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1/72 Bandai VF-25F Messiah build-up step-by-step (sort of)


wm cheng
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Hi all,

As promised, I finally have something to start a thread on my Bandai VF-25F which Graham was so kind to track down for me in Hong Kong at a decent price. The kit price itself was pretty good especially considering what you get - I personally thought that with shipping though, it doubled the price of the kit and the resulting total price was somewhat expensive. I was pretty much against this model from the beginning and wasn't even going to purchase one - mainly due to the fact that its a transforming model. I'm pretty much an aircraft guy - and its obvious that Bandai is pretty much a robot company. However, following the long thread as to its development, it started looking better and better - and it seems like it might be the only decent representation of this aircraft in the near future. Needless to say, I'm not a fan of transforming models - I think models should be models and toys should be toys - I "look" at models but "play" with toys. When I first found out about the "transforming" nature of this kit, I was expecting a lot of compromises that toys make for the sake of movement and durability (which would ruin the accurate representation I would come to expect from a well crafted Japanese kit). I feared the kit would turn out to be like Bandai's previous efforts with Macross Plus with their 1/100 scale VF-2SS (which was also a transformable kit - and unfortunately, the only one Bandai made of this very well designed Mech). Luckily for us all, I am glad to say that this latest effort by Bandai far exceeds those 1980s models and it is an exceptionally engineered kit in terms of movement and joints creating a fairly accurate line-art representation of this Messiah Valkyrie. However, I am still disappointed that although well engineered, it was not engineered from a model builder's point of view, the parts breakdown and assemblies are not geared towards proper painting and finishing easily. The finished product does not lock together well and there are huge un-sightly gaps that I can't seem to close up no matter how I try to align the pieces. It is exceptionally delicate and there are very few locking pegs or devices that hold the various modes together, instead it just relies on the stiffness of its joints.

Jarrod also has a great review of this kit up at: http://macrossworld.com/mwf/index.php?showtopic=27823

Ok, upon initial impressions, the box is big, bigger than I'd expected from a 1/72 scale kit. However once I opened it, it was crammed full of parts, it wasn't a matter of just a big box with a few pieces rattling inside, it was crammed full! There are so many parts - mostly for the complicated internal hinging systems and pivot joints as well as the cleverly designed way it all literally "snaps" together. My usual methodology to starting any new model is that I would study the instructions and parts and mentally build the entire kit in my head as I followed through the steps. This is a way for me to imagine the process and visualize where the pitfalls and trouble spots may be (and flag them mentally). It allows me to concentrate on details that will be seen when finished and areas that might need fixing up that are also exposed in the final model – instead of wasting effort on detailing everything including areas that will be closed up and hidden upon final assembly. It allows me to break out of the normal suggested flow from the instructions to make up my own plan of attack that will allow me to airbrush and mask more easily. However, this was a really complicated kit and was too hard for me to visualize all the components and what they did – so many joints and sub-asssemblies! So I decided to depart from my normal way of building a model and follow each and every step in the instructions verbatim. Now don’t get me wrong, there are lots of steps, but its not a complicated model and anyone could follow all the individual steps quite easily, don’t let me sway you into thinking this is too complicated as a kit. It’s quite straightforward as long as you pay attention and follow each and every step. All my extra work is just so that I end up with a model that is more like the Hasegawa Valkyries that I love.

Since it was a “snap-together” - my plan would be once I had the entire thing together, I would carefully take apart just the sub-assemblies that are needed be glued, sanded and painted. I'd guess that 75% of all the pieces weren't really necessary if the model was just a single mode dedicated aircraft - however I wasn't able to understand the assembly process enough to just pick out the 25% required pieces to build a single mode aircraft only model - it was my initial intention to build a dedicated aircraft-only mode and correct the transformation compromises. As I started into the building (more like snapping together) I started to appreciate more and more the engineering of the moveable joints and marvelled at its complexity. So I’m not going to go into the snap together of the kit, I just followed the instructions. What I want to concentrate on is what comes after the initial assembly. I want to document taking it apart and fixing it up and painting it properly into a real model. Maybe identify areas that could be modified, improved or magnets applied to help the model hold together. I don’t know about adding pegs, as I can’t imagine any type of glue that will be strong enough to hold a peg in place.

