Building and finishing plastic kits - some thoughts

Have any questions or tips and advice on how to build those bits that don't come ready made.
Jim S-W
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Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2009 5:38 pm

Building and finishing plastic kits - some thoughts

Postby Jim S-W » Fri Dec 18, 2020 6:04 pm

Thought I'd do a bit of a more detailed post about building and finishing plastic kits and the thoughts behind it as I go along. As always other methods are available and no one has to follow every step slavishly. Just take from this what you want if it helps at all.  The intended victim in this case is a Parkside LMS (ex MR) 20 ton brake van, kit PC58.  Im not sure how long this kit has been in the Parkside range but it has the look and feel of one of the later kits however the instructions do refer to the Woodhead transfer sheets as a source of lettering and they vanished a long time ago now. More importantly and the reason to devote a little more than my usual 'heres a bunch of pictures, hope you like them' approach is this is the last original Parkside kit in my stash so it's also the last kit I will build that I brought from Richard Hollingworth himself.

So armed with the kit, the instructions, a selection of glues and other rudimentary tools plus the all important prototype references I set to work. Generally parkside kits are as close to model railway lego as you can get.  They kind of fall together however don't take this for granted and in this case I found that the floor was about 30thou too narrow.  This was evened up with a couple of bits of microstrip either side. The importance of a dry run to check the fit of all of the parts parts cant be overstated.

Another thing not to assume is that the kit is right or accurate. Again generally speaking the vast majority or Parkside kits are but theres a couple that have a few clangers. The vac' braked 16ton mineral wagon with a 10ft chassis not 9ft and the LMS fruit can with the wrong shaped ends are the better known examples. It's strange how the right chassis is in the range for the mineral wagon and the common fix for the fruit van is to use the ratio LMS van ends and roof.  As these are all under the Peco banner now you would think this would be an easy fix for them. Perhaps they don't know?
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The glues I will be using. as theres no metal to metal joining required the soldering iron can stay turned off for this one. The main glue I will use is the Tamiya extra thin cement.

Building the body
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The body assembled,  I drilled the holes for the handrails before putting it together, the instructions say to do this after but i find it easier this way.  Although not really a decision as such with this kit as the handrails aren't moulded on this is usually the first point where you will start to make your own decisions.

Handrails - do models look better with separately fitted ones?  Yes provided you don't mangle the body too much removing the moulded ones and the replacements are not all wobbly.  I use 0.35mm nickel silver wire and flat nosed tweezers to shape them.  You need to keep the bends crisp and the straight bits straight. If you mess up a bend don't waste time trying to straighten the wire out as you wont. Just start again. Separately fitted handrails that are all out of shape against a gouged body will not look any better than the moulded ones you carved off. Whatever you do though if you do have messed up handrails and someone points it out don't try to claim its because they were bashed about in real life as it's obviously a bodge! I think this stems a lot from the late 90's when people were fitting all manner of after market bits and dodgy etches to Lima diesels. The fact that a lot of these parts were worse than what people were carving off the original body seemed to pass people by as separate bits was what you did back then!

Decision 2 - the lamp irons.  Will they look better separately fitted?  Yep but theres another thing to consider, will I knock them off in layout use?  When people are new to finescale models (I don't like that term but it serves a purpose here) theres a tendency to fit every tiny bit of detail that you can.  With experience of operating your stuff at exhibitions you will find that you tend to draw back from that to point where practicality takes over. Where that point ends up will naturally be different for each of us.

It helps a little to delve into how human beings work. When I was working as an illustrator we placed a lot of emphasis on learning to see. Although we have sight we are not really wired to properly look at things. We are designed to make quick judgements and move on, basically can I eat it or is it going to eat me? What we are good at though is spotting something wrong or out of place.  So a moulded lamp iron in this case will go unnoticed by most people. But one thats been knocked off wont. This pre-determined fascination with the out of place can cloud our judgement of many things.  We notice graffiti on a wall so we think it's prevalent. We don't notice the 100 other walls we walked past that didn't have any. We notice the wagon in a train that looks like it should be in the scrap yard and ignore all those that don't look like anything like that. This extends to our history too, especially our photographic history. Photographers like the rest of us will ignore the mundane as focus on the thing that catches their eye. If you look at pictures of New Street in 1987 you would believe pretty much every train had a class 50 on the front and there was one DMU a day, as for EMU's you can forget those completely!

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This next stage will be dictated by how the kit in manufactured and can in the right circumstances save time later. If the kit is moulded in all the same colour (and its not black) you can skip this bit. However if the body is one colour and the underframe is black you can safe a lot of painting later if you paint and finish the body before you move on to the underframe which is what I have done here.

