Your first armor scale model

Hey all,

This time, I’m going to write for all people that would like to start scale modeling. Many of you will probably have admired these little pieces of art and want to build a scale model yourself. But how do you start? What do you need and how do you do it? Note that this might be a big post, but when you’re done reading this, you’ll be ready for your first model!


First things first, you won’t pull off a masterpiece with your first model. It will take some time before you will create the mind-blowing things you’ve seen on the internet or somewhere else. But with a bit of determination you will pull it off.

Yes, anybody can build a model.

„But Sir, I don’t have the patience do build scale models!”

Yes, Patience is something that comes in handy with something like, but even with a lack or without this, you can build and complete a model, many modelers will admit that they have a certain lack of patience as well, including myself.

There is no rush in completing your model, take all the time you need and you’ll pull it off in any way.


Now, to get things rolling, let’s look at the tools you’ll probably want to have if you want to make your own tank, aircraft, ship, etc. But first it would be best to think about what you would like to have and build.

Best is to look what you like the most, what gets you the urge to do stuff?
For this post, I will focus mainly on tanks. Now, most of the new armor kits come in 1/35 scale these days. These can be rather expensive and take up quite a bit of space after a while. If you don’t have this budget or space, you might consider building the newer 1/48 armor or the ‘older’ 1/72 kits. There is also a bigger choice of aircraft kits (1/48 & 1/72) and ships (1/72), so if you want to build these as well, you might reconsider these scales.

Please note that the 1/48 tank kits are newer, These fit great and are very detailed and less expensive than the 1/35 kits, but there isn’t a lot of choice out there at the moment (there is more than enough to get you started though, and there are new kits coming out each year)


So you’ve bought your first kit, what are the main tools to get your new model assembled?

You can go all out on this, going into the hundreds of euros (or even thousands if you’re a complete nutjob) for high end tools like an airbrush, spray booth, Dremel drill, etc.

It will make your work better, but you don’t need this for your first model. Once you’ve build a few, you can consider getting some of these tools.

Let’s say we have a starter budget of around 65euros for our first kit and tools. Don’t worry, this will be a one time price and you’ll have these tools throughout your scale modeling career. You’ll probably have some of these thing in your home already. Let’s say you’ve paid 15-25 euros for your first kit. That leaves you with a budget of 50-40 euros to buy various tools.


Your basic tool layout:

  • – Super glue (I prefer Zap-a-gap, it is cheaper and does the same job)
  • – Model cement, preferably with a fine needle
    (there are many out there, I prefer the Revell glue with a needle)
  • – Sanding paper (various grains, probably 600 and higher)
  • – Sprue cutter (small pincers)
  • – 3 Paint brushes (fine tip, middle and big)
  • – Hobby knife/scalpel
  • – Tweezers
  • – Filler putty
  • – Masking tape
  • – Thinner (to wash your brushes, depending on paints, you could use water)
  • – Scissors
  • – Toothpicks
  • – Box of tissues (very important to have a supply of these!)
  • – Rubber bands
  • – Very small claps (you can also use clothespins)
  • – Small cutting mat

So you have your basic tools now and probably a small bit of budget left over, only thing now is paints. Which kind you want is up to you.

The most known and used ones are the Tamiya and Mr hobby/Gunze (acrylic), life color (aquarel) and Revell &Humbrol (Enamels). There is no ‚best kind’, this is again all up to your personal taste. You must experiment to find out what soots you best.

Personally, I like the Acryllics from Tamiya and Gunze the most. I haven’t used the Life colors series yet, but hear a lot of good stuff about it from other modelers. I have a lot of Revell Enamels from my early modeling career but I don’t use them that often anymore. You can also buy ‚off the rack’ paint from art stores for the ‚weathering’ of your models.(Weathering is a term for varying techniques to give your model a used look.)

