Breaking the Narrative Episode 107: Physical Hobbies Are Still Relevant! The Importance of Building!

Nowadays with video games and so much of our lives taking place online, it can be easily forgotten that there are hobbies that really don’t need any electrical influence. In fact, I think such hobbies are a necessity to a healthy mind for just about anyone, especially if the hobby involves something such as physical craftsmanship. You might even be surprised how such things could apply to other areas of life. As such, I think I will discuss one of my particular hobbies which I’ve mentioned in the past. Namely, the building of model kits!

Why did I cover this on a men’s issues blog?

SJW infiltration of maker and builder communities, demonizing male hobbyists and their traditionally masculine pursuits, has threatened an area of father-child bonding, male camaraderie, and masculine character and skill development.

Many of these crafting skills can be slightly modified and applied to do it yourself home repair, a skill still expected of men, but often sorely lacking in this day and age. This includes some of the larger kits, as I remember as a kid dealing in fiber-optic lighting in a model I made of the NCC-1701-D Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation. That alone gave me enough knowledge to do minor electronics repairs at home.

The more complex stuff came in later when I started working on computers and dealing with updating a breaker box with my stepfather when I was young, since he was a TVA lineman for most of my life.

The hobby also helps with discipline, patience and attitude because you cannot rush these kits and make them look good. My current kitbash has taken about 2 months so far.  Finally, there is no real ‘wrong way’ to make a model kit other than putting things together in the wrong order or not taking the environment into account.  Even the least talented builder can create something beautiful when properly instructed.

There are more types of kits you can tackle than just robot style kits, though that’s the area I’ll be coming in from. I’ve even been in a competition or two over my kits. If you are in the patron Discord or even the basic fan-run Discord I will discuss any model project I am working on at length with you there, complete with pictures.

So like I said, there are more than just robots. There are various types of ships, airplanes, and cars. There are even model kits for things like film monsters, such as Bela Lugosi’s Dracula or one that my wife has done, Grandpa Munster. So don’t think its just a niche venture. There are options for whatever your interest might be, overall. If you don’t want to do anything anime related then don’t. Get a Dodge Charger or Pontiac Firebird. What’s more, you aren’t restricted to just that, either, You can do something I love doing. Kit-bashing involves merging two or more kits together into something you design. I’m doing this right now with what I’m calling the Gundam Malibu. More on that later. We have the basics to touch upon first! Let’s Hammer This In!

First we need to cover the tools you’ll need before even choosing your kit. I’m going to list these in level of importance, and don’t worry I’ll get to paints in a later paragraph. The most important tool and one that you have to replace or maintain most often are your nippers. Also called flush cutters, this tool is how you cut the pieces off the sprue tree. The most efficient way to do this is the two-cut method where you clip at the tree, then orient the piece to where you have it flush against the kit and clipping off the refuse. This minimizes the next step of sanding, for this depending on the part I use both needle files and different grit sandpapers. I recommend between 180 grit all the way up to 1500 grit for the best effect, with the lower grits for when you remove it from the tree and higher grits for when you are trying to get rid of seams and clearing away paint bubbles and other imperfections.

Next is a craft knife. This could be a standard utility knife or an exacto-knife. This is for when you are trying to make panel lines on a particular kit more prominent for lining or cleaning up where you add putty, to deal with your mistakes. Another tool that is very common, yet surprising, is cotton swabs. Yes, what you clean your ears with. In model building these are used for when you have to deal with decals or stickers, as it helps apply them cleanly and smoothly without having to deal with your oil from your skin messing it up. Sure, you could wear gloves but this is more cost-effective and lasts longer, not to mention you can dip one end in some decal setting solutions for waterslide decals, which are much more common in model kits than any other type. The swab also aids in precision sets. Also, depending on your eyesight I recommend magnifying glasses since a large majority of model kits, no matter what your subject matter is, tend to be really scaled down.

Here we’ve talked about all the tools you’ll need other than everything paint related. As such, this is where we tackle….terminology. My experience is more in Gundam plastic models or ‘Gunpla.’ However, I started with normal kits like several other young boys. Notice I didn’t mention glues earlier. This is because most models in current modeler circles are whats called ‘snap-fit.’ These are kits that use a peg and hole system that fits snugly with a ‘snap.’ The reason for this is in case you need to replace parts with the misfortune of accidents, and also if your kit is meant to have moving parts such as wheels or joints. If its not meant for that, then the kit is given instructions for glue.

Remember also that I said these are mostly scale kits. These scales depend on the subject. Most battleship kits are 1:1500 scale for example, meaning the model is 1/1500th the size of the original. This also ensures that if you are setting up a diorama style display that you don’t mix scales. I’m sure you realize how setting up a 1:72 scale car on top of a 1:3200 scale building could be jarring.

