An introduction to building a model kit.


Maybe you are interested in building kits, but you are uncertain on how to start. Therefor we have written this introduction guide for you on how to start building your own 1/43rd kits!




The past few years many cars have been released in model form. However the first car models appeared during the fifties. For instance the famous brand Dinky Toys. At the time these makes weren’t offering enough for some. A number of enthusiast collectors started, next to the ‘bigEtoy industries, to extend there own collection. This was the birth of the hand built model made from self cast parts: a kit. Modelling kits in scale 1:43rd. As materi­al white-metal or resin is used. This avoids the use of expensive casting techniques (such as used for plastic model kits).

Nowadays there are many kits available. Different subjects make it hard to choose: classic cars, sports cars, land speed record cars or formula one! Ferrari is easily the most widely modelled car make.


One of the advantages of kits is diversity. Kits are also well detailed. These are the main reasons for collectors to collect and build kits. A good kit producer will concentrate on details. When building you can add even more detail for more realism. You can add rivets, an antenna or more decals. 


Building kits may seem to be a difficult thing for many. However, it only requires some patience and a little advice. With practice you will improve your skills step by step. If you already have made some plastic kits, this leap in the dark is often even smaller!





Before we head of building a kit, here is some advice on the purchasing kits.

Kits can be bought in shops, at swap meets or with specialised mail order companies. It is advisable to buy from a specialist company. A big advantage will be that you can return there for good advice (do not hesitate to mention you are inexperienced or that you have a problem). Many good shops also sell next their assortment kits many accessories and additional parts.

It is not wise as a starting modeller to start with the most detailed kit. It would be a waste to park your first kit in the dust bin. It is better to start out with a more simple kit. These are well available. A proper supplier can ­tell you the difference between all kits offered.





1. The most important tool is the modelling knife. Kits have to be prepared before painting. Also many small parts can be corrected with this tool. Modelling knives are available at various prices. The professional knives are the more expensive but offer fine quality and the choice of various blades. Watch out, modelling knives can be very sharp.


2. Next to the modelling knife you can use a set of files during preparation. With these you can remove larger irregularities.


3. Before and in between spraying your model, you use sanding paper. Sanding paper is available in different grades. A sheet rude (number 300) and one fine (1000 or 1200) are sufficient. With waterproof sanding paper you can realise in combination with water a very smooth surface.


4. During the build of many kits there is the need for drilling holes. This is best done with a electric hand drill. This is often a small investment for you. It will turn out to be your most frequent used tool. A pin vise is a good alternative. Buy a set spiral drills with at least the sizes 0,5; 1; 1,5 and 2 mm.


5. For a good result in painting use good brushes. Buy specialised art brushes, they will not let you down. The sizes 000, 0 and 3 must be sufficient for painting smaller parts. Make sure to maintain your brushes well, they will give a good result for a long period.


6. Currently you can choose from various makes of modelling paint. Some makes are: Humbrol, Testors, Italeri and Tamiya. Enamel paint will often cover well, while acrylic paint has to added in various layers.


7. For a good result you can paint a kit with car paint. A well assorted car paint shop should offer many original paint and the possibility to mix to a specific paint code. Spraying with spray cans is an easy and clean way to spray. It is the best way to start learning how to spray. An air-brush gives better results, but requires more experience.


8. A kit has to be assembled with glue. A good modelling glue is a two component glue with a drying time of five minutes. The famous super glue may react aggressive on paint and transparent parts.


9. For appllying small parts tweezers come in handy. Ask your dentist for his old tools!


10. Resin and white-metal kits are not always perfectly cast. To remove these shortages you can use a filling paste. With these pastes you can also modify the model or create alternative parts. A different engine hood or nose cone are some examples.


11. When applying decals it is possible that they not directly fit to the model. Use decal softener. It makes decals more elastic and improves adhesion.


12. Furthermore you can use adhesive tape to keep parts temporarily in place during assembly. Also use clothing pegs for this.





Before parts such as the body can be painted, these should be prepared. Here we will start with the preparation of a white metal kit. Next we will look at some of the differences with resin kits.


