Gremlins in the Garage!

Model Kit Terminology

Have you read something you don't understand? Check the terms below and send us mail if you can't find what you are looking for (

Thanks to Dan Perez for expanding and adding many entries to this list.


: )
Modem symbol known as a "smiley" (if you look at it sideways, it looks like a smiling face). Often posted at the end of humorous messages. There are dozens of variations, such as ; ) for a winking smiley.
Fast-drying, water-based model paints often used with vinyl and resin kits. Acrylics are available both in jars (pre-thinned) and tube form (thinning required). The recommended thinner for acrylic paints is a 50/50 mix of water and rubbing alcohol. Clean brushes with warm water and soap.
A painting device that combines thin paint from a reservoir with a stream of compressed air, creating a fine spray which allows for subtle blending. Single action airbrushes allow you to control the air flow, while double action airbrushes allow you to control both air flow and paint flow (for more precision).
Amazing Figure Modeler Magazine
The internal support structure for a master sculpture for a model kit. It can be as simple as a wire "skeleton" inside the clay, or it can incorporate other materials such as aluminum foil and epoxy putty. The armature supports the clay to prevent sagging and cracking.
Base coat
A coat of paint applied after priming, that usually incorporates the overall color scheme of the model. For example, the base coat for a werewolf might be brown, and the base coat for a sea monster might be green.
Modem chat shorthand for "be right back."
Lines that form where two halves of a mold meet and are not aligned perfectly.
Modem shorthand for "by the way."
Slang for customizing a model by changing the pose, adding new details and/or creating a detailed diorama-like base.
A model kit part that was cast from a mold. In garage kits, molds are usually made from RTV rubber and the castings are made in polyurethane resin.
Also known as paperclay, this is a cellulose-based sculpting material often used for kit bases.
A process of casting kit parts by combining resin and porcelain powder (cold-cast porcelain) or bronze powder (cold-cast bronze) and pouring it into a mold.
Dremel tool
A small drill-type tool that can be used for sanding, grinding, cutting or drilling. It's shaped like a fat pencil, and thus can be used with more skill (and thus more precision) than regular hand tools. Many modelers prefer the variable-speed model, which offers even more control.
A painting technique to produce highlights on textured areas. To dry brush, a clean brush is dipped into the highlight color, then brushed on a paper towel until the paint is barely coming off the bristles. Then the brush is scrubbed lightly across the textured surface. The paint will come off only on the raised areas of the texture, creating the highlights. Drybrushing is often used in tandem with washes to create a more realistic 3-D effect in a paint job.
A two-part bonding agent typically used for gluing resin parts.
Epoxy putty
A two-part putty which can be kneaded together and used in a variety of ways, from sculpting fine detail to anchoring interior parts. Epoxy putty hardens to a rock-hard state in several hours. Milliput is a brand name many model shops carry, and can be thinned and smoothed with water.
Paperlike residue which remains on a model after the casting process. It's caused when molding material creeps into the space between the mold halves, and must be removed when the model is being built.
Garage kit
Term loosely applied to amateur or semiprofessional model kits, usually created in someone's spare time. Most garage kits are cast resin. Garage kits can vary widely in quality, but many are superior works, equal in quality, artistry and workmanship to those produced by professional kit companies. Some garage kit sculptors are commissioned by pro kit companies to create designs. Garage kits are frequently limited to a certain number of copies, which adds to their appeal to collectors.
Garage Kit That Ate My Wallet
Illustrated books by Terry J. Webb that cover the garage kit industry, including pro kit companies like Horizon, Kaiyodo, Dark Horse, etc. Each book features dozens of illustrations of model kits, and are of great interest to the kit hobbyist. Titles are THE GARAGE KIT THAT ATE MY WALLET, SON OF THE GARAGE KIT THAT ATE MY WALLET and REVENGE OF THE GARAGE KIT THAT ATE MY WALLET. The latter two volumes include not only profiles of kit companies, but include articles on sculpting and painting model kits.
Girl kit
A popular genre among garage kit builders. Girl kits feature female characters, often nude or seminude, and frequently in seductive or cheesecake poses.
Gremlins in the Garage
Modem shorthand for "In my humble opinion."
Modem shorthand for "In my opinion."
Injection molding
The most common method of making plastic models. Liquid polystyrene is injected into metal molds and allowed to cool, forming the parts. Most store-bought (i.e. non-specialty) models are made this way.