Gundam has its own specific scaling system that is separated by a grading system. HG or High Grade is 1:144 along side RG or Real Grade. Real Grade is a miniaturized version of the more common Master Grade, which is 1:100 scale. Then there’s a 1:60 PG or Perfect Grade which includes ALL of the mechanics in moving detail. In addition, there are the EX line which is the glue versions of non-moving part kits for 1:144 scale and 1:1700 scale ships with properly scaled mobile suits for that type of display. There is also Universal Century Hard Graph, which is typically 1:35 scale kits with appropriately sized soldiers, though there are some that are meant to work with the 1:144 line as well. These are all priced to the amount of details with HG being the cheapest and PGs typically in the hundreds of dollars. In addition, PGs are typically very small batches due to their expense as a kit, while HGs are relatively cheap and common, costing between $7 to $25, normally.

Now we get to the painting, this is actually dependent on the type of model you are getting. Many of the static glued together kits need full paint jobs. Most of the snapfits deal with paints as optional, having been injection-molded in color, though there are some that still need painting. Before even beginning to paint, you need to check the humidity in the air. If you are in a very humid area you might have issues with paint setting smoothly, so have a dehumidifier handy for brush paints and get a respirator mask if you are going to do spray painting in any fashion. Use some sort of venting system if you do spray painting inside. I’m working on trying to start a hobby shop that rents out a booth for such painting, if I may get a little more personal. Whenever I get a new kit that I intend to paint, before I cut a single sprue I hand wash each sheet with dish soap and dry them to clean off the oil they use on the injection molds to pop the trees out in the factory, as it tends to also interfere with paint adhesion.

After letting them dry on a towel, I find which injection sprues would be most hidden after the kit is constructed and cut the ones that won’t need the typical clean up. I then apply a spray primer (usually white) and let that dry. Large cardboard boxes help a lot as a backdrop/container for this, and I personally use portable small vises to hold the trees in place so none of the paint pools in any one place. You want a thin, even coat with your primer. Once it’s dried I find the panel lines and clean those out with the craft knife I mentioned earlier. I then work out where I’m applying which colors, and mix those properly, though Gundam paint markers do wonders. Most kits that have suggested colors will give mix percentages in the instructions however.

After you’ve applied your standard colors, but before applying marking decals and the like, you will want to do your panel lines. This is done by thinning black or dark grey paint, depending on the color you are painting on, and using a short, thin-hair brush, just enough to fill the line. Dark grey is for lighter colors and whites, while black is for darker colors overall.  I would suggest a dark grey in straight black as well, to make those lines pop. Once you are done with this, I recommend a clear matte spray to seal the paint job. Just be sure you do it before putting joints together, as this can make said joints stick and become infinitely more fragile otherwise.

Many kits come with straight stickers which could be all well and good, but are typically noticeable and jarring depending on the kit. It could make it look more like a toy than a model meant more for display. That’s why I heavily recommend full paints and decals. For most things, you can get regular decal sheets that will give you no fuss and can be applied with the cotton swab method I mentioned at the beginning, though Testors, a common American model paint brand, produces decal sheets you can adorn with your own custom symbols and ideas through a normal everyday inkjet printer. For instance, you could put a Honey Badger logo on a car. Either way, you’ll have to cut the decal off the sheet first and foremost, and remove a backing. Then you wet it, apply it, and apply the set after application. Once it’s dried another little bit of sealant won’t hurt.

Everything I’ve given you so far has been for straight builds, which is more than enough for beginners. Honestly I recommend not doing anything further for at least 10 full kits. This gives you time to figure out what you like in models and how you like to approach your builds overall. After you get these processes down, you can start doing kit-bashes. With these its best to start from a sketchbook. Figure out the kits you want to put together and look at all their instruction sheets. Decide what pieces you want to put where, and draw out your plans to get to that point. For modifying pieces to go together that normally won’t, I would suggest using a dremel and jeweler’s hacksaw to cut, and a brush-on glue. I also recommend getting some plastimake, a moldable plastic that you activate with boiling water and set in the freezer. Different dremel bits on the lowest setting will make some pieces that you’ve modified look like they’ve always been as you’ve shaped them. In addition, if you do it right, you can keep all the former articulation. Do it better and you can even improve articulation. Your limit is your imagination.

Again, there is a lot you can learn from the process I put forth here. What’s more, a lot of the lessons learned from this can be applied to other things. It’s also fun and can give you a great display to remind you of things you’ve learned making said kit later on. It can be a source of pride in accomplishment, not to mention the benefits of it for therapeutic purposes or even a method of father and child bonding, as it was for me in the beginning.

So as through this I just mentored you, all I ask is, in addition to trying your hand at models is that you pass these lessons on, use it to bond with your own child, male or female. I hope this finds you well and you can find a model you can build. If you’ve already built models or end up building some yourself, please post them in the comments below. As a creative and constructive outlet, this is integral to the mental health aspect of men’s issues. I can’t begin to list the issues I’ve been able to parse through my mind while trying to build a kit. So please show everyone what you can do, and until next time Please Remember to Game Freely!

Alex Tinsley
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Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.
Alex Tinsley
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Alex Tinsley

A student of Fine Arts and Japanese culture of six years at Murray State University. Having never graduated due to difficulties with a specific teacher has gained a unique perspective upon the issues being faced by men and boys. A father of a young boy and loving husband.