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Choosing Your First Model!!!

Now, I imagine that you like things, maybe even enough to have general interest in these things, and maybe even enough of that interest to have some knowledge of these things that you are interested in. I only say all of this because I have known plenty of people who say that they are “so into” something, let’s say a band just for example, and you too are also “so into” this same band, so you ask the other person some basic question that might follow this shared admission like, “What’s your favorite album of theirs?” Only to be met by the sounds of audible blinking and a look like you just caught them cheating on their taxes.

See, to some people, being “so into” something just means, “I too have heard of that thing which you speak of and may have even perused it on the internet once, maybe even twice.” While to another person, them being “so into” something, means that they have every book about said subject, every magazine where said subject is even mentioned, they have every toy, every movie, every spinoff from this subject and maybe even some autographed or personalized ephemera which connects them at some point in time with the artist/movie-maker/illustrator/actor/etc etc! Well isn’t that exciting!?! So, I imagine that if you are someone who is “so into” something, enough so that you are seeking out a model of it, that you are one of the latter (former then latter, right? I’m talking about the people who have all the stuff, the second of the two people I mentioned, that’s the latter, right? Anyway) and you probably already have a vast knowledge of the subject you are wishing to model about, then by all means go ahead and get that weird resin model off of eBay of Cowboy Bebop’s Faye Valentine molded without her clothes on hand crafted in some guy’s dungeon/basement. Not very official ya know, but whatevs, you found it and now you want to paint it and love it because it is bringing something 2-Dimensional that you love into the 3rd-Dimension (insert creepy sound effects here, please).

But that’s just one way to get into modeling. I might guess that like myself, you also had tried to get into building models at one point and gave up because the going just seemed a little too tough and there was just NO way to make it look anything like it looked on the box and this upset you to no end. So, maybe you have some dusty models that you could pick back up (even though they’re 20 years old now) and try your hand at now that you yourself are 20 years older, you must have learned something in those 20 years, you think to yourself, something that will help you finally conquer that B-29 sitting in your closet with two wheels painted (poorly) and one half of the inside of the fuselage also painted (poorly).

But I suggest letting that old B-29 rest for a little while longer and going out and purchasing something brand new. Something that you can unwrap, something that you will ultimately be excited about and not something that remains a symbol of everything that has bested you for the past 20 years.

Now, I know the old thing about not spending a lot of money on your first few kits, I think I once heard somewhere that most people will ruin the first six models that they buy (I didn’t), but I haven’t found that to be true at all. And ruin is an especially big and dirty word, especially considering that I don’t think anyone in their right mind thinks that they are going to be experts by the end of their first model, and are most definitely not going to be entering their first model into any competitions, unless you are some sort of model-building savant, which if you are that is totally awesome. Like I said in my last post (that post being a little, shall we say… misunderstood?) was that as long as you finish your first model, you are a modeler! If you did every step of the directions and painted the whole thing, then you have killed it at a first time build! That’s right, be proud of the ball of glue and still gooey paint because you used your sister’s fancy oil paints that never ever dry to paint your model because you didn’t have anything else except the drive and the caffeine intake to finish, and the store was closed and you were determined. But, if you just have the drive and aren’t really sure about which model will be the right first one for you, then here are a few things I would suggest.

  1. So first off, I know that you are thinking about the Michael’s or the Hobby Lobby, but honestly, those are places you will soon scoff at once you find your LHS, or your Local Hobby Shop. The people will be friendlier, they will know how to answer your questions, and you won’t have angry middle-aged women yelling at their 11 children because they can’t find the correct backing for their home-made chili-pepper earrings they are going to make for the PTA fundraiser.
  2. Learn about scale. Go on some nice websites (like this one, thank ya very much) and see what the different scales look like, and what scale you think you will be comfortable working on, esp. since this is your first model. Also, consider your amount of display/storage space. And if you are really really serious about making this a permanent hobby, then learn which scales are the most common for the models you are building. At first you may want to jump around a bit, seeing which scales you like and for what reasons, but I think most modelers tend to become “Constant Scalers,” which means that they have found one scale that they really like and works well for them and rarely do they stray from that. Also good to note is that the smaller the scale you are working on, the smaller and more difficult they are going to be to paint, and the tinier and more fragile the parts will be.

    Armor (the modeling term for tanks or self-propelled guns) are usually manufactured in 1/35, 1/48 and 1/72 scales.
    Aircraft’s most popular scales are 1/48 and 1/72.
    Cars are usually modeled in 1/24 and 1/25 sizes.
    If you are interested in Gundam figures those are most widely available in 1/144, and then more expensive and larger kits start coming in at a 1/100 scale.
    Ships come in 1/700 and 1/720, especially if you are looking to do WWII naval ships.
    Figures like the old horror movie classics or comic book characters tend to come in 1/6 and 1/4 scales.

    Of course there are many other scales for all of these types of models, but once you start looking around you’ll see why each type is modeled in the scales that are popular, they just sort of seem to make sense in the common scales. And there are even some types of models, like one of my ultimate favorite sets called Ma.K or Maschinen Krieger that has its own proprietary scale of 1/20 for some reason. Anyway, I say start with one of the larger (not gigantic) scales offered by whatever type of kit you want to be your first. There will be less aggravation associated with lost pieces, the dreaded “tweezerpult” (you’ll soon learn the meaning of this nasty word), and none of the added stress of learning how to paint pieces the size of half an eyelash (seriously), and you can just focus on getting the basics down.

