A Beginner’s Guide to Building Scale Model Aircraft

This guide is dedicated to plastic model aircraft building and aims to be a guide for anyone who, for the first time, delves into this fascinating hobby.

best model airplane kits

Indeed, the reader will quickly realize that model building is not just about assembling the parts contained in a kit box; this book will provide them with advice and “tricks” that will enable them to find simple but effective solutions to make the difference between an ordinary model and a beautiful one.

With this in mind, this book will also be helpful to those who are already experienced and wish to have a summary of various techniques to refine the decoration of their subjects. In fact, the author’s goal is to give all modelers the means to break free from the beaten path by building models that are as personalized and accurate as possible to the chosen subject.

The market currently offers a wide range of airplane models, with prices suitable for all budgets. Additionally, there are modification “kits” that include the necessary parts to transform the base model and a vast array of decal sheets.

The origin of airplane “kits” is quite obscure, and it is as difficult to identify the first real plastic model as it is to determine when it was marketed. English-speaking sources point to the beginning of World War II when plastic was used in the United States to produce large quantities of identification models that were then distributed to flight schools, ground-to-air artillery schools, and air-ground coordination schools to enable students to recognize planes instantly. Nevertheless, the first commercial launch did not occur until the mid-1950s, primarily thanks to Revell, still a highly regarded company today. In Europe, the first Airfix models appeared in 1952, soon followed by those from the Merit brand; at that time, scales had not yet been standardized. Generally, single-engine aircraft with a 20 or 25-cm wingspan were reproduced. From this period, the future trend emerged, with plastic quickly becoming the dominant material for model building. Its advantages are numerous and apparent: plastic model building is clean, dust-free, and can be practiced in any corner of any home. Furthermore, it eliminates issues related to working with materials, as the various parts are ready to be assembled, allowing the modeler to focus more easily on what brings them the most satisfaction: finishing, developing, and decorating their model.

The US manufacturers were the first to bring accurate reproductions to the market: for example, Aurora models still retain their interest today, even after 25 years.

However, the British are credited with introducing the universal scale of 1/72, which was first used in the early 1930s with the release of a series of wooden and cardboard models called Skybirds. The smaller dimensions allowed by this scale significantly contributed to the success of these models.

In arithmetic terms, the 1/72 scale corresponds to a ratio of one inch (25.4 mm) to six feet (304.8 mm); every inch on a model corresponds to six feet on the actual aircraft. Today, thanks to technical advancements in plastic molding, we can find even larger models, reproduced at twenty-four, thirty-two, or forty-eight times smaller than reality. On the other hand, metric scales (1/50 or 1/100) have not been successful.

Assembling a plastic model is not difficult. It is better to start with 1/72 scale models, which are more affordable, and anticipate making some mistakes while learning how to fix them before moving on to larger and more expensive scales. Above all, and this is the most important piece of advice, one should proceed without haste, always applying the simplest solutions.

Finally, never forget that plastic model building does not present significant challenges, and even though it is necessary to respect certain basic rules, there is always plenty of room for creativity and personal initiative for enthusiasts.


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