You cannot build a good model without good plans: The first requirement
for building a good model is adequate source material. No matter how
accomplished a model builder you may be, you cannot build an accurate
model with inadequate plans. Photos are also a must. Beware, however.
Ships are often altered during their careers, and plans for one period in
a ship's life may differ from photos or other materials.
While there are excellent models built from wood, there is no better
material for scratch building than plastic. It is more versatile, and
easier to use than wood, and the same model maker working in plastic will
produce a better product than in wood. Your local hobby shop should carry
strips and sheets of plastic in a large variety of sizes and thicknesses.
Those who build master models for the European model companies all work in
plastic. So the Neptun model that you own, was first produced in
Brass and Mesh
Brass wire is easy to use for masts, spars, gun barrels, antennae, and
other similar items. It is easily cut with scissors. Fine wire mesh,
easily obtained at hobby shops is useful for radar screens. Increasingly,
photo-etched brass is becoming available in 1:1250 scale.
Get the Right Tools
You'd be surprised how few tools you need to build a model. But have the
right ones, and it never hurts to have a few that you don't need, but will
make your task easier. Among those you absolutely need are a hobby knife,
a pin vise and drills, tweezers, sandpaper, a hobby saw, putty (like
Squadron), a ruler, scissors, and cyanoacrylate (CA) glue. Other useful
tools are a Dremel tool, soldering iron or butane torch, and metal files.
You can paint your model using paint brushes, but an airbrush and
compressor are far easier to use and produce excellent results.
Cast Your Own Parts
There is nothing more inefficient than having to make identical small
parts like boats, rafts, winches and other items one by one. You can
eliminate the tedium, and assure uniformity by casting your own parts in
resin. It is easy to obtain the material to make latex molds and liquid
resin in order to cast your own parts. Make one master and then cast
hundreds of copies. You can devote a great deal of effort to one really
good master, rather than a lesser amount to each item. Using pre-cast
parts is one of the ways to make your model making more fun and your
models much more accurate.
Don't be afraid to try new things. Cocktail straws can make good funnels,
and other little odds and ends from packaging materials, fasteners, etc.
can be useful for a variety of purposes. Keep an eye out for things that
may prove useful in model making. You never know what little items that
otherwise might be considered garbage, may in fact come in handy in some
If it Doesn't Look Right, Redo it
There is no substitute for your own eye. Yes, plans, and drawings are
critical, but ultimately you have to live with the finished product. As
the model comes together, be sure that you are satisfied with what is
developing. If something doesn't look right, don't hesitate to tear it
down and start again. Make it right before you go forward. It is
dissatisfying to complete a model, only to have to be constantly reminded
of a flaw that leaves you unhappy with the result and wishing you hadn't
left it that way.
Decals Make Better Models
Never paint what you can decal. Decals for numbers, stripes, lines,
insignia, etc. produce a uniform result, are easy to use, and can rarely
be matched by painting freehand, no matter how skilled the model maker. Be
sure to use a solution like Solvaset to melt the decal into the paint on
the model. After you've done that and then sprayed the model with Dullcoat
or another flat spray, you won't be able to tell it is a decal.
If you have any model tips that
you'd like to share,
please write me and let me know.
I may add them to the list.