Instruction sheets: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

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Today I picked up the re-released AMT IH 4300 Eagle semi truck kit, and upon opening I noticed the instruction sheet which has some nice large pictures of a built model of the kit. Inside, there's not only pictures of the assemblies, but also some small text blurbs that provide insight into the best way to assemble the parts, along with paint color suggestions. There's also sections that describe the best way to apply the kit decals (and where to trim), assembly and painting suggestions, and even a bit of info on the truck itself. (IH Scout kit also has the same deal)

Even though when I build, I don't usually follow the instructions, I found that these particular instructions are a great example of how all instructions should be.

The one thing that I couldn't stand about instructions (when I followed them) was the system where each color is given a letter, and the letters are just posted in each step. Rather than having to flip back and forth, I actually had to write them down separately. I suppose it works when you have a lot of parts, such as with the Italeri truck kits, but otherwise it just gets confusing (look at the AMT Chevy C1500 kit as an example). On AMT's older kits, they also threw in the assembly order numbers so you'd know what went together first (second, third, ...) for each step. May be helpful for certain assemblies, such as when you can't really tell if something may interfere with something else, but the way they used it in every step on the '84 GMC pickup, it just makes the thing look cluttered.

Of course, I think I've seen a few kits (can't think of any off hand) where there's no guidance whatsoever, and you have no clue how to put the parts together so they fit, or how a piece is supposed to attach (radiator hoses are usually a big offender of this).

*whew* So anyways, what are you goods and bads for assembly instructions?

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Posted · Report post

Bad: Pocher.

They leave out a lot of things, make you guess at a lot of things, completely leave out entire sequences and assemblies... and if you actually do try and follow the instructions step by step, you'll wind up having to disassemble things you already assembled in order to get later assemblies to go where they're supposed to go! For kits that have anywhere between 800 and 2600+ parts depending on which kit you're talking about, you'd assume that a complete, accurate and detailed assembly manual would be a given, but no!

I would think that the absolutely horrible instruction books are the main reason so many people start one of these kits and just give up in frustration, and sell the thing on ebay halfway built.

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Posted · Report post

Geeze, for that many parts I agree that you would think that they would provide clear and concise instructions.

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Posted · Report post

The kit that really got me hooked was Monogram's 1936 Ford back in 1962.

Not an overly complex kit but state-of-the-art at the time and the instructions have rarely been bettered.

Particularly useful were the photos of the 5 possible versions and that photos of sub-assemblies etc were used throughout to compliment the drawings and text. Even a then 12 year-old couldn't go wrong.

I think you have to fast-forward 50 years to see this quality again - the Mobious Hudson. I haven't built the kit yet but the instuctions make for a very good first impression.

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Posted · Report post

Of kits I've built recently, the Dodge D-700 truck had some of the worst instructions. Basically a couple of exploded drawings.

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Posted · Report post

Bad: Pocher.

They leave out a lot of things, make you guess at a lot of things, completely leave out entire sequences and assemblies... and if you actually do try and follow the instructions step by step, you'll wind up having to disassemble things you already assembled in order to get later assemblies to go where they're supposed to go! For kits that have anywhere between 800 and 2600+ parts depending on which kit you're talking about, you'd assume that a complete, accurate and detailed assembly manual would be a given, but no!

I would think that the absolutely horrible instruction books are the main reason so many people start one of these kits and just give up in frustration, and sell the thing on ebay halfway built.

Have to agree this one was a nightmare.

alfa3.jpg

Plus it was in Italian.

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Tamiya's instruction sheets are frustrating to me , for the simple reason of their colour chart !

I can appreciate the universal aspect to their instructions , and I actually like the clear illustrations in said instructions ; however , their colour chart frustrates me just the same :wacko: .

AMT's instructions from the 70's used to be my biggest peeve when I was a young'in ! No freakin' part numbers to be found ! I still shudder when I look at them these days (i.e. , the repro sheets in the Round2 retro kits . I like them now , but I still get "flashbacks" to my childhood when I see 'em :blink: .

The number 1 irritating , drive you to the institution "assembly guide" goes to ...

Pyro .

Their one-page "instructions" consist of nothing more than an exploded view of the kit !! No wonder why one rarely sees one of these in a completed state !!

I got a 32nd scale 1914 Renault from a dying friend . He bought it back in the 60's ; opened it up and saw those instructions , and put the kit back in its box , ne'er to be viewed again until 2005 when I got it :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: .

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Posted (edited) · Report post

1/16 Mercedes SS Cabriolet - complicated, with a high parts count.

UGLY: Revell version with drawings only and no written instructions, except for an undecipherable description of lacing the wire wheels.

BAD: Academy/Minicraft version with written instructions added, but not much detail

GOOD: Minicraft 1992 reissue with very good, enhanced instructions. If you have one of the earlier versions of this kit, you can download these instructions at drasticplastics

http://public.fotki....raft-1928-merc/

Edited by sjordan2

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Posted · Report post

So my question is why can't the model companies print a straight forward and simple to figure out diagram sheet?

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Bad: Pocher.

