Gundam Modeling 102

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Meet Chibi Gundam Unicorn. I put him here next to my Nenderoids for size comparison. It took me less than an hour to assemble this tiny transplant from Japantown—less than half the time it took me to fly him back from San Francisco.

I’m mentioning this because he’s very similar to the first Gundam model I ever built, also a chibi. But that one took me an entire afternoon. Three years later, I think I’m finally getting the hang of this Gundam building thing.

I bring this up because, after all this time, my Sept. 7, 2011 blog post, Gundam Modeling 101, is still the most popular post on Otaku Journalist. Is Gundam modeling getting more popular?

If it is, it isn’t getting more accessible. The instructions are still always in Japanese. I still make a lot of mistakes. In the years I’ve been building Gundams, I’ve learned there’s a damned steep learning curve.

The most important lesson I’ve learned though, is not to be such a perfectionist. I’m not trying to compete with the eight-year-old girl who won the Gundam Builder’s World Cup. My goal is just to get off the computer for a while and remember what it’s like to create something with my hands.

Here are some of the Gundams I’ve build recently and what I learned in the process:



This is Gundam Exia, a 1/100 High Grade model. High Grade  means he’s the second easiest type to put together after chibis; the fraction means he’s 1/100 the size of a figurative “life size” Gundam.

I hadn’t seen Gundam 00 when I bought him; I just liked the pearl pink color. I was surprised to find out he is piloted by a guy! But I don’t put him in these wide-stanced, imposing poses because of gender. It’s more like, he’ll fall over if I put his legs too close together.


Now you see why. Just look at that rear view. Gundam Exia has no less than SIX swords on his person. I think this is why I have such a tough time keeping him balanced. Still, every time I move him to take photos, a part falls off.

Gundam Exia taught me:

  • There’s no shame in using a little superglue. Sure, Gundams are supposed to snap together, but my High Grades aren’t always the finest quality. It may make the pros cringe, but gluing a few pieces on keeps me from having to reassemble him completely every time I want to pick him up.
  • A larger scale means it’s harder, not easier, to build. I had only built 1/144 models before Exia, and I thought this one’s larger size would mean bigger, simpler parts. Wrong! It just has a lot more detail. This is why it’s so hard to find High Grade models that are 1/100 scale in the first place, and why I can’t even find a link to this particular model.


This is Acguy, here placed next to a Clementine for size comparison. An HG model, he came in a three-pack of amphibious suits along with Char’s Z’gok and a Gogg. I bought it at Otakon 2012 exclusively for the Acguy (come on, does ANYONE like the Gogg?) and just got around to building it.


John ended up building the other two because I sure wasn’t going to. They’re not nearly as cute! The Z’gok is okay, but I hate the Gogg. Sometimes to mess with me, John puts it on my nightstand while I’m asleep.

Acguy taught me:

  • Three-packs are not exactly a bargain. I bought all three of these guys for the same price as Gundam Exia. Even though both kits are High Grades, the Exia is significantly higher quality and had a lot more parts. You can tell just looking at him that Acguy’s torso is just two or three parts snapped together.
  • If you break it, you’re SOL. I’m not posing Acguy’s claw closed because I want to. It’s more like, I was a little rough with one of the talons and it bent. Now it doesn’t open anymore, so I can’t pose him with an open claw. Gundam kits don’t come with extra parts, so there’s nothing I can do now except buy a new Acguy, and it’s not worth doing that.

In sum, you’re not going to get any tips from me about smoothing out imperfections with sandpaper or using fancy, overpriced tools to assemble your Gundam. My philsophy to Gundam building is a leisurely one—if it’s not fun and takes too long, it’s not worth it for me.

Have you built any new Gundam models lately? I encourage you to brag!

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


  • Kat Clements

    How expensive are the models you usually work with? I’m under the impression that they can be rather pricey… My Dad works with models and miniatures (mostly HO figures), but I’ve never developed a taste for building any. Still, I must admit that the Gundams are pretty darn cool.