I’ve included a few shots of the runners/trees of parts that I find particularly interesting since they obviously use a multi-mode process (more than just a top and bottom to the die). There’s an example of the multiple types of plastics used where we get a clear tree of parts mixed in with the white styrene and red styrene parts. Although it’s a nifty feature to have moulded in colour parts – I personally find it un-necessarily complicates the engineering of the kit and ultimately I have to mask and repaint all the parts anyways. There’s another part that shows the undercut details at the rear of the forward fuselage which could only be done if there was another part mold process that came in to stamp out the rear details, just as the head laser antennas show a deep undercut recessed details that could only be achieved when a third mold press comes in at the sides as evidenced by the plastic trees that have been routed below to allow the die to travel to the laser antennas. Bandai is amazing, showing off their advancement of technology in plastic model making.

On with the show!

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Ok, a few hours into it and I realize what a delight Japanese plastic is! Its perfect, not too soft, but not too brittle. After working on a Korean Academy kit (a little on the hard brittle side) to get me back into the groove again, its so nice to be with Japanese plastic again. This Bandai kit has the same kind of styrene as the Hasegawa kits, although the Hasegawa kits have finer engraved details than this model. In fact, the Hasegawa has more "made-up" aircraft logical details than this - its obvious that their expertise is aircraft construction, and Bandai is robot construction, a lot of the details that are "made-up" are very sci-fi like and not realistic at all, but that's okay for this subject matter.

This is the first stages of the kit, we build/snap together the forward fuselage part. The only piece of advice here is to not start with the nose cone as indicated on the instructions, start with the internal hinge mechanism first to get yourself acquainted with cutting the part off the plastic sprue runners and trimming the excess sprue off first. Even a seasoned modeller like me had some problems cutting the sprue nibs off properly and will need some filling and sanding to do when I come to gluing the nosecone halves together. But after a few steps in you'd get the hang of the hardness of the plastic and what to do. Its funny how some of the most basic skills in model making such as cutting the part out and sanding is still some of the toughest skills to master even with lots of experience behind you.

Here we run into the first of the "compromises" already, when all the parts collapse together, there are huge un-sightly gaps in the separations between the parts because the pieces need clearance to allow movement - this will be problematic when we paint too so do note of the places where they rub. Unfortunately, the areas which rub are usually at the outside edges or corners which won't hold paint nor clear-coat well. The front landing gear well is a joke - there is no-where near the required room to make it believable that a nose gear can retract into this space. In fact the entire gears are horribly sculpted. They are just like the Yukikaze landing gear sculpts, fat, ill-proportioned and un-believable - as done by a robot company. They are so bad that I think I will skip them all together - not only will I have to rebuild them from other kits, but the modifications to the gear wells (front and rear) will be so extensive that they will interfere with the hinging system and the leg's ability for the ankle to retract. I think I will glue the gear doors closed and forgo the gears themselves, as I will be displaying this with the gears up in the aircraft mode 90% of the time.

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The next stage is the head - very beautiful how this all goes together. Painting it properly will be difficult due to the size. I don't see why they didn't just give the visor to us in clear green - however, due to the sprue attachment points (they could of positioned these at a place were we won't see them) though its probably better to tint it ourselves since the tint will hide the sanded sprue points. Its too bad they chose the ends on the outside to attach this visor piece. Overall, the sprue attachment points are quite good and for the most part hidden, however there are a few places where its awkward or poorly placed and not like the recent Star Wars stuff by Fine Molds where you don't have to worry about these sprue nubs at all!

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The arms next, nice feat of engineering for movement and joints. Its clear that I will have to eventually glue the two outside shell together and fill and sand the main seam and paint it white, but not before I spray the internal elbow and shoulder mechanism first and have to mask that all away - again they didn't put any thought as to how a modeller would go about painting this. I wished the lower white portion of the arm was removable from the grey portions even after the two halves where glued together.

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The legs next - again the movement joints designs are amazing, and so is the use of ABS plastics - lets hope my paints stick to this ABS later on! And we'll see if all this joint goodness translates into a good poseability in the battroid mode later on.

