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Gundam Plastic Models Basic Building Techniques

Article by Paul Nortness

Welcome to the fun world of Gunpla. Gunpla is short for "Gundam Plastic Models" (In Japan, it's just a fad if it doesn't have some weird word to describe it's fanbase). Gundam models are perfect kits when you need a distraction from that large project that has you pulling your hair out.

They are pre-colored and snap together so modelers of any skill can build one in an afternoon. Mobile Suit Gundam began as an animated television show in Japan in the late 70's. It wasn't very popular at first and got cancelled. But everything changed when Bandai got the license to create plastic model kits based on the vehicles and fantastic giant robots from the series. The models were so popular, that M.S. Gundam was made into a movie. Gundam recently celebrated its 30th anniversary and has spawned many sequels and spin offs.

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The kit I am using in this tutorial is a 1:144th scale "Duel Gundam Assaultshroud" from the Gundam Seed series. To complete this model, you will need a sprue cutter, battery operated rotary tool (dremels have too much power for this job) and a hobby knife. Take a look at our essential model kit tools article for tips. These kits are incredibly well engineered and thought out. Bandai uses a process called "Stream Injection" which allows them to have plastic molded in different color on the same sprue. Gundam models also use "poly caps" for the joints. These are soft plastic pieces that provide the model excellent mobility when built.

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Let's get started. Let's start with the limbs. I begin by cutting the lower leg halves off the sprue and putting on the poly caps as shown in the instructions.

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These models are snap together, and they fit together very nicely. But that fit relies on pieces being removed cleanly from the sprue.

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Here is a before and after of the lower leg. In the before shot, you can see where the piece was cut from the sprue. Using your rotary tool, carefully smooth this nub down and blend it in with the surrounding area until you have a flat smooth surface. Once you have all the parts smooth, carefully follow the instructions to build the sub-assemblies of the leg. Each Gundam is different, so I strongly recommend following the instructions for every one you build unlike car or aircraft building where you can fudge it a little if you have built enough of them. Here is our leg so far.

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Now, it's just a simple matter of sliding the posts into the poly caps and presto!

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As you can see, the poly caps give the leg plenty of flexibility for maximum posing possibilities. Now, just repeat the process for the second leg.

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Alright, let's move on to the arms. The arms start with the shoulder and have a long peg that stretches down through the bicep area of the arm.

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These two pieces slide over the peg to make the rest of the upper arm. The white piece goes on first and the grey pieces slide on after that. The rounded out area of the grey piece should be at the bottom.

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Next we need to build the forearm. The forearm is usually two halves and a collar that goes around the wrist.

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Inside the halves are typically two poly caps, one for the hand and one for the elbow. In the Duel Gundam's case, we have a third poly cap that will allow the shield to be mounted on the arm. Once the poly caps are installed, put together the second half and slide the collar over the wrist area of the forearm. The hand is just two pieces, one piece for the first and a second white piece for the back of the hand. Now that you have all the parts of the arm together, assemble them and repeat the process for the second arm. You should have something like this:

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