Essential Tools for Gunpla Building

This post was updated with new information on September 3, 2019. 

See also: The Best Tools for Gunpla, Ranked

Every year, John and I bring dozens of new Gundam models into the world. From Universal Century to Future Century, from Master Grade to No Grade, our house is filled with them!

But the not-so-funny thing is, you can clearly tell which ones we built first, and which ones we’ve built more recently. They’re a little wobbly on their feet, a little rough around the edges. That’s because, as we started to wise up to the world of Gunpla, we began to add tools to our Gundam building arsenal.

I don’t think you need to drop a lot of money in order to build a nice looking, polished, sturdy Gundam model. But I do think that a few tools can take you a long way.

Here are our picks for building the perfect Gundam model, at any level.

Side Cutters

Gunpla modeling is certainly easier today than it’s ever been, and all you actually need to get started is a basic High Grade kit (here are my recommendations for beginners) and basic wire side cutters, like the kind that’s used for jewelry, to cut out the pieces.

side_cutters169

However, getting a pair of side cutters specifically designed for Gunpla and modeling can seriously step up your building. In the photo, I’m using Tamiya side cutters, which were designed for hobbyists, not jewelers. They’re stronger for when I’m cutting through even big pieces of plastic.

When choosing a pair of side cutters, pick a pair that feels comfortable in your grip, because you will be using them more than any other Gunpla tool! You may also want to choose multiple pairs that you can alternate between depending on the project. For example, I love how my Tamiya cutters are up to the task of even the thickest sprues, but I also love my God Hands, delicate though they may be, for their precise snips and great detail work.

Here are some of our recommendations for side cutters. For more explanation about why we picked these models, check out The Best Tools for Gunpla, Ranked.:

Top Gunpla NippersQualityPriceRating
God Hand SPN-120 Ultimate Nipper 5.0A+$$$4.5 out of 5 stars
Gundam Planet Premium Nipper Side CutterA$$4 out of 5 stars
GSI Creos Mr. Nipper Side CutterB+$3.5 out of 5 stars
Tamiya Sharp Pointed Side CutterB$3 out of 5 stars

Hobby or X-Acto Knife

Next, I use a hobby knife for cutting down the nub that gets inevitably left over after I cut out a piece. In the photo, I’m using a Tamiya Precision Cutter, which is retractable so you can control how much of the blade is poking out at a time—a great safety and control feature.

hobby_knife169

There are two main kinds of hobby knives—retractable and replaceable. If you have a replaceable knife, like an X-Acto knife, you can simply trade out the blade with a new one when it gets dull.

It’s not just that your Gunpla will look better if you use a hobby knife. It’s also that the pieces will fit together more smoothly without any extra friction. It’s just one extra step, but it makes a big difference.

Here are some recommendations for hobby knives:

Top Gunpla Hobby KnivesQuality PriceRating
Tamiya Precision CutterB$3.5 out of 5 stars
X-Acto Fine Point KnifeB+$4 out of 5 stars
Tamiya Modeler's Knife ProA$$5 out of 5 stars
Olfa Cushion Grip ProA$5 out of 5 stars

Tweezers

I’ve found that when I try and apply stickers to Gunpla manually, the oil on my fingers makes the stickers less sticky, so now I apply them with tweezers.

stickers169

Tweezers also allow me more precision than when I’m using my big, stubby fingers—I can more easily line up where I need the sticker to go. I suggest using angled tweezers for precisely this reason. That way, they stay out of the way while you’re gauging the exact positioning of a sticker.

Here are some of our recommendations for tweezers for Gunpla:

Top Gunpla TweezersQuality PriceRating
Tamiya Angled TweezersA$$5 out of 5 stars
Uxell Stainless Steel TweezersB+$4 out of 5 stars
Hakko Precision TweezersA-$4.5 out of 5 stars

Gundam Markers for Inking

As pictured above, you can buy Gundam-brand markers specifically for inking your Gunpla, most frequently during panel lining. The fine tip of the pen is perfect for getting in the ridges of Gunpla parts so you can add lifelike detail and contrast. You can also read our panel lining 101 tutorial for more detail on how to do that perfectly.

Here are some of our recommendations for markers. For more explanation about why we picked these markers, check out The Best Tools for Gunpla, Ranked.

Best Panel Lining PensQualityPriceRating
Gundam Marker Value SetA+$5 out of 5 stars
Gundam Marker GM21 Gray Sumi-Ire Brush PenA$4 out of 5 stars
Sakura Micron 0.25 mm blackB$3 out of 5 stars

In many cases, you can buy all of the tools I already listed in one single kit for much less than it’d cost to buy them individually. These set also comes with some stuff you probably don’t need yet, like a metal file for sanding down parts, that will be useful when you want to get more advanced.

Here are some recommendations for toolkits. For more explanation about why we picked these two, check out The Best Tools for Gunpla, Ranked.

