Build experience, old kits vs new.

I’d like to make maybe a short post on build experience differences in new vs old Gunpla kits. I think I’ve figured out the biggest reason why I like older kits better is because of this. Basically, the difference in the HGUC kits, and to a later extent, MG or RG kits and the old kits is the assembly time is about the same. However, I find the newer kits in a lot of ways more stressful to build. They generally contain more parts. By this, my HGUC GP02A I recently assembled was in a box as big as some Master Grade kits, an MG GM if I recall correctly, right about the same size. It had I think 7 or 8 runners of parts. And you know, the kit came out very well. It’s very detailed and very nice. But, it wasn’t fun to put together. With wanting movement out of almost all the parts, there were lots of pieces that had to be put together in ways that required a lot of precision, ie, put a piece in backwards, assemble the arms, it doesn’t work right. Have to pop open the arms, being careful to not break the snap connectors or mar the seams much, put it back right, etc. Some of this might be my own problem of trying to rush, etc.

But the main problem I see, as far as a building experience goes, it’s much different. I guess the extra parts means more detail, but I think what it does more is just create you spending more time on the kit. If something has that many parts, you feel accomplished about it after, right? Because you’ve built it. But I feel the putting of more and more parts in a kit is actually a substitute for actual modelling skills of painting, sanding, etc. And it’s a substitution in time doing those things, too.

Basically, with an old kit, actual assembly won’t take an enormous amount of time. The latest 1/100 kit I did had 3 runners of parts. The box was about the size of a normal modern 1/144 kit. So take 2-3 hours to assemble it one night, and it’s assembled. Whereas with the modern kits, the actual assembly time is more. But then with an old kit, you can use all that assembly time to sand and paint and actually finish off the kit properly. Whereas on a newer kit, you still have to go through all the steps after doing the fairly arduous assembly process. And the snap process of newer kits in many ways makes sanding/etc worse, as you can’t just glue it together and let some glue seep out of the seamlines and sand, you have to putty them, or unsnap most of the pieces a little bit, glue, sand, etc. Or hope you don’t mess anything up and glue the snapped pieces together as you go. Also, on older kits if you mess up, because glue takes awhile to set, you don’t have to worry about seriously marring a piece you pry open again.

Either way, modern kits can for some reason be a bit stressful to assemble, whereas older kits I find more relaxing. It’s a very different building experience, and frankly really painted up nice, look spectacular when you’re done, for very little money.

Homemade model paint #2, oil based paint.

So I decided to try something out and it seems to be working out relatively well. By trade I’m actually a painter, I paint houses and furniture. So in this process I’ve learned a lot about paint.

So just as last time, we learned “acrylic” paints are actually pretty much synonymous with “latex” paint, this week we will learn that “enamel” is pretty much synonymous with oil based paint.

So because they’re synonymous, I decided to try something. Using oil based interior house paint on a model. No pictures yet, but nonetheless, it seems to be working well, though in my opinion I thinned it too much. Also it might have helped to use less Penetrol, which is a combination of linseed oil, stoddard solvent, and a few other things. Next time I believe it would be better to go with paint only with just normal odorless mineral spirits for thinner.

But eh. It seems to be working out OK. It will need two coats since it’s so thin, but I’m liking it. I used a “satin” paint color, and satin is a nice coloration, as it’s a middle ground between flat and gloss finishes, so on a mecha it’s probably the most appropriate finish. Also, oil based paint in general is better as it takes longer to dry. Paint that takes longer to dry is better in most ways, as brush marks will dissipate. Also, you can touch the paint after it’s on with the brush to get at a runny spot or more evenly apply the paint. If you touch an acrylic/latex paint after it’s been on something for over 2-3 minutes (if that) you will mar it, as it dries very quickly. With oil, this is less of a factor. My thinned out house paint in a warm room takes about 4-5 hours to dry to touch, compared to maybe an hour for model paint? However, by comparison for home improvement tasks, oil based paint I’ve had take days to dry while latex was dry in 2-3 hours.

