How to Buy a Scale Model Aircraft

A very good tutorial on buying your first model aicraft kit; good tips for saving some money.

The Essential Guide to Buying Your First Scale Model Aircraft Kit

When it comes to buying plastic model airplane kits you can never have too much information. Even experienced modellers can pick up tidbits of information that will prove useful. So, whether you are a first-time buyer or have experience in buying, you should find the following tips useful.

One of the general principles to use in buying a model aircraft is that there is a strong connection between the amount of technical information the manufacturer provides and the detail level of the scale model.

That rule is: the more detail there is, the more accurate the details of the scale model.

Choosing a Vendor

As a first time buyer, you want to be sure to go to a store that is both knowledgeable and provides high-quality materials so you can get the maximum benefit from your experience.

The best way to do this is to employ another general principle: if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

It is a good practice to consider vendors you have done business with before. Did you buy a model car through a website and it turned out that the plastic was so flimsy that it cracked when you were building it? Or, did you go to a website, order a model boat, and find that the product was of high quality and the directions were very clear? If you haven’t ordered models before, that’s fine. Just ask around to see if anyone has already ordered one, and could recommend you a good source (we have great Facebook and G+ communities here and even an active G+ group).

Finally, it’s important to check the online reviews, even if someone recommends a specific hobby website. You can help yourself tremendously by taking the time to do your homework about the type of aircraft you are interested in buying, any local dealers, and what experienced online buyers are saying in blogs and on discussion boards.

If you know someone who has personal experience in dealing with a vendor, talk to them about the pros and cons in dealing with the vendor. No vendor is perfect, no matter what your friends say. A vendor can know a lot but still sell low-quality material models. Go beyond just the physical aspects of the model and also consider the instructions that come with the model.

Checking Out Prices

There are some very serious people about modelling who are willing to pay some quite high prices to pursue their hobby. As a first time buyer, you do not need to max out your credit card or bank account to get started. So, if you are a first-time buyer, it is strongly suggested that you aim low on the price end.

Another important principle: Start low and aim high.

Why? Because despite your best intentions, building a scale aircraft model is a skill that improves over time. Several years from now you will look back on your first attempt with sentimental tears. But it is equally likely you will have taken your work of art and hid it in a place where no man has gone before – or will ever. You can learn from your mistakes, but you don’t have to pay a high price for them.

Another consideration is whether you will finish the project at all. Prices for kits can be amazingly high, and spending money on a model that potentially goes unfinished or takes years to complete has to be given very careful consideration. Rushing through it is a mistake, but taking years to complete it is also a mistake. You will fit somewhere between these two ends of the spectrum, but until you are sure you know where you want to go with model building in the future, it is best to keep your sights low and your price lower. The general rule is to take it slow and create a history of completed projects before spending big money.

Size of Scale

scale aircraft modelling
image source:
Or maybe it is the Scale of Size. Anyway, as a first-time buyer, you need to keep the scale small. The more popular 1/72nd scale is a good starting point, though a 1/144th scale is best for beginners.

There is a general principle to be applied with regards to scale – the devil is in the details.

You have probably heard of it before, and when it comes to building scale models, the details can stress you out to the point of giving up before you actually get started. It takes time to develop modelling skills, and even if it comes naturally to you, there will still be a learning curve.

So, the first time buyer needs to start out with the smallest scale, as the larger ones have more details; learning how to craft the smaller scales will greatly improve your skills and take advantage of the amount of detail on larger scale models.

Difficulty Level

While we recommend starting with a smaller scale if you find yourself catching on quickly and want greater challenges, do one beginner level and then move up to an intermediate level. Just because you’re a beginner, that doesn’t mean you need to stick to beginner level all the time, although it is definitely a good place to start. Feel free to try an intermediate level model aircraft if you have enough time on your hands. However, save the advanced models for after you’ve gained some more experience.

The guiding principle here is – do not tie your own hands trying to meet someone else’s expectations.

This also applies in reverse. If you feel staying at a beginner level for a while is best for you, then do it. If you are on a tight budget, it may be the best way to go. Building scale aircraft models is both an art and science, and you can practice your skills on all scales of aircraft.

It is very important to figure out which difficulty level a scale model is before you buy it. Sometimes, vendors help you with descriptions of each difficulty. As an example, a beginner level model may only require fitting pieces together and applying stickers. An advanced aircraft may require more difficult assembly, detailed painting, etc.

Model kits usually come in one of the five skill levels that describe how difficult the kit will be to be finished....



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