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Open a box


There is no better feeling than getting a new model. The excitement at its peak and the curiosity to find out what's going on inside the box outweighs the patience of most of us.

The smell that rises from the box after opening is addictive, just like getting into a new car.

But I admit, when I first opened a model box, I was a little confused.

I saw a lot of parts, an instruction sheet that looked "a little" more complicated than the instruction sheet of Surprise in Kinder Egg, and a weird page with icons that I have no idea how to use.


When we are about to start a new model, it is advisable to make a general work plan in advance before starting construction. Follow the instructions and pay attention to details that we may miss while building.

Beyond the basic assembly instructions, the instruction sheets contain a variety of signs and numbers, which I will help you understand in this article.

Usually, when opening a box of a new model, we come across 3 main elements: parts, instructions, and stickers

(In more advanced models it will also be possible to find metal parts and cast parts from other plastic materials for the purpose of detailing and accuracy of the model)

For the purpose of the demonstration, I will use a model of a 1/48 scale F-16 aircraft from the Hasegawa company


This is what it looks like when a new model box is opened


Parts, instructions and stickers

The parts:


The model parts on the way come packaged in plastic. You will usually find another bag with transparent parts, packaged separately to prevent damage and scratches on the transparent parts.

The parts of the model come on parts "trees", which are divided into letters in English, for example A, B, C, D, E and more, depending on the number of parts trees. 

On the trees are the parts and they are numbered from 1 to the number of parts in the tree.

Some of the companies, names on the instruction page Mapping of the parts trees. Parts marked in gray can be seen. Those parts are not relevant for the model.

So why the parts there, you ask?

One company can issue 2 F-16 models for example, of two different air forces. The models of the model are the exact same templates, but for one Air Force aircraft, no parts of the other Air Force aircraft are needed. So sometimes there are parts in the models that are not relevant to the version that the model represents.


Example of mapping parts of Hasegawa's F-16 aircraft model instructions


The letter D  The parts tree


The part numbers are next to each part

So what are those signs and numbers?

At the beginning of the model's instructions, we can find a "legend" for the various signs that will appear during construction:



The first sign on the left represents 'Optional' which means that there is a choice between two parts. To be precise and understand what part is needed, you will need to look at the pictures of the real object.

The second mark on the left represents "Open hole", meaning a small hole should be made in the marked area. Sometimes the model template includes preparation / marking for the required hole. The hole can be made using a small drill / pointed metal tool of the appropriate size.

The third mark on the left represents Remove, which means we have to remove the section marked in the instructions. Removal can be done by cutting / sanding.

The fourth mark on the left represents 'Insert Ballast' which means weight should be added in the indicated area. Some models suffer from an imbalance and weight should be added to prevent the model from "falling" backwards at the end of construction. Usually the weight should be added to the front of the model, the number of grams required is written in the instructions, I always recommend putting a little more and not exactly. 

As a weight, I personally use small fishing weights, which I fix using a quick glue ("3 seconds").

The fifth marking on the left represents 'Two sets needed', meaning that the same assembly must be performed twice. Can appear in armament, escape chairs, and other identical parts required for the model.  

The sixth marking  On the left, stands for 'Do not cement', meaning - do not use glue for these parts. It will usually appear in areas where there is traffic, for example in car models in the area of the wheels so that they can roll. You have the choice of whether to fix the part anyway, but it is important to make sure that it is not something that will hurt the continuation of construction.

The seventh marking on the left, represents 'Fill holl' which means that the marked hole must be filled. There are sometimes areas in the model that need filling. The holes can be filled using Putty, a filler on which information can be found in the article "Advanced tools and materials"

The shapes and drawings of the symbols are not universal and vary from company to company

Read the instructions:

In the instruction manuals of the model, apart from the basic assembly instructions which show the parts connections, we are likely to encounter various marks and sometimes even numbers that are not the part numbers.

The numbers:

In addition to the symbols we went over, numbers also appear on the instruction page that represent the colors required for the parts.  ​

The color legend can be found on the instruction page as well. 

The world of colors is a wide and developed world, on which you can find an article in the category "Articles -> Basic construction techniques"

In the next picture you can see the numbers I marked in orange. These numbers represent the shades in which the parts should be painted, according to the table below:

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The color chart

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It should be noted that the shades that appear on the instruction pages do not always faithfully represent the shades in reality. Reference images should be used to achieve maximum accuracy, and it is even recommended to consult builders through our forum. 

Stickers (decals)

The stickers provided in the models are not standard stickers. You will not be able to just peel them off and stick them on the model like a regular sticker. The stickers of the models are made with silk screen printing technology.  

  Above the stickers, a transparent membrane can be seen surrounding the sticker. 

The sticker should be cut around the membrane, and soaked in water. After a few seconds the sticker will detach from the page and should be placed on the model carefully 

Decals are very delicate, can fold and tear easily.

The correct order of stickers can usually be found at the end of the instruction page, where you will also see the coloring instructions of the model.

"Exterior" stickers can also be purchased (After-Market)  Of all kinds of companies, so you can "dress" your model in a different color. Make sure the stickers match the type of aircraft you are building, and make sure they are on the right scale.


Proper decals also have techniques that you will find in the article "Decals - how to do it right?"

In the "Advanced Articles" category

Once we understand how to read the instructions, we can finally start building the model. What tools do we need? All this and more in the article "Basic tools"

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