Gunpla Chronicles - Surgery Edition

In today’s post, I’d like to show you my first near disaster. Take a look at the following picture of the Zaku’s right leg:

Part of the joint is pretty nasty looking, eh? That’s because it snapped off when I tried connecting the legs to the torso.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened - or rather, I know how it happened (I tried pulling it back out from the torso when it seemed to be in too snugly), but I’m not sure how it broke the way it did.

What I also know is that I almost made the situation go from “bad” to “unfixable”. Note to any other potential Gunpla builders - try not to panic if something breaks, but if you can’t help yourself, step away from the model until you can calm down.If you’re panicked, you’ll be pressed to find a solution as quickly as possible, and in such a state of mind, you likely won’t come up with the best solution. Also, your work will be rushed and sloppy, which can easily sabotage your plan.

This is exactly what happened to me. My first reaction was to see if I can simply glue the piece back onto the leg. I knew I would lose flexibility, but I was willing to sacrifice that if need be. Unfortunately the glue wouldn’t stick. I thought it was because I was simply being impatient and not letting it set, so what did I do? Continue to be impatient and not let it set. The broken joint piece became encrusted by glue as the night went on, and I began to lose hope.

I was only saved by the wisdom of my wife, who pointed out that what I was using was not super glue, but “Extra Strength Adhesive”. She promised that if I got some actual super glue, the piece would hold. Naturally I trusted her, and feeling better, I went to sleep for the night, determined to get a new tube of glue the next day. In a narcolepsy fueled spout of heavy sleep, I had a lightbulb moment. I woke up and went to test my theory, and sure enough I was right. It turns out that certain pieces of sprue had the same diameter as the hole in which the broken joint piece plugged into the leg. If I sanded off the broken part of the joint piece, I could super glue on a small piece of sprue, at which point the piece would be functionally good as new. Then only problem remaining would be removing the plastic that was stuck inside the leg after the break. Some further googling revealed that I had a drill bit of exactly the right size for the job.

I knew that if I took a drill bit to my model, I could very well break it for good. So I went online to find out if anyone else had the same crazy idea. This is when I came across the concept of “pinning”, in which you fix or reinforce a fragile joint by drilling a hole all the way through one or more pieces and inserting a support shaft. With my theory confirmed, I knew my plan could work if only I was careful. I decided to turn the drill bit by hand, partly to be careful, and partly because I didn’t have a working drill to use. Suffice to say that after a few cuts and some very raw fingers, I did it. The broken plastic fell right out, and I was left with a perfectly ready joint.

This is the closest example I could find of what “pinning” is.

The next day, I got some new super glue, and by sheer coincidence I also found a tube of the Extra Strength Adhesive on the shelf. Looking at the package, I saw that it was not meant to bond to plastic. My wife was right; I was using the wrong stuff from the very start.

The super glue, on the other hand, worked faster than I expected (I almost got my fingers stuck together). It bonded the joint to a small piece of sprue, and I filed it down to the right size. I plugged it back into the leg joint, and voila - a perfectly working leg, albeit one that was ugly as sin.

I’m incredibly happy that I managed to fix my problem and repair my Zaku, but I wish I never put myself into this position in the first place. This incident was an important reminder that these kits are not toys. It is crucial to be slow and careful when moving any joint on any piece, no matter how sturdy it feels. A broken part isn’t worth a spat of impatience.