Star Wars has never been more popular in its forty-plus years than it is now with part of the evidence being all of the new plastic model kits being introduced by Bandai to commemorate the newer movies and the series. Undoubtedly the most popular of the models are the X-Wing fighters because we can all imagine ourselves flying them as heroes of the Rebellion! We’ll tackle the building of this model right out of the box, painting, and decaling as we go during assembly.
The Instruction Sheet -
A lot has been said about Bandai’s instructions sheets but the one thing you should know is you should review them several times with the sprues in hand before you begin. Doing this review allowed me to note how difficult it would be to place decals in certain places after construction and lead to the approach we’re going to take here, painting and decaling sub-assemblies as construction proceeds.
The instructions are very detailed but have very little, if any, narrative which means you have to follow a set of pictograms in order to assemble the model. Some of the steps have instructions for adding decals (or the included stickers, if you wish) during the construction, which makes sense as it is much easier to apply the decals now, rather than after the model is assembled. Follow the instructions carefully, I managed to get some parts in the wrong place and had to take apart, then reassemble some things in order to get things in the right place.
A Satisfying Part Count -
For a 1/72 model kit, you'll find there are a lot of parts on six sprues. The kit is designed to be snapped together though you may find a spot or two where glue will need to be used. Ban Dai's quality is excellent, with many fine details and excellent fit. The detail on the parts is exquisite, rendering a very impressive model when complete.
Start With Paint -
Because of scale, I chose to brush paint the entire model to reduce the time it would take to get to a completed model. I went through sprue by sprue (sometimes cutting the sprues apart for better access) and painted all of the parts. For this build I did not follow the instructions or stay “on canon”, choosing instead to paint most things as I recalled them in my mind’s eye or wanting bits to stand out differently. No telling what the Rebellion had in its paint buckets! On large surface areas I used a fine grit (3000) sanding pad to even out any visible brush marks after a couple of coats of color.
For the fuselage and wing surfaces, I mixed a little Vallejo Leather Brown into 2 ounces of Tamiya White so the ship would already have a start on the aging process. Then I used Vallejo's Grease to apply a bit of a wash to certain areas of the X-Wing. Washes should not be consistent across the entire model, something I see too often and have been guilty of myself. In real life not everything deteriorates at the same rate and the deterioration is colorful, coming in a range and depth of colors. Learning to vary your washes and dry brushing will add life to your builds.
Once painted I started putting together sub-assemblies and applying the decals to these. There are a lot of decals for a model this size!
Assembling the Fighter -
Having assembled a fair number of airplanes in many scales I thought the first thing on the list would be the cockpit. Imagine my surprise at finding the assembly starts with engines and wings, a refreshing change of pace. Once you start removing parts from the sprues assembly is quick, especially considering very little glue needs to be used.
Seams are well hidden and the ship goes together pretty tightly but you must pay attention to part identification in the instructions. I blindly assumed some parts were interchangeable only to be proven wrong as I put the engines and wings together. Here I became very thankful for the lack of glue in the model as I was able to disassemble then reassemble parts correctly. In a couple of places, most notably the wing panels, I applied small drops of glue just to tighten them up.
Once the wings were completed (I left the laser cannons off because I did not want to damage them during construction) and joined they are placed into the bottom deck. Then comes the cockpit (make sure to add the decals before assembly as these are the most finicky of the bunch) and pilot. Now the upper deck and nose cone can be assembled. I chose to use the transparent canopy, making it easier to see the detail of the pilot (Red Leader in my case) and the cockpit when on the stand.
Finally, I did a little light sanding and paint touch up before moving on to the next step, bringing the little fighter to life with decals.
Decal Details -
I'm glad I made the decision to apply paint and decals to the subsections during construction because getting some of the decals in place once everything together would have been difficult at best.
First, you need to make sure you check and double-check the location of each decal. I almost misplaced a couple of decals early on which could have been disastrous. (Battle damage is a wonderful way to hide decaling mistakes!) Second, there is some very finely molded detail so you will need to use a decal softening solution to get the decals to snuggle down. I found myself applying the softener more than once in a couple of locations. All in all, applying the decals seemed to take longer than assembly because there are so many of them and I was careful about their placement.
The kit also comes with stickers which will make it easier for young modelers to produce a pleasing kit. There are some very small decals and stickers which may make you question using them at all. For example, the decals for the pilot's helmet are just barely bigger than the head of a pin! I experimented with the stickers to see how well they would conform to molded details and the bottom line is they don’t conform at all. On the upside the stickers adhere well though and will even withstand playtime should your young (or Inner) Jedi decide to run around the house making “pew-pew” noises as you defeat the Empire in your living room!
Once the decals were applied I brushed on a light coat of acrylic floor polish to seal the decals and prepare for weathering.
Weathering & Final Assembly -
When finishing up a kit I like to apply what is known as the “15-foot rule”. It is a term I borrowed from model railroaders in which they look at their work from 15 feet away to determine the realism of the model. For the X-Wing at 1:72 scale I adjust the view, preferring to be about 10 feet away from the model. There are two things to know – you can never “over-weather” an X-Wing and the movie studio dirtied the models up quite a bit to make them more visible and interesting.
Armed with those ideas I started weathering the X-Wing by taking some Vallejo Acrylic Oil Stain and lightly running it into nooks and crannies, dabbing off any excess with a moistened Q-Tip. Next, I watered down some Vallejo Model Color Neutral Gray and used a fine brush to run the wash into panel lines. Finally, I took the original light paint color I mixed, watered it down some then ran it over the red parts supplied by Ban Dai on the fuselage to given it the patina of age, removing any excess with a dampened Q-Tip.
Once the weathering was dry I added the tips to the laser cannons, clicked the canopy in place, and stood back to check out the work. This is a great kit, packed full of details. There is enough here to attract the serious model builder (I can see adding lights to the engines and cockpit, even at this small scale) while offering a good looking, reasonably easy to assemble, model for those just entering the hobby.
May the force be with you!