    • Lauren

      @Kat the models pictured here range from $20 (Chibi Unicorn) to $60 (Gundam Exia). I got all three of the aquatic units in a pack for $40. I probably got ripped off a bit for Gundam Exia, but the fact that I can’t find it for sale anywhere online makes me think it’s rare. But on average, I pick up a High Grade model or two at Otakon every year for about $40 a piece.

      So your dad makes model trains? I always hear about train otaku, but I’ve never met one!

      • Kat Clements

        Wow, that isn’t as expensive as I thought! Not cheap, but not completely beyond reach either. Thanks!

        Actually, my dad is more into creating dioramas. He’s a History Otaku. I think he might have done more model work as a kid, like with cars and maybe airplanes, but now he likes recreating historical scenes. He’s made one for trench warfare during WWI, one with the British fighting the Zulus in Africa and I think he’s currently working on one for the Battle of Hastings. I made one for Operation Sea Lion (the proposed German invasion of Britain during WWII) for a school project, but it got destroyed by someone. :-(

  • Stephanie

    Konnichiwa!!!!I bought chibi strike noir gundam, it’s my first gundam :), I thought building gundam only for boys but when I see this blog, makes me more inspired to build gundams. Thanks.
    I have a question, which is much better Real Grade or High Grade? I like the gundams a little bigger and more detailed.
    Master Grade is too expensive for me but someday I can buy this scale :P

    • Lauren Orsini

      @Stephanie, great question. Since Real Grade is still brand new, it’s hard to tell exactly where it fits in the scale. Actually, it’s somewhere between High Grade and Master Grade. It’s small like High Grade, but has lots of complicated parts like Master Grade. If you’re looking for a more challenging Gundam than a High Grade but you can’t afford a Master Grade yet, you might want to try out a Real Grade. Hope that helps!

      • Arief Rahman Harahap

        @Lauren: I would like to say thank for your tutorial. It helps me in building my collection.
        I think the scale of RG and HG is the same (1/144) and you are right about the difficulty of RG. Based on my experience (my addiction in building gundam was started in 2012 :D ), building RG is less enjoyable than HG.
        @Stephanie: In my opinion RG is more detailed than HG in the articulation area. If you want to buy a bigger gundam with less expensive price, i think you should try 1/100 Non Grade Gundam model. It has the same size with MG but not as detail as MG.

  • rathalos

    Well, I have been building gundam model kits since I was young…. I had a collection of 20+ SD gundam models when I was 14 which my mum conveniently threw away cos we were moving house….

    Now at 29, I have moved on from HG to doing pure MG (I recently went back to buy HG Arios, Seravee and Cherudim only cos I wanted to complete the set)…I have a PG that I’m waiting to conquer (which is the classic Wing Zero Custom) when I have the right tools n time…

    My current collection:

    1. 5 SD model kits not worth mentioning (bought them at a HUGE discount)
    2. MG infinite justice
    3. MG RX-78-2 (its 10years old)
    4. 1/60 Gundam Exia
    5. MG Gundam 00 raiser
    6. MG Gundam 00 Qan(T)
    7. 1/60 Strike Freedom lighting edition (it lights up)
    8. HG Meteor unit with Freedom (only exception as meteor unit is HUGE)
    9. Uncompleted:
    a. HG Arios Gundam
    b. HG Cherudim Gundam
    c. HG Seravee Gundam
    d. PG Wing Zero Custom

    • Lauren Orsini

      @rathalos, Wow, that is quite a collection! Keep me posted on that PG because I’ve heard it’s gorgeous when it’s finished.

  • Toon Song

    Cool ! nice tutorial ! i have been building quite a bit of them. But with ur guide the next one will surely be better !!

  • Kevin Santos

    Cool guide. :)

    I also like to collect Gundams too. Here’s what I currently have (All MGs)
    1. Nu Gundam ver. ka
    2. Gundam Deathscythe hell ew ver.
    3. XXXG-01H Gundam Heavyarms ew ver
    4. Freedom Gundam

    I’m looking for another one. any suggestions? or do you have a blog that suggests what gundams to buy? thanks :)

  • Anthony Tran

    Hi Lauren, since Year 12 finished for me I started building my High Grades that were collecting dust on their boxes. I have a Real Grade that I want to start but I’m not sure whether to apply the stickers on the separate pieces first or apply them when the whole model is built; they’re unbelievably small and detailed. What do you think would be better?