The prices of the modeling brand paints vary from 1,60 to 4,50 euros a jar. This depends the most on the kind of paint you pick and what brand. These jars do go a long way and some can go a long time. I have many jars in my rack (85%) that I have since the start of my scale model career, which I still use today.

So, you are ready to go with the tools and paint. Now let’s see what kit you really want. I’ve already talked about scales. To give you an idea we’ll take the M413 as an example. In 1/35 is 172mm long and 76mm wide. In 1/48 scale that is 119mm long and 59mm wide. A 1/72 WWII Sherman is about 83mm in length.

When buying kits, prices will also play a big part. These are most often affected by 3 things. The brand, the amount of parts in the kit and when building tanks, you must take in effect if the tracks are made from rubber or styrene. (When using rubber tracks, you must know that these will eat away your model after a certain amount of years, with often devastating effects.)

There are many brands out there. Prices often vary from country and/or region. Because I’ve been talking about tanks, I’m going to keep it to the most known armor brands.


List of manufacturers

Tamiya: Japanese, 1/35 & 1/48, 

  • Expensive: great detail, very accurate and awesome fit.
  • Do need to watch out a bit what kit you take with 1/35, some are older, but those are often still a lot better than what other brands have to offer.
  • Their older kits are good for starters, their newer 1/35 kits might have a bit to many parts for a starter.

Airfix: (British), 1/72,

  • Cheap: medium detail, accuracy could be better.
  • very cheap, a lot of very old and bad kits, but they also have newer ones. Good for starters in 1/72.

Italeri: (Italian), 1/35 & 1/72,

  • Medium price: medium accuracy and medium fit.
  • Not the best but not the worst, a good all round brand. They have some cool stuff other brands don’t have.

Revell (US and German), 1/35 & 1/72, (US) l (GER)

  • Going from really bad to really good accuracy & fit.
  • The brand that is often found in the toy stores. These kits can basically be horrible or be be complete gems.
  • It often depends what kit it is and where it comes from. If you buy one of these, it is often best to go on the internet for reviews about the actual kit in question.

Trumpeter (Chinese) 1/16, 1/35 & 1/72,

  • Expensive: good accuracy, awesome fit
  • A lot of German, Chinese and Russian subjects. These kits are great but stack a lot of stuff in it and get very detailed and overenginered at certain moments.
  • I would only recommend this to a starter if he has build one kit and wants to step it up a notch.

Hobbyboss (Chinese) 1/16, 1/35, 1/48 and 1/72,

  • Cheap: middle accuracy, great fit
  • This is the same company as Trumpeter, but the kits are cheaper and less detailed.
  • Very good for starters, but I recommend their newer kits, the older ones often have annoying fit issues.

Cyberhobby/Dragon (Chinese) 1/35,

  • Expensive: awesome accuracy, great fit
  • This company has very accurate kits, but you will pay for that. Would only start with this after you have done at least a few kits.


“Where you do find friends and shops?”

Go to Google and type IPMS followed by the name of your country or large city. These are the „International Plastic modeler society” clubs. These are various clubs from all over the world. These often have monthly (over even weekly) meetings where you can meet fine people. These people can learn you a lot. They also host conventions, which draws many traders from all over and modelers selling their older kits.

These secondhand kits are a potential goldmine for a starter. If you don’t have a certain tank/kit in mind or have a small budget to work on, you can take advantage of this. However, do remember that it is also important to support your local hobby shop!

You can also try forums, although you have to watch out. We are still on the internet, filled with trolls and other jokers.

I will gladly try to assist you with any questions or anything else you might want to know. If you want to see some of my models, you can watch a few of them here in the gallery.

I hope that this might get a few of you building. It would be fun to see some of you guys works in progress and maybe even completed models! Don’t be ashamed to post anything, this is supposed to be constructive and helpful. You have to start somewhere.

For more info and that, You can try these websites. (a huge database to find kits) (The website from IPMS Belgium) (The website from IPMS United Kingdom)

Happy modeling!
With regards, Ninetalis.

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