Welcome to the first part of my ‘Building a Scale Model Aircraft’ series, where I’m going to try and help you, the novice builder, through your first steps into the hobby of scale modelling – so wish us both luck!
It sounds stupid to say, but one of the first things you’ll need if you want to build a scale model aircraft is a kit.
There is a huge variety of kits out on the market to choose from, covering pretty much any subject anyone would want to build, from Spitfires and Hurricanes, to really esoteric British prototypes that only flew once on a rainy Thursday in 1966.
There is also an equally huge number of manufactures as well, far beyond the two I had access to when growing up (Airfix and Matchbox), there now seems to be just as many kit producers as there are kits produced (and don’t get me started on after-market accessories!) – and that variety comes with vastly differing levels of quality and complexity. However, if you stick to one of the major brands, e.g. Tamiya, Hasegawa, Airfix, Revell, Hobbyboss, Academy or Italeri, you should be safe for your first few builds.
There is a lot of divided opinion across the internet on what sort of kit to start with, whether it should be a cheap oldie to practice your newly forming skills on (and therefore doesn’t matter if you mess it up – it was cheap), or a more expensive but newly engineered wonder kit that is easy to build and give you a great looking finished project to help boost your confidence.
My personal feelings are a bit half way – I think a well-engineered but simple kit is the best place to start. Some of the newer uber kits, whilst wonderful, can be overly complicated (and part heavy). Whilst a lot of the older kits, whilst still fully buildable with a bit of experience (and I do love old kits), can sometimes take a bit more of an effort to get looking right, and may leave the novice builder frustrated with their first efforts.
I also think a kit with around 50 parts count is probably a good place to start.
However, it all depends on what you want to build. If your choice is subject specific, e.g. your grandfathers F-86 Sabre he flew in Korea, you might have to go with whatever kit is available. If this is the case then it’ll pay to spend a bit of time on the internet researching the subject you want to build and the kits in question. Many kits will have reviews you can read to get an idea of what you’re up against, but try to stay clear of the open box ones (where they just look at the contents) and find ones where the model has actually been built and the reviewer can give an opinion of the issues with construction. Join a forum (there are some great ones listed in my links page) and ask a few questions – most members are very knowledgeable and will be only too happy to help. If nothing else, drop me a line with your questions.
If you’re not stuck on a particular subject however, one of the best places to start is with a World War Two single engine fighter. It’s a bit of cliché maybe, but most of these aircraft are pretty simple to build, have a logical build sequence and have a huge choice of markings and paint schemes that should appeal to anyone – and most importantly for the novice, some of the best kits to start with are the Tamiya 1/48 scale WWII aircraft kits. Most of these can be had easily and cheaply, offer a simple yet well engineered construction, low parts count and look fabulous when completed – just the ticket for your first few builds.
With that in mind, for this ‘Building a Scale Model Aircraft’ series I’m going to building Tamiya’s rather nice North American P-51B Mustang.
In the following posts I’ll take you through what basic tools you’ll need, what paints to use and some basic building techniques to help get you started.
Please feel free to join me, and if you have any questions or comments please leave them below – I’d love to hear from you.
Happy model building!