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THE Idiot's Guide to Kitbashing


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"If anyone has the first three of my posts as JackKnife in the original guide, plese post the info here.


On that subject, I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to all the kitbashing fans here at TFans for removing it. It was stupid, and only ended up hurting people that weren't even involved in my quarrels.


As for the new guide, I will be updating it with my latest advances. Just think of it as being revamped and overhauled.




A year ago, this guide was removed, and it is due to the dilegence of those in the kitbashing community that it is once again present, here at TFans.com.


I have spent the better part of my last 33 years in life learning, through trial and error, both the techniques that work, and the ones that don't, that can either make or break a project. Learning these skills took a great deal of time, patience, and of course, blood, sweat and tears.


To that end, this guide has been re-established to aid the Kitbasher community, both newbie and expert alike, in their quest to realize their own unique Transforming Robots, vehicles, and characters in the physical world.


Therefore, I welcome you all to:


The Idiot's Guide To KitBashing

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Here you go. Part 1-3 of Jackknife kitbashing guide




Jack Knife’s The idiot’s guide to kitbashing




Let's cover some basic ground first:


TOOLS: The tools I recommend for most people are the following; Dremel rotary moto-tool (multi-speed with a Flexi-Shaft attachment) cutting wheels for the dremel tool, sanding drums (coarse and fine, 1/2 inch diameter), high-speed ball-shaped metal cutter (and the drum-shaped cutter as well), sandpaper (from 60 grit all the way to 440 grit, wet or dry) steel wool (0000 grade, found in better hardware stores), needle files( assorted), regular workshop files (medium tooth), an exacto-Knife with PLENTY of blades, a good pair of pliers, and two sets of scissors(one shoul be a small set for fine cutting, the other should be a pair of hospital bandage shears, for cutting sheet plastic), and a hair dryer (I'll explain later).


MATERIALS: Other than the host Transformer(s) you plan to modify, you should have: Duco Plastic bonder (available at Wal-Mart or other hardware stores), sheet styrene in .20,.30. and .40 thicknesses ( available through your local hobby store), plastic model filler putty, super glue and super glue accelerator (the accelerator is available at your hobby shop), Krylon spray paints (base color of your choice), and either acrylic or enamel jar paints for your TF's secondary colors (Testors is a good choice).


Before you begin any project, remember this: once you buy the toy or model, no one cares what you do with it, (except if it was your mom who bought it!) so feel free to modify the damn thing AS YOU SEE FIT!! No one is going to arrest you, or sue you "rampant toy destruction" (Except maybe Vik!), so go for it! ( Just kidding Vik!)


The very first thing I do is planning and research. This is not as complicated as it sounds, and will save you a lot of misery. (believe me!) First off, you need to design out your idea, and your concepts for it's transformation. (IMPORTANT: during planning, you need to take into consideration where all the parts are going to go. it's easy to run into "conflicts" between two parts, or come up with a design that looks great on paper, but is physically impossible! Keep it as simple as possible.) Remember that even the most complex transforms are nothing more than simple joints and hinges, compounded into a larger mechanism.


Once that's done, you need to find a TF that either most closely resembles what you want to make, or has the parts that will best work in your design. It's not uncommon to use two or three to get the parts you need. (Hint: save those extra parts! They'll come in handy on future projects!)


The next thing I do with the prospective candidate transformer to be modified is to wash it off in soapy warm water, followed by a rinse. This removes the mould-release from it (mould release is what manufacturers use to make sure that the plastic comes out of the mould properly), and ensures that paint and glue adhere properly. if it's especially oily, I let it soak for a good half-hour. (Note: if your TF has internal electronics, I suggest you wipe it down with rubbing alcohol instead.) If it has gold plating, try soaking it in bleach overnight, or use 409 cleaner.( a friend suggested this one!)


