Welcome to what has become one of, if not the, most extensive guide on scratch building 1:64 scale custom parts for Hot Wheels and other branded Diecast Cars you’re ever likely to read. Not only have I managed to get some of the best guys in the business sharing their work and tips on how to build from scratch, I’ve also thrown in a few other options and ideas of my own so that no matter what the part required, there’s a damn good chance that by the end of this article you’ll know exactly how to fabricate it … that’s ‘scratch build’ in fancy talk by the way.
Before we get into it we need to be introduced to the material that will make up the majority of our scratch built parts, because without it we’ll be doing a lot of scratching, aaaaaaannnnnd not much building.
Introducing Styrene – The Ultimate Modelling Solution
According to Wiki Styrene is ‘ethenylbenzene, vinyl.. way too confusing and now my brain hurts quite frankly. So let’s just ask Stanislaus Sawung Garuntara (what is this – tongue twister week?!)…SSG for short- since he is one of the afore mentioned ‘best guys in the business’ and has kindly agreed to share his work. So SSG, Styrene aye?
“The plastic is called styrene, some people called it plastic beam.. It has so many form and various thickness.. The most common form is square, round tube, half tube, and styrene sheets.. The International brand is called plastruct.. It has so many many form.. I think Tamiya also has this kind of product.
– I get it from a local hobby store.. Or a diorama store.. Or a store that stock for an architect to construct their mini construction site”
A Google or 2 Later…
Styrene sheets, strips, rods, and various other shapes used for modelling are available from two main suppliers:
- Plastruct (thanks SSG) who are ‘International suppliers of architechtural, educational and hobby model parts’ and,
- Evergreen Scale Models who are the world’s largest producer of styrene plastic shapes, strips, and sheet materials in metric and inch sizes for building accurate models.
…and based on the above explanations it is easy to see which of the two we should be visiting. But since I visited them both I can confirm that Evergreen is definitely the place to purchase your styrene sheets and other assorted shapes. Evergreen also happen to be the brand/supplier to most major hobby stores and distributers of model making material around the world.
Click the link above to view their website and product range but as SSG mentioned, check your local hobby store because you’ll probably find the same thing I did – a whole section dedicated to evergreen modelling products that you didn’t even notice before!
Now we need to learn how best to use this stuff (because,among the myriad of awesome things we can scratch build, we can make that engine there!) and so I took it upon myself to do some research and watched 5 or 6 videos on the topic. This one below by CustomsByZ is without doubt the most thorough and easy to follow of them all and is a MUST WATCH for anyone reading this who has little to no experience working with Styrene.
After the video we will look at how this best applies to custom Hot Wheels, although to be honest I genuinely feel that after watching this guide from CustomByZ you will be confident enough to jump straight in and get to customizing 😀
A Guide to Working With Styrene
It really does look fun to work with and I for one cannot wait to get my hands dirty (so to speak) and start creating stuff! I know I should probably be thinking about diffusers and spoilers and winches and pneumatic arms and other awesome stuff like that but all I keep reverting back to is the architectural side of modelling with styrene because, hello? Diorama!
Scratch Build Hot Wheels Parts with Styrene
Today I would like to introduce some customisers that probably – don’t need an introduction if I’m honest – but hey we’re all here so … 😉
The first customizer has already been introduced and has been without doubt the most valuable resource for me when putting this guide together. For that I again thank you Stanislaus, you are truly a valuable member of this most awesome of communities. Stan built a replica of a famous custom wrecker built by @Madworxkustom (who is our next contributor funnily enough) and kindly shared with me(us) the WIP photos – all of which show him skillfully using Styrene to scratch build the entire tow truck rear end. I think there is almost as much to learn from the following images as there are from the above video – at least I can safely say that “with their powers combined” …well you won’t be going all Captain Planet anytime soon but you will be scratch building some badass stuff :p
Amazing to think that nearly every additional part on this custom chevy wrecker/tow-truck was scratch built using nothing but styrene and a serious mix of skill and creativity.
The finished product is called ‘El Imitador’ (The Imitator) as a way of paying homage and ultimate respect to Hadi MadworxKustom… who just happens to be our next guest. (Damn I’m getting good at this segue shit!)
Hadi Rochmansyah (Instagram @Madworxkustom) is a good customizing friend of mine who truly lives up to his Instagram Namesake. His custom creations are not only Mad in design and workmanship, they also just Work(ssss).
In what has turned out to be a rather fortunate coincidence, let’s take a look at the custom that inspired the El Imitador above and compare the progress shots and finished build.
But wait, there’s more! And you thought I Hadi finished with @Madworxkustom 😉
Hadi shows us what it means to well and truly build parts from scratch using that wonderful stuff we call Styrene.
The entire rear half of this Jeep was built from scratch using Styrene
PISSSu’T, CHECK THIS CUSTOMIZER OUT!