They leave out a lot of things, make you guess at a lot of things, completely leave out entire sequences and assemblies... and if you actually do try and follow the instructions step by step, you'll wind up having to disassemble things you already assembled in order to get later assemblies to go where they're supposed to go! For kits that have anywhere between 800 and 2600+ parts depending on which kit you're talking about, you'd assume that a complete, accurate and detailed assembly manual would be a given, but no!

I would think that the absolutely horrible instruction books are the main reason so many people start one of these kits and just give up in frustration, and sell the thing on ebay halfway built.

I've downloaded some of their instructions from modelmotorcars.com as reference for my 1/16 kits including vintage Rolls and Mercedes, and they seem to stop short of showing final assembly, such as mounting the body to the chassis. Is it this way on the hard copy?

Edited by sjordan2

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Posted · Report post

I remember some time in the '70's or early '80's many company's went with a simplistic form of instructions where there was little to no written instruction. Most of what was there was in pictures or symbols. I think this did a great injustice to the novice builder as they lost any learning experience the may have gained from reading the instructions.

Now don't short change the young builders. I remember many times as a youngster building model aircraft and coming across words I had never seen before and , yes, actually taking the time to look them up. Years latter I found myself aceing many Navy test about aircraft, wondering how I had this knowledge with my model building experience being the only answer.

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AMT's instructions during the Ertl days were probably the best domestic sheets. The technical drawings are clear, the parts have names, numbers and color callouts, and usually included a factory exterior/interior chart. You could debate the accuracy of that information, but at the time there was no google images.

Tamiya has the best sheets overall for concise multi-paint parts, bringing well researched color callouts, and the interior/exterior factory color guide. I can see how the paint callouts individually could be frustrating to some, but I use their paints, and I know the colors by their codes (eg XF-16 = Flat Aluminum), so I personally enjoy not having to wonder what shade of gray "Light Gray" really is...

Moebius is taking strides in the right direction, but currently the color charts on the Hudson & C300 border on useless as you need to make a copy of the back page or suffer through constantly folding the directions open and shut. Not to mention a GREAT deal of parts don't even have mention as to what color to paint them at all. Go ahead and paint the ยข300 engine without using any reference pictures, just straight from the information (or rather lack thereof) on the instructions.

Lastly a big thumb down to Revell with the beginning of 2012 started using the old style instructions with no parts names or colors on the.steps, but rather the little letters in block squares that correspond to a color chart at the beginning. It's very 1980's Monogram and annoying in that way.

Honorable disappointing mention goes to the reissue of the '69 Olds Hurst 442 which has tiny drawings and no words or colors which is stupid, they should have reprinted the excellent ones from it's 1996 AMT/Ertl issue.

Edited by niteowl7710

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Posted · Report post

I agree with James; I like the mid-90s AMT sheets; Tamiya's sheets are very nicely detailed, but it does take a little time to learn the paint codes. One common fault all Japanese instruction sheets have is a general lack of English, relying too much on pictures.

Moebius' sheets aren't bad, but could use a little more detail and should either go to the standard AMT/Tamiya-size sheet or follow the LoneStar-style booklet.

The 1960s Monogram sheets I've seen with nice photos of the assembly and very detailed wording aren't bad, either.

Charlie Larkin

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I think the Accurate Miniatures McLaren had to be right up there with the most confusing! I spoke to Tom West about it once and he told me that they where perfect when he drew them up, but, the guys at Accurate got a hold of them and totally boogered them up! He also told me about how Aurora also totally messed up their Racing series by not following his directions.

So sometimes it is just how the instructions get re-done down the line.

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I recently purchased a vintage Jo-Han Chrysler Turbine car. All you get are exploded views of parts in a few pictures. Now, I have the skills needed to assemble such a beast but back in the day this type of assembly sheet MUST have been frustrating.

Bob

One of the best was Revell's Funny car and dragster kits. Great drawings and nothing left to interpretation.

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Posted · Report post

I have always liked most amt instuction sheets. l keep the insructions to everything l build...

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Posted · Report post

Tamiya is great of course. Nice drawings and no confusion as to what portion of each part gets painted.

Trumpeter has really nice drawings, but often don't mention the color of parts.

The worst has to be with many resin "kits". Many of these have no instructions at all. Zero. So no instructions has to be the worst. And of the "kits" that did attempt instructions, the Ross Gibson engines are the worst.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

A tip that makes it easier for me to deal with certain types of instruction sheets, particularly those with several pages:

I print out a couple of copies on my printer, then cut them and tape them together in a sequence that makes it easy for me to see everything at a glance, sort of like opening up a folding road map. Helps to see where you're going without flipping pages, and is useful for making notes directly on the instructions, which can also be seen at a glance.

This can also be done so you can spread out multiple pages in front of you without having to turn over the pages to look at the opposite side.

Edited by sjordan2

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The worst has to be with many resin "kits". Many of these have no instructions at all. Zero. So no instructions has to be the worst. And of the "kits" that did attempt instructions, the Ross Gibson engines are the worst.

Ditto for PE parts. If it weren't for a very nice tutorial on this site, I would be up the creek with doing PE wire wheels. PE wipers and all types of hinges are still an issue for me.

Edited by sjordan2

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