So, I tried this because I’ve always had terrible luck using any kinds of whites, and getting them to look good on a model kit. So I figured oil might work better, and it’s worth a shot, right?

Now, cautions! What made me try this was that both home paints I used smelled exactly like model kit enamel paint. However, you might run into danger if you do try an industrial based paint. I’ve not tried Rustoleum yet, but I may. Some oil based paints may contain toluene, which could be caustic to plastic. Same with using some types of paint thinner. The reason I mention specifically toluene is it is the main ingredient in model glue, toluene is the solvent that melts the plastic, and the gel is just a carrier for the toluene. So, beware, but I’d say you have a high likelihood of succeeding if you use a home “enamel” or “alkyd” paint on a model, and you get the benefit of multiple sheens, etc. However, the downside is generally you must purchase a quart of paint, or a pint or cup, but if you plan to go through a lot of paint, or conversely plan to use the paint in other projects, it’s quite ideal. Also, make sure to keep your paint only in glass jars or metal paint containers, the aforementioned solvents may eat through plastic. Also, oil based paints are flammable due to them, too (and the linseed oil is flammable as well,) so keep that in mind when storing them.

So if you’re broke but still wanna paint your models up well, this is a quite viable solution. Also, most third world countries I think still mostly use oil based paint, whereas in USA they’re trying to phase it out due to environmental concerns. So, might be convenient for you guys as well out in Malaysia, Philippines, etc.

1/144 Methuss review (original Zeta glue kit)

So, I have lots of other models to show off and review still, but since I just did this one, I guess we’ll do this one first. This is the original Zeta Gundam glue kit, released in 1985. So it’s using a 30 year old mold now. It’s quite interesting of a kit, it actually transforms and uses polycaps, and is also molded in two colors. So in this sense it’s actually somewhat modern in the way it’s designed. Which is part of the reason I want it as my first review, it’s actually almost a case of “nothing new under the sun.”

First off, this kit does require glue. For every piece that needs to attach together. But, it also has polycaps. It has only two types of polycaps, though. One that fits into slots in the piece, similar to Arii Macross kits, round discs like Arii Macross kits, but they have two little arms that keep them from rotating around the joint. The other are exactly the same type of polycap used in most swivel joints of more modern kits. It’s also two color molded. The plastic color imo is a bit not great, but assuming you were careful, you could get away without painting it, and just painting details on, and the kit assumes you will do this and gives you a painting guide for painting directly on the tree. In this regard it might be more similar to, say, a Wing or G-Gundam era kit, molded in color, but not really enough to help a ton if you want a good looking kit, it’s not like an HGUC kit where it’s molded in like 5-6 different colors and looks decent enough to display with no painting whatsoever.

This kit has reasonable articulation, and does transform with the only part needing to be removed being the hands. Some things are rather weirdly/stupidly limited, though, but Bandai did try, it seems like. Knees and arms are double jointed, whereas most older kits they are single jointed. They needed double jointed knees to help transformation. The feet are swivel jointed but can move side to side and up and down, basically pretty much the same ROM as a ball joint foot, just without a ball joint. One of my feet for whatever reason has a loose polycap, though. The feet also fold up to transform. Hips are swivel jointed as well, but have a strange function of pulling out of the torso to create a wider hip base, don’t know how realistic this is or isn’t, but with a wider hip base it’s less likely to fall down when posed. The arms and shoulders are weird on this kit. The Methuss in general is a weird design, where the guns are on the back of the forearm. So it can pull out the guns to shoot, but it can only shoot straight armed. The shoulder is a big limiter as well. The upper arm rotates inside the shoulder, and the shoulder can move up and down, but the upper arm is connected to the shoulder. So it is double jointed, but the first joint is at the top of the shoulder, and the second joint is at the elbow. And it can only rotate at the top of the shoulder. Ideally, it’d have another rotation point at the elbow, but it doesn’t. So it doesn’t lead to really bad poses (I have an Arii transforming Valkyrie for example, that cannot rotate it’s shoulder side to side at all, so it can’t even do a bicep curl motion) in the extreme, but it could be better. The only other thing I found weird Bandai didn’t add was the head cannot rotate at all, it’s simply glued in place. But for 1985 it’s pretty reasonable, I think.

