Model Construction

Slapping a model together is usually fairly easy. Constructing a model correctly and well takes some care and proper tools. It may also required experience and practice because some models are just plain difficult to build. We are here to help you with advice and guidance.


Some basic guidelines for model construction in any scale:

1) Read the directions before you start and familiarize yourself with the process. Really. Professionals know to do this because it avoids most mistakes. Then wash all the parts in warm water and detergent. Layout out all the kit parts in a tidy system so you can make sure everything is there and so you can find it when called upon to assemble it.

2) If some parts are easier to paint while still on the sprue or tree (that plastic frame that all the parts are stuck too), go ahead and do so. Cut each part off as you need it. This is best done with sprue cutters but if you don’t have a set, you can use heavy toenail cutters. Don’t try to cut too close to the part; leave a little bit of plastic and remove that with a sharp hobby knife or file.

3) Pre-fit each part before gluing. If it doesn’t fit, check and make sure you are putting it in the right place. Most modern kits are well engineered and fit neatly. If its still doesn’t fit, use a file or knife to carefully modify the seam or joint so that it does fit.

4) Glue the part with cement for plastic models. Don’t use super glue. Use plastic solvent cement meant for styrene. There are several brands which work slightly differently so you can choose the one you are most comfortable with. Fit the part tightly so that the solvent fills any seam if possible. We generally work with liquid plastic model cement, either Faller Expert Cement (Testors Liquid Model Cement is no longer made) or Tamiya Cement or Plastruct Cement or Styrene Tack-It. All have useful characteristics. Their is also a non-toxic Testors product for persons with sensitive skin. We do not usually use the tube cement.

5) Once the seam sets or cures, remove any excess material with a knife or file. If there is an unavoidable gap, it is easiest to fill it with very thin bits of sheet styrene or a bit of gap filling putty (we use Vallejo but we carry many brands, each with slightly different characteristics). The seams can also be filled with super glue and a bit of accelerator but this is an advanced technique that takes practice.

6) If you reach a step that is going to enclose some part or assembly, make sure to paint everything that is going to become inaccessible before you complete assembly.

7) Continue to assemble and paint as needed until the model is completed.

8) Photo etch brass parts are fairly common in models. This are attached (carefully) with a bit of super glue. A little accelerator helps this process.

9) Photo etch brass is best primed before painting the model but plastic models usually don’t have to be primed if they have been washed. If a primer is desired, use one for plastic models such as Vallejo, Humbrol, Tamiya, or Mr Surfacer. Each has particular pluses and minuses. We used to use Floquil but is no longer manufactured.

Let the primer dry thoroughly and your model is now ready for painting.

Obviously, there are a lot of specific techniques for properly attaching and aligning parts, adding detail bits, and filling flaws and gaps so as to make a model just a little bit better but the basic techniques will create a model that will do a good paint job proud.


Working with Resin

Resin models are assembled much like plastic models except that the parts often have to be cut off with a saw or cutting wheel and resin parts typically have to be assembled with super glue or epoxy. Resin dust is often toxic, so if sanding is required, use a wet sanding technique (use sanding pads that are plastic and meant to be used wet, then get them wet and rinse them often during sanding). A respirator or room ventilation system or both is not a bad idea either.


Rail Tales Custom Construction

Rail Tales will build a model for you if you lack the the time or tools or both to build it. To build, paint, and decal a model costs up to approximately 10x the (modern) kit price. We charge our actual time at 25$ an hour plus materials. If you want us to build a 40$ model kit, expect to spend up to 400$ to get it built, painted, and have decals applied. This is a very rough average and the piece count, complexity, number of colors, quality of the kit, and nature of the kit all have a major influence on the time and cost of assembly.

Additional details like photo etch sets, custom modifications, and additional stowage or details usually add the cost of the detail set(s) but some detail sets (such as model railroad signs and pre-painted  detail parts) may be installed at no extra charge as part of the basic build.

Custom builds (scratch building) is priced on a case by case basis. If we have to do the plans as well as the build, that can add quite a bit.


Structure Kits

When we build models that are molded in the desired color already (which is common with buildings for instance), we include a spray matt coating with the price so as to get rid of the ‘plastic look’. We also paint the interiors of all buildings black and seal the joints so interior lights can be used if desired and we install view blocks in all buildings so you can’t see through them.


Wood Kits

The principles of wood kits are mostly the same as those for plastic models except one does not need or want to wash the model and the glue used should be either high quality wood glue or super glue depending on personal preference. We at Rail Tales prefer wood glue. Also parts can be and should be safely removed with a sharp hobby knife instead of a sprue cutter or clippers.

It is usually desirable to fully paint all parts of a wooden structure prior to assemble. It is usually desirable to prime all sided of the flat parts of a wood model kit prior to painting. This helps keep them from warping. We love Vallejo spray for this job! It is solvent based and does not warp the wood but does provide a very smooth thin coat.

Rail Tales builds wooden kits to order but only railroad structures (buildings and bridges for instance). We have associates who construct wood boat and airplane models for clients and they are both very talented. We can put you in touch with them.


Model Building Classes

Rail Tales offers a model building class. Unlike our other classes, the client does not have to buy the model or the tools. We will build the model during the class using what tools in our discretion are required for the task, explaining each step as we go. We recommend that the client purchase his or her model and tools and follow along but this is not required. We will stop during the build to answer questions or clarify steps.

At the end of the class, the model we build belongs to Rail Tales.

If you want us to actually build the model for you, we will give you an estimate for that task. We may be able to schedule a time when you can come in and watch the construction but we cannot guarantee it.

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