Hello everyone! Mr. Arigato here with an update from the Puramo Labo, Kotobukiya’s blog for any and all things related to plastic model kits.
With the release of the Frame Arms Girl anime series last year, a lot of people are learning about and getting interested in plastic model kits for the first time. Maybe you’ve seen our previous blogs introducing plastic models and customizations and thought to yourself “How do I make that? Where do I even start?? What is a runner???”
Well, today I’m going to go over the ABCs of assembling plastic model kits for beginners. Plastic models may look intimidating with all the customization options and tiny little parts, but it’s actually quite simple once you know the basics!
Now, let’s get started!
For today’s tutorial we’ll be using a “Frame Arms Girl Gourai” model kit.
As the first Frame Arms Girl, Gourai is a good choice for beginners because her specifications are quite simple.
After you get your kit and take it home, the first thing you should do is…
Check the Instructions!
I know you may be excited when you see all of the parts.
You’ll probably want to get started right away.
But I can’t stress this enough:
Right after you open the box,
check the instructions! (It’s important so I’ll say it twice)
*The instructions included in the box are in Japanese, but they’re mostly diagrams and numbers. English instructions for upcoming models (and hopefully some existing ones) will be available on the Kotobukiya homepage in the near future, so stay tuned for updates!
The instructions include lots of important information, like what parts are included and how to assemble them.
I know a lot of people don’t like to read instructions, and you may want to just get started with the model, but if you don’t read the instructions you may forget some parts or assemble them wrong, so make sure to check over them first!
Even if it’s just a quick read-through, make sure to look over the instructions to get a general idea of the order the parts are assembled and any other important details.
Throughout the instructions, there are lots of important symbols like the one above. There is a key with the English and Japanese meanings on the bottom of the first page, so proceed with caution when you see these symbols.
After you’ve looked at the instructions, you want to make sure you have the proper tools.
At the very least, you’ll want a pair of nippers and a hobby knife.
For the knife, you’ll want one that is designed for design or model making, like in the picture above. They’re better for making precise cuts and easier to use.
After you’ve looked at the instructions and acquired the proper tools, you’ll want to make sure your kit has all of the necessary parts.
Look over the parts list near the front of the instructions to make sure nothing is missing!
Now that you’ve gotten all of the preparation out of the way, it’s finally time to start assembling your model kit!
First, you’ll need to cut out the parts specified in the instructions.
This is the first step for Gourai. The part in the red circle indicates that you need to use part number 5 from the sprue marked D.
*Sprues are the plastic grids that contain the parts for a model kit (it’s also the word for the channels in the mold that the plastic is injected to when manufacturing the kits). “Runner” and “Gate” are also used for the smaller channels that connect the parts to the grid.
Here’s sprue D…
And part number 5!
Now that you’ve found the part, you need to cut it out from the sprue.
Use your nippers to cut it at the gate (the thin piece of plastic connecting the part to the sprue).
Cut as far away from the part as possible, as seen in the picture.
Once you’ve cut the part from the sprue,
Use your nippers to cut off the remaining nub. Make sure to get the flat side of your nippers as close to the surface as the part as possible.
Here’s a close-up of the part.
Getting the nippers as close to the part as possible gives you the cleanest cut.
This is covered in the first episode of the Frame Arms Girl anime, but if you don’t cut the parts cleanly, on top of the finished model looking bad, there are some parts that won’t fit together properly.
Make sure to be careful and take your time for the best results!
Once you’ve cut out the first part, cut out all of the other necessary parts.
Cut out D1…
And attach it to D5!
Let’s keep going!
Check the instructions to make sure the parts are facing the right direction.
After adding on the last part, step 1 is complete!
For this explanation, I’ve been cutting out the parts and assembling them one at a time. That’s because it’s the easiest way to identify and distinguish the parts while assembling!
I recommend you follow this process in order to avoid getting confused or losing parts.
Just find the parts, cut them out, assemble, and repeat until the model is complete!
Now that we’ve covered the basics, the rest of this guide will be supplemental techniques to improve your modeling skill.
Frame Arms Girls have some parts, like hair or skirts, where the gate is on a curved surface.
(For Gourai, an example of this is the A16 chest part)
When using nippers, it can be difficult to get all of the gate because of the angle.
In these cases, you can use your hobby knife to cut off the extra plastic (using the knife can take a bit of getting used to, so be careful not to cut yourself).
Cut close to the surface of the part like you would with the nippers.
Move the blade away from you and shave down the plastic bit by bit.
If you try to use too much force, you might damage the part or hurt yourself.
*Please take caution when using blades.
Let’s take a look at our progress so far.
As you can see, there’s still a bit of the gate left, but that’s ok.
In this case, you can flip the part around, and then shave down the plastic in the same way as before.
By using a knife, you can cut more precisely and clean up parts with curved angles.
The reason I cut it from both directions instead of just one is because:
When cutting with a knife,
so it looks the cleanest when cut from both directions.
It takes a bit of time and effort to get used to using the knife, but the final results are worth it. Just start slow and be careful not to hurt yourself!
“Ahh! I forgot a part!”
This happened to Ao in the anime (although it was a different part…), and is something that has happened to everyone that makes model kits at some point in their lives.
“The knobs on the poly-cap are crushed and now the parts won’t fit together…”
This doesn’t happen in the anime, but it’s something that happens a lot when making model kits.
(Frame Arms Girls don’t really use poly-caps, so the picture above is a part from a Frame Arms model)
There’s a special technique to fix either of these scenarios, but it takes a bit of skill.
First you’ll need to wedge the blade of your hobby knife between the parts.
Move the blade side to side to loosen the parts.
Separate the parts once they’re loose enough.
Be aware that in some cases, when the parts are too stiff, trying to force them open may warp the parts or break your blade, so this method is not recommended for beginners.
If it seems like the parts won’t come apart easily, it’s safer and better to leave it be and order replacement parts.
In the case that the knob on the poly-cap is crushed, start by separating the parts with the method above and then follow the steps below:
Use your knife to scrape the sides of the knob to recover it to its original state.
As a measure to prevent the knobs from getting crushed,
Insert an extra part of the outer sprue into the opening on the poly-cap,
Use this to move the poly-cap while inserting it into the parts.
This ensures that the cap will be inserted smoothly without crushing the knobs.
After making it through the assembly process, your Frame Arms Girl Gourai model is complete!
Kotobukiya’s plastic model kits are unique in that they have a lot of small parts compared to other character models, but if you take your time and follow these steps, I’m sure it will be no problem!
The division of the parts and the pre-painted features of the Frame Arms Girl series makes them especially accessible to beginners, so if you’re looking to make a model kit for the first time, I highly recommend giving Frame Arms Girl a shot!