KitBuilders Magazine
Slang, most commonly used with various glues. "Kick" refers to when the glue makes the transition to the hardened state. Many model shops sell "kicker," which is a product that can be sprayed onto cyanoacrylate glue (super glue) to accelerate the hardening process. Kickers also provide a stronger bond. The term is also used for putty or resin.
Light Emitting Diode; a small, bright light that can be used for robot eyes, ship interiors. Usually sold at electronics stores like Radio Shack.
Legal license granted by copyright or trademark holder for the use of a likeness or character in a model kit. As licenses are usually expensive, many garage kits are unlicensed reproductions of likenesses and characters from television, film, comics, etc. A licensed kit is considered to be the official version of that kit, even though other similar kits may exist.
Modem shorthand for "Laughing out loud."
Large Self Addressed Stamped Envelope
Sculpting term for a basic sculpted model used to determine the final pose and detailing for a master sculpture. Maquettes are also used in the conceptual design stage of movie preproduction.
Molding terminology for the original sculpture created for the molding and casting process. A master can be sculpted from many materials, the most common being Super Sculpey, a polymer clay.
Model & Toy Collector Magazine
A technique by which the glued joints of resin models are strengthened. Metal pins (often cut from coat hanger wire or brass rod) are inserted into holes drilled into either side of the joint. Pins are also used to join the model to its base or stand for greater stability.
A tiny hole in the surface of a resin or vinyl kit, caused by trapped air bubbles during the casting process.
A coat of paint, usually sprayed on, that serves as the foundation for all coats of paint to follow. For resin and vinyl kits, a laquer-based spray primer is recommended, as it provides good "tooth" for subsequent coats of paint. Primer should be applied in light puffs, and should be allowed to dry for 24 hours before any further paint is applied. A popular brand of primer among garage kit enthusiasts is Floquil spray primer.
Any of a number of compounds used to fill gaps, pinholes or seams in a model. Generally, the putty is squeezed out of a tube and applied to the seam or hole, where it hardens. It can then be sanded smooth. An example would be Squadron putty, sold in most model shops. See also: epoxy putty.
Recasting is the controversial practice of making new molds of the parts of an existing kit, and then casting new kits from them, without the authorization of the company that originally issued the kit. These unauthorized new kits, called recasts, are of varying quality. Recasts are often done of limited edition models or of models which are no longer produced.
Polyester or polyurethane resin, a material used in making garage kits. Resin consists of a two-part mixture which hardens in a short time. Most garage kits are resin castings. Unlike hollow vinyl kits, most resin kits are solid.
Room-temperature vulcanizing, a term for rubber compounds that solidify and stabilize at room temperature. RTV rubber is a two-part mixture that is commonly used to make molds for garage kits.
Self Addressed Stamped Envelope
A model, model part, or base built from scratch, as opposed to using pre-manufactured kits, parts, etc.
Sculpey is a polymer clay material used commonly by sculptors. This clay stays soft during the modeling process, and can then be baked in a home oven to a ceramic-like hardness. There are different types--most sculptors prefer the waxy pink Super Sculpey to the white, doughlike Sculpey. Super Sculpey can be mixed with other polymer clays such as Fimo or Promat to vary its working consistency and final hardness.
The channel through which liquid casting material is poured during the casting process. After the cast has hardened, some material (typically resin) will remain in this channel, and must be removed before the model is built. Injection molded models will come attached to a rectangular sprue, or "part tree," as it is sometimes called.
A caricature model kit that has odd proportions, typically a very large head and very small body. Usually cast in resin.
Super glue
A cyanoacrylate bonding agent commonly used to assemble resin and vinyl model kits.
The Modeler's Resource Magazine
A flexible vinyl compound used in making model kits. Unlike solid resin kits, vinyl kits are often hollow. Some modelers prefer to fill the legs of their vinyl kits with plaster for stability, and others prefer to fill the entire kit with expanding foam to prevent the vinyl from distorting later.
Heavily thinned dark paint brushed on over a textured area, which runs into cracks and crevices and dries to form shadows and shading. Washes can be improved by adding a tiny bit of liquid dishwashing soap, which prevents it from beading up. Washes are often used in tandem with drybrushing to create a more realistic 3-D effect in a paint job.


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