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.

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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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“Gunpla is freedom.”

Gunpla is not about being perfect, it’s about building a model you love from a show you love with your own hands. Here at Gunpla 101, we provide resources for Gunpla builders of all skill levels.

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