PUTTY! Huh, Yeah! What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing!

Well, at least when it comes to dealing with massive gaps.

There was a time when I would gather my allowance and bottle return money and bike on down to the hobby store. Back then I didn’t care too much about what model I was going to get. Oh sure I longed for the big boxes on the tops of the shelves but that wasn’t happening with ten-cent bottle returns. Nope, I went for the value kits. The ill-fitting ones with dodgy decals and a plethora of gaps, steps, and misaligned halves.

Ahhh… Good times!
Image from magnusf over on the Kitmaker forums

At first, I lived with these imperfections. After all, most of my kits barely made it through the build without something going sideways. But then I started to get better. And then I cared a little more. And I stopped using these model airplanes to run arc light missions against my green army men. Eventually, gaps and other imperfections started to bother me. I had to do something about them.

At some point, I got turned onto Squadron Green putty. I thought it was a gift from the modeling gods. Why, with a few gobs of that instantly drying paste, what didn’t crumble off the model could be shoved into gaps. And when it was fully dry and rock hard, it could be filed down and sanded! Yay! Those gaps were gone!

Now… where are my rasps?

But then so too was the detail and my fuselages had flattened sections.

My love affair with Squadron Green was very short-lived before I gave up and shelled out for the slightly better Tamiya grey. I bought a ton of that stuff. I might be misremembering things but I seem to recall having to buy a tube with every second or third model. I am not sure what this is saying about my kit choices but I recall completely buttering this stuff on. I usually made a complete mess of things when sanding it off; even when I used wet sandpaper.

Oh! And then the time when I found out I could use nail polish remover to smooth out the putty! No sanding! No dust! No clogged files! But to my surprise, melted plastic! Ok, that did not happen the second time but what did happen is that my gaps eventually re-appeared as the Tamiya putty off-gassed and shrank.

Over the years I developed better gap strategies. First is to avoid them by dry-fitting the parts and then surgically sanding them for a gap minimized join. I then apply all sorts of clamps, elastics, clothes pins, books, tape, and if it warrants it: weights. If I am still left with an unavoidable trench-like gap, I don’t use putty. I use styrene shims to fill the gap and a bead of CA to seal everything in. I ultimately polish the surface with fine sanding sticks.

Want to see how I do it? Check this out

Last Thing

I have not completely eliminated putty from the workbench. I use acrylic stuff for hairline cracks and I have been known to use some Mr. Surfacer 1000, Tamiya grey, and Bondo from time to time. But, I have found my building skills have improved to the point where I rarely use the stuff to “fix” a model’s poor fit.

I’d love to hear some putty stories – the good and the bad. Do you use the stuff a lot? What are your strategies to avoid putty tragedies? Do you still have a tube of Squadron Green? Let me know!

6 thoughts on “PUTTY! Huh, Yeah! What is it good for?

Add yours

  1. Yep! Sounds like the path I staggered down. Like you, I now fill with styrene whenever possible (my SR-71 build comes to mind). When the gaps and misalignments are so bad that even styrene doesn’t work well (SR-71) I use Aves Epoxysculpt. When my ROTTEN scribing “abilities” result in small scratches (some not so small) my go-to has become 3M Acrylic putty. Fills tiny scratches (unlike Squadron green) and will sand down to a PERfect feathered edge unlike Squadron too often will not. And yes…I still have a tube of Squadron green. It’s probably solidified…

    Liked by 1 person

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