Not much to say except I followed the instructions explicitly. Once I did one, I thought I understood it and raced through the other leg (just mirrored I thought) - but the joints are so subtlety offset or the tolerances designed so specific that I ended up having to take that leg apart and go through and re-trace my steps with a fine tooth comb to find out that I had two joints reversed. Just pay attention to the hip joints. It all worked, but when I put on the air-intake covers, its fit wasn't as perfect as the other side which was the only hint that I had errored somewhere along the way - so if it doesn't fit like a perfect glove, then there's a problem somewhere in the joints.

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Ok, 10 hours later from start till finish, I've completed the assembly / snap-together of the VF-25F - I only have the gun to do tomorrow. Initial impressions now... its somewhat over-engineered. The model has a nice solid heft to it, unlike most models which are hollow, this one is jammed packed with a internal mechanism, half there to allow the kit to be snapped together, and half there to allow the kit to transform into the other modes. While its a novelty for this to happen, I'd rather get a decent aircraft mode model kit and purchase a real toy for the transformation, but from the ugly looks of the Bandai DX toy, this model might be our best bet at getting a decent looking toy for the time being.

Because so many parts move and slide and interlock with each other and each joint is multi-axis, its near impossible for all these parts to align properly. The result is some pretty serious gaps all over the model. Now I don't know what to do, do I glue everything together and fill up all these seams in an attempt to create a decent plane, or do I live with the gaps and keep on trucking towards a transformable model? Some of the worst areas include; the shoulder chest plate sections on either side, its just about impossible to properly seat the hip gun piece to look flush with these shapes and the back leg calf to sit higher up and engage the rear of the wing roots properly (without gluing the wing roots to it). Initially I've identified 3 possible places to add rare earth magnets that MIGHT help to stabilize the aircraft mode. Although I have no idea if they'd work, one in the arm sides and leg sides to pull the leg closer to the folded arms might help, another at the lower wing root section to the leg knee sides to pull the wing roots down closer to the legs might help and lastly maybe one at the split intakes one on the upper half and one on the top of the lower half to help them stay together.

For the time being, I'll have to learn to transform this a bit more and to see what is the smallest rare earth magnets I can get before I can decide anymore. I'd love to see what you guys are up to and your thoughts on this model too. Feel free to contribute any ideas and suggestions you might have to this thread and any references. I'd love to get more painting references for my self too.

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Ep 12 is great for reference. Yes, there is a little red spot at the base of the head laser, but on the kit even a 25/0 brush won't cut it I think. Also a good view of the sides of the jaw showing the white/grey/black layering, as well as the grey "mouth" inside the jaw.

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When i pick up my wish list item from this new line of releases [if they ever get released], i plan on gluing them together, and if it's too much for me to overlook; filling, sanding, and removing/modifying/hiding as much of the "transformation" ability that has, by necessity, no fault to Bandai, made the model less accurate, and causing allot of gaps. if i want a transforming toy, I'll pony up for one of the 1/60 toys... as I'm certain those would stand-up much better to constant fiddling, and 'zooming around the room' [come on... we ALL do it, don't we?]... then again... I'll have to wait until i have one in my hands before i can commit to a final judgement...

it's a great start to this model so far WM. looking forward to seeing the rest.

my $.02 on the gaps: if you want to transform it ever, don't fill/glue it unnecessarily. if not, then go all-out on her!

EDIT: you know... the more i think about it... and the more i look at Jarrod's build... the more i agree with David Hingtgen that building it fixed as a fighter would be a waste... i'm just worried how these will look on the shelf next to my Hasegawa Valks, or if they'll stick together if i take them to a show...

Edited by Parker Midwinter
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Reading this thread will be a cheat for me - I wont have to do all the 'research' you're doing for me WMCheng - but I'm locking down into fighter mode on mine. Every gap will be taken care of I hope. Building it in fighter mode might be a waste for some, but if it's all I'm really interested in, it's the only way to go.

Thanks for taking the time to document your build.

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Hi all again... a little more progress.

bishop, yes I did get your photos via e-mail, once you get your camera, you should also post a thread here too. Right now your cell phone photos are a little too blurry and grainy to see anything constructive. Nope I did not trim the pegs, I tried a few and managed to successfully pry them apart very gently and carefully. The key is to get something right in to the base of the pegs and twist - I find a soft fast food plastic knife works best and a jeweler's screwdriver (but becareful not to damage the surrounding surfaces) - just gently ease it back and forth and the parts should come apart easily without damage.