Now it's time for the modifications. To cut away what you don't want, use the dremel tool's cutting disc to slice away the parts that you want gone. (NOTE: be careful! Some parts that are removed may weaken the structural integrity of your model! be advised.) After that, Use the sanding drum to carefully smooth the edges, or you'll not only have a horrible joint, but you may nick yourself! To fasten parts together, first, use 220 grit sandpaper to rough up the areas to be joined first. Then, mix the plastic bonder from the syringe-tube( remember: you have five minutes to use it before it cures.) Try to use it sparingly, as the stuff gets pretty warm pretty fast. Once you have it on the plastic, press the parts together, and let them set for fifteen minutes.

Now, what most people don't realize is, you can work on other components while these dry. I call it stage construction (or common sense!). This speeds construction up very quickly, and you don't sit around bored. Under the right circumstances, you can finish your construction phase in as little as one or two sittings.


Once you have the components together, you should them proceed to painting them BEFORE you assemble them. In this manner, you can get your parts done quickly, and you don't have to fuss with trying to handle a dripping-wet, fragile transformer. I use Krylon spray paint because it dries quickly, and can be recoated in minutes (unlike most other spray paints.). A few things to remember for good painting:


1) Use the appropriate base coat. NEVER SPRAY THE PRIMARY COLOR ON WITHOUT A BASE COAT!! Otherwise, it'll look cheesy! White for light colors and metalics, grey for darker colors.

2) Use thin, multiple coats. This ain't lawn furniture. If you do one heavy coat, it'll sag and take "until all are one" to dry! The first coat should be a light mist, not entirely covering the surface. Let dry for a moment, the a second, "orange peel" coat (bumpy looking). Let that dry, then a third, "almost heavy" coat. Let that dry fully( a day or so) then detail paints. I'll post more soon. If anybody else has tips, now's the time! Be back soon!

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Part 2



Okay, I'm back for more! Before I continue on any further, I want to elaborate a little further on planning transforms for your projects, as I really didn't go into it in depth the last time:


First off, there’s nothing wrong with taking part of another transformer’ s transform, so long as: 1) it works, and 2) you give credit where it's due (for example, my character JackKnife's transform is taken from Super Go bot Spay-C, with some refinements from myself!). Other than that, it's how creative you want to be, and if it would be more structurally stable to cannibalize a transform from another character rather than scratchbuild your own, then you owe it to yourself to make sure that your creation stands the test of time.


Secondly, for those of you who want to build your character's transform from scratch, a word of warning: DO NOT USE STYRENE for joints and support members!!!! Use ABS plastic instead! The reason for this is that styrene ( the plastic used in plastic models) cannot withstand the repeated stresses of transformation. Eventually, it will break and fall apart ( I learned this the hard way on JackKnife!). ABS plastic is the hard plastic most commonly used for stereo boombox cabinets, refrigerator shelf retainers (those strips of plastic that keep the mustard and relish on the door!), and a whole bunch of other places. It's okay to use styrene model parts for the actual vehicle parts, like doors, cockpits, engine details, and so forth. But trust me, use ABS for joints and structural members. Your Transformer will thank you!!


On to Detail Painting: I use apple barrel acrylic colors, available at Wal-Mart, Michaels, and other craft stores. these paints are really cheap in price (.89 cents a bottle), and they thin with alcohol or water. But a word of advice: coat them with Krylon Crystal Cote, or they'll scratch off! For more durable paints, use testors acrylic colors. These are more expensive (2.50- 3.00 a bottle) but they come pre-mixed in a wide array of ready-to-use colors. (many of them are to factory paint-chip standards.)


For straight lines on your Transformer, don't use masking tape, as the tape isn't made for small-scale masking. Use instead Scotch-brand magic tape. I prefer the matte-finish tape, as it does a better job. Get it in the 1 inch width; it'll go a long way. The trick to using it is to make sure that the base coat for your replica is ABSOLUTELY dry. If it isn't, the tape will pull up the paint when you remove it. (this is why I like Krylon's 1 hour formula,; you don't have to wait three years for it to dry!!) Burnish the tape down, then when you have the line(s) you want, paint. This method works for airbrush or hand painting. Now, in an earlier post, I listed a hair dryer as one of your tools. Here's why: acrylic paint dries a lot faster if you have a hair dryer blowing on it at a low, warm speed (NEVER PUT IT ON HIGH!! THAT"S ASKING FOR A MELTDOWN IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE!!). This greatly speeds drying your paintwork, and reduces the risk that you'll put your thumb inadvertently in some wet paint.


