If you're looking to build Gunpla you're going to need some tools. Thankfully you only need a small set at your disposal to accomplish great builds.
Must have if you’re building regularly...
A pair of basic hobby nippers
A pair of GodHand nippers
General Hobby Nippers
Unless you're a 15 year-old me you'll want to do the smart thing and cut - not rip - all your Gunpla pieces from the runners. The easiest and safest way to do so is with a pair of hobby nippers (also known as hobby cutters or side cutters).
Ranging from $10 to $80 you should be able to find a pair at any hobby store and many online retailers. You're probably wondering, is the more expensive pair better than the cheaper pair? Well, the short answer is, yes. Long answer is that generally, especially when it comes to tools, you get what you pay for.
The more expensive sets are the most likely to have sharper and more durable blade. When you cut plastic you stress it, warping it ever so slightly, which can result in white deformation marks. The sharper the edge the less likely that will happen. GodHands are the best for reducing stress marks (more on those below), but the best bang for your buck is a good pair of Tamiya - model 74035 - nippers. They will last you years and, with proper technique, won't be far off from what you can get with the GodHands.
If you find yourself at a hardware store looking for cutters it's important to note the difference between hobby cutters and most general use cutters. hobby cutters feature a flush, flat edge on one side. This allows you to make a nice clean cut. General purpose cutters feature an angle on both sides. This makes for an easier cut but will still leave nubs on your kit.
Unlike your basic nippers, Godhands, specifically the GH-SPN-120 model, are specialty nippers ideal for the second cut. If you’re not familiar with the second cut principle, basically you make two cuts. The first cut is a bit off of the piece to remove the part from the runner, the second cut is to get a clean cut on the part itself. More on that here.
Using Godhands for your second cut means that you’ll get the best possible cut against the piece. This reduces stress marks and means your next step of sanding down any remaining plastic is as quick and lightweight as possible.
Some folks bemoan the price of the GodHands, but if you’re building kits on a regular basis, they’re absolutely worth it. There are other premium nippers out there, but GodHands are the ones I’ve had the most long lasting success with.
That said, it’s very easy to break your GodHands if you’re not careful. Use them only for the second cut. Don’t cut through thick pieces of plastic like the runner. Also, never, never use them to cut through harder plastics like clear plastic. That will result in chipping the edge of your blades.
Must have if you’re building clear kits...
Something to sand down your nubs
A glass file
Sand paper, standing sticks, files, etc.
After cutting pieces from the runner, and removing the nubs, there's still going to be a little bit of plastic left. To remove it, and smooth out the piece, you'll need either a bit of sandpaper or a file.
There are a thousand different ways to do this. Some people just use pieces of sandpaper, others use sandpaper glued to a popsicle stick, others use specially made sanding sticks like these. Personally I use a fine metal rasp I got from the local hardware store (make sure to use a fine toothed one, a coarse one will leave ridges in the plastic) because it's super durable.
A couple key things to note, first is that sand paper wears out. Eventually you'll wear down their ability to sand properly and you'll have to swap out what you're using. Sand paper glued to a popsicle stick is very prominent for the low cost of the solution (putting the sandpaper on the stick makes for a hard flat surface which is easier to handle). Because I'm lazy I use my metal rasp, it has the risk of taking away more plastic at a bad pass than a proper sanding stick but I have years of experience with them. For small, hard to reach places, a needle file set like this works wonders.
The second thing I want to mention is to know your grits. Your average build isn't going to need something coarse, or something super fine. If this is your first time, get yourself a set with various grits, then work up and down from something in the middle as needed. Before you know it the process will be like riding a bike.
If you’re building a kit with a lot of clear pieces your best bet is a nice glass file. Clear pieces show stress marks a lot more than opaque plastic, and the hardness of the plastic will quickly ruin any nippers with very fine edges. Thus the general idea is to take your first cut, then instead of a second flush cut, file the whole of the nub down with a glass file. Glass files are super strong and will leave a very smooth surface behind.