  3. I know, I already mentioned about people saying not to spend that much money on your first few models, but I also would NOT go with the cheapest either. If I had to make a suggestion I would say start with one of the Tamiya 1/35 tank kits. Not the super high-end models that Tamiya has been coming out with lately, but some of the medium-range models that go for between $25 and maybe $32. Like I said, some people may think this is too much to spend on your first model, but I’ll tell you why I think you should do it.
    First of all, a lot of the cheaper kits, are cheap for lots of reasons, and these are the EXACT reasons why early or aspiring modelers SHOULD NOT buy these kits. Most of these super cheap kits come with all of the pitfalls and headaches that a seasoned modeler might find a bit of a nuisance, but not anything that would deter them from completing the model altogether. BUT, these nuisances to the seasoned modeler are the things that will make a novice rip their hair out (notice my hat, reason for hat: having ripped all of my hair out). Most of these models do not fit together well and will require literally hours of sanding, buffing, and what I think is one of the hardest modeling skills to learn and perfect, the art of perfectly applying putty as to cover up mismatched seams, giant gaps, and re-molding sanded out minutiae from the model. I learned this buying every single kit from the Testor’s Weird-Ohs range before I had the skills to master them. Now, I love this range of models, but when I was younger it was enough to make me give up modeling for another five years every time I attempted one.
  4. Also, a lot of these super-cheap models don’t have all that much detail molded into the plastic, and the less detail the kit comes with originally, the better the paint job you are going to need to make up for this lack of detail.
    In the mid-range kits, and I think esp. the armor kits in the mid-range, the detail is good enough to add to your paint job what you haven’t quite mastered yet with your painting capabilities: shading, highlighting, weathered looks, these sorts of things.
    These models have good fits, there are not that many parts, compared to say a Dragon kit, and they have enough of the fun extra stuff to introduce you to many facets of model-building. Like decals, maybe some photo-etch, and rubber band tracks (which are sort of fun when you’re beginning, especially the instructions where they tell you to put a nail in the end of a chopstick (not kidding), set this nail in the chopstick over a flame (not kidding), and use the heated nail to melt together the two ends.).
    Also, the painting for armor is VERY forgiving, as most tanks and the like are generally modeled with the idea that you will give them more battle damage than any other types, this makes the painting able to be not so great because you can add one of the most fun things about modeling to cover up some boo-boos you might have made in the building process, the weathering! That’s right, and because you probably aren’t starting out with an airbrush, which will ultimately be your most expensive piece of equipment you will buy, this means you will be getting to know good ol’ paintbrushes for a little bit. And there’s nothing wrong with this, some of the best models I’ve ever seen in my life were painted using only paintbrushes (no kidding!), and no matter what stage of the modeling process you are at you will ALWAYS need a paintbrush for something.
    ALSO PT. 2, there is a lack of roundness involved in WWII armor, aside from the main gun(s). On aircraft models not only will you have the fuselage to deal with (sanding and putty and seams OH MY!) getting together neatly, but almost the entire model is a round shape! This can be pretty difficult for a first-timer. Whereas with armor you got a nice, boxy, shape that usually comes together as it should.

I hope this has been helpful for you, I know I wished I had read something like this when I was looking for my first kit.
But hey, no matter what your choice, take this time to start learning the basics. OH and my next article (unless I get a wild idea about something else to rant about) will be the beginner’s toolbox, and I’ll tell you everything you need to get to get you up and running on this new model you just picked out! Have a great week Ladies and Gents and thanks for stopping by 🙂
OH (pt. 4), and as for getting back to that B-29 in your closet, finish a few new models and come back to it after you’ve gotten your skill-set up nice and high. You won’t be so afraid of it anymore.


Justin Skrakowski

I am a capital D Dude. I like Rock & Roll in my music and Blood & Guts in my movies. I was born in Dallas, Texas and currently live in Manhattan with my girlfriend who is awesome and beautiful.
I am also a journalist, and I have a book available on Amazon entitled Strongman, you should totally check it out!
My first model I actually finished was AMT’s 1:25 Munster Koach.
I’d like to thank George for letting me share some thoughts on this wonderful site :)
  • Hey Jeroen! I think that sounds great, please share some pics or feel free to email me if you have any further questions! It’s

  • Jeroen Wijnands

    I took Tamiya’s Sd. Kfz 222 as my first kit. Think it”s a good one for that purpose. Fit is pretty good, instructions clear. It’s of a size where brush painting is an option and you’re not dealing with vinyl tracks (still despise those from my modelling days when I was in my very early teens)

  • Hello Justin!
    I felt identified in so many ways.
    Here is how a $22 Merkava I from Tamiya looks like when built out of the box. We have to learn this hobby as most of us learn how to swim. In shallow waters.

    I loved the article, You should write something about basic tools for beginners if you can. Thanks for sharing!