In this section and the next I'll just rush through the basics really quick - they are repeated everywhere and the techniques are more or less the same. I'll just point out in more details some of the special things you can do with MG kits.

If you're starting out, You owe it to yourself to buy one or two real books on basic modeling. Remember, no matter how fancy the finish is, the kit will be ruined if the basics are not done perfectly. I recommend Modeling Tanks and Military Vehicles by Shephard Paine, Painting and Finishing Scale Models by Paul Boyle (both published by Kalmbach Books) and Perfect Modeling Manual by Max Watanabe.

If you buy from a shop you can ask to check the parts. To do this quickly, you can take the instruction out and count the number of sprues to see if they match what's in the box.
I leave the sprues in the bags as long as possible, since exposed sprues can scratch each other.
The first step is to test fit, which basically means you snap the kit together. To do this efficiently I basically follow the instructions and cut all the parts off the sprue first (switching tools takes a lot of time), separating parts into subassemblies that I can distinguish. If you aren't very experienced with these kits I don't recommend doing this. Recent Bandai kits follows the excellent Japanese manufacturing guideline - that most people are idiots and the only way to prevent them from doing the wrong thing is to prevent it from happening. So most of the time when you try to snap the wrong pieces together, you'll have trouble doing it.

Cutting is best done with a nipper. I bought a Xuron "microshear" that claims to leave no "gates" behind, which is where the sprue is attached to the parts. Although it's pretty clean, some work is still needed to remove the traces left behind the gates. So if you're on a budget, simply use a tweezer, and when you cut remember to not cut too close to the part but rather leave some gate behind. If you cut too close to the plastic surface, you'll leave holes on the plastic surface.

Next I clean up the gates, first by using a knife to trim away most of the excess, and then use #220 grit sandpaper to level out the rest. Then #400grit to smooth it out. Some people prefer to go even higher grit, but I don't find that necessary. A layer of paint and you won't be able to tell the difference.

Attaching sand paper on a popsicle stick works quite well. You can use white glue to attach it. Files are also good for removing the gates and I use it sometimes.
Now the Bandai kits are snap-fit with these male-female sockets between parts. Once they're snapped together you'll have a helluva time pulling them apart. I always trim the male part at an angle first. This reduces the contact area so that they can be pulled apart easily, but the male part still retains most of its length and will hold the parts pretty well during snap-fitting.

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