The transforming is pretty neat. No parts need to be moved off the kit except the hands. The HGUC from pictures seems more realistic, ie, it has landing gear and stuff, but it does transform pretty drama free and easily.

Overall, it’s not a perfect kit, but it’s not a bad kit either. On HLJ and 1999.co.jp it’s about half the price of the HGUC version. So for half the price, I don’t think you can really go wrong with it. It’s got most of the posability of a modern kit, has polycaps, and transforms. If you really like the Methuss, maybe the HGUC might be better, but if you’re the type who more just wants a bigger collection and eventually wants all or most of the mecha from a particular show (how I am) then this is more up the alley. The Zeta kits in general for Bandai seem to be more the prototype for modern Gundam kits, they had color molding, polycaps, etc. So I think if you’re scared of doing a 0079 or MSV kit with no polycaps, the Zeta kits are ideal to start with. Not all Zeta kits have polycaps, some are reissues/retools of MSV kits (I have a Zaku Marine that is like this.) So before you buy the kit, I recommend looking at 1999.co.jp and seeing scans of the manual, trees, etc. The only other downside of Zeta kits, too, is they’re somewhat unrealistic in that compared to MSVs they have very little for decals. This Methuss has zero decals at all, so even when painted it likely will look pretty plain.

Anyway, here are pictures of it unpainted and only partially sanded.

Very tall for a 1/144 due to the mobile armor stuff, as you can see it towers over an RX-78 (HGUC kit.)

Rear view.

Mobile armor mode.

Anyway, hope this review was thorough enough. If you have any questions please ask. Sorry for going so long (a few weeks) with no content, but I should have more stuff shortly.

Poor man’s modelling #1, Homemade model paint.

I was going to keep this a secret in case I decided to get into the model paint business and make zillions of dollars. But now I realize that’s a bit pointless and unrealistic of an idea. So here it is, for all people of the internet to benefit from.

*Boring lame story part you don’t really need to read*

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Gundam modelling as a hobby has been a very on/off hobby for me throughout the years. I started Gundam models at approximately 12 years old, and I am 23, almost 24 now.  Before this year, my last two kits I built up and did a good job with were an HGUC Kampfer and Zaku I, which I used a combination of Testor Acrylics and Model Master acrylic paints on. The Model Master Paints (despite being Testor made….) are better. But anyway. I did those approximately in 2010 or 2011. Basically, before those kits, all my other kits looked pretty terrible. As in, they didn’t look as good as all those cool guys online’s kits did. But the Kampfer and Zaku I I was quite happy as I finally got a result fairly equal to “cool guys online” I admired back in the day on Gundam.com’s model gallery as a little kid. Being able to drive places yourself to buy things you need and not being limited to Walmart certainly improved my modelling quite a bit.

So anyway, for whatever reason, I got the inclination to do some Gundam models this year, and I still had a lot of kits left in the closet to do or paint. So the first kit I got working on again was painting my old 1/100 glue kit Gyan. I had no model paints left that were suitable for that color, though. And the Gyan looked pretty terrible from my prior attempts at painting with model paints. So I decided Mr. Gyan would be Mr. YOLO for this experiment I had. Actually, my bad, it came slightly from an experiment in painting a Arii 1/100 Valkyrie as the initial catalyst, but the Gyan happened at the same time.

