NOTES #1: Comments on the following Tutorial “Scratchbuilding & Kitbashing” PART I to VII, compiled by Murray Elliot Breen aka surf-the-arts -artist, designer, scale model and diorama builder.

A few years ago, around 2007, I came across a online website with excellent information on Scratch and Kit Building. 
The link was and also noted was the following “Written by Vanya”. While recently searching I sadly found out that this site and the information tutorial has disappeared on the internet.

Luckily I previously printed out each page of the Tutorial in Black & White and Color from the site (but some pages were not fully captured). Now in January of 2013, I have re-written that online tutorial below, with scans of the original photos, and with some scans of intact pages that I originally printed.

Why did I bother to do this? Because I felt personally that this article should be shared with every scale modeler. That they would find the following tutorial extremely helpful; no matter what kind of modeling they create.  So, I decided to publish this tutorial on my blog, even though I do not have any permission from the original artist/modeler/author. 

I have extensively searched to find the tutorial information and the original person/author Vanya – with no luck at the end of 2012.

Vanya’s original quote on the purpose of this tutorial: “This tutorial seeks to pass on some of the knowledge, tips, tricks and techniques that I’ve learned over the years in hopes that others might get the scratchbuilding/kitbashing bug as I did.”

NOTES #2: On January 3rd, 2013 I found this post by ‘dicnar’ at in which the person was looking for John Selvia, aka Ivanis, and he was looking for the “Scratchbuilding/Kitbashing Tutorials”. He noted he had no luck as he found out that John Selvia had passed away. Online dicnar’s links did not work either.

Finding Selvia’s name information led me to finding the following: 

John A. Selvia, 45, of Kettering, Ohio; died on March 18, 2008 from a heart attack, at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. 
He was preceded in death by his mother, Ruth, and his brothers Roger and David. As the Art Director for Channel 2 News in Dayton, Ohio, he had a unique talent for which he received four Emmy awards during the ’90s. In the late ’80s he had defeated cancer.
John Selvia, aka Ivanis. aka Vanya also I presume.
John apparently was an excellent artist, modeler, Photoshop guru, and maintained and He also loved video games, and was learning Russian.

John Selvia’s post on Modelmaking:

Modelmaking – The Next Best Thing to Sculpting by John Selvia

I Have Been Modeling Since 7 Years Old

Like many modelers at a young age, I started off with your basic car models, especially dragsters and funny cars, then started doing semis and tanker trucks.
Later, I got interested in super detailing those models by adding spark plug wires to the engines made from black thread dipped in wax, radiator hoses made from the flexible part of flexible straws, cutting doors out with a jewelers saw and hinging them to open and close, and constantly trying to find ways to make the models more realistic. But it wasn’t enough…

Tanks For the Memories

I went through a major airplane phase after that, primarily World War II P-51Ds and B-29s among others. After burning out on cars and planes, I fell in love with armor modeling, especially German armor, but nearly anything with treads (never appreciated Allied armor-I felt their design was weak from a visual standpoint and I hated the Sherman tank’s design).
Again, my attention turned to details, and I started weathering the models heavily, and adding jerry cans, tent rolls, tools, tank tracks, crates and boxes and anything else I could think of to make them more realistic. Then I started reading Shepherd Paine’s diorama tutorials (included in many tank model kits).
Dioramas are like small scenes where a story takes place in a moment in time-A burned out shelled tank runs off the road into a farmhouse, or a tank that’s wrecked on a bridge has to be moved so the other vehicles can get by. I’d spend days with plywood and a jigsaw and a can of spackle making blown-up buildings, roads, bridges, etc., to get that spark of realism and to exercise my creativity. I loved carving and pitting the spackle to give it that “wartime” look and feel.
I began to realize that the creative part was what did it for me…Then that little movie by George Lucas came out in 1977 and everything changed. My art, drawings, model building, everything…�

Science Fiction Invades My Brain!

I still love a good tank model from time to time, but my passion for the past decade or two has been science fiction ship/vehicle/figure modeling, thanks in a big way to Star Wars and the model work of Industrial Light and Magic.

At first, I only built purchased kits (otherwise known in the modeling universe as “off the shelf” kits) from my favorite TV shows like Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Battlestar Galactica and especially Star Trek. I was also a huge fan of anything with Gerry Anderson’s name on it, like Space 1999 and UFO, but couldn’t find a lot of models from those shows.
At that time, I also did a lot of Aurora models like Planet of the Apes, Forgotten Prisoner of Castle Mare, all the Universal monster model kits, dinosaur models, etc. Then when Star Wars came out, that was it. I purchased every Star Wars ship model known at the time, and was in modeling heaven. My favorites were the X-Wing, the Millenium Flacon, The TIE Fighters, Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter and a few others.
But the creativity wasn’t there that I had enjoyed in armor modeling. You couldn’t exactly build a diorama of a burned out building like you could with tank models, or put mud and grass on a starship like you could with tanks and cars. No architectural destruction, bomb craters in roads.
Yeah, something was missing… 

Enter Scratchbuilding and Kitbashing

When Star Wars first came out, I was amazed with all the detail the ships had. It was as if someone turned the ships inside out and all the functional stuff was on the outside. I had never seen ship designs like that before-ships in the Star Trek universe were smooth with no visible signs of working parts. But Star Wars ships had incredible detail and lots of parts that looked like they could DO something (known as nurnies in the effects industry). That triggered my passion for the detail work and creativity that TV ships lacked.
I started watching anything and everything on the making of Star Wars, even stuff non-model related (I think I’m the only person alive who knew who Ben Burtt was in 1977, only because I saw this great PBS special on the “Making of Star Wars’ Sound Effects” about him).
Through this research, I discovered that they made their ships out of basic materials (wood, metal and plastic for the superstructure) and then used model kit parts to super detail the main structure of the ship. Wow! Who thought of that!? The technique of using model kit parts on your own model is called kitbashing. Making your own ships from scratch and not from a store bought kit is called scratchbuilding.
That did it. I was hooked, and ever since then, I’ve been making scratchbuilt/kitbashed models.