The final Hot Wheels customizer to grace us with his presence is someone who like Hadi Rochmansyah has taken the art of customising Hot Wheels to an entirely new level and has helped inspire hordes of budding customisers with his intricate brush work and hellasweet attention to detail. I am talking of course of the one and only Pisut Masanong (Instagram @Masanong) and I think his work speaks best so… yep, shutting up now.
You can see the lighter white of the styrene compared to the dried epoxy (and the most exquisite putty work I have ever seen!) Even the rear stabilisers for the wing are built from scratch using Styrene. Not sure about the wing although knowing Pisut it’s probably also a scratch built part.
In the second stage (after priming and finishing wide body and puttying details) Pisut has added even more scratch built parts using styrene sheets that he has cut and shaped. Again refer to How To Video above for more detailed information about how to bend and stretch and … reach for the stars
Yes those headlights and taillights are hand painted! No I’m not kidding! Yes he is a talented SOB isn’t he. It’s OK, I too am quietly jealous and suspecting aliens.
How To Use Epoxy Putty
I have covered this topic on a few occasions here at MyCustomHotwheels.com and although I could just as easily link you to the article(s) in question I think for this to truly be the epic post I promised means providing the relevant information here and now. So Here (and now) is the basic guide to using Epoxy Putty, because as Stanislaus, Pisut and Hadi have demonstrated (Brilliantly) above, the use of epoxy putty is almost always required when working with styrene and other parts built from scratch.
Not only do Stanislaus,Pisut and Hadi use the epoxy putty to adhere the scratch built styrene parts to the casting, they also utilise the epoxy to make the join appear seamless while creating additional details [with the putty] that may have been too tricky to create using styrene sheets initially.
Working With Epoxy Putty – The Basic Guide
The process of working with epoxy putty is the same regardless of how it is used but note that this guide was written for a build requiring putty to smooth out and hide a join between castings – or in this case a join between Styrene and Diecast.
- I use Milliput brand Epoxy Putty and recommend it highly. I also have a glass of water handy at all times when puttying.
- I mix the two substances supplied in an even 50:50 ratio until the two colours (yellow and white) are one consistent colour (as shown in image above)
- I then take as much as I need and apply it to the applicable area.
- I have a few shaping and moulding tools but in most cases find my finger is far more effective at getting smooth lines and perfect transitions between panels.
- Using my finger I shape and press the putty until it is either filling the desired gap or is the shape and overall size needed (for say a flared wheel arch).
- I then dip my finger in the water (you drank your water didn’t you?! There’s always one. sheesh) because a touch of water on putty is magical
- When you add a touch of water it instantly creates a smooth glossy surface that is pliable (assuming you have not waited too long) and allows you to create amazingly smooth surfaces that harden to a point where minimal sanding is required*
*The images below show the result of applying putty and nothing else – and you can see how smooth the finish is!
Note that the water should only be used once you have the epoxy in place and or when you want to clean your fingers of the excess putty that can sometimes build up on them. Overuse of the water will start to change the properties of the putty and make it too difficult to work with as it no longer wants to adhere itself to the diecast casting.
- Once you are happy with your work look at it from every angle possible and make sure there are no indentations or bulges in the putty work you have just done. It’s amazing how often you can miss the most obvious of ‘issues’ simply because it wasn’t visible from where you sat.
- One thing I find helps is to apply more [putty] than you need initially as apposed to trying to be exact. As you scrape off the excess and push it around with your finger(s) you will find the putty compressing nicely, thus removing any and all chance of ghastly depressions ending up in your beautiful custom.
Epoxy Putty and Styrene
I felt it was important to add the point that when you are working with Styrene to create diffusers and various other go fast bits as demonstrated by Mass Putra Kustomz (Instagram @MassPutraKustomz)above you need to make sure that any wide body requirements are done prior to the addition of the styrene and other scratch built parts. Only after you have finished any and all wide body requirements or extensions should you attach your diffusers, rear wings and whatever other awesome part you have made. Whether at this point you decide putty is required is up to you but again this stage of puttying should be treated as separate to the widebody stage.
For a How To Guide on Using Epoxy Putty to Make a Wide Body Kit Follow this Link –> Rocket Bunny & Wide Body Kits
Scratch Building with Modelling Wire
I’ve been using modeling wire for some time now and found it to be most useful in so many situations and lends itself to a variety of applications. For example, I recently used it to make an awesome hinge for my Storm Trawler – a method I share shortly – but the main thing I have used it for in the past is for sub frames and roll cages, in fact here’s one I prepared earlier 😉
There really is no limit to what you can build from scratch with this most awesome and highly easy to work with wire.
