As my debut column
I felt that a vintage kit (or kits) was in order. Over the years I have
assembled many kits and have had major success in painting and detailing.
One of my proudest achievements has been to capture the look of rocks
and gravel with my brush on the molded stones. The steps I will show you
are not hard and use limited skills to achieve a professional finish.
I use no airbrush or expensive precision tools. All these steps can be
shown to your children and save your hard-earned cash. During the assembly
of these kits, I used only two brushes to paint these kits. I would advise
you to supervise younger modelers and ensure they don't get too carried
away with the paints and glues. Modeling teaches a youngster many things:
eye-hand coordination, the blending of colors and how to follow written
instruction. The most notable factors are patience and stress relief.
I have incorporated my modeling experience in many facets of life, from
working in a machineshop running precision equipment, to repairing weapons
systems in the military. I attribute all my assembly skills to modeling.
It truly is an art.
During the early 1970's,
Aurora ventured into the themed kits. With their success of the monster
and superhero lines, they went to a more "kid friendly" snap-together
approach. One of these ventures was the "Prehistoric Scenes" line. This
extensive collection had a unique charm. One of the major points was the
ease of assembly and the ability to snap the selected bases together and
complete a dinosaur diorama scene. The kits were mainly molded in orange
plastic, which coaxed the builder into painting the kit to achieve a more
Here are the instruction sheets for the Cave bear and the Cave kits. As
you can see, there is a stark contrast in the two examples. The Cave Bear
showing a completed painted kit, where-as the Cave having a more comic
When I received these
kits to assemble for a fellow collector, I first had to clean and inventory
the parts. These kits were purchased from an on-line auction and were
picked up for a very affordable price. Cleaning was nothing more than
washing the parts in warm dishwater. This is done to remove dust from
the 30 years of storage and also to remove any remnants of mold release.
The first step when assembling a model should always be washing the pieces
and letting them air dry prior to painting and assembly.
on left shows the parts of the Cave Bear. As you can see, this kit
had a more youthful audience in mind. As you can see, not a lot of
parts there, just the base and a part of a stone wall. The one thing
that caught my eye was the model was molded in black. This was the
first prehistoric kit I ever saw molded in that color.
Here is a shot of the base after I base-coated it with flat black spray
paint. Even though this kit was already black, I base-coated with black
paint. With all kits I paint, I base coat with black paint so that the
painting and blending will be uniform. In some cases, I will start to
add my highlights while the base coat is still tacky.
Here is the same base with the back wall after a light wash of flat white
was applied. As you can see, there is not a lot of white there. It only
takes a little to draw out the details of the plastic. Also in the background
I left the brush there to show you that you don't need any extravagant
modeling brushes for this. That brush was purchased at a local chain store
in a pack of six brushes for under $5. When applying the wash, I would
simply shake the paint well, remove the lid and touch the brush onto the
underside of the lid. Don't dip your brush in the paint bottle! (Not once
during painting will I dip the brush into the actual bottle of paint.
This cuts down on the amount of paint used and also keeps me from getting
paint runs on the rim of the bottle resulting in a bottle that vice-grips
can't open.) Once the paint is on the brush, I applied a very light sweeping
motion across the existing grains of the base and wall. In some areas
I went with a circular motion as well, but only to bring out more details
in areas like the rock circle.
Here is a look at the base after I applied the greens and browns to add
contrast to the floor. I did a little research and found that sometimes
moss and leaves would be used in cave floors to insulate creatures from
the elements. I decided to add some greens to bring out both details and
colors to these bases. Again, I applied the same painting technique. When
attempting to bring out the depth, I always go with darker colors first
so that the lighter colors will pop out at you when you're done.
Here is the completed kit. As you can see, the nameplate says it all.
Also gives a vague background of the beast. The bear was painted in the
same fashion as the base, the flat black base coat with a wash of a dark
brown instead of white. I left him alone after that. The detail of the
molded fur did all the work for me. As you can also see, I filled all
the mold seams with "Squadron Green Putty". I have used several putties
in the past, but have had the best success with the Green Putty. It is
workable and sandable in less than 30 minutes. A fine brush was used to
bring out the teeth and tongue of the bear. Upon completion, I sprayed
a coat of "Dull Coat" matte spray over the entire kit. This gives the
assembled piece a more uniform sheen and aids in a professional appearance.
