Back to Contents
Back to Tips and Tricks
Link to Sitemap

A few good products

A few good products
The assumption is that you’ve already got most of the tools and other bits and pieces required to undertake the basic model-making jobs. As ever there are few bits and pieces that we may have picked up on as being rather good or for making life a bit easier. Here Dave and I will highlight some of our favourite consumables, tools and other useful items. And, if you’re really lucky – how we use them…

I should also mention that these comments are to be considered as (minor) additions to the instructions/hazard warnings you will receive with the products in question. Please read those (and abide by them) before looking to what we say. These comments are not intended to supersede or replace any instructions or hazard warnings by the manufacturers of the products mentioned.

Adhesives, retainers and similar consumables

Always a bit of a bug-bear this one. Our recommendations:

Thick superglue/cyanoacrylate - Pacer SLO-ZAP

A US-made thick, gap filling superglue. The very best one I’ve come across in that it seems to be reasonably moisture resistant, hard but not brittle, strong and pretty permanent. It’s also got a good shelf life if you keep it capped and in the freezer – let it warm up for a minute or two before using.

Use: Squeeze onto scrap polythene and then apply in small drops to either the model or the part to be stuck with a wooden cocktail stick. Like all superglues it reacts with moisture and metal oxides so for goodness sake don’t attempt to re-open a jammed nozzle with a pin or piece of wire. By the same token cleaning and keying any metal parts (wire brushes, files, emery paper) is a good idea and make sure any plastic to be stuck is clean and keyed. Breathing on the plastic will work to set the adhesive on contact and will ensure a good bond.

Liquid superglue/cyanoacrylate - Gluelines Vital Bond

An interesting alternative to the thick stuff. This stuff is particularly good for retaining ‘Liquid Lead’. You’ll note that I don’t have ‘regular’ thickness superglues – I think they’re too messy…

Use: The same comments as above for preparation apply here but being very much thinner and with a very low surface tension the parts can be held in place and the adhesive run in straight from the bottle.

Epoxy resin - Dev-Con 2-ton Clear Epoxy

For that permanent metal-metal or composite joint. There is only one choice as far as I’m concerned. The ultimate resin adhesive. A very strong, very clear and runny adhesive.

Use: Make sure all surfaces to be joined are clean, grease free and keyed. Apply as per the instructions. Job done. Permanently.

Nutlock – Either Rite-Lok TL42 or Loctite 242

Useful for cranckpins or other fittings that need to be semi-permanent. With a nutlock the bond can be broken simply by torque so can be undone if necessary. Once cured (24 hours) these products are oil resistant (useful!). Reasonable shelf life (maybe a couple of years?) but keep it in the fridge.

Use: Degrease all parts with lighter fluid and allow it to evaporate. Generally I use this much like superglue – squeeze a little out onto polythene and use a cocktail stick to apply it inside the threaded hole. Assemble, tissue way the excess and then leave for 24 hours to cure.

Retainer – Either Rite-Lok RT01 or Loctite 601

For permanent retention of things like gears, bearings or shafts. This isn’t a true adhesive, it actually uses the metal it comes in contact with as a catalyst to cause it to expand slightly and harden over about 24 hours. Storage conditions as per the Nutlock.

Use: Much like the Nutlock, but you may need to think about whether you’re going to apply the Retainer to the shaft or the gear in order to stop it ending up where it shouldn’t. If you notice it creeping to where you don’t want it then disassemble the part(s) as fast as you can. When I say permanent, I mean permanent!

Model fillers

Four to choose from in my standard inventory.

Bulk plastic filler – Scrap plasticard

Cheap and cheerful this one. As a bonus it also adds strength to a model. Start by roughly shaping scrap plasticard into blade shapes to push into cracks or gaps; run a load of solvent into the gap and push the scrap piece in until there’s runny plastic oozing out. Leave overnight to harden off. Trim, file and/or polish the excess material away to a smooth surface. If necessary apply Humbrol filler to finish the surface. Pointed sections of scrap plasticard can be used to block up things like handrail holes; the great advantage comes if you need to re-drill the hole as the plasticard will be less powdery or brittle than drilling filler.