Yeah it does seem like a waste to forgo all this nifty movement, hence I'll try to make it work on this one, but Ozma's VF-25S might be just an aircraft only mode depending on how crazy this one gets by the time I'm finished with it. There is just so many movement areas that rub that I don't feel any decent paintjob will hold up after any number of transformations regardless of how many coats of clear-coat one applies. Plus, I only really care about the aircraft mode - however Bandai has done a marvelous job on the Battroid mode on this one!

So I spent the afternoon transforming it through the Gerwalk to the Battroid modes to get a sense of where the joints are, the extent of movement and where the pieces rub against each other - and unfortunately, there are quite a few problematic areas (as far as paint is concerned). At this point I would suggest anyone to try lacquers and enamels over acrylics (unfortunately I am almost exclusively Tamiya acrylics, since they are soo much easier to clean and better for my working environment) since lacquers and enamels have a better "bite" to the plastic and will probably adhere better and be more durable. That being said, I'd still probably use my Tamiya acrylics since I'm so comfortable and familiar with them. However if anyone has any good White lacquer that they'd recommend me try, I might be open to it.

Here's the Battroid mode which exposes the most of the internal mechanism - luckily there aren't a lot of exposed seams. I've included a shot of the base of the neck, there's a sliding plate (E32) that looks like it should lock into an upper position (on top of J5) but I can't seem to get this piece up there - is this the correct alignment/orientation for the neck assembly? (the top of J5 looks like there's a little triangular shelf on the two corners where the collar E32 looks like it should rest on) - however the HJ scans show the same orientation as I have.

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I've identified some of the most problematic areas in terms of paint durability. These areas seem to rub against each other quite a bit, and no matter how much we clear-coat it, I feel its only a matter of time until its worn down enough due to movement that it will eventually damage the paint job. I've outlined the areas which rub in RED. I will definitely apply multiple coats here and multiple clear coats too - but the knee will be a real problem because when the dark grey gets scratched, the white plastic will show through underneath. Also the forward LERX (I don't know what its called, forward wing roots) is a highly visible area and it takes quite a bit of abuse from the upper thighs during Battroid transformation.

Additionally I've also identified the only seams that need to be puttied filled and sanded - everything else seems to be pretty well hidden. These seams are outlined in GREEN.

Lastly, I don't know what to do about this yet, but the canopy will get scratched eventually by sitting against part J5 - its almostly like I should glue some soft pads there to rest the canopy against when in the Battroid mode. I've outlined the problematic areas in PURPLE.

Its also been suggested that one can re-inforce the fat antenna at the bottom of the forward fuselage part D18 which snaps into part A14 crotch piece for the battroid. It was suggested that one could drill through and leave a tiny metal pin or bit within it to re-inforce the tab/antenna. While initially I thought it was a good idea, I didn't do it yet - the other school of thought is that drilling through will weaken the area, which can promote breakage. I would only attempt it as a repair to it if it had broken, I will tempt fates and leave it alone for now.

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Finally I think I might try and get some small rare earth magnets tomorrow to see if they are small enough to be used in this kit. Unfortunately there aren't a lot of cavities that allow for the placement of these magnets within the plastic parts. They may need to be drilled and surface mounted so they have direct physical contact However, initially I thought that if we had some magnets placed where I outlined in BLUE in these areas that it might help hold the aircraft mode together better. The primary concern is that I wish the legs were snapped closer to the folded arms and higher - they somewhat drag down a bit due to gravity. Additionally if the wing glove was attached more snugly to the leg sides, it would tilt them down a bit and look more natural head on - as it stands now, they have a tendency to sit pointing up at the wingtips which is a bit odd for any aircraft. Lastly those gun shields (B14 & B15) at the hip sides are so problematic, they never seem to sit right maybe a magnet to pull them closer to the lower hip might help them align themselves.

I've found these rod-type magnets that are apparently 1/8"X1/8" which is pretty darn small!

http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=...,42348&ap=1

I'll pick some up tomorrow or the next day to see if they'd work.

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You missed one area that rubs quite a bit. Its the forward part of the top of the head. It rubs against the underside of the 'back plate', thinning the underside might fix it, though i haven't tried that yet.

If you're going to do it on its landing gear, replaced or not, the current ones are too tall by about half a cm. From looking at the animation a scale person shoulc be able to touch the lower side of the leg air intake.

