Building your first Master Grade Gundam

9 September 2013 | 21 comments

I recently hit a milestone in Gundam building—my tenth ever Gundam. Finally, after eight High Grade models and two SD models, I’m ready to tackle my first Master Grade—an Endless Waltz Deathscythe Hell that we got as a wedding present (yes, we’re geeks and so are our friends).

Ever since I wrote Gundam Modeling 101, I’ve gotten lots of questions about the relative difficulty of Gundam modeling, especially in regard to the grades. It can be a little confusing, so I made a chart with some of my Gundams to clear it up:

sizechart

As you learned in 101, Gundams vary in both size and complexity, or as manufacturers refer to it, grade and scale. The difficulty of a Gundam lies entirely in its grade. The scale has nothing to do with it. Which of the Gundams pictured was the hardest to build? It was NOT Victory Gundam (High Grade 1/60). It’s easy to make this misconception because the hardest Gundam models on the market—Perfect Grades—are almost always 1/60 scale.

Actually, the real toughie of the bunch is Crossbone Gundam (Master Grade 1/100). As a Master Grade, it has the most parts, and these parts have been manufactured with the finest quality. For example? A Master Grade is likely to have working fingers that can grasp weapons just like a real hand.

destinyhand

John bought a new Master Grade, Gundam Destiny Extreme Burst Mode, at Otakon and ever since he put it together, it’s been the centerpiece of our living room. From his iridescent wings to his metallic skeleton to his glittering weapons, Gundam Destiny inspired me to get cracking on my first Master Grade.

destiny

Differences of a Master Grade

  • Higher quality. Ever started building a High Grade only to find a factory error? I feel you; my Gundam Unicorn is definitely super-glued in some parts. And it isn’t about size. If you look at the “wings” on Victory Gundam in the first picture, you might be able to spot a sharp edge where there ought to be a round one. Little imperfections are far more noticeable on a High Grade, and far less common on a Master Grade, because of the increased level of attention to detail.
  • Significantly more complex. They call it a Master Grade because it’s not for beginners. If you think your latest High Grade has a lot of parts, you’ll be amazed by a Master Grade. For example, Gundam Destiny came with 16 different plastic sprues, compared to the 6 sprues it took to put my High Grade Bearguy together. And that’s not even saying how much longer the instruction booklet is! On a related note, expect to devote a lot more time to putting a Master Grade together.
  • Bigger investment. A High Grade will set you back anywhere from $20 to $60, depending on if it’s common or a special edition. A Master Grade, on the other hand, can easily cost anywhere from $50 to $100+. It’s a lot to put into a hobby, even if you’re serious about Gundams. That’s why you’re far more likely to find High Grades of every model, and Master Grade versions only of select and popular models.

Are you ready to build a Master Grade?

Here’s a quiz:

I’ve built at least one Gundam model before.

I built my last High Grade model quickly and easily.

I’m looking for a bigger challenge.

If you feel confident checking all three boxes, then I feel confident recommending that you build your first Master Grade. Otherwise, why not try another High Grade or SD until you get more comfortable? There’s no shame in it; I built 10 before I felt ready for something harder.

zeta2

Tips for Master Grade building

  • Choose your model carefully. Sometimes there are multiple Master Grade variations of the same Gundam. I can’t even tell you how many MG variations of Gundam Unicorn there are now. Like with any Gundam purchase, do your research and make sure you’re getting the one you actually want, down to the model number.
  • Invest in the right tools. Gundam kits are put together in a way that you CAN construct them using just your hands. But if you’re going to spend upwards of $50 on a Master Grade, you want it to look good. See the notches on Zeta 2.0’s gun in the photo above? Those could have been minimized with a toolkit that included sidecutters and a fine razor. Here’s the toolkit I now use and recommend.
  • Don’t work ahead. When I work on a High Grade, I often cut out a bunch of parts in advance in order to speed up the process. But with a Master Grade, there are so many more parts that it’s easy to lose track of what goes where. Only cut out the parts you need for one step at a time, and only move on after the step is assembled.
  • Take your time. Even if you’re an ace at building High Grades, don’t plan to build your first Master Grade in just one night. Pace yourself and save yourself the trouble of having to retrace your steps after the fact. Since the final touches are often the most visible, slowing down at the finish will result in a cleaner look.

I hope this helps you feel a little more confident about building your first Master Grade. Be sure to check back as I update with photos of mine in progress!

Like Gunpla? Click the image below to visit my new blog, Gunpla 101

gunpla101

  • gundamguy

    One thing to point out. Crossbone Gundam is likely a little shorter than your average Master Grade Gundam because late Universal Century Gundam’s are shorter then most other Universal Century or Alternate Universe Gundams.

