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Scale Modeling Tips & Tools Monthly, Issue #033-- "Not-So-Serious, Oh-So-Serious
September 15, 2009
September 15, 2009

With Tongue Firmly In Cheek

Some forethought and planning about your modeling toolkit can save money and time in your next modeling venture.

This tongue-in-cheek modeling tool crib may serve as a gadget scrounging catalyst. We’re serving it with pictures to aide and abet your scavenger hunt.

Here are some things I have been able to get away with when my wife isn’t around.

My Braun foam and leaf grinder does a good job of grinding coffee. It does a spectacular job of grinding up leaves and clippings used for ground cover.

Leaf Grinderr

My Victorinox 125th Anniversary Limited Edition Serrated rock carver does a decent job of cutting tomatoes and bagels.


I have occasionally found my wife using my Bio Ionic paint dryer to dry her hair. But, if you really want to dry paint in a hurry...


More than once I have smelled the odor of a chocolate cake or beef stew emanating from my Kenmore Paint Baker.


You will find a Coleman Propane Airbrush Propellant useful for lighting lanterns, camp stoves or candles.

airbrush propeller

My Tupperware rock and sand screener can also be used to sift flour.


That slick Samsung Microwave weed drier does a real good job of cooking foods quickly.


We're now getting into very specialized modeling tools. Don't be afraid to improvise. Don't let the wife force you to go to the H2A(House Husbands Anonymous) meetings. Know where she is (and when she will be home) at all times.

What's A Kluge?

One of the latest article collections is probably little more than a glorified tips page but I have needed a place to quickly jot down ideas that come to me in the middle of modeling. It is those little tips that sometimes become indispensible.

Thus, the fourth button down on the left will take you to a compilation of ideas that may at first seem nonsensical (Who in their right mind would stick double-faced tape to their workbench or glue you intend to use on a flag?)

Scale Modelers everywhere are always looking for good ideas that make jobs simpler and quicker.

We’ve all got them, let’s share them.

I’ll be glad to add yours to the Jotter's Corner just send it to me by email Reg Hardy .

Mess Unmaker Tips

There is no such word as unmake and that probably means a number of these efforts to salvage models you have messed up won’t work either but they are worth a try. You might also try a mix-n-fix by taking elements from one fix and adding to a component or components of others. It’s your call.

Glue smudged canopy glass (clear styrene) there is the hard way and the easy way. If the smudge isn’t too big, you can try sanding and polishing. Break out your finest grades of sandpaper. Use them in decreasing levels of grit to the plastic in the canopy, windshield, or window. Then pick the finest you have that will smooth it out. Then “take the feeling of cleanliness to the extreme”. That’s right use tooth paste or fine rubbing compound to start to bring the clear back to the plastic. Once it's as clear and smooth as you can get it dip it in Future floor wax and that will finish it.

That’s the hard way. You can make your task a lot easier by using the smudged area (your lemon) to make lemonade, your scratch rebuild. If your gluey fingerprint is on the periphery of the canopy/windshield; consider a simple paint job to make that portion match the color of the bordering material to represent a “quick fix” or field repair of battle damage. You can also do this by simulating duct tape over the damage.

If you want to get real tricky, drill a few “bullet holes” in the middle of the glue smudge, add some radiating cracks to simulate battle damage.

Mending cracked plastic without stitches most usually involves the right adhesive. They range from 3M’s Scotch-Weld Two Part Urethane Adhesive ($34.00 a cartridge) to Aleene’s Fabric Fushion Glue pen weighing in at $2.99. The point is, there are several urethane adhesives on the market that work extremely well for patching cracked plastic. Alternately, you can use an epoxy cement to bond the plastic together. You can also fill the crack with plastic filler or putty. After applying, you can sand it down to blend in with the surrounding plastic. Look for a variety that you can tint or that already is colored to match your plastic object.

Over-spent Hobby Budget, Get it back on track That new Mallett looks real neat making its way around your layout, but it also drained your hobby budget for the next six months, you really needed some new tools. You’ve heard it before, in fact you probably spoke it yourself “Don’t skimp on tools” if you want a quality job. But we’re not talking about sculpt

It takes a sharp blade to make accurate, quality cuts when working with paper stock. The best blade for the job is the Snap Blade knife. You won't find one easier to keep razor sharp (just clip off the tip). You can open it with one hand, they are light and you won't find a cheaper knife. They normally sell for about a dollar, I found a three-pack in a Dollar Store for a buck. The cheaper the better. You don't want rugged metal ones, like those offered by the big box stores; they are bigger, heavier, costlier and no better. What you want is a cheap all-plastic made-in-China throw-away that should cost no more than a buck.

Make Your Household Chores Pay Dividends to your hobby One of my household chores is taking out the trash every other day and I have found these bags to be an inexhaustible supply of modeling pieces parts.

It seems we are locked into a pattern of throwing away plastic food containers two or three times a week. I am getting in the habit of snagging those that will serve a higher purpose.. I like the hard plastic (black bottom, clear top) and use them for several modeling purposes:

• Corralling parts for a kit bashing project I am working on so they are in one place.
• They serve as a palette for glues and blobs of paint.
• For RC racers they are handy in your pit kit to store tires, small hand tools, replacement parts, wires, batteries Xacto knives, extra screws and zip ties.
• Such plastic boxes, often stackable, lend themselves well to storing and cataloging model railroad rolling stock.
• They are handy for storing the myriad of detail parts in an organized fashion in place of the all-to-common junk drawer.
• They are durable (just ask your average dump manager) and are easy to replace.

Prevent mistakes before they happen. We all get to make enough mistakes but there are preventative actions. If it’s already too late for the ship model you are working on, keep it to yourself.