When you start to built a kit it is good to study the instructions first. When parts are missing, a good supplier should supply you with all missing parts.


The parts of a kit come directly from a casting mould. Excess material should be cut and filed away. Then use sanding paper (300-400) for smoothing the surface.

A shortage of material, can be filled with a filling paste. A good paste will set firmly and can be filled and sanded after drying.


In some cases it is efficient to attach some parts together (to the body) before painting. Other parts have to be drilled before painting. During drilling you can easily damage the paint result.

A final preparation is sanding the body with a 1200 sanding paper or steel wool. All parts are now ready for painting.

It is good to test fit the parts after preparation. This will give you a good idea for the assembly of the kit.


For a resin kit there are some extra things that need mention:

When a resin kit is cast, the mould is treated with an release agent that  will make the cast parts come out mould more easily. This agent can play up during painting. Therefor clean a resin kit well in hand warm soapy water with a (old tooth) brush.


Resin kits sometimes have air bubbles in the lower parts of the body. These bubbles get in during casting as the body is cast upside down. The air in the mould will escape upwards, but some may get ‘caughtEin the casting. These air bubbles can be removed by filling with a filling paste.



5.         PAINTING


After the preparation you can start with painting the parts. Be sure that you have sufficient documentation. Instructions will give you a good idea. However extra insight of how the real car looks is valuable. Collecting documents such as magazines and books is often another hobby of many modellers. It always leads to more modelling satisfaction!


When you have finished the preparations,  you can start with painting the smaller parts and spraying the body and the larger parts.

It is better to apply a primer coating to all parts before painting. This will improve the paint cover (underlying colour differences) and foremost adhesion of the paint.

Primers can be used in a spray can but are also available in cups.

For a few paints (enamels) a primer is not necessary. Acrylic paint is relatively thin and transparent. With this you can reach special effects without application of primer.


As a beginning modeller you can start to paint all parts with your first kits, including the body. After a few kits you can start to concentrate on the technique of spray painting.


Painting is done with brushes and modelling paint. A good quality brush is good choice. Many cheap brushes will lose hairs during painting and become inflexible. Keep your brushes well cleaned.


There are basically two kinds of modelling paints: enamels and acrylic based. The difference in use is small. Cleaning differs in that enamel can be cleaned with turpentine, while acrylic paint can be removed with water. Acrylic paints are thinner and sometimes need to be applied in several layers.

Before use stir all paints well (e.g. with a cocktail stick). Make sure to close all caps after use.





Spraying a model can be done in two ways: with a spray can or with an air-brush.

For the beginning builder the spray can is a good start. A spray can has a low price and offers a great training possibility. A good car or paint shop stocks a wide assortment of car paints. Sometimes you can have a special colour mixed. Even an original car colour.

Before use shake the can well, a small metal ball is inside the can. After use hold the can upside down and press the nozzle. This avoids congestion of the can.


The air-brush is for the more experienced modeller. For the air-brush you can easily make various shades of paints at home. Also you can attain with the air-brush a higher level of finish. A disadvantage is the price of the brush and of course the air supply by a compressor. Also you need to clean an air-brush properly after use.

For both methods it is important to work at the correct circumstances. Firstly try to spray in a separate room that can be closed. This space must have the possibility of heating. It is advised to spray at room temperature or a higher temperatures. Make sure you work at low humidity and with good illumination.

Ideal for spraying is a spray booth. You can construct one from wood and an extractor (an old cooker hood). The extractor keeps the booth free from paint dust that may hinder your work.

You can learn best how to spay by doing it yourself. The first few times will not give top quality results, but by practice you notice improvement in your work.


Some hints for spraying are:

1. move in strokes along the parts you are spraying;

2. spray small layers on the model, many paint at once can lead to paint drips;

3. mount all parts to a stick or a carton so that you can also move the parts during spraying;

4. mind the circumstances as described above.


Finally a warning. It is advised to use a spray mask during painting. When painting you might inhale gasses and particles that damage health.