  • Sidewindr5

    I would suggest have side cutters, fine files, some sort of lining option (gundam pen or something similar), and some paint handy just in case. While master grades look good by themselves, these little touches and smoother sprue point finishing can make a world of difference

    • http://www.otakujournalist.com Lauren Orsini

      Great suggestions! I’m too lazy for paint touchups, but using a razor to file down the imperfections takes me little effort for a big payoff!

  • Ian

    Wow, a chic who likes Gundam…. I’m in heaven… <3

    • Garrod Ran

      LOL, she’s married, you know.She said, “I’m ready to tackle my first Master Grade—an Endless Waltz Deathscythe Hell that we got as a wedding present.”

      Tough luck, brother! T.T

  • Fitri Tezuka

    Nice review. ^.^ But isn’t the 1/60 scale supposed to be the Perfect Grade? Correct me if I’m wrong :)

    • http://www.otakujournalist.com Lauren Orsini

      @Fitri, it’s complicated ^^; Usually the only Gundams that are 1/60 scale are Perfect, but this Zeta Gundam was a unique run. Some people have asked if it’d be better off labeled No Scale since it’s so unusual for a high grade, but it says 1/60 on the box so that’s what I went with!

  • erushio

    This article would have been good for me back in the day… as of now I only built that same zeta gundam Master Grade. It was frustrating until the point I actually ended it.. I was thinking of buying more to build, but will keep some distance from Master Grade (not because the difficulty, it’s part of the fun, but of the pricetag)
    looking online now there is “entry grade” how does it do on the grade range?

  • GuyDam

    Here’s a tip if u wan your kits to look good without painting try to use top coat on gunpla for extra an touch up

  • Ikki

    I’ve been completing getting a MG Zaku as my first Gundam figure but I guess I’m not ready for that. Thanks for the help, from France !

  • wan

    hai lauren.. :)
    i just wanna say..
    u r beautiful…

    • http://www.otakujournalist.com Lauren Orsini

      Aw, you’re sweet.

  • John

    i just want to ask,I’ve built 3 hg’s and i’m wondering if i can build the mg? or should i try real grades first?

    • http://www.otakujournalist.com Lauren Orsini

      @John, if you feel comfortable attempting a trickier Gunpla, I say go for it! Especially if it’s an MG model you really love. Just don’t expect it to be as quick or easy as an HG =)

  • john

    Here are a few other tips that might help. The order you cut the gates sometimes matters. If there is one large sprue and several smaller ones cut the small ones first. Also even with side cutters don’t cut the sprue directly next to the part you are cutting out but rather a little bit away or towards the gate. The reasons for this is that as you cut the plastic is stretches and as it stretches it turns white or can open small holes in the surface of the part you are cutting out. Cutting away from the part and then using a razor or side cutters to remove the remaining plastic solves this problem.

    Another thing that can help is getting a nail buffing tool. One of the type that has four different sides for filing smoothing and buffing is best and nothing to blocky. These can be used to fix bigger mistakes and restore the plastic to a shiny luster.

    One other thing, Real Grades can be much trickier to build then many Master Grades. They are just as complex in many ways but the parts are all very small compared to some MG’s and they have tons of stickers. Consider some of the oldest master grades to build first they are very similar to modern High Grade. Check out the instructions online first and see what you are getting yourself into.

  • Emanuel Paredes

    I think you can tackle a master grade as your first kit, if you give it a good research and are mature about it. I speak from experience. My first kid was a mg gundam astray red frame and I’m definitely happy with the results. Although one thing I did mess up were the decals, but looks great without most of them nonetheless. Also a great tip to enhance the red frame is a red sharpie. Quick and cheap yet looks great! Try it out on a sprue before hand to see if you like the look

    • http://www.otakujournalist.com/ Lauren Orsini

      @emanuelparedes:disqus I am honestly impressed! I had to build several High Grades before I was even comfortable with the idea of building a Master Grade! But you bring up a good point that everyone is different. I’d never built other types of models before Gunpla; if you have, you might be ready much sooner.

      • Emanuel Paredes

        thank you! but I had never built any type of models before. I think it was due to the research i put into it before getting my kit. i watched many reviews and tutorials to know what i was getting myself into. if you have confidence Im sure you can tackle it rather easily, also take your time and be focused on what you do:)

  • Rob Clark

    Master Grades really aren’t that bad, as since the models themselves are a little larger the pieces don’t tend to be microscopic like you get with a Real Grade 1/144 kit. They have all the details and gimmicks of MG’s, but in a smaller package with much smaller parts and details. Ranking the difficulty, I’d go Real Grade and Perfect Grade at the top, followed by Master Grade, and then High Grade and the crappier kits.

  • Rob Clark

    It’s funny that Endless Waltz Deathscythe Hell was your first MG, as it was mine as well. H e was really simplistic compared to most of the MG’s I’ve put together. The Ver Ka’s are usually particularly challenging, but are very rewarding.

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