Hi there. Some people seem to have no end of problems with the new Wyrd plastic models. So I've decided to try and give some tips which to some may seem obvious, but aren't so readily apparent to others. Some of these tips may also help veteran models who may have developed some bad habits over the years or are having difficulty making the transition from metal to plastic - while there are many similarities working with the two mediums there are also several differences.
I've built several of the new plastics and I've never broken or lost a single piece while assembling. For full clarity, I have had two pieces break. One was when I was foolishly seeing just how far I could bend a 10T Archer's bow (I found out when it snapped) and the second one was a Torakage when I placed my carrying case flat on a table and some idiot put his elbows on it and leaned on it. Idiot.
What you need.
A work space. I recommend an area at least two feet deep and three feet across of flat surface to work on. Nothing should be in this work space except the tools you need and the models you are working on. Coffee cups, family photos, radios, cats, etc should all be outside of this area.
Preferably the floor should be hard wood or tile.....at worst a very thin carpet. Nothing is worse than dropping a piece of grey plastic into grey shag carpet. If this is not possible then you must be extra careful of your movements and you'll need to take some extra precautions. For example; working over a large shallow box (the top of a shoe box is good for this) and placing a towel over your lap while keeping your legs in front of you to catch any pieces you may drop.
A good light. A table lamp is best. If you're just using the kitchen light, when you lean forward your head will cast shadows on your work. Besides the obvious use of helping you to see what you're doing, a good light will create shadow which will help you see any mold lines in your models that need to be removed (more on that later).
A comfortable chair. That's right. If you are uncomfortable, you will fidget more or stretch in your seat......any extraneous movement is a potential to knock something off the table so doing any little thing to prevent that is helpful.
Side cutters. For clipping parts off of sprues. There are many brands and like most things, you get what you paid for. Getting a cheap pair from the dollar store is asking for trouble. I use a Xuron Micro-Shear. They are US made and run around $15. Instead of the standard compression cut, these use a shearing cut which reduces the pressure needed to cut........for anyone that has cut a piece off and had it fly across the room, these side cutters are the answer (more on that later). The shearing cut also allows them to keep their sharp edge longer than traditional cutters.
If you are also working with metals, then you should get a second pair and label one 'Plastic' and one 'Metal'. Cutting metal will wear down the blade much faster and metal can take a cut with a duller blade better than plastic can.
X-Acto Knife. For cutting mold lines and sprue edges that you couldn't get with the side cutter. Hobby knife, craft knife, razor knife, whatever you want to call it. It should be small enough to get into tiny spots like between legs or between the body and arms. I don't recommend the break away blades for this because they don't usually have the tapered point which allows access to those smaller spaces. You're knife should be sharp and clean......if it's starting to show rust on the blade, it's way past time to replace it.
Sand paper or Jeweler files. For mold lines. I normally use a Jeweler file since you can get a small kit of various sizes that will allow you to reach just about any area. With plastic however I find that most of this work is easier done with a good razor knife (more on that later).
A soft toothbrush. Huh? I thought this was about modeling, not oral hygiene? Yep. This is my tool of choice after sanding or filing anything to get those little shavings off of my models.
Tweezers. For holding small pieces. I prefer not to use tweezers myself, but some people just have sausage fingers and they need some help. Again, there are many different kinds......do yourself a favor and get the kind with the rubber coating on the ends. If you squeeze a piece too hard with bare metal it will just shoot across the room....the rubber coating provides some grip and drastically reduces that problem.
Glue. For, well, gluing. This is a massive problem that I see mentioned time and time again. Step out of the metal dark ages and put that Crazy/Super glue away. PLASTIC CEMENT is what you need. I've tried several brands and I prefer the Testor's Model Master - Liquid Cement for Plastic Models. It has a thin metal applicator tube that really helps control where and how much glue you apply. Your mileage may vary on the brand. (More on application later.)
Super glue simply holds two pieces together. Over time it can degrade and become brittle. Plastic Cement actually works on a molecular level and will break down the plastic into a semi-liquid state which then fuses together so that once dry it creates one solid piece and provides a much stronger bond than super glue ever could.
Paper towel. For cleaning up any over-gluing. Have this prepared......tear of several small pieces so that when you have an issue, you don't have to put your model down....just pick up a small piece and lightly dab the edge in the glue allowing it to absorb the glue.....let the paper do the work, don't rub it or you'll push your piece out of position.
Your models. That one seems obvious even to me.
So you have a nice, clean, organized work space and all of the tools you need. Now what?
Open the models and look at them.
Is there an instruction sheet? If not, check the Wyrd downloads section as there are many there.
Are there any pieces missing? Are any pieces broken? If so, you should probably stop right now and hit the forums again to report the problem.
Take a few minutes to look everything over. If there are multiple models on the same sprue, identify which pieces go with what. Visualize what pieces go where and try to identify any potential difficulties........gluing a solid torso to a single piece pair of legs is easy, but Yan Lo's beard might be a problem.......mentally note where these problems are so you can take greater care with them.
If you're unsure where a particular piece is supposed to go on the model or at what angle, utilizing the 3D Renders on the box is a great help.
Identify any pieces that will need to be done after something else is done.........if the model has a torso piece, an arm piece, and a weapon piece, they will obviously need to be done in steps. Figure out what needs to be done first.
This next part will partially depend on how organized you are and personal preference. Some people prefer to only cut off the pieces that they are attaching right now. Other people prefer to cut everything off first.........well, if you're a generally unorganized person or if your cat likes to jump on your desk, that's probably not a good idea. If you're that guy and you still need to cut everything off first, I suggest you get one of those small plastic tackle box containers......then you can separate your pieces and close it when not working with them.
