How to Create Plastic Models With Airfix

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Fascinated by military history? Historical figures? Have a wild imagination, love making dioramas? Here’s a guide to making plastic models using Airfix.
 
 
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Getting started

You’ll need an Airfix kit. This is obvious, yes, but also make sure that your kit has all the parts, the instructions, and any transfers or other easy-to-lose separate parts.

Read the instructions carefully before you do anything, so you know what you’re dealing with before taking any irreversible, and messy, steps involving glue. 

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Tools of the trade

You don’t really need to start with a huge toolkit, but there is some essential craft kit every model maker will need.

First, a craft knife or scalpel, then something (ideally a cutting mat) to avoid slicing through your desk or, worse, your mum’s dining table. This is useful for cutting parts off the sprue (that’s the plastic framework holding all the bits) though a pair of nail clippers or scissors will work for younger or more accident-prone folk.

Then there’s a pair of tweezers for placing tiny parts, a paintbrush or several for painting your model – 00 is a good size – some cocktail sticks for applying glue, and maybe a small file for cleaning up parts. You will also need paint, and paint thinners, if you’re using the popular enamel Airfix paints. Check the box or the instructions so you know which colours to get.

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Skill level

It’s often best to start with smaller-scale kits as there’s a lower level of detail and therefore fewer parts. Airfix 1:72 is the classic Airfix scale for aircraft, Airfix 1:76 for military vehicles and  Airfix 1:32 is more common for cars.

The bigger the number, the smaller the scale; some gigantic battleships are made in up to 1:600 scale, otherwise they’d be too big to fit in your house. If you’ve only just started, the simpler kits will get you a good-looking result pretty quickly and without too much messing around. While patience is vital for all model-making, it’s nice to have something recognizable starting to emerge before you get too bored. The ‘Quick Build’ series with its Lego-like snap-together system is very basic indeed, but the ‘Starter Set’ kits are proper Airfix model kits, with the bonus of included glue, paint and a brush.

If you’re an expert, however, the sky’s the limit. One of Airfix’s 1:24 scale aircraft, with their half-metre wingspan and enormous detail, would be quite a showstopper, though don’t expect to complete it in an evening.

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What could you make?

Your imagination is the limit here, and because there's lots of cheap Airfix kit available, the world is your oyster.

Building any model’s fun, but it can be the starting point for a whole diorama, complete with figures, landscape, buildings, trees and so on.

Whether it’s a realistic battle scene or a classic car garage, that will add a whole new dimension to your Airfix models. Alternatively, you could start down the route of modifying your models. This can be as simple as changing the paint scheme or decals, or as complex as building your own custom parts and making your kit into a different version or variant, or even a whole new model.

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5 of the best Airfix sets

Airfix are well known for the famous Supermarine Spitfire fighter plane (pictured), which is available at a variety of scales and skill levels. It’s difficult not to recommend the 1:72 MkI/MkIIa, though, as an all-time classic kit.



Airfix  Model boats are an absorbing hobby, and any student of naval history won’t go too far wrong with HMS Victory – Admiral Nelson’s own warship and a beautiful piece of waterborne design in its own right.

The 1930 4.5-litre Bentley kit is one for the classic car enthusiast with a decent level of modeling skill. At 1:12 scale it’s impressively large, and the detail is spectacular, particularly its dashboard with realistic gauges. Take a look at Airfix model car kits.

Those with a yearning for battlefield action in miniature are well catered for with diorama sets; the D-Day Operation Overlord gift set is a particularly fine example. Though it won’t be long before some timely WWI sets are released…

If space travel is more your thing, how about a Saturn V rocket? While not hugely difficult to build, it’s an eye-catching replica of the astronauts’ transport. 

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How to improve your modelling

Patience is, of course, the key to building a great model, along with attention to detail to help with those tiny bits that make all the difference.

But there are certain practical aids too – for instance, keeping your work surface neat and tidy, making sure there’s somewhere to keep all those small pieces, like a shallow box or even an ice cube tray, and ensuring you’re working in good light and with plenty of ventilation if you’re gluing or painting. But most of all, enjoy building, painting and displaying your Airfix kit.
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