Build step 1 – a filling start

It’s finally here, that point where we begin to join plastic parts together.

Normally, I’d stick religiously to the instructions and follow the order specified there. So I should have started with the cockpit assembly. This time however, I wanted to try a couple of new(ish) techniques, and so I’ve “jumped” ahead slightly and started my efforts on some parts that aren’t too obvious. That way, if things do go wrong, I can adjust the build to accommodate this.

One of the worst things to see on a model is seam lines, especially if what’s being modelled is – in reality – a whole. Overcoming this on a model requires a bit of effort to make sure that any joins are strong but practically invisible. When you’re also dealing with curved surfaces, it’s important not to create an unsightly “flat” that stands out like a sore thumb. Fortunately in this kit, there’s a perfect starting point to practice the techniques for avoiding flats and seams – and that’s the large H-bomb.

Two halves to make a whole

Here we can see the two halves making up the bomb that have been removed from the sprue. As a general rule, any small remnants of the attachment have also been sanded off, and the joining surfaces sanded to ensure they are clean. After a dry fit (without glue) to check alignment and for any potential issues, it’s time to add some cement and – finally – begin assembly.

one bomb – complete with obvious seam

Thanks to the dry fit, I manage to avoid any serious steps on the join, meaning that although we can clearly see the join, there isn’t too much we need to do to clean it up. There is a slight step at the tail of the bomb as the halves don’t quite match, but solving this causes a problem on more obvious surfaces. Previously, this is where I’d have been impatiently itching to apply some paint, but not this time…..

After letting the parts dry off, I sanded the join down with a fairly coarse sanding stick to remove any excess cement and to take out any minor bumps that were present, and then cleaned things up with a fine polishing sponge (new technique #1). This did leave a few dimples along the join, as well as a small mark where the parts had been attached to the sprue. At the tail, the step wasn’t as big as previously thought, but still needed some work to make it good.

My next task was to apply some filler – in this case, Mr Surfacer 1000; a paintable filler of medium grade (new technique #2). I’ve used filler before, but normally as a putty (with decidedly mixed results), so this was a significant change in approach. After a deep breath, I opened the jar, picked up a paintbrush, and made a start.

finished assembly of H-bomb for Airfix Valiant model kit. After applying filler to seam and cleaning this up with sanding stick and polishing stick, the join has almost disappeared.
Where’s that seam gone?

I think it worked.

Compared to previous filler attempts, this was simple, quick and (most importantly) clean. As it acts like a paint, it was easy to get the Mr Surfacer exactly onto the seam and thus I avoided any unwanted overflow onto other areas of the part. Again, being paint-like, it dried really quickly, and only a couple of hours later I was able to sand off the excess, polish it, and check for a smooth finish. A second coat was needed towards the tail to resolve the small step but overall, the result looks pretty good.

All in all, this took me a couple of hours (over 2 days) to sort out, and I’m pretty pleased with the outcome.

But, why go to this effort on a piece that’s mostly hidden? As I said earlier, I wanted to try the new polishing and filling techniques, so doing it on something peripheral was more sensible than going straight for the fuselage (for example) and making a right mess. At least now I know that filler isn’t something to be afraid of, and polishing really helps to clean up any minor damage caused during sanding. Now I just need to decide whether to complete this part and apply some paint, or put it to one side and carry on with some more construction.

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