I got a somewhat late start on this year’s summer project because I was conflicted on what to do a few weeks past Memorial Day. I had a couple of projects in mind that were more oriented in the circuit building side of things, but since I know next to nothing about electrical/computer engineering, I decided to put them off for future years so I could get a bit more acclimated with the subject. It came to me in the middle of all this considering that one thing I always wanted to try but never got around to doing was putting together a model kit of some badass mech or something. Once the thought hit me, I search around some foreign hobby shops on internet for something cool to build. Several things I had in mind were either out of stock or long out of print, but eventually, I came across something that was available and right up my alley. Enter the iconic R-9A “Arrowhead” spaceship from the R-Type series. In late June, I made the purchase and the project officially began rolling.
Left: The beginning. Arrival of the model kit. Right: The challenge laid out in front of me
Once I settled on building the model kit, the rest of June to mid-July was spent researching the proper model kit building technique from various websites on the internet. I specifically looked at Gundam model kit building (or “Gunpla” as they call it) since it seemed similar to what I was doing. It was a bit hard to pin down a definitive way to build at first since I found that people have different ways that they go about doing this, depending on how much time and money they put into model kit assembling. After gleaming all of the information, I basically decided on implementing a hybrid of the various techniques I read about, which I thought would best suite my experience level and budget. From there I was able to get a clear sense of the building materials I needed and could start purchasing things accordingly.
The rest of July was spent gathering the building materials from hobby shops, and online stores. There was also the matter of the model kit being Japanese and thus the instructions being in Japanese. This wasn’t really a hindrance for the actual assembly since everything is picture based, but it did provide a sight issue for the color guide, which details what part is what color. Using my very limited knowledge of the Japanese language, and some assistance from internet tools, I was able to translate the color guide enough to get an outlook on the colors I needed, which was important when it came to buying paint. Once settled, I got some cans of spray paint along with some brush paint bottles during my material gathering. The color guide stressed mixing different blends of colors by percentages, but since I was too lazy/unskilled to do that, I just picked out the closest approximations to what the guide suggested.
Left: Sanding. Right: Spraying.
The actual building of the model kit began in August. I basically assembled the kit in phases. The first phase involved clipping the model kit pieces off the plastic grids they were fastened to (known as “runners”) which you can see in the pics above. For each piece, once clipped, the tedious part involved sanding them down with fine grit sandpaper so the nubs where I clipped off wouldn’t stand out as much. I then put each piece back in its respective place on the runner it was attached too (and did this again later when I spray painted them) so I’d know what part was what when it was time to put the pieces together.
The second phase was the spray painting phase. The model kit pieces were grouped more or less by their respective colors on the runners. Therefore, for each group, I taped each piece to an old shoe box with some masking tape, went outside on my porch on a sunny day, and spray painted one side of the pieces with a few coats of whatever designated color. Then I waited a bit for them to dry, flipped them over, and sprayed the other sides of the pieces. I repeated the process until I was done with all the pieces. Spray painting was necessary because the plastic colored pieces look pretty dull on their own and painting them makes colors stand out more. It’s pretty hard to get a consistent coat of paint with brushing (as I later found out), and it is much easier to get a nice even coat with spray paint. It also makes the panel line grooves stand out more, which helped with the detailing later.
The third and fourth phases were the snapping things together and the detailing phases, but I ended up doing both at the same time since that was more convenient and efficient. With Gundam Markers, I traced the panel lines on the pieces to darken them appropriately and rubbed out the excess with an eraser. Then I put the pieces together while brush painting on the details (for wing trims and such) as needed, letting them dry as necessary. I worked on the force component (the orange ball thingy) first, and then put the main ship together. Detailing was the hardest part of the project, since it required a steady hand, a sharp attention to detail, and skill with applying paint by brush (harder than it sounds), along with tracing pieces without smearing off the lines. Indeed, this is where I made the most mistakes, mostly minor, and I attempted to compensate by covering them up the best I could. The one major screw up I had during the assembly was that I accidentally broke one of the pipe pieces that go on the back of the ship, since they were apparently very fragile. I tried gluing it back together, but when that failed, I just compromised and put two pipes on the back of the ship instead of the four that are supposed to be there to keep thing even. Fortunately, it seemed to have little impact on the appearances of the ship when it was completed.
Overall, it wasn’t a perfect build by any means, which is noticeable if you examine it up close, but for a novice build, I’m pleased with how the end product turned out. Part of the reason I decided to start these summer projects was to focus on doing something fun in a reasonable time frame that I haven’t really attempted before, so in that respect I definitely learned from the experience. I saw ways that I could refine my technique while I was building and I wouldn’t be opposed to building another model to apply those techniques in the future.
Celebrating the completetion.