Passing the Torch: Scale Model Building

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Gundam-Main
A ‘Gundam’ battle scene diorama I built several years ago. Photo by Will James.

As far back as I can remember, I have enjoyed scale model building. Revell, Ertl, and Testors were even some of the first brand names I learned as a child. I recently decided to introduce my son to this geeky art form.

I first started building plastic models after watching my dad build a Navy Battleship. I don’t remember exactly what I built, but I’m sure it was a car or jet of some generic flavor. I remember laying newspaper out on my desk and losing myself for hours as I focused on cutting, gluing, and painting. The feeling of accomplishment and reward of having something I built myself was one I still relish to this day.

Gundam-AllWill
A ‘Gundam’ diorama and a custom Perfect Grade Zaku I built. Photo by Will James.

I moved from standard vehicles to more geeky model kits when I learned that there were Star Wars and Star Trek model kits available. And after several years of building those, I discovered Bandai and Hasegawa and their Gundam and Macross model kits. That was also when I really stepped up my game and started doing full dioramas and airbrushing, learning techniques to make my models into art culminating with Perfect Grade Gundam kits.

Gundam-Nemo
Owen and his Nemo Funko Pop! toy. Photo by Will James.

With that in mind, I took my two-year-old son to the local Japanese toy and model store, International Model Toys, to pick something out that he would enjoy. The first thing that caught his attention in the store was the Funko Pop! vinyl figures. My mom was along for the trip, so she bought him the Finding Nemo figure. Then we headed over to the Gundam model kits.

Gundam-396
Build Burning Gundam kit. Photo by Will James.

I grabbed a handful of Gundam BB kits. These kits are great for little kids not only because they are cute, chibi robots, but they also have a relatively low number of parts that are easy to assemble without glue, and they include a good amount of stickers for decorating, so you can skip painting the kit and still have a decent looking toy at the end of it. My son settled on the  BB #396 SD Build Burning Gundam kit.

Gundam-Parts
Workspace ready! Photo by Will James.

Once back home and armed with just a pair of flush cut sprue cutters, we went to work on the kit. We laid all the parts out, removed them from the bags, and started on Step 1.

Gundam-Cutting
Cutting pieces off the sprue. Photo by Will James.

Although I did most of the cutting, I did let my son help me cut some of the parts out. He’s still working on his dexterity, but, after just a few cuts, he was feeling more confident in his ability–which made me a little less nervous.

Gundam-Assembly
The head goes inside the helmet. Photo by Will James.

I put most of the stickers on, though there were some choices of stickers for customization that I left up to him. I then lightly assemble some of the pieces and let him finish it off. He even put several of the sub-assemblies together himself. I loved seeing that look of accomplishment when he got the pieces together.

Gundam-complete
And voila. Photo by Will James.

After only 40 minutes, we were rewarded with a completed model kit! Though there are a lot of small pieces, I think all small children could have fun with these (with parental guidance) as soon as they are beyond the putting everything in their mouth stage. That being said, as soon as we were done, he wanted to take pieces off and put them back on over and over again.

Gundam-Yell
Go Robot! Photo by Will James.

Judging by the way he ran around the house with his completed robot, I think the torch has been successfully handed down, and I look forward to this being a geeky hobby we can share together for the rest of our lives.

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