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THE Idiot's Guide to Kitbashing


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The Idiot's Guide to Kitbashing 8: Styrene and Adhesives.






In kitbashing, many of us have heard about a plastic called "styrene." The term seems to confuse a lot of folks, as well as how to work with it. It tends to mystify quite a few people. This post will outline everything you need to know about it, and how to work with it.


First off, the name "styrene" is a clipped form of the plastic's chemical name "Polystyrene." It is a polymer (poly denotes more than two or three molecules in a chain) type of plastic. The chains that are formed in it's chemical composition make it maleable (able to be shaped) and ductile (able to be drawn into a thin filament). The plastic was first developed in the 1940's, and scince then has come into use in a variety of applications: CD Jewel boxes, for sale signs, cups (Styrofoam), and mostly, plastic model kits.


Styrene is used in model kits because the chemical xylene dissolves it, while the chemical tolulene causes it to harden again after a couple of hours. The two together,(along with a liquid polymer to thicken it and oil of mustard to give it a tell-tale odor for anti-poison purposes) make up tube cement for models. Because of this, styrene can be "welded' by tube cement, and this is the basis of basic model building.


Now, for applications, the forms styrene comes in are various, and developed by plastics manufacturers for various modeling puposes.m It comes in the following forms:


Sheet styrene (various thicknesses and textures)


Rod styrene


Tube styrene


Strip styrene



And there are also various pieces used for different applications, in a whole seres of shapes and sized. Plastruct makes these, ranging from stair risers, to ladder-shapes and brick edifaces. But for now, we'll confine our discussion to the basics.


The biggest reason styrene is favored by kitbashers is becaus the plastic is relatively easy to work and shape. Bonding it is also easy, and painting it requires no special prep work aside from washing it with dish detergent, and lightly scuff-sanding the surface. Plus, the plastic is relatively cheap too,(depending upon where you purchase it.) which keeps costs down for model manufacturers as well as plastic supply houses.


With that said, styrene does have it's detractors. For one thing, it doesn't support weight when in smaller sizes ot thin sections. Another is that it has relatively low tensile strength. This means it can be twisted practically apart. In fact, many of it's plus properties are a two-edged sword in ways.


Now, when working with styrene, it's strong enough to stand up on it's own as the exterior for a model, and when assembled properly, can comprise an entire kitbash. But from my experiences, it's better to use an understructure of ABS plastic (AcetylButylStearate), such as in the gundam models. In use, I usually glue the styrene to the kitbash using plastic welder by devon, or if it's ABS, just model cement. If it's a scratchbuild, I will generally construct a skeleton for the model using styrene or ABS, depending on the model, then use cement to attach the exterior parts to the frame. The I use the plastic welder to reinforce the pieces from within the frame, as well as to smooth out imperfections I the joints. For finishing touches, I use squadron white modeler's putty. I find squadron's putty works about the best for my project.


But in working with styrene, the keyword is work SLOW. Build your basic shapes up from smaller parts, and then laminate these togethr to make your components. Working slow keeps you from making mistakes, and allows you to make corrections as you go.



if a part won't stay on with model cement, DO NOT USE MORE. Model glue isn't "stickum." It works by disolving the area where you put it, in order to create a bond. When ou use it in excess, all it does is create a goopey mess! If you ned to bond something quickly, use super glue or contact cement. A good rule of thumb is that if you can see glue come out when you place the part, then you've used too much.


On the subject of adhesives, there are several that are available for use on styrene. As mentioned before, there's model cement. this comes in two forms, liquid and tube. Liquid is just that: a liquid formm of the tube cement, without the polymer. This is used by putting the pats to be joined together, and then letting the glue run between the pieces using 'capillary action. " While this tends to dry faster, it's aslo a lot trickier.


Another adhesive is CyanoAcrylate (no, it doesn't contain cyanide!), commonly called "Super Glue." this glue forms rigid molecular bonds in second, allowing it to adhere to practically everything. Unfortunately, I find it too brillte to use on anything that transforms. But it is useful for attaching small pieces as well as filling in holes. I reccommend using the gel type, along with an accelerator. This makes the glue dry instantly in larger applications.


A third type of adhesive is epoxy. This is a two-part adhesive that stays chemically neutral until introduced with it's counterpart component. Upon mixing, the two create a chemical reaction that causes heat (careful with that model!) and 'cures" the glue. The only detractor is that epoxy can be too brittle when used in thin applications, and tends to crack in thin layers. But it excels in larger applications, and is almost unbeatable for shaping bodies.


The last adhesive I wish to mention is Plastic Welder. I do tend to push this one quite a bit, but it's for the foloowing reasons; it cures faster than epoxy, accepts primer and paint well, sand smoothly, and is very resillient and strong. It's practically liquid plastic. I've used it to make my own parts, and it's speed allows you to attach main parts to your project, and 15 minutes later be able to paint and use it. But one detractor it has is that it STINKS when used.


Well, that's about everything I know about styrene and the adhesives to use with it. As always, any questions, comments or suggestions, just post them here, and...um...hmmm. I seem to have glued my fingers together.....

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MUCH Appreciated WV, I've Copied this Entire Guide To my Desktop (& Backed up in Triplicate...Just in case). This will help Immensely. I'll be sure to post pics once I've begun my Skyfire-Valkyrie Custom....

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This guide is great! I had actually planned to buy styrene rods for my projects, until I read that ABS is the way to go. Cheers!


Are you guys planning to do a chapter about hinges and joints? Like where to get metal rods, how to make a knee joint and such?

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