Can you use a glass file for everything? Yeah, absolutely. I prefer not to because the one I have is sort of small and the larger rasp is a lot easier to use. It also leaves a surface that’s glossier than the rest of the plastic, which may stand out during straight builds.
Right now my go to is a Raser file from Gunprimer. I'm not overly versed in specialty glass files, vs general glass files you might get for nails, but from what I hear the Raser is worth the price over the cheap ones.
And that’s it. No really. When I sit down for a build I only need to grab my Tamiya nippers, GodHand nippers, and file.
Well, most of the time.
Nice to have
This section is for many of the other tools I use on a general basis. You don’t necessarily need them for most builds but they are often handy for one reason or another.
The best way to remove nubs from a kit, bar none, is a hobby knife with a sharp blade. They make quick work and produce the least amount of stress. The downside is that they’re sharp as fuck and you’re likely to make a blood donation to the Gunpla gods before too long. If you’re skilled and safe, they’re great. But if you’re building casually, say watching TV or have other distractions, do it safely with nippers. While you're at it, probably best to get a nice cutting mat too.
Even if you aren’t using them to remove the nubs you’ll want a good hobby knife in your toolkit. There’s many uses for them, including cutting decals and even applying stickers. I use a wide knifed blade as a pry to get in and separate stuck pieces. X-ACTO makes a good starting set which a couple handle sizes and various blade options.
|Safety Tip: Always try to cut away from yourself. That way, if you slip, you're less likely to cut into yourself. Sometimes, however, you have to cut toward yourself in order to get a nice clean cut. Whichever direction, it's important to hold the piece you're cutting in such away that none of your fleshy bits are along path of your cut. If you're cutting downward be sure to do so with the aid of a proper cutting mat below!|
I’ve got a whole other section about glues you need to read before you buy any, and while you won’t need glue for 99% of your builds, broken pieces are inevitable.
Teezers are great for applying stickers and decals. Sometimes they’re great for getting a small part in place too.
I recommend a pair of sturdy, right angle tweezers. While any pair will do, I find right angles are the best for decals/stickers. You want sturdy ones too because they will last the longest.. If you look at some of the inexpensive tweezer sets on Amazon, they’re so thin and flimsy that they will bend out of place with just the smallest amount of pressure.
I mention this, having not needed to use a screwdriver on Gunpla in a very long time, because Bandai hasn’t included screws in their kits for just as long. In the late 90’s, early 2000’s, you’d see screws on PG and even some MG kits to hold the joints together. These screws absolutely suck, but aren’t too bad if you have the right screwdriver.
You’re going to want to look for a Phillips head screwdriver with a good handle and a head that fills in the drive slots. If you use a head that’s too big, or too small, you run the risk of stripping the screw which is way too easy to do. I do not recommend those small eyeglass screwdrivers, it’s hard to get a grip and often the plastic you’re inserting them is tight. Slipping will strip the screws just as quickly as a poorly sized head.
This is probably more applicable for folks taking apart and painting kits, but it’s always good to have some project boxes laying around. Let’s say you’re mid build and need to step away for a bit, a nice lidded container will keep all the pieces you’ve already started working on clean and safe from getting lost. They’re also handy for collecting leftover parts from builds for later use.
While any box will do, I like using plastic tupperware made for storing food. Sturdy, strong lid, and generally stackable. Plus you can get sets of 20, or 50, or more for dirt cheap.
Sometimes when you’re done with a kit you have a bunch of leftover pieces on a half runner or so. Depending on how many pieces are left, I just chop up the runners and bag the whole bit for later. Rather than stress my everyday nippers cutting through the thick runners I use a pair of heavy duty general use cutters. Makes quick work of the process.
Where to buy?
I link to Amazon time and time again because it tends to be the lowest price and most accessible source for folks visiting my site. My recommendation is to spend your money at your local, or even online, independent hobby shops. They probably won’t have everything, almost never see GodHands in a physical shop, but they’re a dying breed of old school model makers.