After it's finally dry, remove the tape by pulling it at a 45 degree angle AWAY from the line. ( almost as if you were pulling the tape back over itself.) This lessens the chance of you pulling up paint with the tape. After that, clear cote it, and let dry!


Use tape, JABoyle3875. Preferably Scotch magic mending tape. Vaseline has too great a risk of smearing, plus it will add oil to the plastic, which is the LAST thing you want to do. The smallest amount can prevent paint from adhering to the plastic, and Vaseline is notorious for getting all over the place (including places you don't want!). If you don't want to disassemble RID Prime, try wiping him down with rubbing alcohol, about 70% strength. Too strong, and it will remove detail paint. As for painting, I suggest very thin coats. Krylon has good coverage in thin coats, so you won't need too much.


As for black Autobot symbol logos, try contacting Reprolabels at www.reprolabels.com. They can do custom orders for you, and their prices are very reasonable. plus, their stuff is high-quality; better than Hasbro's original labels.


Another note: if you treat your transformers as models, you can't go wrong. Go to www.starshipmodeler.com for lots of good advice on kitbashing (they even have mecha models!)

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and part 3


Okay, time for yet another riveting installment!


Today's subject: Plastic Welder, and its many uses.


Now, the reason I so widely recommend Devcon plastic welder is that unlike epoxy, it doesn't get as brittle: it is virtually liquid plastic. It also has incredible holding power, and if used correctly, can be built-up into virtually any shape that you want. The last one is a little tricky, as the stuff is a gel-like mass when first mixed. The trick is to apply it to plastic model sprue or another "base" surface that will serve as the 'core' of the piece you are trying to make. ( A word of warning: although it doesn't really matter on small parts, plastic welder can become very hot during the curing process, especially on large applications. Your best bet in any event is to apply it in several layers, rather than in one huge glob.)


Although you can't really use it to cast parts, like you can resin, plastic welder is incredibly strong. It's best uses are when you need to fasten high -strength parts like legs, arms, torsos and so forth. It truly shines when you have to fasten transform joints in areas that don't have a lot of attachment surface, and makes for bonds that can only be broken by a sledgehammer (well, not LITERALLY, but you get the point!) I have even used it to fashion my own joints from scratch, although it takes a lot of practice, not to mention trial and error.


A particular trick I use when utilizing the stuff is to make a "dam" of masking tape for the area you want to work on, then apply the plastic welder and let it cure in several layers. Then when the bonder is cured, remove the tape, and presto! A little sanding, and you're good to go!


On that note, a little advice: Plastic welder sets in 5 minutes and cures in 15 ( it's speed is another boon.) But it reaches full strength in 24 hours. Keep this in mind for two reasons:


1) any pieces requiring high-strength will require the full cure time, and:

2) The material is easier to sand , cut and otherwise work before it fully cures, preferably within the first 10 to 15 minutes of it's initial curing.



Well, That's all for now. I'll be back soon to share more with everyone! Keep coming back, and if you have a great idea or need some advice, just post here and I'll read it! Keep up the kit-bashing everyone!


EDIT: I know that I give out a lot of advice on this topic, and many of you TFans out there are wondering "yeah, well if he's so good, why doesn't he post some pics?" I'm hoping to have some pictures of my work to share with all of you soon. (that is, as soon as my friend decides to finally lend me his digital camera!)

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And some other tips I downloaded from this site and elsewhere (by various)



** Removing paint.


It depends on the type of paint, and if the part is plastic or die-cast:


-- If it's plastic (unless it's clear plastic), i'd use regular paint thinner. DON"T use paint thinner or oven cleaner on clear plastic- it's suicide.