Only the modeler needs to know where the glitch is located. The modeler is the only one who will benefit from these mistakes and he or she is under no obligation to spill the beans. This information should only be used in increase the builder’s skill set. You can learn from your mistakes by discussing them with understanding fellow ship modelers who have made their own, perhaps the same one.

For instance, ship model kits will often include sail material intended to let you display the model under sail. You can avoid a mistake with close examination. Is the fabric too thick? Do the reef bands even exist? Do the sails have hems? Are the sail corners stabilized? Is the sale material the right color dirty white or off white? Before just slapping these sails on the yard-arms you need to know they are a reasonable facsimile of the real thing.

Mistakes will always be made in the process of learning. You truly advance by not repeating the same mistake or even better heading it off before it happens.

Don’t like your model railroad ballasting job, here's the fix? The typical method of securing ballast to track involves careful placement of ballast pieces and then “wetting” the ballast using water mixed with two or three drops of dishwashing detergent. I like to use a hairspray bottle I obtained from my wife. Use it to mist the mixture to moisten the ballast and they apply more directly. Once ballast is wet, dribble on diluted white glue to lock it into place.

Now, to get it up after you've changed your mind

If the diluted glue has been down more than 24 hours you will need to soften it up with a spray mister of water and a little liquid soap. It may take more than one soaking. It will finally get to the point where enough soaking will allow the track to be lifted. You pretty much have to pull the track up, scrape the roadbed with a steel edge (I like a 2-inch paint scraper) and soak the track in water until the glue lets go and the ballast drops. A wallpaper soak tray works really well. Don't try this prolonged underwater soak with switches or solenoids, pick it off with tweezers. Relay the track on the raw roadbed and start over.

The good thing about a hobby bench is it is flat,
The problem with a hobby bench is it is flat
I found the ideal work surface for building models, painting models and finishing models. Trouble is, it is not always available when I need it. No, my wife didn’t snag it for a sewing table… It is often covered with projects that are “in-the-works.”

I can’t resist a flat spot when it comes to finding a home for an object whether it is a tool or model parts, or my favorite “I-think-this-will-work” junk recycling.

Take One CD Case+Empty Makeup Pallet=Modeler’s Paint Pallet For painting and weathering projects modelers do everything from dabbing into bottles to mixing paints on a PostIt Note resulting in color contaminated paints or dried up blobs of paint on a little yellow piece of paper.

Keeping poly adhesives fresh Back in the teaching days, we used to buy glue by the Gallon. so we needed a bottle that we could sub divide into handy size. Liquid Dish washing detergent bottles works well. As for cleaning the lid of the Titebond bottle, simply soaking in water will soften to a picking consistency, (similar to a nose nugget) if you want a fluid dissolve, use Vinegar, or Vinegar/water solution, also helps to soak "Ruined" clothes in the solution before laundry. Years of drooling glue in the school shops has taught me that trick.

Nailing It is neat but...

Caught this tip in one of the structure modeling forums I frequent. It may not mean much in N Scale, but from there on up, you might want to consider the common nail. Nail holes are not always appropriate.

Obviously, you can do what you want but remember that 'nail holes' exist only when the nails have fallen out.

it's not a HOLE that you are making, but rather a rusty head. That happens a lot soon, and does apply on some kinds of surfaces.

Judges in modeling contests will often add points if you have nail holes in the siding. But it may be a judgment call that needs to be re-thought.

Publisher's Corner

Where Did The Weekend Go

There once was a time when universally, Sunday’s were reserved to spend time with God, His Son and teachings in the church or religious meeting of choice. For most, this was decades ago when this held any kind of priority.

Now, instead, it is business as usual. Stores are open, factories continue to churn away and even model railroad clubs have gotten into the act with Model Railroad Shows.

Seeking a local Model Railroad Show is a difficult enough process in rural America and finding one within a day’s drive further compounds the search. I recently found not one, but two within a 150-mile circle.

Both are Sunday ONLY shows.

Sorry, I have a more serious commitment and won’t be attending either show.

No loss, no foul would be the likely response from most show organizers, but knowing it or not, they may find themselves treading on thin ice. The market for show attendees is beginning to dwindle and it may be time to pay attention to the attendee and not the vendors.

There are a number of factors chipping away at this block of hobbyists who travel to shows and more importantly, spend money.

The economy—A few, actually several, are getting sloughed off as jobs (ie, uncommitted money) vanish and prices for staples continue on the rise. There just isn’t money for feckless spending.

Time—Those who have jobs are guarding them with the utmost care, They aren’t liable to tell the boss they are going to take a week off for a hobby show.

Competition for Interest—Even if you ignore the “Sundays Only” issue those who rely on the “Free Time” of potential attendees are finding many have none. Frankly, people are over-scheduled. If it is not the child’s extra-curricular activities, it is money-making activities, let alone TV and video games.

Expense—The $5 for gas tariff for a hundred mile trip has doubled, even tripled when you factor in tolls and car care. Admission cost for the show, parking expense, overnight lodging and restaurant meals. You can easily tote up a $100 bill and you haven’t even set foot on the show floor.

One of the most clearly stated goals of most show organizers is to alter public opinion of the hobby. Model railroading is often pigeonholed as an immature pastime, keeping some people from taking part. The show organizer endeavors to show with model layouts that it a serious, challenging activity. The hope is to increase traffic and that increased prestige will attract an increasing number of vendors.

The problem is that the overall quality of display layouts is beginning to decline and show organizers are forced to present run-of-the-mill layouts and vendor quality also declines so merchandise at the shows is often more expensive that the local hobby shop or online merchants offer.

Show organizers, pulling in less income, cut back to a single day for the show and frankly, a lot of people, even modelers want more from their Sundays.

Until Next Month...

Make It Your Best Effort!

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