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TIPS and INFORMATION comes to us from Warren Willis Jr.

GETTING STARTED, or Truck modeling 101

Modelers buy kits for different reasons: a few may buy it only for it's collectable value, some will build ti box-stock, some will modify it heavily, and others will use the kit as a source of parts (kitbashing). Whatever the reason, the end result will usually be construction of most of the kit.

It sounds silly, but before purchasing the kit, let's sit down and develop a building strategy. What will be the end result of the project? What are the reasons for building this kit (a real truck as inspiration? A concept truck?). What colors will the truck be? Are you going to install any aftermarket (resin) parts? Any super-detailing? What kind of supplies are needed? (plastic cement, superglue, white glue, sandpaper, nippers, cutters, files, etc). Take an inventory of what you have in-stock, or need.

Next, do you have a suitable area to build? If you plan on using the dining room or kitchen table between meals, there will be lots of parts being moved around, plan ahead for this, with containers for parts, tools etc. I's best to have a dedicated area to build, to help eliminate lost parts, breakage. Card tables are decent, inexpensive work tables for model building.

When you purchase your kit, now is the time to aquire any needed supplies.

Before you start buiding the kit, try to make any mail-order aftermarket purchases, so you have the items on hand, and don't have to stop building while you wait for the parts to arrive.

Once you get the kit home, remove the wrapping,open the box and take all the parts sprues (or trees) out of the box. Examine all the parts for damage, warpage, and inventory to make sure that everything is there!

Layout all the sprues and parts over a large area, and examine the parts. Check the instruction sheet/booklet. Now is the best time to "walk yourself" through the instructions, familiarizing yourself with the parts, and the instructions. Check to make sure part numbers on the parts and the instructios match. If any parts are missing or damaged, now is the time to either contact the manufacturer for replacement, or return the kit for exhange or refund.


There are several books available to modelers, one I refer to often is "How to build dioramas" and Build and detailing Tanks & Military vehicles" from Kalmbach Pblishing." I highly recommend these books for any modeler, regardless of the subject matter, as the topics and techniques described apply to all subjects and all modelers.

Start by looking through the instructions and identifying subassemblies for building, such as frame & chassis, engine & transmission, and cab/hood body parts. Painting needs to come much later, as there will be gaps and seams to fill and eliminate.

While familiarizing yourself with the instructions, start formulating your building plan. Start with one subassembly, and when you are waiting for the glue to set on the parts you just built, find out which subasssembly you can move on to. Do the same for all subassemblies, the strategy here is to develop a constant flow of construction and work on the kit, so you don't get bogged down on one assembly. Example: Assemble the engine, while the flue sets, assemble the frame and suspension, while the frame is setting up, work on air cleaners, fuel tanks, and other accessories, and so on...

While building your subassemblies, keep in mind the ease of painting them later. For example, while building the cab, don't build it completely with all the sides, roof and floor together, and then expect your paintbrush to perform contortions to reach impossible areas! You may have to break a subassembly down into several more groups, paint them, then assemble them to form the complete assembly, as any other way would be impossible to paint and detail (such as the interior).

If you want to paint detail on parts, such as the engine, keep this in mind during assembly. There are 2 ways to do this, assemble the whole assembly (engine, for instance), then paint the engine, and then carefully paint the detail, or , partial assembly, leaving off the detail parts, paint the engine, then the detail parts, then finish the assembly. This depends on your skill level. If you don't feel comfortable with detail painting, then paint the parts first, (fan belts, starters, etc), then assemble.

Be sure to test fit the parts before gluing them together! I can't count the times where I found out parts didn't fit exaclty right until after I applied the cement, and now I had a gooey mess to contend with. Sometimes (especially on older AMT kits) the kit's locating pins and mounting holes on parts aren't place exactly right, and pins don't line up. In that case, cut the offending pins off, and glue the parts together. Whenever I can, I like to lightly sand or file the areas to be glued, to make sure that the area is as flat as possible; this will remove any imperfections in the the area to be glued, and you will get a good bond. After the parts are glued, check all the way around the glued perimeter to make sure everything is lined up properly. After checking nd making adjustments, I give the parts a good squeeze, hope that some now-melted plastic may ooze out of the seam Once dry, this will ensure that the seam has little or no gaps, making clean up easier. Of course, this doesn't apply to all parts, but works grea with air tanks, boxes, and anything else consisting of halves.

My most-used tools here are of course diffent X-Acto type hobby knives, with at least one having a new, extremely shrap blade (few things are worse that a dull blade!!); also jeweler's files, 150-200 grit sandpaper for rough shaping & sanding, tweezers, nippers, small scissors, and emeryboards (emeryboards come in different grits, and are great for filing, sanding, shaping). For sanding, I cut the sandpaper sheets into strips about 1/4 inch wide by 3 inches long. I start at one end, and when it's no longer usable, I work my way back by folding the sandpaper to use the unused area. When sanding, besure not to sand off too much material, or details!

Subassembly building gives you an excellent opprtunities not only for effective painting and detailing, but also gap-filling, seam-removing and removing the mould-release agents and finger oils. After the subassemblies are are assembled, and gaps/seams are removed, you can now wash the part(s) thoroughly with warm water and dish soap, using an old toothbrush to reach all the nooks and crannies. Rinse toroughly and allow to dry (blowing compressed air over the parts helps speed dryng!). Once thouroughly dried, you are ready to move to paint and/or more assembly.


Warren Willis Jr.

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