Since I started my recent hobby of building gunpla (Gundam plastic models), I’ve completed several kits, one of which I’ve already posted about here. I began with some basic/budget tools to build the models, since I didn’t want to invest too much in a hobby I had never tried, but since that first kit, I’ve bought a few more small additions to my set of gunpla tools. While these are far from high-end, I figured I’d share my thoughts on my tools since others who are considering starting this hobby may come across many of them.
I’ll be talking about the following in this post (Amazon links provided):
- Tamiya Basic Tool Set
- Krylon Matte Finish
- Fine tip Gundam Marker Value Set
- Tamiya Finishing Abrasives (sandpaper)
- Bluecell 25 pcs Alligator Clip Stick
- Acerich 200 Pcs Craft Sticks
Tamiya Basic Tool Set
First up is the Tamiya Basic Tool Set, which contains the a couple of the necessities for anyone to start building gunpla. Most reviews will tell you that this is a good value for < $20, since it includes nippers, tweezers, a file, two small screw drivers, and a pocket-style box cutter. I definitely agree, and I will talk about each item individually.
These nippers/cutters are the primary reason for anyone to buy the Tamiya Basic Tool Set, and some would argue that they are worth over $20 by themselves. The handle isn’t made of any fancy materials, but the cutting edges are quite sharp and have done well with both removing parts from the plastic sprues as well as trimming off the nubs. The Tamiya nippers have a flat edge, meaning that you can cut off nubs right against the plastic. However, I would not recommend this on non-white parts since the nippers are not quite sharp enough and often leave white stress marks on the plastic. Overall, these are great and durable and I’ll definitely keep these to cut parts off sprues when I decide to upgrade my nippers.
These tweezers were the only other item I used frequently in Tamiya Basic Tool Set. Since I’ve only been working on HG kits, I haven’t needed to use this for actual building yet (for holding the parts), but I’m sure they’ll come in handy when I build my first RG kit due to the smaller pieces. However, these are essential for placing stickers on the models, since that process requires a steady hand and extreme precision. My only complaint is that the tip of these tweezers are a little sharp, and if you’re not careful, you might leave scratches on top of glossy stickers when you’re placing them.
Before I got actual sandpaper (see below), I used the file from the Tamiya Basic Tool Set to trim down some of the nubs on my first kit. However, I now realize what a mistake that was because this file is very rough and leaves pretty noticeable scratches on the surface of the plastic parts. I recommend using this only to sand off the nubs themselves (or for your nails), but definitely not for polishing the plastic.
I had high expectations for this knife when I saw it in the Tamiya Basic Tool Set, but they were quickly brought down to earth when I tried using these to trim off plastic nubs on my gunpla parts. The blade is definitely sharper than any scissors at home and does a great job opening boxes, but it’s far from what’s required to cut plastic cleanly and safely. I recommend buying a separate X-Acto knife for trimming the plastic.
Lastly, I haven’t had a chance to use the screwdrivers (one flat and one cross tip) that came with the Tamiya Tool Set. Fortunately, most gunpla kits do not have screws, but I see no problem with these screwdrivers if I should need to use them in the future.
Krylon Matte Finish
I definitely chose the budget route when it came to sprays for top coating my gunplas. While a can of Mr. Hobby Top Coat Flat Spray can run up to $10+ per can (the cans are tiny and last for maybe one or two kits), I found this Krylon matte spray that more or less does the job for a fraction of the cost. It also comes in an 11 ounce can, which will last me through many kits.
I’ve read mainly positive reviews on the Krylon matte spray online, but my experience has been mixed, although a part of that might be due to my lack of competence. In my first kit, the Krylon spray made my Gundam Markers’ (see below) panel lining bleed, even though I’ve read others’ experiences of this not happening to them. I have not yet been able to test this on my second kit (Chicago winter is long this year and ideally you want to top coat outdoors in warm and dry weather), but I realized that my mistake might have been that I was spraying too close to the parts. As with many other top coats, it’s important to keep a solid 6-8 inches of distance between the spray and and the plastic; if it’s too close, the matte spray will get chunky and likely damage any painting/panel lining.
Gundam Marker Value Set
Panel lining, when done well, can really make a kit “pop” and can be especially true for older or lower-grade kits that have fewer parts and more panel lines. Gundam Markers are the standard brand for panel lining across most gunpla hobbyists, and this value set gets you pretty much all you need for panel lining at a very low price. Of course, you could buy more colors, but most colors outside of black (GM01), gray (GM02), and brown (GM03) are more for painting/detailing vs. panel lining.
For what its worth, I use the black marker for panel lining gray parts such as hands and joints as well as any blue parts. The gray marker is my most used since it looks good on white and lighter surfaces. The brown marker is more specialized as its used on warmer colors such as red and yellow to create a “rust” look.
Tamiya Finishing Abrasives
This sandpaper from Tamiya was a game changer for me once I realized I needed something finer than a file to cleanly trim and polish off nubs on the gunpla parts. For under $8, this set comes with ten sheets of sandpaper of the following grits: 2 x 400, 1 x 600, 2 x 1000, 1 x 1200, 2 x 1500, 2 x 2000. Along with some popsicle sticks (see below), you can easily make your own sanding sticks, and the sheets are big enough to make at least six two-sided sanding sticks each. These are great and I’ll definitely buy more once I run out.
Tamiya’s sandpaper is now a regular part of my routine until I get a better hobby knife or a pair of expensive nippers. Depending on how large and rough the nub is on the plastic, I’ll use 400, 600, or 1000 to sand off the plastic so that it’s more or less flush with the surface. If I used 400 or 600, then I’ll use 1200 or 1500 to do some more polishing to get rid of some of the larger scratches. Lastly, in all cases, I use the 2000 to finish up polishing the plastic, since it’s so fine that it more or less removes any visible scratches from the surface of the part.
Bluecell Alligator Clip Sticks
I’m not going to lie, these clip sticks suck. Although for $2.55, I’m not sure what I was really expecting. I got these to hold on to the gunpla parts so that I could spray top coat each part precisely. However, the main issue with the Bluecell clip sticks is that the alligator clip doesn’t really attach itself to the wooden sticks. This makes the clip fall off easily or spin in place if its holding a larger piece of plastic, making top coating a frustrating process, especially if it’s windy out.
Acerich Craft Sticks
The only reason I got these popsicle sticks is to make my sanding sticks with the Tamiya sandpaper I mentioned above. They do a good job and aren’t looking to break any time soon. I used Elmer’s glue or masking tape to attach the sandpaper to the sticks and I’ve never had any issues with the sandpaper coming off during use. Since I only have six different grits of sandpaper and I can reuse the sticks after replacing the sandpaper, I’ll have to figure out what to do with the other 194 popsicle sticks…. Maybe I’ll make popsicles in the summer?
That’s all I have now in terms of tools for my gunpla building hobby. As I build more, I definitely plan on upgrading some of these items. For example, I’ll probably get a hobby knife at some point to speed up the building process since it reduces the amount of sanding I have to do on the plastic nubs. I’m also going to look for a pair of God Hand nippers this summer in Japan, since I often read about these legendary nippers and how the sharp edges can halve the time it takes to build a kit. In any case, I’ll be sure to review any future tools I get!