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March-April 2012, Vol. XXVII, No. 2
 
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Feature Stories

(Mostly) men can be kids again by building plastic models

Model hobby

Kids (usually boys) can still be found painstakingly gluing together plastic cars, planes and boats, each with hundreds of parts. But adults, too? You bet!

The hobby takes grown-ups away from life's pressures, provides precious time alone, and leaves them with a hand-built product suitable for display.

Building plastic or wooden models also takes you back to youthful days when spending hours on these projects was a perfect way to wile away the hours. For awhile, anyway, you weren't telling your parents how bored you were with nothing to do.

But building models isn't all pure joy. Expect some hurdles along the way.

Fly-away pieces, difficult directions

A number of challenges come with building any model. Sometimes, when hurdles mount and your patience wears thin, your best bet is to simply walk away and come back later.

Common model-building woes:

  • Pieces can fly into the air and be lost when cut from their frame. While you're crawling around on the floor looking for them, you may ask yourself why you found this pastime so much fun in the first place.
  • Instructions can be as easy to decipher as hieroglyphics.
  • You might glue parts on prematurely, forcing you to take them off later to make way for others. No fun!
  • Don't get ahead of yourself if you paint models. (Most look far more realistic painted.) Often, the temptation to apply glue and build before painting is great. Resist. Getting a nice, clean paint job after construction is darn near impossible.
  • Handle your model with care! You really don't want to rebuild an engine, let's say, if you've dropped it on the floor, shattering it into many pieces.

Other building tips

Always have a sharp razor and sandpaper handy. They allow you to snip off and smooth out unsightly burs on parts after they've been twisted from frames. This also ensures smooth fits. Finally, a razor works very well when you have to take pieces apart.

Sometimes, little plastic pegs are too big to fit easily in the receiving holes where parts are glued together. Just make the holes bigger with tiny drills - available at any hobby shop. Problem solved.

Often, time is wasted while you press parts together, impatiently waiting for the glue to dry. What to do? You can save a lot of time by temporarily taping parts together so you're freed up to move on to something else.

Speaking of glue, you probably grew up using special modeling glue that slightly dissolves pieces into a somewhat mushy texture if you use too much. It also looks bad and can't be removed if it's accidentally applied where you don't want it. (This is especially true of windows.)

Solution? Try newer, very fast-drying glues instead. It doesn't deform parts, no matter how much you apply. Many brands feature easy-to-use brush applicators.

Finally, be sure you don't glue moving parts together. This mistake is often made when assembling front wheels and tires on cars which are designed to turn with the steering wheel.

With all these tips in mind, those who haven't built plastic models since childhood might want to give it a try again. You could have hours of fun. I know I do!


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