- These kits range from simple kits suitable for beginners, to more complex kits
- They require assembly and some will require you to have tools on hand to build them
- Patience and a steady hand will be important!
Working models are a great way to enjoy what you’ve built long after you’ve finished
Model kits are wonderful educational gifts as you can learn how things work as you assemble them and pick up new skills along the way. Some will even continue to provide more value after completion as they are working model kits – i.e. they’re more than just a static model.
There are loads of different working model kits available on the market, so it can be hard to decide which are the ones for you, but we’ve shortlisted some of our favourites so have a look through them.
1. CrossRace Remote Control Car Kit
This is a lovely little RC car kit from CrossRace and while it is suitable for children, it makes a good alternative to more expensive LEGO sets and is a wonderful gift for adults too, particularly if they’re not experienced model builders. It comes with simple instructions which makes it a nice afternoon project to complete in around 2 to 3 hours.
Everything is included in the kit which can be easily assembled without the need for tools. There are 453 pieces in total, remote control, rechargeable battery and a USB charger, so you’ll have everything you need to get started. The battery charges in around an hour and you’ll have loads of fun with a working remote control car that’s on par with even more expensive kits. The car is designed for use on flat surfaces though, so you are limited to paths or roads (assuming you can do so safely!) and not more rugged terrain. The controls are smooth and the car nips across smoother surfaces at a decent speed. You can also buy two kits if you want to race them without worrying about the RC controls interfering with each other.
What’s great about the kit while it’s challenging to build, it’s not difficult and many adults will get more of a kick from building it than racing it! A great little gift for anyone who enjoys cars or construction projects.
- Assembled Size: 33cm (L) x 13.5cm (W) x 10cm (H)
- Scale: 1:14
- Pieces: 453
- Difficulty: Beginner
2. 4-Cylinder Engine Model Kit
A great buy for car enthusiasts and engineers – this complex working model kit of a 4-cylinder engine is not for the faint-hearted. Each of the individual components must be assembled before the final model is put together, making this a decent project that will take a large part of the day.
The parts are made from precision cut aluminium alloy and stainless steel which means the finished model can be displayed and look in pristine condition. Part of the charm of this model is being able to see the intricate detail of the engine and all of it’s working components, which is something car enthusiasts will really appreciate. In particular, the vivid colours of each component are really striking and it will certainly be a topic of conversation when any car enthusiasts visit! Indeed, they will be particularly impressed that it’s a working model – while it doesn’t run from petrol (that would after all, leave grease and grime all over the lovely components), it instead is powered by a lithium battery so you can watch all the moving parts working in conjunction!
While this is one of the more expensive kits in this guide, it’s definitely a good buy for car enthusiasts as it has a wonderful level of detail and it’s a challenge to assemble.
- Assembled Size: 15.4cm (L) x 12.2cm (W) x 18.6cm (H)
- Pieces: 350
- Difficulty: Advanced
3. 3D Wooden Gramophone
Next, we have this absolutely gorgeous 3D gramophone wooden puzzle model from ROKR. If you’re looking for a challenge that results in a lovely little working model for your home, this is a good bet.
Yes, that’s right. Working model. When complete, this gramophone actually works and will play vinyls up to 10 inches (the model comes with three different speed wheels). This is an awesome gift for anyone who has a vinyl collection that may be gathering dust. The finished model is completely gear-driven so you can crank the shaft to play music (and adjust the volume with the volume control). While it isn’t perhaps the perfect sound system, it is a wonderfully-curious addition to any home (and you get a complementary 7″ vinyl with the kit). Certainly more decorative than a replacement for your modern sound system!
With 424 basswood pieces (some of which are very fragile), it can take a while to assemble (in the ballpark of 10 hours, but it really depends on your skill level) and definitely only suitable for adults. As the kit pieces are modular, you won’t need any additional tools to put it together – just time and patience.
- Assembled Size: 23cm (L) x 26cm (W) x 43cm (H)
- Pieces: 424
- Material: Basswood
- Difficulty: Advanced
- Notes: No extra tools or glue needed
4. The Wilesco D5
The Wilesco D5 is a fantastic lightweight stationary steam engine model kit, which means you’ll have to assemble it before use. That’s all part of the fun though, isn’t it? Don’t worry, all the parts have already been soldered, so there’s not heavy lifting in the assembly – simply put the parts together.
Stationary steam engine models are wonderful gifts for engineering enthusiasts as they are working models. After assembly, you can use dry fuel tablets to heat the steam engine and power the fly wheel.
It’s an attractive model, with a faux red brick platform and chimney stack, rather like a Victorian factory might have had. The boiler has a shiny, brass effect thanks to the nickel finish, as does the oscillating cylinder and the piston. There is also the red and brass effect fly wheel. There’s an inspection glass that is the water level indicator at the front of the boiler, with a dome steam powered whistle on top. It’s a great choice for anyone looking for a good, reliable steam engine kit.
- Fuel type: Dry Fuel
- Dimensions: 21cm x 15cm x 15cm
- Type: Kit
5. Retro Radio Construction Kit
This is a lovely little retro radio kit from Haynes which is a fantastic gift for anyone with an interest in electronics. Coming in at a fairly low cost, it’s a great stocking filler or random gift for adults or older kids.
The attraction of working model kits is being able to see how things work as you build them – they’re great educational tools and a bit of fun too. This kit is no different and lets you understand a bit of classic technology as you build the model. It comes with almost everything you need to assemble and while the instructions are a perhaps a bit complex, you shouldn’t have any trouble assembling (there is no soldering required – all of the components slot into the board easily).
The finished model is a working retro-style radio with built-in speaker and tuning dial. The model runs on a single battery (9 volt, not included) and will pick up FM stations. Although this means it won’t pick up more modern digital stations, it’s still a fun little model to build and have around the house.
- Difficulty: Intermediate
- Notes: Comes with everything you need
6. 3D Wooden Calendar
Next up is a lovely little wooden calendar from ROKR that results in another great looking model that will sit well on any desk or in any home. The model comes with a metal electronic pocket watch which is embedded in the end of the calendar so you can check the time. While the date on the main model does have to be adjusted manually, that’s part of the charm as you hear the gears click into place each turn.
The kit comes with 250 wooden pieces, which are made from precision machine birch plywood and don’t require any tools to assemble. This makes it a great gift for adults that will take a few hours to put together and result in a great steampunk-style model that can be displayed in the home.
- Assembled Size: 18cm (L) x 10cm (W) x 10cm (H)
- Parts: 250
- Difficulty: Moderate+
7. Grasshopper RC Model Car Kit
This is an excellent RC car kit from Tamiya (who have been producing high quality model kits for over 40 years – we’ve covered many of their kits on the site). While it’s priced a bit higher than the CrossRace model kit featured earlier, it’s a whole different class of RC car and a great entry-level RC car.
The model is based on classic one-seater dune buggies and is a wonderful purchase for car enthusiasts who want to experience a bit of the thrill of off-road racing. Starting with the assembly, which helps educate the model builder in the workings of the car (making it easier to maintain and repair in the future), the model has realistic components found on real sized cars. Definitely a winning project for any automotive aficionados!
The frame and body of the car are designed to withstand the punishment that off-road racing will deliver, along with coil spring dampeners and a sealed gearbox keep the car in top condition even when being subject to dirty and bumpy racing. It’s designed to run on dirt or sand, so if that’s the environment you want to race in, this is a great choice.
- Assembled Size: 28.9cm (L) x 22.3cm (W) x 13.5cm (H)
- Scale: 1:10
- Difficulty: Moderate+
- Not included: 2-channel radio with servo, 7.2 battery & charger, paint