If you have never built a kit before or are returning to the hobby choose a easy subject to begin with. Also ensure that you choose a subject that you are interested in personally. This reduces the chance that you will run out of steam before the end, the aim is to get the kit completed.
Pick out an affordable, good quality kit that takes your interest, one with few parts and an “easy skill level” (often shown on the box).
I would recommend 1:72nd or 1:48th scale aircraft kits for beginners to modelling.
Where to get the perfect starter kit
Unfortunately the days of walking into a high street shop and being able to select from a range of kits are long gone ( I weep for the Woolies of old). You may find a small selection of kits in the high street (e.g. Argos) but you are certainly not going to be able to pick and choose. Some hobby / craft shops such as Hobby Store stock a reasonable selection and there still remains a small number of specialist model shops (Just Add Imagination) who carry extensive stock of kits available to browse.
The Internet provides a massive if daunting range of kits for the beginner. Check out our links page for internet model shops. There are also plenty of kits for sale on Ebay.
Once you have selected your kit, it’s important that you collect all the necessary sundry equipment (see below) before you head home and eagerly tear everything open. There is nothing more frustrating than opening the box with anticipation, only to discover you’ve run out of flesh-colour paint and have to get the bus back into town before you can start work on giving life to the pilot/driver’s face.
Tools of the Trade
Before you even begin making a model, its a good idea to have the following, you probably wont need everything straight away (so don’t be too put off) but the chances are if you decide to continue with the hobby all of the below will need to be procured in a short time span.
A model kit ( you will need to purchase one, or have one bought for you as a gift…).
A clear flat surface to work on, in a well lit and ventilated area (it’s worthwhile getting a small table lamp to aid in lighting needs).
A scalpel or small hobby knife (ensure the blade is sharp) for separating your model parts from their plastic sprues – this will also be useful for finer operations later on. Some modellers prefer nail clippers or scissors for this, and these are recommended for younger modellers as they are much safer, and it saves money on buying new blades all the time. I generally use electrical wire cutters to cut the piece from the sprue before trimming with a scalpel.
A cutting mat, or at the very least, a small off-cut of wood or a ceramic tile. You need something to cut against that will allow you to safely use your very sharp blades. A dedicated cutting mat is the best choice, for several reasons. It treats your blades more kindly than wood, ceramic or glass, it is non-slip (which may save your fingers) and, finally, it spares damage to any important surface, such as a dining table, that might otherwise accumulate unsightly razor scratches and tool gouges. Guaranteed to reduce the appeal of your new hobby to your partner / parents/ bank manager.
Glue. Polystyrene model cement is sometimes supplied in little tubes in a kit box, but generally needs to be be bought separately. Alternatively cyanoacrylate (superglue to you and me) can be used for most tasks (more on that later). I recommend polystyrene cement for beginners as it has a thicker consistency than Superglue which makes it easier to use than superglue making it less likely you will end up in Casualty having your model removed from the ends of your fingers. Polystyrene cement actually ‘welds’ the parts together rather than merely sticking them, so too much glue will result in an amorphous and irretrievable mess. Be especially careful and thrifty when gluing clear plastic parts, as any glue will ‘frost’ over clear plastic if too much is used. Also highly recommended are the bottles of glue that come with a needle or brush applicator which allow more precise control of where the glue ends up (Tamiya thin cement). Steer clear of other types of adhesives until you are more experienced.
Paints. There are two types: enamel and acrylic. They come in small bottles or tins or occasionally in spray cans. Acrylic is water based, whereas enamels must be thinned with turpentine or other thinner. So you will also need the correct thinner if you choose to use enamel paints.
The kit should have a list of recommended paints supplied with it. Make sure you have an adequate supply, and the right type. Paints for models are much like any other paints; there’s matt, gloss and metallic – you really don’t want to paint your Sherman tank model in gloss green as it will look horrible! If you can, and you intend to make a variety of models, stock up on paints. And buy two or more of the colours you use more readily. Military modellers will have an endless supply of greens, browns, and ‘gun-metal’. And don’t chuck away used tins when finished, as they’ll be useful as mixer pots in the future.
A few paintbrushes. You will need a large surface brush, then some fine detail brushes. Brushes come in numbers to show how big they are; 1 upwards are large surface brushes, with 0, 00, 000, 5/0 and 10/0 being for fine detail. 00 is a pretty good all purpose size. You can pick these up from hobby stores; a hardware shop will sell you paint brushes but they might not do the job intended, and be a trifle large for your purposes.
Two small glasses – one for water, one for paint thinners (if you are using enamels). These are for you to put your paint brushes in to clean them.
A rag. To dry your brushes, or just generally clean up any kind of mess.
Fine-grade sandpaper, for sanding ‘burrs’ off parts, and useful for cleaning up edges where kit parts come together after gluing. Solid sanding sticks are extremely useful , course grades are sold as nail files in most chemists. A useful extra buy is a packet of needle files. Coming in a variety of shapes and textures, these versatile files may be used for cleaning, fine shaping, opening up location holes, etc, and certainly justify their cost.
Cocktail sticks, or toothpicks. These have an amazing number of uses, such as fine painting tools, putting wheels on for ease of painting, stirring paint and getting paint out from under your fingernails before you eat dinner.
A small pair of sharp-point tweezers for picking up small parts, and a pair of scissors for cutting out parts and transfers.
Elastic bands, or hair bands, clothes pegs. All are invaluable for holding parts together while the glue dries. Elastic bands are particularly useful in keeping the two halves of an aircraft fuselage together.
‘Blu Tack’. Helpful in sticking small parts in to keep them from going astray, testing fits of parts before gluing permanently, and sticking cocktail sticks in with parts that have been painted so they can dry properly before handling.