The Underframe
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A wagon of this size is border line for needing springing or compensation in my experience. On wagons that don't need it one tip I've found that works is to slip a piece of thin paper between the axle and the bearing at one end only while putting it all together. The other end should have no slop but the width of the paper gives just enough movement of 1 axle to keep everything on the rails. A piece of glass to check that the wagon sits square on all 4 wheels at this stage is another must however. Another handy thing is the Brassmasters axle spacing jig that ensures the axles are parallel.  It doesn't matter how nicely your wagon sits on the glass if its constantly trying to steer itself off the track!

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This is the underframe with all the supplied bits in place (except the steps) Its up to you if you chose to stop here or not.

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I went for 'not' and added the break linkages and safety loops. If you are going to do this drill the holes you will need in the brake shoe moulding before you fit them to the model, it's nigh on impossible to do after. The safety loops are glued in to bits of 80thou microstrip that have a hole drilled through them.  This is my stop point as there's more detail that you can add regarding the correct shaped linkages and operating gear behind each wheel.  It's not something i can see on the layout unless I make a really determined effort to look for it.

Hang on a minute, what was all that rubbish about bits of paper and not compensating stuff then?  Well sometime you can kill 2 birds with just the single bit of garden aggregate!  Of all the options I am on record as believing that rocking compensation is not the first or even second best option of the 3 we have. However the internal ones do handily provide more rolling resistance than pinpoint bearings and on a brake van and a layout with gradients thats not a bad thing.

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Let's talk about buffers. If your plastic kit has moulded plastic buffer heads, let's not beat around the bush here, they <strong>will</strong> be crap! I have yet to see any that aren't! Options for replacements come from Lanarkshire models, MJT, Wizard and Accurascale. As always check your prototype pictures as the ones on the wagon you are building might not be the ones the kit represents. This applies to axleboxes a lot of the time too.

In this case I opted to keep the moulded stocks and replace the heads with those from MJT, The housing was drilled out very carefully using a hand held pin chuck. Don't be tempted to use a powered drill as the wall you are left with is very thin and even the slightest bit of heat from the drilling will melt it.  A 0.5mm hole was drilled through the centre of the buffer and through the bufferbeam to account for the tail of the buffer head.   You can chose to spring the buffer if you like. I don't find it makes any real difference though.

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Weight - I try to aim for 50 grams for a 2 axle wagon.  If you have the room inside then these self adhesive car wheel weights are ideal.  This brake van needed an extra 30 grams adding.

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Next stage is the running trial. With any kind of van I do this before fitting the roof as once its on i don't want to try and get back inside. The wagon is tested through all the pointwork and sidings and any derailments or unpleasant jolts or bumps are investigated and corrected. In this case I'm happy to report there were no problems.

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The finished build, even at this stage you still need to constantly check your work. note the bit of white near to the closest handrail?  Something I'd not noticed until I looked at the photo. I used the Revell liquid polly shown earlier to fix the roof.  The reason is that the Tamiya stuff evaporates too quickly.  The Revell version is thicker, wont run and gives me a little longer to position the roof.

Weathering
Im very much of the opinion that a restricted pallet is best for all sorts of modelling applications, You don't want to go too mad! As discussed earlier unless you are going for the scrap yard look you kind of need your weathering to be one of those things thats there but its not really noticed.  An important point I feel is don't expect one technique to give you all the effects you want and try to work with each technique rather than against it, Things are so much simpler if you do!

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So stage 1 washes - to represent washed on dirt you need to wash on the dirt! I make the wash from a mix of Revell 89 and no 9.  If you are doing multiple wagons at once keep changing the mix and the paint to thinner ratio unless you want them all to look the same. Don't be afraid to go in with neat paint as well to mix it all up a bit and work 'wet in wet'. Ive done that here on a few planks and the roof. It doesn't matter if it looks a mess at this stage as you will need to leave it for no longer than 24 hours and potentially clean it all off again with cotton buds and clean thinners. A big part of weathering is not about how you put stuff on but how you clean it off. Having said that I have found on many occasions, especially with planked vehicles, you can skip the cleaning stage and this was the case here.

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Next stage is airbrushing.  For this I use AK interactive dark mud as it comes and a mix of black and Humbrol gummetal for greasy/ sooty deposits. Think about in the real world the direction that the atomised dirt hits the vehicle and try to emulate this. Track dirt from about 45 degrees below the model and roof dirt straight down. As aways refer to photos.  What you don't want is a rally car look as if the model has been flinging itself around a Welsh forest for a week!

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The last stage is best described as titivating (and its pretty hard to show the effect it has in pictures but i still think its worth doing).  I use the burnt umber gouache for small deposits of rust. It doesn't want to sit on enamels all that well so will naturally give a rust like effect. This can be fiddled with with water or paper towels/ cotton buds until you are happy. Its worth noting that if you are doing a vehicle with a lot of rust it's best to do the gouache stage before the washes.  Ak interactive also make sets of weathering pencils, including a set just for rust, which work well in combination with the gouache.