Best Gunpla Tool KitsQualityPriceRanking
GSI Creos Mr. Super Tool SetB+$$4.5 out of 5 stars
Tamiya 2 Basic Tool SetB$4 out of 5 stars

Here at Gunpla 101, we are always striving to improve our technique, and that often means upgrading to new tools. If you have any recommendations for us to try, leave them in the comments!

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22 Comments. Leave new

  • Malik Vincent Raheem Meeks
    November 20, 2014 7:26 pm

    I remember when I built my first model it was a zoid geno saur x scissor I was using my fingers and toenail clippers and the file that that was attach to it took me three hours to build it wish I still had it glad I found this website it’s putting me back on track for model building again

    • @malikvincentraheemmeeks:disqus wow, I’m learning so many DIY Gunpla solutions from around the house! Check out the post we did about our reader builds—one of them used a nail file for sanding.

      Glad we’re getting you back on track. If you have a finished Gunpla, we’d love if you’d share!

  • This was actually really cool to read about. I’m just getting back into Gunpla again after like 10 years, because of Build Fighters. A lot of this was very helpful, though I’ve been using Citadel Wash Paints from Games Workshop for Panel Lining. I feel like I went too hard on it for my first attempt! http://imgur.com/a/HyOH5

    Thanks for writing this up!

  • what a nice tutorial, especially for me who are still beginner in building gundam, although i already made 6 gundams

  • Joseph Castaneda
    March 27, 2015 11:45 pm

    Thnx so much for posting this it really helped me with making the try burning I bought recently. I usually just use a pair of cuticle cutters and the nail file of a pair of unused toenail clippers XD

  • Julian Giron
    May 17, 2015 1:33 pm

    Just bought my first build strike gundam! Can’t wait to partake!

  • Thanks for posting this list of tools and your tutorials. Since I’m a beginner planning to buy my first gunpla, the HG Try Burning Gundam. I hope I’ll build it alright without any complications

  • Hi there, I just started building my first 2 Gunpla (Both of which are High Grades) and I seem to have a problem with my first one which was the Star Build Strike Gundam Plavsky Wing. My problem with the Plavsky Wing is that a lot of it’s parts, especially the pink translucent parts, are very,VERY loose and they keep falling off every time I pose the damn thing. Do you know a way to prevent the parts from falling off?

    • @disqus_6avXxmIGHD:disqus I’m sure many will disagree with me, but if you’re not planning to keep altering the model, why not just glue those pieces on? It wouldn’t be the first time I superglued a project to save myself some hassle.

  • Another important tool at any Gunpla modeler’s disposal is the 3M Scotch Magic Tape. I realized its importance when I encountered a problem with the sticker decal supplied with the RG RX-78GP01fb couple of minutes ago where decal 35 refuses to adhere to the model’s surface (see image). I’ve already wasted one decal out of the five that was on the decal sheet. I cut a small strip of magic tape, placed it on top of the decal to hold it in place and then apply a coat of lusterless/flat Lacquer overcoat afterwards and let dry. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f6658f25094db411bf8d1b4126e1d272dee4e80ed397f1424b2496da0c49b264.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a2388ff7c24c81c1e8f1d999e8fbb009d676ee30769215173d390aa2a9e6060a.jpg

  • My first gunlpa was an akatsuki, and while applying the stickers to the eyes, I used a toothpick to hold and tick it into its socket. Also, as it was my first gunpla,, i lacked the proper cutter for the job so I ended up causing some black to show on some edges.

  • I’m currently making a High Grade EVA Unit-01, it’s my first model kit and I’ve made the top half so far! Pretty good considering my current “tool kit”. Stupid curved scissors are a pain..

  • Ok, I have three questions to ask due to limited funds and resources:
    Is there a need for plastic cement with HGs?
    Plus, is it possible to sand down the flash if you are using an alternate method of cutting the parts off the racks? (e.g. hobbyist knife/Victorinox SAK instead of side cutters?)
    If so, coarse, fine, or both grains of sandpaper?

  • Pablo Sanchez
    March 30, 2016 11:53 am

    I bought my first Gundam yesterday at a local hobby store (A duel Gundam AssaultShroud HG Seed) with a Gundam marker for $16 dollars and since I was new to Gundam building, it took me about 2 to 3 hours just to build it. I did not have side cutters so I was using leaf cutters (for roses…) and took extreme care not to create any stress marks. I’m glad with my finished product and all I need to do now is to buy matte spray for my Gundam!

  • […] Essential tools for Gunpla building […]

  • Is is possible to build a model kit without any of these tools? I’d like to try my first one and i didn’t know i had to buy all these extra things. lol

    • Yes actually. I remember building these thing when I was much younger just snapping them out. Of course now I know that’s a bit of a no-no. More than anything it’s the quality of the final product. As a kid, I didn’t know or care so snapping them out and having that bit of white made no difference. Now though since I do care about how the final product appears, for sure. The more you’re willing to put into it, the better you can expect the outcome to be!

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