    • Lauren Orsini

      @Anthony, oh my goodness, I totally relate. My Real Grade Char’s Zaku II had more stickers than I could count! After I finished, I just put on a few of them that I liked, and left the rest in the box. I also used tweezers to apply them since my fingers were just too big. Hope my experience helps you make a decision!

  • John Thiran

    Hello, I really admire your effort and advice, especially for a newbie like myself. I have just got into my first HG kit (Red Astray Flight Mode) and I was wondering if you could offer any advice regarding where should I progress next with my work. I had a blast working on my HG and it took me about half a day to get through it despite a few minor setback and errors. Also, would you think going for an RG kit would be too soon?


    • Lauren Orsini

      @John, thanks for reading! I’m so glad you’re enjoying gunpla. If you felt comfortable building your first HG, I think a RG sounds like a great plan. After all, it’s not the grade that matters so much; it’s picking a model you love. If it’s a Gundam you’re really psyched to build, it’ll be easier to stay motivated even it’s a little tougher.

  • Chris

    Just wanted to point out that typically, non-Master Grade 1/100 scale Gundams are referred to as No-Grade, at least from my experience.

    Also, I noticed that you don’t seem to panel line your Gundams, it does make then significantly more detailed and better-looking. Also, if you find it difficult to pose on it’s legs, try working with a stand, they sell for pretty cheap. The only Gundam I have who works well without a stand is MG Turn A Gundam, and of course HG Master Gundam with Fuunsaiki.

    • Lauren Orsini

      @Chris, thanks for the comment. This particular 1/100 is a little unusual and actually says HG on the box, but generally you’re correct. And no, I don’t panel line! I worry it’d take a steadier hand than mine to make them look nice.

      Would you recommend a stand in particular for a 1/100? I’ve got spare stands, but they’re for 1/64 models.

  • Tomas Soejakto

    Hello. I enjoyed your article very much. Thank you for such inspiring articles.

    I also built gundams for leisure and even though I painted them here & there, I don’t try to make them look as good as the pros. I don’t even try to sand off cut marks or cover seams with cement.

    My goal with each kit is to make them look rugged & worn-out, and that’s something extremely easy to do with just a small bottle of steel-colored paint and a flat brush. All my kits look like they’ve been bumped, smacked, hacked, bombed & dragged across a steel wall in a fierce battle with the pilot lacking any interest in MS maintenance afterward ;-p

    As with panel lines, you might like to know that you don’t need too much precision to do it. I found on Youtube that you can mix black paint and thinner (about 30:70). use a really small brush to carry a bit of that mix and just lightly touch a point in a panel line. the line will absorb the paint in the brush and fill the whole length of that line automatically. Then you can clean any excess with a q-tip thats barely damp with thinner.

    Anyway, I’m planning to build a MG soon. Do you think it would be a good idea to make it a group activity with someone who’s never built model kits before? If you’ve done it before, how do you think one should split the building process between the members in the group?

    • Lauren Orsini

      @Tomas, thanks for writing and sorry for taking so long to respond! I think, if you aren’t trying to make the most perfect MG in the world, it’d be great if you each did an arm at the same time, and then a leg at the same time. That way, the less experienced person can see you working on an identical copy of what they’re trying to do. I’ve never done an MG gundam as a group activity, and I think it sounds like fun!

      I would love to see some of your “beat up” Gunpla; sounds really crazy.

  • Maruyama Shouta

    There is this book out now for beginners gunpla.
    Reviews for it a cropping all over youtube about it.

    I am thinking of getting a copy.

    • Lauren Orsini

      @Maruyama, thanks for sharing. I’m reading it too, and hoping to do a review of my own soon.

  • darinofsb

    The Gundam Exia is the model where it is in “Trans-Am Mode”. Just for your info! Great article