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I also put together that Bandai stand (this did not come with the kit - I bought it a few years ago, I thought it was pretty neat when I saw it, little did I know it fits this kit). Mainly I wanted to see if I could modify it so I didn't have to use that stupid piece J4 to attach it to the stand. Its really poorly thought out; A) its not even at the centre point / center of gravity of the model, its too far forward and puts un-necessary torque on the gunpod and B) it so poorly designed that it will scratch the finish on the gunpod everytime its put on or off and lastly C) it just looks like an afterthought, it doesn't work with the design of the Valkryie at all! Well using one of the universal adapters supplied with the stand, I was able to find the middle size to straddle the gunpod and hold the plane up - or course its slides around, but maybe again with some magnets, it might hold to the underside of the arms - I think it will be a better solution than using the kit part J4.

Oh, BTW, the way the gunpod holds onto the aircraft mode is a joke! That J25 piece is just a poor afterthought, and the gunpod is constantly mis-aligned - with all this thought gone in to the all the movable pieces, its a shame they couldn't of come up with a more elegant solution to holding the gun in place while in the aircraft mode

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Edited by wm cheng
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Lastly I ran across this Humbrol clear purple in a spray can for R/C polycarbinate shells - I picked it up. Its my fall back for the canopy tinting and clear-coat over a Aclad metallic base for the gunpod. I also found this food colouring dye at the groceries store, and the pack even has mixing instructions on the back, I will try that with the future first, its more reversible if it fails, I can always strip off the future off the canopy if I don't like the results. The Humbrol clear purple might actually etch into the clear canopy (but its there if all else fails - I too will try the Tamiya red & blue clear paints too). I'm sure the spray can will work for the gun pod though - I just hope the purple is right. But we are getting too far ahead of ourselves, I think I will tackle the magnets problem first and get the plane to hold itself together with all the gaps minimized first before thinking about painting.

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Dammit. This kit is starting to make me really like the VF-25. I don't think the gaps even look that bad.

How difficult in general are these kits to come by? Do they sell out fast usually? ...Go pre-order or nothing? I might have to get a Michael version with super parts if they release something like that.

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Hey those magnets are even smaller! I wish I knew about those first, I might get myself some to try out on another project, I wonder if they'd be as strong as the ones I got.

Well, its been a few days and I've only had a bit of time to try these magnets out and they do seem to be working (not as well as I hoped... but they do tighten up the gaps). I wish they were stronger, because the force giving the gaps in the model seems to just barely equal the strength of the magnets, I was hoping that they'd be strong enough to be completely hidden behind the plastic, but they aren't. So there will be exposed magnets so that they can have actual surface contact - with the exception being the arm pieces, I shallowed out the back so the magnets could be closer to the surface, but I still want that surface to be smooth and the magnet hidden.

The first one is the leg, I wanted it to be tucked tighter to the arms in the fighter mode as the arms actually have some tab/peg lock to the underside of the back plate. The magnet is surface mounted so that its flush with the surrounding details, and I think once its painted up, it will just blend in and look like another circular detail in amongst all that made up "gak". I had to make sure that the depth of the magnet didn't interfere with the movement of the foot/ankle assembly too - luckily it isn't deep enough to interfere. In the photos I show where I could mark its corresponding magnet placement on the forearms. The last photos show that it does indeed work, the gap on the left leg between it and the arm is evident (even when the plane is upside down - gravity works for us, when you flip it around, when gravity is no longer our friend, the gap is worst) and the leg on the right has its gap closed up tight due to the magnets working.

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The next spot is the forward intakes, I've always hated this seam between the main lower ones and the smaller upper intakes. I was hoping the magnets will help here. It did work when the parts were free, but the magnets just weren't strong enough to really close the gap when everything was back and assembled again. It does sometimes hold if you press everything together tightly, then the magnets seem to work, but I'm not sure if this is worth the effort now. I'll still do it onto the other side just to make it symmetrical, but I guess I was hoping for more of an effect. You have to dig out a little divit (careful to not go through) on the rear of the intakes because of the depth of the magnet for the intake covers to sit properly again.