As a kid, my friend’s mom messed up a tad and when I said to buy “acrylic” paints, meaning acrylic model paints, his mom bought acrylic craft paints and it turned out pretty terrible. I figured though, hey, there might be some way to make it work. Or I could at least use them to tint some colors of model paint I had left.  I didn’t have a spare $20 or so to blow on model paints at the hobby store, either.

So we tried it, I bought some 50c and $1 bottles of “Apple Barrel” craft paint at Walmart. And…. it sucked. The problem was, the paint would not level correctly. If applied at the thickness it came, it left brush marks and generally looked terrible. If thinned with water, at the end of whatever piece you painted, it would all sink and glob up at the edge of the piece.

*The important part where I describe the process and drawbacks, end of personal anecdotes*

——

Smelling the Tamiya model paint I bought, I noticed something. It smelled like alcohol. So I decided, hey, let’s try adding 91% isopropyl alcohol to the craft paint and see wtf happens. And then, I put it on, and it didn’t glob up at the end of the piece. It acted exactly like model paint.

So the process is simple. You add 91% isopropyl alcohol to the craft paint to get it to your desired thinness. And then it’s model paint. The 91% alcohol, I think besides thinning the paint, is a light solvent. So it helps eat the plastic in a minor way and lets the paint actually bond with the plastic surface.

However, this is not foolproof. For me with random acrylic craft paints I’ve tried, it only works with gloss paints. I’ve not gotten it to work satisfactory with flat paints. It’ll change the levelling properties of the flat paints, but the problem is the flat craft paints basically are very chalky and nasty looking, looking basically like house primer on a model kit. However, with the modified gloss craft paints, the results are pretty much identical to using actual model paints, or better depending on the brand. However, the gloss craft paints are gloss, and they mean it. They are glossy shiny paints, and for many mech models, you don’t want a super gloss finish.

The other drawback, too, is mixing. Blacks and whites tend to not want to mix super homogeneously with colors. Lots of stirring is required. The other thing too, is you still need containers to mix paints in. I’ve been too lazy to purchase some $4 empty paint pot containers off ebay for custom mixed colors, but if you do use these paints and custom mix colors, these will help you. Me, in my super cheapness, usually use bottle caps, but the paint can dry and skin over easily in bottle caps you can’t easily seal again, With my most recent build, a 1/144 MSV Johnnie Ridden Zaku, I ended up messing up a bit, as I painted about 3/4 of it, then let the paint dry out in the container, then had to remix and rematch my paint, so some areas are slightly darker and not matching.

Another thing I’ve played with but won’t really recommend is adding a small amount of ammonia as well. The ammonia seems to increase drying time, and maybe make the paint glossier as well. Ammonia is actually used quite a bit in “latex” (actually really acrylic as well) house paint as part of the base. You could play with this, but overall I think adding alcohol only is most reliable and simple. I’ve heard Tamiya adds glycol to their paint, that could be something to try, too. But I’ve decided it’s easiest to stick only with alcohol and nothing else at this point.

Again, this is not ideal, and if I had money, I’d probably rather buy $20 worth of real model paint per kit I build, but it’s an adaptation. I know lots of people in, say, the Philippines or Malaysia perhaps, where people are even more poor than people where I live in USA, could maybe benefit from this knowledge.

Anyway, here’s some pictures of a kit painted with this paint.

The dark blue is actual model paint, and the gold is as well.

I couldn’t get good pictures tonight as I’ve not figured out how to turn the flash off on my phone yet, so it’s not taking very representative pictures. Those are slightly older pictures of my Gyan. Obviously, this is NOT ideal, but it’s an adaptation to circumstances.

Why old Gundam kits vs new ones?

I guess this is a fitting first post. There’s many reasons why I like doing the older kits more. Let’s name a few….