Tutorial by John Selvia:


Tutorial PART I

This tutorial passes on knowledge, tips, tricks and techniques for Scratchbuilding/Kitbashing. Techniques can also be applied to 3D Modeling, as the thought processes are quite similar.

Concentration here is on Found Objects as the basis of a form. I look to manufactured product containers for the basic shapes I need, then build on those with styrene sheet, tube, other found objects and steal detail parts from other kits (called Kitbashing) to make the Starship of my dreams.

These methods are not true Scratchbuilding, but a combination of Scratchbuilding and Kitbashing.

To Scratchbuild Means to See the World in a Different Way

When you go into a hardware store, or even a grocery store, force yourself to start looking for product containers that have interesting shapes. Look at it and think “Wow – There sits my next starship engine, or that deodorant stick case would make a great hand phaser with added parts. Many normal retail store and building items, plus recycled home items can be used, or applied to, in a hobby Scratchbuilding way. Example: perforated metal patterns, small tiles, plumbing PVC parts, thousands of craft store items, artificial plants, watch parts, beads, jewelry, thrift and dollar store treasures, etc., etc.

In art school and drawing classes I learned that the most important part of learning to draw isn’t what technique you develop or how cool it looks, but it’s more important to see.

By learning to see, they mean to look at something, break it down into recognizable shapes and negative space, be able to recognize what angle an arm comes out from the body that’s resting on that knee, what is the true shape of the contour of that wine bottle, what is that person’s nose really shaped like and how high is it in relation to the face etc.

Learn to do that, and you will start to draw successfully. Learning to see as it relates to scratchbuilding models is a little different, but the desired outcome is the same – you will be more successful at it, if you can learn to see objects not as bottles or containers, but as parts of a model ship or prop.

Ergonomic Design

Computer Aided Design, Drafting and something called Nurbs changed the way products are made and designed. Bathroom products have ergonomic, fantastic shapes that can look futuristic with the right amount of detail (called Nurnies) and a good paint detailing. Deodorant cases and shampoo bottles make great phasers or starship engine nacelles or futuristic weapons. Water bottles, and fancy flashlight casings, etc. can be your best friend when you are scratchbuilding.

A Weapon Design made out of Household Items

Did you recognize any of these items? You may have several of them in your bathroom right now! Below is a detail photo of the weapon’s center. Recognize the big object in the middle?

Figure it out yet? This view shows two of the same object types connected together.
If it’s not immediately obvious, don’t feel bad. That’s the idea – take ordinary objects, add some detail parts and viola! instant sci-fi weapon!

The two objects connected together are Aspirin Bottles.

The next image is the weapon’s front. Recognize the household items?

I’ve used two Nestle Quick Chocolate Drink Caps + a plastic Toilet Paper Roll Holder.

The Weapon Parts

In the first photo below, the dark object center front is the 2 chocolate drink caps glued together. The long white tube is the spine of the whole weapon – which is mostly covered in the final design. The half-tube “cage” is half of the toilet paper roll holder. The small cap object on front left is a new floor bolt cover from a commode. The smaller tubes and styrene strips make up a lot of the detail surrounding the Aspirin bottles, drink caps, etc. The second photo below shows some details made from the tubes and strips.

Part I Conclusion

Here are 3 ship or tank type guns made out of styrene tubes and strip. On the first one, I used a gun from a tank model to give it extra detail – this is the Kitbashing part. The Styrene raw material

Below is the first gun, a cannon, ready to be sanded and painted. Weapon was made to rotate 360 degrees.

The second gun is made from styrene tubes, sheet stock, and a long version of the commode bolt cover.
The third gun, is a projectile tube launcher. Lots of small parts, but most of the work is in the 360 degree rotation and tilt capability.

Please see the next blog which contains “Scratchbuilding and Kitbashing” Tutorial Parts II & III by John Selvia.

  1. Alexander Davis says:

    Great stuff man!

  2. Alonzo Yanes says:

    Hey, I was just wondering, what object did you use for the 360 degree rotation and tilt capability? Thank you.

    • HI!

      Re your question from Scratchbuilding & Kitbuilding.: imaginative and informative tutorial. What are the base parts for the small guns 1 & 3 that rotate and tilt?

      I saved this series of articles from an artist Vanya back in the early ‘90s. He was the one who originally created his notes on this tutorial. I thought they should be shared with those such as yourself so I took time to compile from other sources around the web.. His website and the info was gone long ago. I found out his name was John and that he died in 2008 (see my notes at the beginning of this blog. Sorry I can’t help on the rotating details – regards Murray.

  3. Peter Lico says:

    Imaginative and informative tutorial. What are the base parts for the small guns 1 & 3 that rotate and tilt?