On to part 1 of my MG Mk-II modeling walk through! This post will cover everything related to the assembly process. I'll be approaching this build with regards to painting, but considering that a lot of people just enjoy snap building their gunpla, I'll also include some tips to help your unpainted models look their best. Read on to get started!
The first things you'll need to assemble any Gundam model are a hobby knife and a pair of nippers. Pictured above are the two that I prefer to use; Tamiya Sharp Side Cutters and the Tamiya Pro Modeling Knife. The nippers are super sharp and the knife is very comfortable. If you don't feel like grabbing a high end pair, then just go for an exacto blade and some of the entry level Tamiya nippers, they work just as well!
I like to start every Gundam build by cutting out the V-fin first, and then building the head. Once you've located your respective piece, you want to cut it out but leave a significant portion of the sprue attached. If you try to cut flush with the piece, you'll likely mar it, and who wants a marred V-fin?
Notice how I've left part of the sprue attached to the V-fin. At this point you want to use your nippers to trim the nub down a bit. Once again, try not to cut flush with the piece.
To trim the remainder of the nub it's best to use your hobby knife. Every time I trim nubs I can hear a voice of better judgement telling me not to cut towards myself, but when done correctly you really have more control this way. Its important to push the blade through the plastic by using your index finger to back it, as I'm doing in the above picture.
Here's another example of nub trimming using the hobby knife, remember to always maintain very precise control of your blade using your index; your fingers will thank you.
Once you've shaved your nubs down, there's still going to be a noticeable spot where the piece was connected to the sprue. To remedy this I'll be using various grades of sand paper.
Pictured above are a few of the different grades of sand paper that I regularly employ while building Gunpla. Clockwise from the top: 1000 grit sanding sponge, 600 grit sanding stick, 600 grit paper, 400 grit paper, and 1000 grit paper. I use 600 grit for about 95 percent of my pre-painting needs. Assuming you are going to prime your pieces, the scratches created by 600 grit will be filled in very nicely by Mr. Surfacer. Conversely, if I'm only planning to snap-build I'll generally work my way up from 600 to 1000 to 1200 to achieve a nice smooth finish. I'll demonstrate how this would look later on.
I also like to make my own sanding sticks by simply gluing sandpaper around a popsicle stick. This is a super easy, and cheap way to get some nice sanding sticks. The 6 denotes that it's a 600 grit sanding stick.
When sanding rounded objects such as the piece of the head we looked at earlier, I like to cut out a small square of sand paper and work the nub down using equal pressure to preserve the pre-existing contours.
At this point the nub is no longer visible and assuming this piece is going to be primed and painted, small scratches such as these will be filled by the primer.
When you happen upon a nub on a flat surface, you'll often find that it's easier to grab a sanding stick than it is to evenly sand using paper alone. This is a piece from the elbow joint with flat edges, and by staying completely flush with the side of this piece at all times, you can achieve a very even surface with minimal effort.
Here's the same piece after being sanded with the sanding stick.
Most people who paint their Gundam models, myself included, like to build the kit first to get a good idea of how everything will fit together. Of course building the kit also means having to take it apart, and to make this easier, you just trim the male pegs.
By cutting these four pegs at a slight angle, I've effectively reduced the contact area between the male and female pegs, thus making it a bit easier to pull these pieces apart when the time comes. You do need to be careful though, as a stray peg can often represent an aesthetic detail in areas such as legs and arms. Always test fit slightly before cutting away.
On some pieces you may run into flash, the little lines of plastic that are left over from the molding process. Flash often occurs on internal details and is not bothersome enough to sand, but when it is fairly noticeable or on external armor, it's best to clean it up. This piece has already been sanded a little bit, making the flash very apparent.
This is the same piece once the flash has been sanded away. Doing this can greatly improve the appearance of your finished model so it's important to watch for. Newer kits tend to have less flash than older kits due to the advances in molding technology, so I find myself having to do this less and less.
When you encounter two pieces with nubs on the same face, it works very well to fit them together before sanding. This is an easy way to sand both nubs at once, and it ensures that the two sides will be even once you're finished.
I wanted to touch briefly on the technique I use to make sure my snap-built kits look clean despite not being painted. This is a panel of leg armor from the Mk-II with a single nub.
After being sanded with 600 grit paper. The nub is gone but who would want this piece on their completed model?
After being sanded with 1000 grit and then buffed using a sanding sponge. The scratches caused by the 600 grit are now greatly diminished, and with a quick top coat, this piece will look as if it has been painted. It's quite easy to produce very nice looking unpainted kits as long as you pay attention to detail and devote time to sanding and buffing each piece.
When it's all said and done, you should be left with something like this! As a side note, this is a great kit, and a very fun build. Definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of the Mk-II but don't feel like shelling out the cash for the Perfect Grade. My next post will walk through the steps leading up to the painting process, then it's time for the real fun. Once again, thanks for reading, and keep building!