The lighter brown and gunmetal were used to dry brush areas of wear on the steps and the underframe respectively.  The grease is a wash that contains particles and is used neat around axleboxes and bits of the underframe that are greased in real life.

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As I said its hard to see the difference this has in photos. The oval crop is before and the main picture after. While you have the gunmetal out you can pick up some of the thicker paint that always forms on the inside of the lid with a cotton bud and dab it on to the buffer faces to represent more grease.

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And there you have it. All that work for a mundane wagon that will hopefully just blend into the scene and go about is business in a most unremarkable, unnoticed way!

Ex-Pat
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Re: Building and finishing plastic kits - some thoughts

Postby Ex-Pat » Fri Dec 18, 2020 7:43 pm

Thanks Jim - extremely useful.

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BrightonMan
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Location: Eastbourne

Re: Building and finishing plastic kits - some thoughts

Postby BrightonMan » Sat Dec 19, 2020 8:15 am

Interesting post, thank you. One question - how would you go about weathering without the use of an airbrush? I don't have one and to be honest there is nowhere in our flat where I could safely use one.

Jim S-W
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Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2009 5:38 pm

Re: Building and finishing plastic kits - some thoughts

Postby Jim S-W » Sat Dec 19, 2020 8:56 am

The nearest you will get is after the washes stage to seal everything with matt varnish, paint neat thinners on then blend paint in using the wet in wet technique.
It won’t give the same effect though, nothing really will I’m afraid.

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BrightonMan
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Re: Building and finishing plastic kits - some thoughts

Postby BrightonMan » Sat Dec 19, 2020 12:31 pm

Ok. Thank you

Dad-1
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Re: Building and finishing plastic kits - some thoughts

Postby Dad-1 » Sat Dec 19, 2020 12:43 pm

Hi Jim,

More work from a master craftsman.
Illustrator ? That now tells me why all your work and photographs are of the highest standards.

I'm currently working on the Parkside PC49 kit, the duckett fitted version of this brake van. My
work in comparison is Chalk & Cheese, however I think both of us try to promote the building
of some of ones own rolling stock.

I never tire of looking at your projects, above and beyond what I'm prepared to produce. I
don't use an airbrush, but that doesn't mean you can't produce very competent results that
will enhance many a layout.

Geoff T
Remember ... I know nothing about railways.
viewtopic.php?f=22&t=32187 and Another on viewtopic.php?f=22&t=28436&start=60&st=0&sk=t&sd=a

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Mountain
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Re: Building and finishing plastic kits - some thoughts

Postby Mountain » Sat Dec 19, 2020 12:57 pm

You are certainly experienced and have an accurate eye and hand co-ordination to do that. Where you said you missed a bit or put a bit too much with the white paint? I could not even see it! Haha!

I soon learned through scratchbuilding the need for all 4 wheels to sit level on the track, hence why I invested in a pillar drill stand for my drill as I had done it freehand and lets say I had to alter my chassis to keep the wheels on the ground? It is the fun of finding out these things, and luckily for me if it did not work out, it costs me very little (Just wood in the case mentioned above) but if one is building a kit obviously if it does not work, kits are more expensive.
I like the compensation. I assume it is a commercially available part?

I also like what you say about weathering in not to over do it. I think this alone gives a good effect.

My modelling is very rough and ready in style compared to your most excellent touch.

Jim S-W
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Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2009 5:38 pm

Re: Building and finishing plastic kits - some thoughts

Postby Jim S-W » Mon Dec 21, 2020 10:53 am

Dad-1 wrote:Illustrator ?


Yep. My ‘first love’ was illustration. My personal interest was American fantasy art and manga before it became mainstream. For work I worked mostly as a copy artist in the licences character field. That means I used to be able to emulate other artists styles. People would buy the licence to use characters and we would illustrate them, I did stuff for most of the character market at the time but we kinda specialised is stuff for Disney (mainly lion king).

I thought that because my interests and work were kinda different I could keep them apart but when you do something creative to budgets and timescales that are shorter or lower than you need to do the job properly it drives the love for it out of you. It’s the reason I will never do any commissioned work for model railways.

After that I worked in a photography studio finishing images so that’s probably why I’m a bit fussy that photographs should be presented properly.

Jim
Last edited by Jim S-W on Mon Dec 21, 2020 10:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

Jim S-W
Posts: 1393
Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2009 5:38 pm

Re: Building and finishing plastic kits - some thoughts

Postby Jim S-W » Mon Dec 21, 2020 10:54 am

Mountain wrote:I like the compensation. I assume it is a commercially available part?


Yep, these are from MJT

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Mountain
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Re: Building and finishing plastic kits - some thoughts

Postby Mountain » Mon Dec 21, 2020 9:58 pm

Nice. Just the part.


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