Here is the unassembled Cave. As you can see, this is a very busy kit.
Lots of parts and playthings to send your imagination into overload. Again,
after the warm soapy bath, I inventoried the parts and started to work.
This kit was going to be more of a challenge than the bear for many reasons.
The size and the seams. Filling the mold seams on a figure such as the
bear was a snap. A fine bead of putty, lightly sanded and scribed hair
patterns and you can hardly see them. This was totally different. The
base alone had 5 pieces the size of the bear's stand!
Here is the seam on a portion of the base. The glossy area is glue I used
to tack the parts together. I realize it looks sloppy, but after the putty,
they will not be seen.
Here is the same seam after I applied the putty. As you can see, I followed
the original pattern with my scribe to blend in the mold lines. The darker
green lines are not low spots; they are areas where the putty had not
Here is the base after it received its base coat of flat black. I pre-fit
all parts to ensure proper placement of the center column that will support
the roof section of the cave itself. This is a critical piece to this
kit and I needed to scribe lines to ensure proper placement when the time
Here is the key parts glued in place. I discovered that by assembling
the center column first and placing it on the base, it would be more helpful
in final assembly. Please remember these kits were not designed to be
glued together, but to achieve the look I wanted also to aid in shipment,
I decided to go the extra step and glue it all. I applied the green putty
to hide the rigid lines where the parts met. Notice the thick coating
on the column. This piece was actually three pieces. To achieve the look
of rock I simply smeared the putty on thick and in an up and down motion
with my finger. As the putty started to dry it began to stick to my fingers
and pull away from the plastic. This proved to be an easy way to recreate
a rock pattern.
Here is the base receiving its dry-brush of white. As you can tell by
the brush, there is hardly any paint present on the bristles. Remember,
when using a color such as white over black, a little goes a long way.
Also shown is the center column where you can see the dry-brush brought
out the details of the putty I applied. Also you will notice that the
greens were added to the cave floor in a similar fashion to the bear's
base. I actually slid the bear next to the cave floor to ensure that the
painted areas flowed together in case the owner wanted to display them
Here is the top of the cave. As you can see, the stone formations are
very defined here. Again, a light wash applied and then my Brown was lightly
added. Ensure you don't cover all the white. Stones take on several unique
appearances and the white adds character. The browns I used were (Model
Masters Brand) field drab and military brown. Once completed, I touched
up a few areas with both flat black and my white to highlight.
Here is a closer look at the completed roof as compared to the base.
Here is the assembled cave without the added pieces for the diorama. The
stone and base tied together very well.
This picture shows the cave with its full compliment of bones, spears
and skins. You will notice the flame in the lower right cooking the meat.
I ensured that the colors on that side of the cave had a more yellowish
tint to create a fire light effect. Also notice on the shadowing, the
center column is darker on the side furthest from the fire. The interior
was completely painted in this fashion to recreate the primitive lighting
of the cave. Always remember how you view the kit and available lighting
won't always compliment your painting skills. Sometime you have to cheat
the system and create your own shadows. After I added all the accessories,
the cave received the Dull Coat finish same as the bear.
Here is where the two kits come together. As you can see, by painting
them with the same style and with the same colors, you can't tell they
are actually two separate kits. These kits are not glued together or fastened
in any way. That is how the whole series assembles. Aurora was so far
ahead of their time.
Here is the rear of the cave. Move over Fred Flintstone! As you can see,
the rocks look very realistic and it is hard to believe that this entire
model was painted with the same brush. That's right. One brush and only
eight total colors! And you thought this was going to be hard!
In closing of
this edition, I want to thank Barry Kay for furnishing me with these vintage
kits to assemble. I had a lot of fun and I think that with a little practice
anyone can achieve the same finish. As you can see by the above picture,
my shop is a mess and I have to get it cleaned up before supper.