Fine plastic filler - Humbrol 'Model Filler'

A useful fine, finishing filler for plastic. It’s solvent based so doesn’t ‘take’ onto metal. When it dries it can be filed or sanded to a very fine finish but is fairly brittle so needs some care if it’s going to be used in an area of a model that might move – not good for coach sides for example.

Bulk metal filler - Loctite Auto/Plastic Padding 'Professional Body Filler’

A useful, fast drying filler for metal models. The resin and hardener are mixed and applied to the areas to be filled. It can be quite runny at this stage; in fact I think it’s probably slightly thixotropic. It dries slightly flexibly (as you’d expect – it’s a car body filler) so can cope well with the expansion/contraction in a metal model without cracking out. It can be a pain to file or rub down as its slightly soft nature (even when hard) means it clogs files. But it’s very stable and strong, surviving nearby soldering and even tapping with fine metric threads.

Metal/composite filler - Milliput ‘Standard' and 'Extra fine’

Filling multi-material joins can be a pain. The only thing under those circumstances is Milliput. A good quality epoxy resin putty; it comes as two sticks, cut off the equivalent length from each stick and knead it together. I’ve noted over the years that although it has an excellent shelf life the sticks do seem to develop something of a ‘rind’ if exposed to air; this needs removing before the two parts are blended. It’s also great to use as fine filler on all-metal models and pinhead-sized amounts have found their way onto most of the models I’ve built. Interestingly it can be used wet and also can be filed or rubbed down with ease – though it can clog files a bit. I wouldn’t rely on it for a thread though and I’ve no idea how it copes with soldering temperatures.

Cleaning products

Cleaning brass - Washing Soda and aluminium foil

My Dad's favourite trick for cleaning brass. In a heatproof, plastic container put a layer of aluminum foil and then your brass model (or fret) then a goodly layer of washing soda crystals. Follow up with the contents of a freshly boiled kettle and twenty minutes of hubbling and bubbling later you'll find clean brass and some sludgy water. This works fine with soldered brass models. A soon as you've got adhesives or low-melt solder in attendance it's a non-starter.

General (aggressive) cleaning - Cream cleaner with bleach

I commonly use either Cif or Sainsbury's versions of this cleaner. It's normally the first stage of cleaning after assembly for me as it works beautifully to clean the surface of all sorts of materials. Rinse well and allow the model parts to thoroughly dry off in a dust-free environment before moving on to the next stage.

Metal cleaning products - solvents

Loads to choose from here. MEK, Lighter Fluid, Cellulose thinners, Isopropyl alchohol, Methylated spirit etc. All have their uses. Meths or Isopropyl Alchohol I use mainly for the preperation of parts before blackening. MEK for cleaning oily or greasy metal items. Lighter fluid for oily items that have or might come in contact with plastic. Cellulose thinners I use for washing down metal models before using etching primer.

General cleaning products - Screenwash

Great stuff this. It doesn't harm plastics. It cleans and degreases properly rather than leaving layers of glossing agents behind. And it can be used with care on plastic or composite models. Using a strong solution in warm water this is a case of dunk and scrub with an old toothbrush, rinse, cover and leave to dry. This is often the final stage of cleaning for me - though see above comment for cellulose thinners if you're using an etching primer. You may want to test it on an inconspicuous part if you're using this to clean a completed, painted model. Recently we've found that leaving Athearn models in a strong solution of screenwash softened the paint enough that most of it could be removed with a toothbrush! It's effectiveness/damage to other manufacturer's paint isn't known; hence the recommendation to check...

Origin or real life as it exists / who does what:
This page last updated 25/03/2008. Copyright © Euram Solutions and Steph Dale 2004,2005,2006. All Rights Reserved.
Steph Dale can be contacted through the contacts page