I'm anal-like with my organization, meticulous with my clean work station, and I don't have a cat, and I don't start unless I know I'll have time to finish.......I cut everything. If it's multiple models I separate them into little piles.......then I clean them all.....then I assemble.
Cutting from the sprue.
Use the side cutters first. Look hard at where you're about to cut........is it part of the sprue? Or a tab designed to fit into another piece? Several of the Wyrd models have awesome irregularly shaped tabs that only fit one way onto another piece....take a look at the other piece and see what kind of shape it needs......that will help you decide where it's safe to cut.
Relax.......it's not a race. Take your time. Exercise your patience. First, gently hold the part with your fingers to 1) prevent it from flying off the sprue into the abyss and 2) if it's a very thin piece, to help it absorb any potential tension you might put on it while cutting. Second, place the side cutters where you know (because you looked earlier) they need to go..........squeeze gently and slowly......if you snip it, you create more tension for breaking and flying. If it's connected in multiple places, re-position your grip if needed to cut the other connections.
There. The piece is off the sprue, solidly controlled in your grip and not broken.
This can be a little trickier on some smaller pieces.....many times, those pieces are so small that any mold lines will be virtually impossible to see and you can ignore them. But you do need to make sure that the 'join spot' is smooth to allow the glue to do its job.
Your good light can really help you now. It will create shadow making mold lines stand out much better. It really stinks to get paint on a model then realize that you missed a mold line. Give it a good look while turning it under the light.
Personally, I have moved away from any filing. Plastic is so soft that most mold lines can be easily removed with your razor knife. Hold the knife perpendicular to the model and shave/scrape the line off........if you hold it at an improper angle, the blade could cut into the soft plastic and create a dip. I've also found that doing it this way creates MUCH less mess that I can simply clean off with a light puff of breath instead of needing to resort to the toothbrush.......which allows me to actually handle the piece less.....which cuts down on the amount of time that I might drop it (just like the chair, every little bit helps......the more seemingly stupid things you can do to reduce potential disaster the better).
I have rarely found a reason to "clean" a plastic model, but if I notice any shiny substance on the model I'll clean that off. Again, the size and fragility of some pieces can make this a potential disaster if you're not patient and careful. Normally, the most I have needed to do is:
Put a couple drops of liquid dish detergent in a large plastic cup.
Let the tap water run hot, then fill the cup.
Drop all your plastic pieces in there.
Pour the contents into a fine metal strainer.
On low volume, run cold water lightly over the pieces.
Put the pieces on a paper towel and let dry.
Inspect the pieces after dry. If there is still residue (unlikely, but possible):
Make your detergent and hot water mixture.
Place your strainer over the drain in case you drop the piece.
Carefully hold the piece so you won't break it when you put pressure on it......I usually put in in my palm as flat as possible and hold it down with my thumb.
Keeping your hands in the sink and over the strainer, dip your soft toothbrush in the soapy water and LIGHTLY scrub the piece.
Drop the piece in the strainer and rinse it with cold water.
Put on paper towel to dry.
I'm going to assume that your model has several pieces, including pieces that need to be done in stages.
Now that your model is off the sprue and cleaned take a second to confirm your assembly order decisions. Now that you can turn the pieces around at different angles you may decide to do it in a different order than you originally thought. Again, utilize any instructions and the 3D render if needed.
It only takes a very small amount of glue. Try not to put a huge glob on there that's going to squeeze out the sides when you press the pieces together.
With super glue, you can put two pieces together and spray with an accelerator that instantly dries it......which actually weakens the bond so to me it's a big no, no. With plastic glue you really have no choice but to let it bond......initially this doesn't take any more time than super glue on metal without the spray before you can let it go.
However it will take some time to properly set. If you move a glued piece before it is dry, you will severely weaken the bond. This is part of the reason why I assemble several models at the same time.........I might attach all of my torsos to my legs.......then go back and do the arms......then go back and do the heads (or whatever order I've decided to do them in). The point is that you need to give each join time to cure well enough that a casual touch won't move it........it is still going to be weak at this point, so putting pressure on it will ruin the bond.
If you are particularly ham-fisted, it might be best to do a couple of joins then do some painting or terrain building or whatever for at least 30 minutes before doing the next part.
Once you've assembled the entire model, let it set for several hours to be certain it has fully cured before applying any paint. I usually wait a full 24 hours before considering paint.
Normally, this isn't a problem if you're just putting the model on a stock plastic base as the plastic cement works just fine. However, if you're using a scenic base either something resin or something that you've made out of non-plastic material what do you do?
Well, you might grab your pin-vice and try to drill a little hole through those little tiny feet and thin ankles....and honestly that's okay IF the model has big enough feet to do it. But if they're particularly small or at an odd angle you may have a really hard time with that.
Take an off-cut piece of sprue, or a small piece of plastic card and carve out a space for it to fit in your base. You can then use your super glue to glue that piece into your base. You can then use your plastic cement to glue the model to that piece of plastic.
That's all I've got for now. If I think of anything else I'll add it in. I encourage anyone that is an accomplished modeler to share any tips or tricks they have to make plastic modeling easier.
I also encourage anyone that isn't sure of something to ask questions. I personally will do everything in my power to help you, but we also have a fantastic community here that will surely augment my measly offerings.
Good luck and happy modeling.