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Building Model Kits: Plastic and Wood

I like building models for my train display as well as replicating my personal home with its furnishings. It is my educational hobby.

Model of a large inn.

Model of a large inn.

Educational, Exciting, and Fascinating

Building models can become an addictive hobby because when the project is finished, it is exciting and rewarding to see our accomplishments in a physical product. It's also exciting because we can afford a miniature of what is not financially available to us. In other words, we can build our dream car, an airplane, a spaceship, or whatever type of vehicle that we know we could never afford.

Perhaps you have an interest in constructing buildings, statues, furniture, and any number of other physical products. After building a dollhouse, there is a variety of miniature furniture, fixtures, and accessories to be built for both the interior and the exterior of the building. Do you have an interest in model trains? A display of a railroad yard, station, or a community entails a variety of objects, people, and animals.

As we build these products, much research is needed for detailing and painting. It is a fun way to get an education. Our enthusiasm for the model encourages visits to local libraries, museums, classes, and specialty workshops.

Building models is a hobby that has no end because of the many outlets that are available and just waiting for your attention and management. Attending shows helps our social life meeting new people who share similar interests.

How is it fascinating? Admiring and reviewing the small, intricate parts is a wonder. After the model is built, it can actually function. And to think that it was built with our two hands!

Remote control model airplane.

Remote control model airplane.

Selecting a Model

Do you have an interest in building models? Choose your project by thinking of something dear to your heart that will be fun and relaxing to build.

Choose your Favorite

Some people revert back to their childhood and start with the last project they completed in their youth. Or you may wish to participate in something you have never done before. Stroll through a hobby shop that specializes in models or visit sites online to view the many possibilities. Visit your local model shows. You will be amazed at the numbers of people that enjoy this hobby for self, contests, and competition.

My childhood memories are my brothers and uncles assembling planes, cars, and trucks. My sisters and cousins, as well as myself, enjoyed constructing model houses and making simple furniture from our fathers’ wood scrap pile.

Know thyself.

Building requires finger dexterity, patience, detail-mindedness, organizational skills, creativity and imagination, research and reading, ability to follow written instructions, analyze schematic drawings, and time. Remember, this pastime should be relaxing and fun to do.

A wooden locomotive with a flat bed trailer on a wood constructed  railway track.

A wooden locomotive with a flat bed trailer on a wood constructed railway track.

Tips and Ideas

The building models may become your primary hobby, and if it is, you will not be bored because there are many different types and accessories to be assembled. This can become a lifetime hobby, collection, or a business opportunity.

5 Tips for Model Building

  1. Vary your favorite selections with other types of models. This will help to gain experiences from assorted challenges.
  2. My childhood house models made with paper led me to make models and plant life for my model train display. You may wish to select models that can be coordinated with another hobby or interest.
  3. Before purchasing a model, consider making a sample using paper, cardboard, poster board or Styrofoam to qualify your interest. Making a model from scratch gives added awareness and experiences to create do-it-yourself projects or to repair or enhance a factory model.
  4. Try different brands. There is no perfect manufacturer. Each model may need modifications that will need to be corrected or replaced.
  5. Use, maintain, and care for tools properly. Accidents will happen with sharp blades and cutters.
  6. Join modeling clubs and show off your finished product. There will be all types of models on display. People may comment or take an interest in your work. These shows give you the opportunity to ask questions of other hobbyists or professionals.

Everyone likes to share their interests and techniques. Some clubs offer contests and prizes of trophies or monies.

A three dimensional construction of a cathedral.

A three dimensional construction of a cathedral.

Types of Model Kits

The first thing to do after opening your kit box is to review the enclosed parts, decals, and paint colors. Read the instructions thoroughly. Do not throw the instruction sheet away. The instructions need to be followed as written.

There are three different types of kits:

  1. Snap: The snap-together kits do as they say. The parts are assembled by snapping the plastic parts into their designated areas. No gluing is required.
  2. Glue: The glue-together kits have more parts and require attention to detail. There are three different types of glue applicators. There is the familiar model cement glue in the tube. Two other applicators use liquid glue, which is applied with a brush or a needle-like applicator.
  3. Wood: The wood kits will use slits that are slid into each other to lock pieces in place or others may use glue.
Models of people standing in front of retail shops.

Models of people standing in front of retail shops.


Model kits do not come with tools. The snap-on pieces attach to each other by snapping them into place. Other model kits or do-it-yourself projects will need a few or several types of tools. Do-it-yourself projects will need a variety of tools depending on the raw materials to be used.

Tools for Kit Assembly

  1. Cutter
  2. Sharp hobby knife or razor blade
  3. Paintbrush
  4. Sandpaper
  5. Airbrush (for the more advanced model maker)

The cutter and knife are needed to separate pieces from the factory mold and to remove miscellaneous excess pieces. The sandpaper is used to smooth rough spots. The paintbrushes, spray cans, or airbrush is used to color the pieces.

Along with the instructions, there are color suggestions. Some pieces may need to be painted before assembling and others later or as a final coat on the finished model. Not everyone paints their models. However; it is preferred in order that the decals remain more permanent and the model looks better with its colors.

The choice of paints include acrylics or traditional enamel. Acrylics are water-based, non-allergic and easy cleanup paint. The enamel paints will require thinners, gloves, mask, and work in a well-ventilated environment. Spray paints and airbrushes will also need a well-ventilated working area.

A train station with a train stopping to pick up passengers.

A train station with a train stopping to pick up passengers.

Model Materials

There is an endless list of materials that are used to make models. As children, many of us were introduced to cars, airplanes, and trucks. The advancements in making plastics and the interest of peoples in different industries has produced an endless list of model choices. Any article that exists in our physical world can be replicated. Models give us the world in miniature.

The Lego Company is an example of a plastic modeling industry that has created its own tourist attraction park. Currently, there are ten Lego-land theme park locations around the world. Each country has one or many locations within its borders. There are currently eleven locations in the United States and one in Canada.

Wood model kits are still available. The list, like plastics, is endless. Models may also be made from metal.

Model Building