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Filling Model Kit Seams

Article by Paul Nortness

Let's face it. No one, and I mean no one, enjoys filling seams. It is easily the worst part of building model kits. But, it's gotta be done. Nothing ruins a model faster than a poorly filled seam. Today, I will share some pointers with you that will make the task a little easier.

Before we get started, let's talk about filler. Filler can be anything that you use to fill up a seam. For this tutorial, I will be using Bondo Spot Glazing Putty. It is very similar to the stuff that Squadron sells but it is red. I actually prefer the Bondo over the Squadron. I have found it doesn't shrink as much and I find it easier to sand. People sometimes use CA glue to fill seams as well. While this does work, I don't recommend using CA glue. In my experiences, it is very hard to sand and is a pain in the rear end. Finally, for large gaps you should use some "bridge the gap" like a thin piece of styrene. If you don't, the putty will just break through and leave the gap.

model kit seams

OK, it's time to fill a seam. I am working on a 1:32nd Academy F-16I Sufa jet fighter plane for this tutorial, and need to fill the seams on the wing roots.

model kit seams 1

These seams aren't too bad but would certainly look off if I did not address them. I take some masking tape and mask off both sides of the seam. This is helpful to prevent the putty from covering up the surrounding details. Make sure to brandish the sides of the tape so you don't get any bleed underneath. Now, I am ready to apply my putty. You can use any flat object to apply putty. I use a wooden craft stick.

model kit seams 2

I want a nice thin layer of putty here so I will use the edge of the stick to smooth it out and pull up any excess putty. Too much putty can actually damage the styrene in the model so take it easy. Once the putty has been applied and smoothed out, I will remove the tape.

model kit seams 3

Now, I need to let the putty dry before I can sand it. You will know the putty has dried because it takes on a lighter color when dried (see the discoloration of the putty at the back of the wing).

model kit seams 4

I will be using a technique called "wet sanding". This method is pretty easy; simply dip your sanding film in water before you start sanding! I used Sanding Film from Testors. It is fairly cheap and comes in a pack with various grits. Most of all, it is not made from paper so it is perfect for wet sanding.

model kit seams 5

Now, sand along the seam until the putty is flush. You may have to wipe away the water and putty.

After the water/putty has been wiped away with a paper towel, the seam should look like this.

model kit seams 6

Pretty good, but not done yet! Now, I will go over the sanded area with finer grit until all areas are smooth. This may take some time, but it will be well worth it. If you do not take the time to polish the area with fine grit paper, you could end up with scratches in your paint job.

model kit seams 7

Voila! This seam is filled and ready for priming!

But what about those pesky areas where sand paper can't get you ask? Don't worry; here is a cool tip that will solve that problem!

model kit seams 8

That's right, nail polish remover. It has to be the "regular strength" variety that contains acetone. To demonstrate, I will do the lower ring root on this Trumpeter A-7E. Apply putty in the same way, mask off the area around the seam and apply a thin layer of putty.

model kit seams 9

Once that putty dries, it's time to pull out the nail polish remover and some cotton swabs. Dip the end of the cotton swab into the nail polish remover and dab any excess off so it doesn't drip. Now all you need to do is slowly start wiping away the putty. Remember though, nail polish remover contains acetone which will attack the plastic of your model if you let it.

model kit seams 10

This is what you should end up with. This technique is perfect for World War II aircraft.

Now go forth and fill thy seams! Just remember patience and practice are the keys with all model building. Take your time and remember that you are having fun, so smile darn it! If you get frustrated, put the model kit down and go do something else.

Have fun and happy modeling!

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