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An Easy Beginner’s Guide to Gunpla: Part ② Gunpla Construction

Gundam fans, are you ready to make those Gunpla dreams finally come true? We’ve got all our Gunpla tools ready, and now it’s time to actually put one together!

Gunpla Unboxing & Prep

Ready to make Gunpla your new hobby? In the first installment of this little beginner’s guide to Gunpla, we went over all the tools we’d need. This time, we’re finally going to put the kit together! We’ll be constructing a 1/144 Gundam Aerial, so let’s get started, and open up that box!

The first thing you pull from the box will be a package of “runners” with all of the little Gunpla parts attached, and so our first step is to open that package up for inspection. Each of the runners inside is labeled for identification, usually using the alphabet (A Runner, B Runner, etc.) or a combination of letters and numbers (A1, A2, etc). To make things easier for yourself while you work on your model, you’ll want to get all of the runners in order when you get them out of the box! If you don’t mind spending a little extra on your Gunpla setup, you could even pick up some specially-made “runner stands,” which help you efficiently organize your runners.

▲ A runner straight from the package

When removing your runners from the box and organizing them, make sure you check the instruction booklet as you go. When it comes to Gunpla, this little instruction booklet is the be all and end all. You won’t get anywhere without it. The pages contain lists of the parts and where they are on the runners, so you can check to make sure your kit isn’t missing any parts.

▲ The instruction booklet.
▲ All the runners piled up in order.

Start Putting Together Your Gunpla

If you’ve got your runners and your instruction booklet all laid out in front of you, it’s finally time to start construction! Give the booklet a thorough read, and follow the instructions step by step to start putting things together. The first part of the process for each step is to check the runner label in the instructions, and cut off the parts you need for that step. As you do that, there are two things to keep in mind.

① Always use your nippers (wire cutters).

When you’re removing the parts from your runners, your hands are a no-go. For the vast majority of Gunpla kits (except for special cases like EG/Entry Grade kits) the parts and runners are connected by bits of plastic called “gates,” and this thin plastic is usually weak enough that you could easily rip the parts away. But pulling the parts off with your hands is a risky business – it’s easy to accidentally leave holes or ugly marks on your model parts, leaving them looking far from perfect. (This can sometimes happen if you try to use everyday scissors as well, so purpose-made nippers are really your best bet.)

▲ Purpose-built plastic model nippers.

② Prepare your parts using a 2-cut process.

When you’re cutting Gunpla parts off a runner, you’ll be cutting the gate part, but if you’re thinking you want to cut right up against the part, then hold your horses. First, you always want to cut it so that a little bit of the gate is still connected to the part, generally called a “nub” in English. These days you can find nippers that are so high quality that you can cut directly up against the part, but in most cases, doing so will leave a little white spot called a “gate mark” or “nub mark.” The nippers are forcing the plastic in ways that just don’t look all that pretty. To avoid the white spots on your parts, leave a little nub (about 1mm is fine) when cutting away from the runner. Then, go back to the part, and carefully align the cutting edge of your nippers where the nub meets the part for a clean cut that won’t leave a scar.

▲ First snip the gates to cut the parts away from the runner.
▲ A sample part with its nubs intact.
▲ Go in for the second cut of your 2-cut process.

Follow the Steps for Easy Construction

Now that our parts are all cleaned up with the 2-cut process and ready to use, let’s move on to putting them together. As mentioned a while back in our intro guide for Gunpla beginners, Gunpla uses a “snap-fit” adhesive-free system, so the pieces fit together with a satisfying snap – no glue needed. The pegs pop right into the corresponding holes to keep everything together. And if you accidentally put the wrong parts together, there’s no need to get frazzled, you just have to carefully pull them back apart. If you panic and start trying to force the pieces you might end up breaking them instead, so if you’re having a really hard time getting the pieces apart without brute force, then you can just use a “parts opener” to help with the process!

And a little tip for the little pieces: sometimes Gunpla parts can get pretty small, so once you’ve cut them away from the runners you’ll want to keep them all together while you work. And don’t forget the little decal stickers either! When you’re snipping the pieces away from the runners and snapping them together one after another, it’s easy to zone out and go on full steam ahead. Remember to check the instructions for any stickers you might need to attach as you go.

▲ Freshly cut parts.
▲ A selection of parts assembled into an arm.

Finish Your Gunpla

If you stick to the tips above and put together all the parts according to the steps in the instruction booklet, you’ll have yourself a finished Gunpla model! Once you’re done you can do whatever you want with it – keep the finished Gunpla on your desk to admire throughout the day, or take pictures of it in cool poses!

When you first start your Gunpla journey, the whole model-building process can take some time, but the more time and effort goes into the Gunpla, the stronger the sense of accomplishment you feel when you see the fruits of your labor! And don’t sweat the small stuff. When you first start building Gunpla, you’re bound to make a few mistakes, but if you can look past them and just aim for the goal of finishing your Gunpla, that’s what’s important!

▲ Our finished 1/144 Gundam Aerial.

In Conclusion

So, now that we’ve followed the Gunpla construction process from start to finish, how does it feel? In this article we’ve gone over the foundations of Gunpla, and if you use the tips above, soon enough you too will join the ranks of splendid Gunpla model makers! The kit used in this article is far from the only one available, so explore the wide variety of Gunpla kits currently on the market. If you challenge yourself with more and more complicated kits, you’ll be able to polish your skills to perfection!

That’s all for now, but look out for more tips in the future, including some techniques for intermediate and advanced Gunpla model makers!

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