When all paint has dried assembly of the model can start. You may have assembled some parts prior to painting as is sometimes quite convenient.


The final assembly of a kit is done with glue. Often the body can be attached to the chassis with a screw. Some parts can be clamped with other parts. White metal parts can also be soldered together. The great trick is to assemble your model in such a way that it is hard to see how it was assembled!


One type of glue I recommend is so called two-component glue. This type of glue can take on many different materials. Some two component glues have a drying time of only five minutes. This type of glue requires the mixing of one drop of each component with a cocktail stick on a piece of paper.


Another type of glue is cyano-acrylic based super glue. This is a glue known for its fast setting. It is however not a very strong and lasting type of glue. After a while some parts may come loose. Above all it is very aggressive. It can damage the paint finish or window vac forms. Its better to use this glue on unpainted parts for a quick bond. An extra touch with two-component glue is advisable.


Before bonding the parts, make sure they fit alright. Painting will give parts an extra layer. Especially car paints will enlarge parts. This may result in a change of the fit of some parts. Keep this in mind at the initial fit. You can also sand or file some paint away.


After application of glue, both parts can be brought together. Now leave alone for setting of the glue. Sometimes you can simply place the parts aside for drying. In other cases this is not possible. You may keep the parts together, but it is better to find some sort of fixation. You can use adhesive tape, pegs, clamps or double sided tape. Sometimes you’ll have to improvise to keep all parts well together and at rest.

Pay attention to the points that will make contact. These should have a good fit and must be clean.





The model you are assembling should become as natural as it can be. This is maybe the most important aspect of our hobby. In time many producers of kits have found new materials and techniques to attain this.


Kits come with decals. These are of the water slide type. Cut them out and place them in hand warm water. After a minute you can slide the decal from the paper and the decal can placed on the model. Use a fine brush or a q-tip for placement and adjusting. A tissue is handy to remove excess water.

Use decal softener to make decals more flexible and improve adhesion. Especially with large decals that cover a large part of the model. When decal are placed on tyres you can use extra strong decal softener. This requires extra adhesion.


For some years kits are supplied with some racks filigree parts. These parts are produced with a chemical technique called photo-etching. Its effect is spectacular and is therefor used for many parts. Especially for Formula 1 kits. Wings and suspension parts are fully made by photo-etching.


A kit is often offered as a special (race)-version. It may give your modelling an extra dimension to build a kit of a car as seen in real life. For instance at a car show or a race. It is very exciting to model a kit exactly to the specifications as seen. Photo's and documentation is therefor very important for a modeller.


For refining the dashboard apply decals with instruments. As everyone would like to sit behind the steering wheel of a racing car. Don’t forget the logo and instruments on the steering wheel.

Make sure your model has got the pedals and the gear lever.


Spray or paint the (wire) wheels of racing car in a matt paint. This will enhance the realism effect. With wire wheels leave the wheel nut chrome.

Paint the air inlets and the cockpit inside with matt black paint. The contrast between matt black and high gloss paint gives more depth to the model and thus more realism!

Add chrome paint with a cocktail stick to simulate nuts and nails.

Sand the tyres with sanding paper. This will make the tyres look worn out.

You can also make the car body look like "as raced". Use matt brown grey paint to add the dirt a car picks up during a race. Pull stripes following the streamline of the car. This gives the car the look of speed.

The practised modeller can fill the lines between body panels (engine hood, side pods). Use a very fine brush and thinned paint for this job.


9.         MODEL DISPLAY


When you have finished your model you can place it on a base of wood or plastic. However you can also buy a special showcase. For static display you can also create a diorama. There are special diorama bases available depicting a piece of racetrack with a curb stone, or a pit. Placing a model on such a base gives a very realistic effect.


There are also figures in scale 1:43rd. Drivers, mechanics or race fans. These figures are cast in white-metal and have to painted. A different kind of modelling. But once again: "Practice leads to result".

With mechanic figures you can remodel an entire pit stop with quick jacks, tools and "lollipops" included.



May I wish you good luck and many hours of modelling pleasure.



Arjan de Roos