1. Price

This is a big factor. If you’re ordering from overseas suppliers, or even in my area, going to a model store that carries them, price is a huge factor. Let’s say you want a mobile suit. If you want a Master Grade of that kit, you’ll have to pay $20-50 depending on the model of kit you want. However, if you want a 1/100 ungraded glue kit from the 80s of that mobile suit, the price drops to about $6-8, sometimes up to $15 or so. Even locally, I’ve acquired 1/100s of the older kits for $12-13, where the Master Grades would go for $35-60. So for the price of one Master Grade, you can generally have about two or three 1/100 no grade models. Yes, obviously, a Master Grade kit will for the most part be better, but you have to think of what you’re going to do with your kits. Most of the time, at least for me, the armor remains on, and I don’t put it in any really crazy poses. They stand on a flat surface in my room as basically statues. As a statue, older kits work great, as an action figure they do not.

2. Variety and novelty

Over the years, Bandai has very much stepped up their game with getting almost every model of MS an HG or MG out. From about 2006-2010 I took a very long break from Gundam modelling, and I was super surprised when I got back to see what had come out. Basically every kit and idea I ever had of “I wish Bandai would do this…” came out! But, you still cannot buy a HGUC Zaku Tank or Zaku Cannon. Or many of the other MSV designs, or a few things from Zeta Gundam, etc. There’s a few things, too, like the “Real Type” MSV series, etc.

3. More true to the original animation

As surprising as this may sound, most of the older kits, despite sometimes looking “funny” are actually more true to the original animation. Yes, those 0079 kits might have weird proportions, but if you look at the show itself, generally the kits are fairly accurate. As time went on, people grew to like mecha designed a bit differently, with more details, etc, and the model kits changed as the tastes changed. However, if you want an exact representation of what appeared in the anime, generally an older kit will be more faithful than a newer one.

One other issue with newer kits to this affect is most newer kits are actually redesigned or influenced by Hajime Katoki. Hajime Katoki is a fine mecha designer, do not get me wrong. However, not every mecha from the Gundam universe should be a “Ver. Ka.” I’ll show in another post, but Katoki’s big design trend is basically to make the mecha look more slender, whereas in the original drawings and original kits, most mecha have relatively wider torsos, shorter legs, and wider shoulder proportions. Katoki meanwhile likes more of the inverse, making a longer legged, narrower torso and shouldered mecha.

4. Good base for experimentation, learning new skills, learning to model

If you’ve never done any sort of painting, gluing, or puttying of a kit before, an older model is an ideal place to start. As since they come mostly uncolored, you won’t make it look worse by painting it. You have to paint it and glue it for the kit to go together. So you have no choice to just leave it unpainted for a few years but still have it look kinda sorta OK on your shelf. Either you paint it and go through the whole works process, or you don’t display it. So getting practice painting, gluing, sanding, etc, on a cheaper and harder kit is a good confidence booster when you decide you wish to paint and seriously build up an HGUC or MG kit.

5. General rarity and historical significance.

Obviously, on the grand scale of culture and the human race, a Gundam kit is a pretty small piece. But, I think the older kits are getting rarer and harder to find. But older kits, like the older Gundam shows they’re based off of, transport you back in time. When doing an older kit, you can pretend to be a 1980s Japanese teenager psyched about Zeta Gundam coming out. There’s a nostalgia factor with these kits that doesn’t come with a newer kit.

I personally like owning and being able to do things other people don’t have. If you have some done up old kits that look really nice that nobody else you know has, in some ways you’re cooler than a guy with a Perfect Grade. Compare a man with a classic restored car to a guy with a brand new BMW M3. The guy with the classic car may pay less money for his car, but who’s more interesting?

……

Obviously, newer kits are for the most part better kits, but this doesn’t make the older kits bad. They’re just different and have different purposes. The purpose of this blog is to promote the older kits. If you have any build pictures of vintage Gundam or other mecha models, feel free to contact and I’ll feature them here. I’ll also be reviewing and generally showing off older kits I own, and showing build up progress.

Thanks and have a happy new year, full of many kits built!

Build ups and reviews of vintage Gundam and other mecha kits