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Lastly I found a nice little spot to tuck in another magnet to pull the wings and wing root down to that it contacted the leg sides more positively and brought the overall front profile of the wing tips and wing roots to angled down a bit more to the ground (or at least more horizontal - I hate planes with wing tips that point skyward, it looks like its trying to flap its wings?!). Its a nice little spot to tuck in between the white shell pieces - the only thing is that we will see the opposite magnet on the wing root when its in the battroid mode (that's something I'm willing to sacrifice since the plane mode is more of a priority to me. It does however go over some nice details of the inside of the wing root though.

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Well, this snap together thing actually comes in quite handy for doing these magnet modifications, you can take it all apart over and over again to get the fit and alignment just right on the magnet placement.

Here's some shots of the thing together again, the left side (if you're in the cockpit looking forward) has got 3 magnet attachment points and although I didn't think they worked that great individually, all together I think they do an OK job of aligning and minimizing the gaps and making it feel in general a little less flimsy. You can certainly see how the right side leg/engine sags a little due to the weight and how it doesn't quite tuck up to the wing roots as nicely as the left side. I wish there was more I could do, but for now, I'll do the other side as well and see how the whole thing ends up - that might be it, and I might start gluing and putting the only 2 seams and hopefully start painting.

The main trouble spots left are that damn flip down gun/shield thingy on the hip/upper thighs - I can never really get that to seat properly and as a result, its the primary reason we get the ugly gaps in the upper chest/shoulder pieces. I wish I can see a way to get it to lock kin properly - any ideas?

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Well..

I don't have the skill to do that. I can barely build my snap fit gundams.... DX for me.

And big big thumbs up for you - that is not only some awesome modeling, but a wonderful read - full of detail and interesting commentary.

Pete

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hey Wm.

Good to see you building this kit. I'm a huge fan of the design of this fighter. I think I'm buying this kit. I have some suggestions that might help. You seem like an awesome modeler so I'm sure you would try this kind of stuff, but I know I often need suggestions so.. I totally agree with your outlook on modeling and we model similarly. Trouble is, most Bandai transformable models seem to just fit and justify the gaps better in robot mode. I build a lot of Gundams. I build resin and plastic kits a lot. Particularly Bandai and G System.

http://www.g-system-shop.com/index.php

I always put the whole thing together just barely and it usually tells me the problems then I take it apart and paint and fix it piece by piece. ( sigh ) :) ( with these type models it just seems to work better for me but to each their own ) The Zeta 006 Version 2.0 from Bandai caused me a lot of the same problems as your having with this model. ( gaps and such, and almost smashing it trying to work some tiny joint piece ) In the end, it ended up in robot mode only in a diorama. Here's the tip. I also build maquettes and am sort of addicted to all modeling. I did a lot of " Forge World " and Warhammer modeling and found that they use much different materials. Specifically, they use a putty called " green stuff " In place of the Tamiya epoxy I normally use.

http://www.games-workshop.com/gws/catalog/...le=paints-tools

Normally I use the same materials as You. Tamiya Acryllics, Tamiya epoxy, maybe other stuff, but mostly that and my Badger and Iwata airbrushes,.

The Green stuff putty dries like tamiya epoxy at about 65 % dry. When it's completely dry you can still cut it with a knife. It's soft but hard enough to paint on. I've used this in the gaps before to get a smooth " Fighter like " appearance and it fills the cracks and adds stability to " twisty " joints that are internal. You can kind of push it in the gaps with your fingers and mold it to your liking and it never kicks off and dies before you can get it set the way you want.

It will be tough on this model to get it perfect, but you could fill in the gaps and sort of get them to look like intentional panel lines instead of gaps if that makes sense ? It's worked for me before but I haven't tried this kit yet. Also there's a Games Workshop " Purity Seal " That goes on gloss clear but quite thick and fairly scratch resistant for the cockpit scratch concern. ( it also makes a nice friction fit ) Just apply it in thin stages as it goes on weird if you're careless, and I would suggest painting the black "rollcage" ish lines on the cockpit before adding it. . Then I usually add a light Tamiya Acryllic " Smoke " . Or just build up a tamiya clear works too sometimes.

hope this helps dude and nice work. I just got on this forum but I'll keep in touch if you will too.

P.S could you give me some more scale references on this kit in fighter mode?

I hate it when everybody says how huge a kit is and it's like 30cm. Although that would probably be pretty cool on this kit.

Thanks dude. Hope I could help, I definitely feel your pain as a modeler . :) Cheers!

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