1:100 Zaku Kai (ザク改)
Back when I started building Gundam kits in 2000, I needed to know how to create hollow spheres for some Tallgeese work I was planning - to answer my question, someone pointed me toward a Suku Suku scratch article in which that process, as well as many others, were detailed, repeatedly and consistently, in a scratchbuild of a 1:100 scale Zaku Kai. This article had a deep impact on my modeling work, in part because what the modeler was achieving was so far beyond what I was capable of at the time, and in part because he made it look so easy - even going to the point of building parts multiple times, using two or three different approaches, and getting the same great results each time. I learned from the articles, not only how things could be done, but what could be accomplished.
For a long time I've mostly avoided modeling the subjects I have a real passion for. This is because I tend to get carried away in my projects, and if I'm modeling one of my favorite subjects my hopes and standards for the project become that much more rigorous. I've decided, however, that this pattern is self-defeating: I've put lots of time into other projects that could have been put into the projects I'm most interested in. The good news is I learned a lot along the way, so I hope to put that knowledge to good use here.
Izubuchi's designs have long been favorites of mine, and the Zaku Kai is one of those I like best. I've wanted a good model of it for a long time, but good models of the subject are very hard to come by. I once attempted to rework the 1:144 injection kit into something I'd be happy with, but I've since given up the effort, feeling that the only way to get a product I'd truly be satisfied with would be to start from scratch. When basing a project like this on a flawed kit, there's a danger that the flaws will be retained, and a possibility that nothing from the flawed kit will be truly useful in creating the new model. I had a bit of difficulty choosing a scale, deciding ultimately on 1:100 because it has more potential for detail than 1:144 and makes for a more impressive display, without being as costly to recast as 1:60.
In the earliest stages of the project I wasn't entirely sure how to create my plans. At first I hoped to gain mastery of the design by practice at drawing it freehand. I thought that when I could draw the design satisfactorily, that I would then be able to translate my own drawings into measurements and create plans. However, after many attempts I failed to gain such mastery. I then started working with measurements taken directly from the original lineart, by scaling the lineart to the size of the model and printing it on metric graph paper. These measurements couldn't be consistent from one image to another in the case of this design, but they were a good basis for creating my first orthographic drawings of the design, which I then refined through trial and error to establish a consistent 3-D design which I feel captures the elements of the original design which I wanted in my model. The process is still ongoing, but I'm very pleased with the progress so far.
To many modelers the concept of "scratchbuilding" is almost alien - something you only read about other people doing. But really, there's no reason why this should be so. Building parts yourself is just another set of skills to learn. I think scratchbuilding is a psychological barrier for many intermediate modelers, just as painting or seam treatment are often psychological barriers for beginners. Building parts can be difficult, but really it's like anything else: a skill accessible by "mere mortals", one you learn by doing. I think it's easy to lose sight of that if you let the idea intimidate you. So come on in, the water seems cold at first but once you're in it's nice.
While I've built parts before, this is my first attempt at building something so extensive (and with so much demand for precision) entirely from scratch. Armed with techniques from the Gundam Scratchbuild Manual and other sources, and perhaps a bit of overconfidence, I am past the "intimidation" phase and now tackling the real challenges of building parts. I find it's neither as hard as I might have feared nor as easy as I might have hoped. It seems my confidence is checked regularly by flaws in my results: but if these early steps forward with this project are slow or faltering, they are at least steps forward nonetheless.
Construction started in mid November, 2006, and is currently ongoing. Some of the processes for building the parts will be drawn from the Gundam Scratchbuild Manual, and others will come from other sources.