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Kitbashing Structures – When Off The Shelf Just Won’t Do

Kitbashing Structures – When Off The Shelf Just Won’t DoKitbashing is the art of taking a model kit, or even a readymade piece and altering it (bashing!) to make it more like what you had in mind.

This is done when we can’t seem to find exactly what we want directly off the hobby shop shelf, and are forced to become a scale size contractor! Fortunately, this is not as hard (or violent) as the term Kitbashing implies. This can be a great way to get some unique, one of a kind structures onto your layout, without having to build a complete new building from scratch.

It is also very much a time saver as opposed to building a new structure from scratch. At least you have a basic set of materials to work from, and if you’ve done any of this in the past, you may already have a large kit to work from sitting in your workshop!

Sometimes kitbashing is as simple as adding a different style roof, or removing a wall here and there, and then the attendant cleanup and paint. But often you’ll want to fashion something completely different, totally unique, and will need many parts to complete your vision. Here’s where the artistry comes in, and you’ll find yourself enthralled with the project. Kitbashing is a great way to make a structure fit into your vision, and not make you have to work something into your layout that’s not quite right.

When you finally decide to take the leap and make those first cuts with your razor saw, you have passed the point of no return. Some of the tools you’ll find useful for this crafty endeavor include the aforementioned razor saw, a hobby knife with a No. 11 blade, (extra blades) a straight edge, tweezers, files, perhaps a Dremel, and some liquid styrene cement. Also bring lots of imagination! You’ll want a photo of the prototype structure you’re going to model, and failing that at least a detailed sketch of what you want to do. (In other words, a plan!) When you are working with a prototype, you’ll obviously want to stay as close as possible to the original. However, when building your creation from scratch don’t be afraid to modify even things like the windows in the walls, door styles and other seemingly integrated details. Its not as hard as you might imagine, and the payoff can be large. In a word, the gloves come off when you’re designing a new structure, and you have the final word.

Model train station

Once you’ve designed your walls and roof and know the exact dimensions and shapes, you can begin the process of cutting and fitting the pieces together again. Cutting the walls is a careful process. Make sure your dimensions are correct, either by an exact measurement or by the use of a paper tracing or photocopy. Then carefully etch a cutting line exactly where you want it, using the wrong side of your hobby knife, that is, dragging the point down the line, as if you’re writing on it, which in effect you are. You’re making a fine cut, which you can then go over several times making a good start before you set your saw to work to finish the task.

Do a dry run of your assembly before attempting to glue your walls together, just so that you know it’s all going to fit together. (Now is the time to find this out!) You’ll probably also want to support the inside the joints of your newly redesigned walls, and for this you’ll need to get some styrene strips. These are available from modeling supply shops, and are useful in reinforcing walls.

The styrene sheets are even available in scale, and will be a big help in supporting your new structure. Lightly running your knife over the styrene, as you did previously with walls, will be helpful in snapping the styrene. (Don’t attempt to “snap” your kit walls; they are a different animal and will bend, not snap!)

When assembling your walls to the base, try and cement from the inside, so as not to show any wayward cement to the world. Because of the styrene supports, your bashed structure will be much stronger than a normal kit and able to be put into use right away. Make sure you save any leftover parts: you will need them for your next kitbash, or the one after that!

Adding a new or different roof is the most dramatic statement you can make in your new structure. A new shape, material of appearance, even color can make a huge difference in the look and feel of your structure.

Now that you’ve got the basic construction completed, make way for the finish carpenters! This is where you make all the real cosmetic differences that will set your piece apart from everyone else who ever bought this kit. You can modify windows, doors, and anything else you need or can imagine. Changing the signage, the paint, the weathering, the general condition; and as you can see, almost anything can make a difference.

Painting your new structure is not really any different than you would normally do, if you do it at all. Many times on plastic kits you’ll simply want to weather the structure a bit to get rid of that plastic “shine”. That and a little prototype paint may be all you need to do to have a piece that you will be proud to add to your layout!

If you would like to get started kitbashing, and have some ideas for some projects, great! File these and start with a mouthful you can actually chew! Kitbash a shed, maybe a porch to get a feel for the process and to get your feet wet. Then take on the whole dang town! The really nice thing about kitbashing is that now you’ll never be stuck again when it comes to finding that perfect piece. You’ll simply kitbash it!

About the author

Bill Murphy

Bill Murphy

Bill Murphy is an avid model railroader, offering advice for model enthusiasts on the YourDiorama website. For more helpful tips and information, visit https://yourdiorama.com

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