Recently I even created a Bullbar – Roobar – Pushbar – Nudge Bar… call it what you will, in what is a great example of how much you can do with it. This was my first attempt too and although it could use some improvement, the results show that it not only looks great but it’s kinda not that hard to do.
The actual process for creating this nudge bar was fairly straight forward and although the images tell the bulk of the story I should at least mention a couple of things/tips that may help you with your own scratch building modelling wire work.
- I used a pinhead to apply the tiniest drop of superglue to join the ends together as well as the two sections of bullbar.
- I applied slightly more superglue (straight from tube) to attach the bull-bar to the underside of the car (I could use more as noone sees underneath and I could afford to let a slight white stain appear (the results of superglue drying)
- Once I had made the shape for the horizontal cross beams I pushed the flat piece against a golf ball so the curve would be even on both sides (I say old boy, that is good form what what.)
- This is obvious but remember that this wire is so malleable that you can afford to play around with it and pull here and there until you get the overall shape and dimensions just right.
How To Make a Fixed-Position Hinge
The following is an exert from my Storm Trooper Custom Build Post but is most applicable here so I have copied it here in full for easy referencing:
Douglas Cheung has already shared with us how to properly hinge doors and bonnets in this post here where he created proper hinges that functioned incredibly well – and had I the patience or the time I might have gone down the same route for this build. But I don’t. Aaaaand I didn’t.
What I needed was a hinge that would stay in whatever position I placed it, and because I couldn’t be arsed to make a hinging mechanism AND a locking system that would stop it simply falling back down again (we’re not talking bonnets or doors here – it’s a tank for pete’s sake!) I went with door no. 2
Door number 2 involved the use of clay modelling wire – an incredibly malleable and versatile aluminium wire (about 1.5mm thick) that I picked up from a local arts and craft store (Riot for those in Australia)
This wire is what I normally use to create frames or exhausts or just to help prop up and hold sections of customs after I’ve attacked them with a dremel. There’s a hundred other things I’m sure but my point is that this wire is a must have and I stongly recommend adding it to your inventory.
In the interest of actually being helpful I’ve Googled said product and found the following information:
‘The wire in question seems to be readily available from a number of brands and distributors and for my American friends I have taken the liberty of linking the image here to the Amazon product in question, an AMACO brand of modelling wire that will set you back a whole $7.75.’
Using Modelling Wire To Hinge Your Hot Wheels
- To make the hinge I simply superglued a long flat section on the floor of the rear cab and made as perfect a right angle with each piece as I could, allowing for a long section of the wire to protrude straight up from the open back.
- I then placed the top on, marked exactly where it sat [in relation to the wire] and made the first bend – pushing the long straight wire ends through the the window hole.
- Making sure the roof section was still perfectly aligned I used pointy nose pliers to pull the wire through until it was well and truly flush with the walls of both the roof section and main body. I then checked the alignment was still right – it totes was!
- I then turned the wire back on itself and threaded it down through the large hole in the roof, again using the pliers to pull the wire until it was as flush as I could get it.
- I needed to make sure there was enough length on the wire that it would wrap fully around the roof section and in on itself – which obviously would serve as the anchor point for the top – I couldn’t/didn’t want to go putting superglue all over the top of my build!
- I then cut the excess wire and put a touch of superglue on the end where it curled around and touched itself – and my makeshift hinge was complete
Makeshift is hardly the right word because this is actually an incredibly effective way to hinge things because the strength and flexibility of the wire means you can literally hold the door/bonnet/hatchback/boot/neighbours dog…whatever it is you’ve decided to hinge in any position you like – which is a vital ingredient and necessity when taking photos of your custom work. It’s also a great way to make hinges because it’s a boatload easier :p
Closing Thoughts, Built From Scratch
I’ve talked about how customisers begin to see everything as a potential part for their Hot Wheels Custom build (see Oprah sum it up best below) and as a result the world of customizing Hot Wheels and Diecast Cars suddenly becomes a whole lot bigger. But still we are limited to what we can find and how creative we can potentially be with said find. Frustrating much?!
Now the game has changed because we have the power to build from scratch that which we cannot find. Even better we can scratch build that which we no longer need to find. In non-Shakespearean prose (yeah Alex, stop writing like a twat!) that means the only limits are our imagination and ever-growing skillset.
My only advice – to myself as much as all of you – is to get your hands dirty as soon as possible and start playing around with ideas and practicing things that are as ridiculous or as sane as you can dream. Shits and Giggles is after all the gateway to the most insanely epic creations you’ve never seen…or the worst mistake ever (but meh, that’s all part and parcel of the joys of customizing Hot Wheels right 😉
Next week we’ll be scratch building side mirrors – two types in fact, so stay tuned as we continue to explore the world of fabricating our own custom parts and 1:64 scale model pieces. Why? Because #mycustomhotwheels. Oh and #screwyou3dprinter