How to choose your first model kit?
Many of you, who would like to start making scale plastic model kits ask a question "Where do I start?" On the one hand there's a question of necessary tools, glues, paints etc. and on the other - a difficult decision which model kit to buy. It is always worth starting from choosing something from our field of interest. Model shops are full of kits appropriate for modellers of any skill level. As such it's worth considering what type of model kit interests us and we'd like to see completed on our shelf and then choose a fitting set. Of course we can change it anytime we want, or if we didn't enjoy building some types of model kits. We can choose from:
- aircrafts – we can choose from virtually any type of airplane - from aviation's humble beginnings up to the future, experimental technologies. They are pretty easy to build and some jets don't require many paints due to them being in a uniform colour. However some aircrafts have very bold painting schemes, so always check the provided painting options.
- military vehicles – there's also a very large selection of model kits – from Leonardo da Vinci sketches up to modern machines. Usually more demanding in building than a typical aircraft model kit. Painting depends on the camouflage, but it is safe to say that some sort of green is the go-to colour for a large number of such models.
- ships and warships – definitely the most demanding models in terms of building and painting.
- car model kits – usually produced in larger scales. Relatively easy to build and very eye-catching.
A matter of scale.
Scale in model building is a main and most important factor. For starters it is best (at least for aircrafts and military vehicles) to choose the most popular 1/72 scale. This number indicates that our model kit was reduced 72 times from the original machine. Model kits in this scale are not big and have quite small parts count. Thanks to their size, you can paint them using only a paintbrush. As for the historical periods, in this scale we find aircrafts and vehicles that represent machines from every time period - even those who didn't make it out of the drawing boards. There is a lot to choose from
As our skills improve (or if we return to model making after some hiatus) it is worth considering making something in a larger 1/48 (for airplanes) and 1/35 (AFVs) scale. Such models would be considerably bigger than their smaller scale counterparts and as a result - would present more complexity in build, parts count and details.
Where to look for information about kits and what to pay attention to?
A matter that is important is the date of the model's first issue. The older the first release date, the greater chance there is for the model to be less precise and for the parts to have bad fit. Such issues annoy even experienced modellers, let alone those who just start building their first model kit. It is a thing to consider before buying a particular kit. You can ask the model store's staff whether a model is suitable for the less experienced modeller or check the first release date and even look through some reviews of the kit on the Internet. For this, websites like www.scalemates.com are an invaluable source of information. Within the same scale, older models are usually cheaper than those produced more recently - so it's definitely worth checking the box contents instead of strictly following the price tag. If you can - examine the sprues in the model shop or look for their pictures on the Internet - you can also start your search on the site mentioned earlier. If we want to start our adventure by building a tank or other tracked vehicle - the tracks are the details that we should examine carefully. If you are building one of your first kits, seek models which have tracks in a form of rubber-like bands. In such cases it will be quick and easy to assemble them and they still look good on a model. Recently, manufacturers tend to include tracks in plastic, sometimes requiring a lot of assembly which is a long and tiring process and thus is recommended for more experienced modellers. If we chose to build an aircraft, a simple WWII monoplane would be also a good point to start. As tempting as they might be, we don't recommend biplanes for beginners. Aligning the wings together is a tricky task and if something goes wrong - it can ruin our build. Also biplanes - to look convincing - require adding some rigging braces between their wings, which is a task best undertaken having some experience in model making.
What model kit to what age?
For the youngest modellers worth trying are Zvezda model kits in 1/100 and 1/144 scale. Usually snap-fit they offer low parts count but very nice and delicate details. Parts fit very well and their rather small size and few elements enables to finish the work and see the results in very little time.
For older modellers aircrafts in aforementioned 1/72 scale and HobbyBoss model kits from the „Easy Assembly” line, recent Airfix models or Arma Hobby "model kit" line are definitely worth recommending. They are well made, with good parts fit and full of delicate details. Occasionally you might also find some sets that are snap-fit models i.e. don't require glue to put them together. In regard to vehicles also Zvezda model kits are worth trying out as well as kits included in "September 1939" magazine. Here you will also find quite a lot of details and very well made parts with a perfect fit. As well as in aircraft model kits, here you can also find some snap-fit sets.
For adults, we can recommend aircraft models from Eduard or Tamiya in 1/72 or 1/48. If we choose AFVs instead, then also Tamiya is a great choice in 1/35 scale. In this case - even though some of the Tamiya AFV models are old (as you could read earlier) there is no need to worry about parts fit as all of their models are manufactured to the highest quality. Those "veteran" kits will offer a little less parts and usually rubber tracks which will make construction of the kit faster and easier while not sacrificing the final look of the model.
We can't really recommend ships or warships to young modellers. They are very complex kits with lots of small details and due to their scale require some previous experience in model building. However if you are determined to start here maybe choose the HobbyBoss Italian heavy cruiser Pola in 1/350 scale. With a reasonable size for the scale, moderate parts count, quite good fit and - most important - very attractive price it is the safest kit to start you naval adventure with modelling. You might also try rather small and simple snap-fit sailing ships from Zvezda. Finally there are older 1/700 scale sets from Japanese Tamiya, Fujimi or Aoshima that - while being a little crude for today's standards - are still reasonably detailed while not being overly complicated though still requiring some skill and experience.
As for the car model kits - those models come in larger scales (1/12, 1/24, 1/25) and as a result are bigger and eye-catching. They are not very difficult to build as the parts count tends to be relatively low. Their main difficulty is in achieving a smooth and uniform glossy paint finish which imitates that of a real car. The easiest way of achieving this is by using a spray paint.
Model sets with paints.
Finally, we should also mention a solution often chosen at the very beginning of getting into the hobby which is a model kit starter set. Such sets include a model kit - usually a simpler one, a glue, paintbrush and a basic set of paints which are appropriate for the included kit. It is a popular choice if choosing a model kit for a gift, especially for parents who want to get their kids into model making or for someone who just wants to see if this hobby is suitable for them. Such sets offer virtually all the basic things needed and don't require a large investment just to try out this hobby. Starter sets are made by e.g. Airfix, Revell, Heller and Italeri and as the models vary from manufacturer to manufacturer so does such sets. As with any other model kits it is worth checking the contents before you decide to buy it - it is easier as many of those sets package the same models that are available separately. As always - if you have some questions or doubts - it is worth asking a more experienced modeller or a model store staff, who will surely help and point you in the right direction.
Modelling market is currently able to satisfy the needs of model makers of any level of experience, but it is worth knowing which direction to take. Remember to do a little search before you buy, see the photos of the box's contents over the Internet, check some reviews or simply ask the shop's staff - they will surely help. It might seem daunting at first because of the many factors affecting the choice of a first model kit, but the satisfaction of creating your own miniature is making this effort worthwhile.