IT'S NOT ENOUGH JUST TO SHAKE
The "Shake and bake" expression probably
doesn't need much explanation to any modeler despite his native language. In our plastic
models world, it generally refers to kits that
could be compared to James Bond's favourite drink. Just shake, don't stir and the result is there. But that´s just a myth... We all
know that unlike the Martini cocktail, even
the most precisely designed and manufactured kits (the ones that reviewers rate as “no
putty needed”) really need a “human´s touch”
as they can´t build themselves.
And just as someone can build a great model from an average kit with a few basic tools
that all fit in one school pencil case, another
one keeps looking for something that would
make building a model easier. Do you know
such people? I personally know at least one,
namely myself. On my workbench, there are
tools everywhere, filling many cases and
holders. And more are still coming.
It actually gives me some kind of pleasure
when I discover a contraption I didn't know
before. For example, the year before last
I succumbed to the lure of a design-oriented and also kind of pricey DSPIAE tool at a
competition in Houten, the Netherlands. My
already varied assortment of hand tools has
thus grown by several more interchangeable
bits with different chisels, mini-grinders and
engravers. And as I subsequently found out,
it's a kind of Chinese generic product, so there are several marks of the same product of
different colors and brandings. But there is
nothing wrong about it.
Years ago, I ordered John Vojtech´s multi-purpose tool from the USA, which I would
sort of compared to a "Swiss Army Knife"
for modeler. I've brought a lot of stuff back
from the Telford Scale Model World contest.
Year by year something new… For example,
a set of "Berna Clamps" (cleverly designed
clamps for both small and large parts), various micro-cutters, chisels, files, colored
wires of various diameters, a table lamp with
a magnifying glass and a special polarizing
light, of course lots of chemistry, scalpel blades, and so on, and so on... And because we
modelers like to create I made a lot of different tools myself. Sometimes due to a genuine need for "something like this", other times
for “just in case” use.
For example, I modify my scalpels (the solid one-piece ones) to fit completely different using than they were originally made
for. For example, I didn't buy a sharp pointed eye scalpel to poke someone's eye with,
I just sharpened it even more so that it could
be used for scrapping of delicate details and
hollowing ventrals and louvres on the engine covers. Another modification was made to
the curved cutting edge one. I sharpened it all
around, so it can be used to work in hollows
or scrape out various depressions, including
what I call „3D weathering“ (indication of the
small damages of the metal covers, so typical for wartime aircraft).
Sanders are a special chapter of my homemade tool assortment. I am using many various stuffs to make different sanding sticks
or pads. For example, small alluminium pro-
INFO Eduard - July 2021
files, to which I glue sandpaper by super glue
and when the sanding surface gets "tired",
I cut it off with a straight edged scalpel and
glue on a new one. I use plain profile, L-shaped profile or round profile cut to various
lengths. In the case of the L profile, I sometimes glue the sandpaper to both arms, sometimes just to one, so as to use the slick side
as a support when sanding. Various flexible
materials are then suitable for making grinding pads, that can be used to work on convex
surfaces. My favorite is self-adhesive felt intended to be used as a pad on the bottom of
the table or chair legs. They never last long
there, but if you stick a sanding paper on
them, you have a nicely flexible sanding pad.
If You can find uncut one-piece of it, it is the
best one. You can cut the sizes and shapes to
your liking than. This works particularly well
on slightly concave surfaces.
The "vertical sanders" are again a great help
in sanding off the ejector pin marks positioned craftily in between the delicate surface
details sometimes. The “vertical” or “head
on” sander is simply a small piece of the
sanding paper glued to the cut of the stick of
suitable size and cross section. The risk of
damage to the surrounding detail is minimal,
as is the cost of making the sander. I normally use pieces of the sprues for this purpose. Occasionally, I also break a classic razor
blade using cutters to create ultra-sharp and
ultra-thin mini scalpels.
We all also know here are another sources
for the special tools, except the model shops.
For example, the range of dental supplies is
literally a playground for plastic modeler.
Their long and thin „torture tools“ can be successfully used as various chisels, scribers
or cutters after various modifications on
small grinding machine and grinding stone.
Also, special shops for jewelers are worth a
note. It is no wonder as they are also kind of
modelers, although working with more pricey „stuff“ usually…
And I did not even mention the "chemistry" so
far! There is always something happening on
the market with new colors, glues, putties…
But even in this area there is always something to try and even here you can experiment a little, even if it is not as easy as sharpening a scalpel or a file into a blade. Not all
of us have had chemistry for an A, right? I am
not undertaking any major ventures, but for
example I haven't bought the “welding” glue
for a long time. That´s the one that works so
well with those great "Shake and bake" kits.
I bought pure ethyl acetate at the lab supply
store a few years ago, which is perfect for
gluing models. It bonds reliably and most importantly the joint cures quickly. You could
find this matter even in pears and it even kind
of smells like it a little, but I wouldn't bother
getting it by extraction… One little bottle of
ethyl acetate does not cost a fortune, it is in
fact quite cheap and such a volume makes
You happy for many years of plastic modeling. There is also one small “secret” there:
You can thin the ethyl acetate with alcohol
to suppress its gluing ability. Why? Then You
can use it as a special agent to clean up the
scribed or deepened panel lines. Weakened
ethyl acetate dissolves the small residua in
the line but does not make any damage to the
surroundings. It just needs some trying to
get the right degree of “aggressivity” of the
thinned ethyl acetate. And don´t worry it will
Many modelers also devote considerable
effort to finding substitutes for the original
thinners for their favorite paints, but I personally gave up this pastime after a certain
modelling disaster. Trust me, one of the
advantages of original thinners is that they
also have the original markings on the packaging...
This could go on and on, everyone has their
own gadgets and contraptions. But the truth
is that no one has invented such a device that
would build the model itself. Not even the
"Shake and bake" ones. And as for the tool
selection: I don't know about anyone else, but
I always end up using just a few time-tested
tools when working on a model. The other
so much needed helpers are usually waiting
mournfully for their rare chance, which really rarely comes. So those who stuff their tool
selection into one school pencil case probably know theirs long ago...