I don’t use Testors. I don’t use DecoArt. I don’t use anything marketed to miniaturists…except Chrysnbon. The really unfortunate thing, though, when it comes to these kits is that almost no “mini” products are suitable for plastic. Unfortunately, though, a number of miniaturists only shop at places that are “for them,” and so miss out on some of the best supplies available. “Miniatures” encompasses more than just one scale–and those other scales are a lot more popular than 1:12. Moreover, the default material used in these scales is plastic (or, sometimes, resin). Things that are painted to look like wood are a lot more common than actual wood! I’m fortunate in this knowledge, as while I’ve made minis almost my entire life I didn’t start out with dollhouses.
I worked on model cars with one grandfather, and model trains with the other. Later on, I began turning my (still extremely nascent) skills toward decorating my dollhouse. My grandfathers were both on board with this; both were mechanically minded and we figured out, together, how to wire that first dollhouse with a bunch of random stuff scavenged from Radio Shack. Some of the tools I discovered, back then, I still use! Some, especially with this incredible explosion of technology, I’ve upgraded. Much of my current work is CAD-based; my shop, with all its bells and whistles, would make both grandfathers together explode with excitement. The actual handcrafting experience they each shared with me are eternal, though, and form the base of expertise I’m still building on, today.
Sanding, for example, is a skill. What you use to sand, specifically, doesn’t produce the results. Dremel or bargain bin nail file, the knowledge is in your hands. Sometimes I use a Dremel, on plastic kits, but success for me comes from applying a light touch and with the quality of the styrene used in Chrysnbon kits being so low, I often have better success with the analog approach. This project, too, is power tool free for maximum inclusion and so I’m going to share with you the products I’ll be using to prep each kit. I’ll link you to where purchased each item, when possible, but brand doesn’t matter as much as function. Nail files, after all, don’t exactly use proprietary technology.
This is the haul, folx, and the first thing about it that we’re going to discuss is my choice in glue. I use this product from Squadron, as I find that it produces an incredible bond. If, after you’ve assembled your kits, they tend to disassemble then you’re either using the wrong glue or using it wrong. Testors products are shit and you should stop using them; real glue can be a bit more challenging to handle, but the–vastly superior–results are worth a bit of a learning curve. Plastic Weld, and similar products, works by literally melting the parts of your kit together; dab on too much, it’ll run and can do obnoxious things like melt whatever design has been pressed into your plastic right off. To this end, I use an applicator. Yes, glue bottles all come with their own applicators, in various styles, but they’re only for makers who want to swim in rivers of glue before spending the rest of the afternoon crying.
I use this.
Inside the glue bottle is a nail polish-type brush, which I use to “brush” glue into that little red container. It’s some kind of cap, for something, enterprisingly repurposed. You can buy bags of them at MicroMark. It comes with toothpicks, too, which are fun for a lot of things but useless as glue applicators so I use these applicators. You can find virtually the same thing, and for a lot cheaper, at most salon wholesalers as they’re used by some nail techs. Less is more, when it comes to glue! I go through applicators fairly quickly, but this same bottle of Plastic Weld has been on my workbench for over a year.
Other than that, I have a set of mini files from Woodcraft, a tube of putty, and a whole bunch of sanding supplies. The file on the left, I picked at the supermarket. The others, which are basically just fancier nail files, I got at MicroMark. I thought they were pretty overpriced when I got them, but honestly I really like them and will purchase them again. I got a ton of them, too, in that bag. I haven’t tried all the grits, yet, but I’m sure I will. As for the putty, I like that to fill in imperfections. I’m doing everyone’s favorite kit, first, the range, where it’s really useful–especially on those awful trivets. Really, what is with those holes?
Here, I’ve sanded one trivet but not the other. You want to remove as much of a defect as you can, without causing damage to the actual piece, before applying putty. Even “hard” putty isn’t exactly a building product! Then I apply a tiny bit with an applicator and let it dry, really dry, before sanding most of it off. Now, for my project, I’ll be going more for the Addams Family meets Deliverance look rather than “move in ready,” but I’m planning on achieving that look with paint. I want to start with as ideal a canvas as possible; weathering should be about exploring nearly limitless possibilities, not apologizing for structural failures.
I’ll be back when it’s time to paint.
For that, you’ll need:
Does the specific brand, of any of this, matter? No. Not at all. I might hate Testors but hey, if you love it, that’s your jam! The most important thing, here for me and for you is awesome results. Art is supposed to make us happy. When I can’t find Tamiya, for spray paint, I use Rust-Oleum! Their primer is great, too. The only “wrong” product is the one that doesn’t bring you joy. And so, in the interests, of finding a third cup of coffee, I’ll sign off now and leave you with this thought: the world might be a dark place, today, but we aren’t as powerless as we sometimes feel. Bringing joy to ourselves, though art, isn’t an act of selfishness but, rather, an act of rebellion. We’re defying the odds, we’re creating! We’re making a stand, in this darkness, and in so doing we’re driving it back.