-- For die cast, either try paint thinner or easy-off oven cleaner.

-- In the case of clear plastic, try 90% rubbing alcohol.


Hope this helps!




** Paint his eyes chrome silver, then over- paint that with a mix of Tamiya turn-signal yellow and stoplight red (both transparent color, if you can't find them, just use transparent yellow and red mixed). This will give you a set of eyes that catch all sorts of light for that "evil as all hell" look!



** Those heat-stamped Autobot symbols we saw during Robots in Disguise, are they removable, and if so, how? I once read -- I believe on bwtf -- that they could easily be rubbed off with hoth water, but I tried and failed.


Try rubbing alcohol; I would use 90% grade. It should take it off, as long as you don't get it on any other painted areas that you want to save. In the event that fails, use Oxy pads.



** MP Trailer


By the way, Junkers; for a box for the trailer, go to your nearest Home Depot and look in the Hardware section. They have a black plastic storage unit for little parts and screws that if you bought a pair, removed the little sliding drawers and cut them down a bit, would make an awesome box for the trailer. (it's already in two parts, so your only problem would be finding a floorplate , and hinging it to the halves.) Use the underside "tackle"(wheels and suspension) from a 1/24 scale toy tractor trailer, and you're good to go! By the way, for customizations, I use a two part adhesive called Plastic Bonder. It's sold at Wal-mart, in the Hardware section for $2.50. It's a lot stronger than epoxy, and far less brittle. it's practically liquid plastic! And the best part is, it cures in 15 minutes, although it gets a bit hot. I do a lot of custom work myself (hope to post photos soon!), and I learned these lessons the hard way. Hope I've been of some help yuo you and everyone else. Any questions about customizations, give me a yell; I'll see if I can help



** Loose joints:


Just coat with a thin layer of Devcon plastic Welder, then sand smooth when it dries and presto!

(alternative: Nail polish)



** Possible alternative to painting:


Most of the parts that are black are not painted but dipped in die so that the plastic actually absorbs the color.....all of the plastic parts that have been died are now jet black with a perfect finish so it looks like the plastic is actually Black!!! This is not the same as painting it as the color does not come off and it looks dead-on like the original!!



** More metallic look?


Here's what I recommend...take off the clear parts, and tape off the back window...Gloss spray the car parts, but NOT the robot parts...let it dry for an hour or two in room temperature before you touch them....I recommend using Krylon Fusion Crysal Clear gloss coat.



** And a little more info (not yet ordered)


1) wash the plastic with a mild detergent before painting it. This removes the mold release agent from it. (mold release is an oily substance they shoot into the molds for the toy before molding, so the plastic will come out of the mold easily.) but the oil interferes with paint, and can cause an awesome paint job to crack.


2) scuff-sand any metal parts, and coat with either grey or white primer. (unless you plan on using Krylon "Fusion" paint).


3) to remove the bar for the mouthpiece, work the left ear loose, while holding the right ear.


4) If you plan on diassembling prime, keep the screws in a plastic cup. (screws are notorious for getting lost)


5) for armor, contact a local plastic supply house for polystyrene (the same plastic most model kits are made out of)



for more info on kitbashing and modelbuilding in general go to:





** Repairing damaged windows




Seriously, it's an old modeler’s trick: toothpaste contains a fine abrasive, which acts to polish the stains off of your teeth. You see, glass/transparent plastic is only clear because the surface allows light to pass through it. it's called the refractive index. When something is scratched, it increases the refractive index for that section of glass or plastic. By polishing it out, the R. I. is reduced. In other words, the toothpaste polished out the scratch. Try it: all that will happen if it doesn't work is that your transformer will smell minty! Keep in mind: polish as hard as you can w/o stressing the plastic too

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Man that makes my kitbash guide look really undetailed but you`ve probably been doing this alot longer than I have. After all I only started back at the begining of August w/ my Bumblebee.

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