Gunpla disassembly can be pretty daunting task for beginners. It might also seem quite pointless. Because why would anyone take apart the kit they just built? For more seasoned builders though, it’s one of the biggest advantages of Bandai’s snap-fit engineering. Ability to completely disassemble a kit makes it much easier to test fit.
Test fitting is important process in most scale modeling branches. It allows modelers a glimpse at assembled model without actually gluing it. Often done using masking tape and poster putty, test fit helps identify any issues that need fixing and plan out the build. In case of Gunpla, we can simply build the entire kit instead. Later on we can take it apart again for modification and painting.
Gunpla disassembly might seem pretty tricky at first. Maybe you’ve tried it before and damaged your kit. I sure did. Still, with some care and learning a couple easy mods, it becomes a very useful skill.
Modding the kit for easier disassembly
In addition to helping you take kit apart without breaking it, mods like that serve as a great introduction to altering Gunpla. If you’d like to get into customization, but you’re worried about cutting into your kit, those might get you over that initial bump.
The single most important thing for all of those – check how the parts go together before you commit. Cutting a peg that serves as a rotation point will take a fair bit of work to fix. Although it’s a kind of mistake you only make once.
|We’ll only need very basic tools:
- Hobby knife
- Flat file
- Pin vise with some drill bits
Cutting the pegs
Shortening the pegs is the most basic mod to make disassembly easier. Gunpla kits are held together by friction, which is proportional to the size of contact area between surfaces generating it.
Shorter pegs create less friction, making separating the parts much easier. It won’t have much effect on kits sturdiness, we simply won’t need to use as much force to pull the pieces apart.
|First off, we identify which pegs to shorten. We only want to cut the inner (or “male”) pegs. Slicing the outer ones could severely affect kit’s stability and, in some cases, actually make assembly impossible until they’re fixed.
Usual way is to cut all the pegs by 20-40% at about 45° angle. Whenever possible, try to keep all of them slanted in the same direction. It makes separating the parts easier slightly compared to pegs cut in opposite direction.
|Fastest and easiest way to cut the pegs is by using the nippers.
Most brands and models can deal with this task just fine. Never attempt to do it using Godhands though – they’re extremely fragile. Good for cleanly cutting gates, but not much else. Trying to cut through the pegs is an easy way to break them quickly.
In a few rare cases the nippers will be too big to reach pegs. For those you can use your hobby knife. Try to shave them off gradually, as if you were removing nubs, Trying to do it in one cut requires way too much force and can easily lead to bleeding fingers and destroyed parts.
You might also come across thick, solid pegs – like those on the picture. Don’t risk your nippers trying to cut those. Flat file will make quick work of them, so just sand them down.
Not all pegs are round like the examples shown here. This is especially true for MGs, which often use all kinds of weird-shaped pegs to hold the parts together. General rule is always the same though. With some experience you’ll be able to easily recognize what you can and what you mustn’t cut.
Some parts are hard to remove even after cutting the pegs – like this yellow collar on HGGT Ground Type-S. It has a big, cylindrical area around the neck, which creates a lot of friction against underlying blue chest piece.
Rather than trying to lift it with a hobby knife and risk damaging the surface, we can employ a much more elegant solution.
|This is where pin vise comes in. We’ll also need a 1.5 to 2mm drill bit.
We’ll flip the parts over and drill through the chest piece from the inside. It’ll allow us to easily push the collar out.
Best part about this mod – unlike cutting pegs, it can be done on fully assembled kits. If some part is giving you trouble during Gunpla disassembly, check if there’s some spot you can drill through.
|All we need now is a toothpick.
Now that we’ve covered the mods, let’s disassemble a kit!
|I’ll be disassembling same kit I’ve used above – HGGT Gundam Ground Type-S.
Couple things that might come useful:
- Hobby knife (preferably with a dull chisel blade)
- Some toothpicks
- Parts separator
Parts separators are often included in those cheap Chinese toolkits you can get off Amazon. If you don’t have one – don’t worry. You can easily make your own by sharpening a scrap piece of 2-3mm plastic sheet. Since the polystyrene is rather soft, it’ll lose the edge eventually, so remember to sharpen it every now and then.
|Obviously, first off we split the kit into major subassemblies.
Think of Gunpla disassembly as reverse building. Following the manual backwards is a good starting point when taking the kits apart.
|Remember to quickly rock / rotate the parts back and forth when you’re pulling them off. This way, you’ll need to use much less force. As usual, less force = lesser risk of damage.
|Next up, we split the parts at the joints. Try to pull as many parts as possible out of polycaps at this stage. Taking lone polycap off a ball joint is much harder than separating them while it’s sandwiched between other parts.
|While quite a few parts should split up easily, eventually we’ll need to pick up a separator.
It’s pretty simple to use – just line it up between the parts, lightly push against them and rock it up and down to wiggle in.
If it’s having trouble squeezing in, check the edge on the separator and sharpen it if necessary.
|Some toothpicks are great to have on hand as well, even if you’re not doing the drill mod. They’re awesome for pushing out hard-to-grab parts.
For bigger and heavier parts, cut off ~1mm off the tip – they won’t break as easily.
|Finally, there’s the hobby knife.
You can use it in the same way you’d use the part separator. Since it’s much sturdier and has thinner edge, you can use it to pry apart even the most stubborn pieces.
It’s also great for leveraging up polycaps.
Be careful though and, as always, avoid using too much force. Even a dull blade can easily damage the plastic.
|And there we go – entire kit disassembled to its base parts.
Make sure you know ahead of time how you’re going to store them. You can separate them by limbs and colors, pack into plastic containers, ziplock bags or prop up on painting clips straight away. It’s up to you, just don’t wait until the kit is in pieces to figure it out.
That’s it for this tutorial. As you can see, Gunpla disassembly is nothing to be scared of. Now, let’s see if I remember how to put it back together…