a damp (water) cotton swab to rub it on the plastic part. (Sold separately,not all kits have this… instructions of application on the packaging)

’nuff said… watch this: (Thanks to: counterespy from Youtube)

- A video instruction from Basic—Intermediate—Advance: Enjoy!

Easier to watch than to read! :)

—Since you are done with the Basic part. Should you want, you can proceed to Intermediate: Removing Panel Lines.

[Intermediate] Things you’ll need:

  • Tamiya Cement
  • Rubber bands
  • Tamiya Plastic Scriber
  • Staedtler or Rotring Tech Pen 0.05mm, 0.1mm, 0.2mm.

Step7: Panel Lines (These are lines that form in between plastics when they’re snapped together. ) Can be removed using a Tamiya cement to glue them together. Apply evenly on both ends of the plastic using the brush that comes with the Tamiya cement. Snap it together. Apply a bit of pressure. Instead of using a clamp, you may use rubber bands. Wrap it around opposite direction of the glued part where it needs pressure, tighter the better. Let it dry overnight.

Step8: … Use the modeler’s knife to remove the excess dried cement. Use sanding paper for small imperfections. After sanding, blow or wipe the dust off then use a cotton swab for the polishing compound and apply on sanded part.

Step9: After sanding the part, sometimes, Detail lines (necessary lines) would even out with the sanded surface. Use the Plastic scriber or modeler’s knife to re-create these detail lines. (with care, of course)

Step10: Use tech pen to emphasize on the Detail lines. Simply follow the lines. Wipe off the excess lines using a cotton swab.

Before you proceed to the last part of this How to.. There’s a pre-requisite. It really requires Experience. This skill can’t be learned overnight. It requires time and effort, and most importantly… ka-ching… It’s one hell of a expensive hobby. Tools alone .

[Advanced] Things you’ll need:

  • Tamiya Spraywork (Auto set Compressor, Trigger type airbrush, 2 Spra work Cup) AC adapter sold separately.
  • Tamiya Basic Putty
  • Tamiya Paints! (Color Charts) Acrylic, Enamel, Spray
  • Tamiya X20A Acrylic, X20 Enamel Thinner
  • Gunze Sangyo Mr. Color (Color Charts) Acrylic, Enamel
  • Mr. Color Thinner
  • Mr. Surfacer either Spray (White/Gray) or Bottle 500, 1000, 1500 for airbrush. (higher the number more fine, less granularity and thickness)
  • Mr. Top Coat – Super Clear (Gloss, Semi-Gloss, Flat)
  • Mr. Masking
  • Tamiya Tape (6, 10, 18, 40mm)
  • Tamiya Paint Stirrer

This is the time when you think that your Gunpla lacks the personal touch and also the time when you’re not satisfied how it looks like. When you feel like your creativity kicks in, then continue on…

Steps are no longer important here as it depends on your imagination and how you “mod” (modify) your Gunpla. But tips are golden.

Sharing you some tips I’ve done so far:

  • Sanding the kit starting from 800 to 1000, then polishing compound. Progressive sanding is necessary to even out the sanding and to make it smooth. Emphasis on parts where the joints are located, as when they’re painted on, the part can become thicker once paint is applied. Not sanding the parts may cause friction and damage the paint later on.
  • Primer or Mr. Surfacer is necessary to fill in some shallow dents. Mr. surfacer (bottle) and can be used as a putty and they dry fast as these are lacquer based paints. Use a small paintbrush to apply it on shallow dent marks, cracks or over cut sprues.  Let it dry for like 2 hours. Then sand to level> Progressive sanding… Primer is also used as a neutral color and it’ll absorb the color you want.
  • Putty is used on deep cracks and cut mistakes that can’t be levelled by Mr. Surfacer. Putty is a filler, similar to what they put in your tooth if it has a hole in it. lol. Curing is the time it hardens ,usually the putty you use whatever brand it is has a its own curing time. For Tamiya Light curing putty, it cures approx. 1 minute on sunlight, 2-3 minutes on indoor flourescent.
  • Tamiya Tape is used to affix the decal unto the plastic so the decal won’t move when you rub it. Can be used also to protect a plastic part from being painted on. (Masking)
  • When using  Tamiya metallic paints (Chrome Silver, Copper, Gold, Aluminum). These are glittery and granular paints, when they dry up, they still smudge. Top it with Mr. Top coat gloss…Why gloss? to make it shine.

To be continued…

Experience is the key here. Get also advice from Pros, usually “Threadheads” a.k.a. tank scale modelers are great teachers. These are hobbyists that’s been here before Gunpla.

Most written here are IMO. But you’ll learn more when you do it yourself.

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13 Responses to How to build a Gundam Model Kit (Gunpla)

  1. Dvae says:

    Very interesting and helpful. thank you very much.

  2. Mathai says:

    Great post! thanks for the info! :)

  3. nice, i m interest with your article..

  4. Andrew Stump says:

    This is a great hobby allowing people of any budget to have a display piece worth showing with pride.

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  9. engr.alvin says:

    very nice article! i’ve assembled a model kit before but only experimented on the steps. the result was good except the parts where there are still sprues! but it would have been better had i read this article at that time!

    will surely remember these tips as i assemble my latest model kit.

    thanks!

  10. Rieze says:

    Thank you for the information very interesting… Congrats (you know what it is) :)

  11. josh says:

    this tutorial is great! gotta try some advance technique :)

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