One of the questions I get asked by newcomers to the hobby is; “What tools and supplies do I need?”
That, of course, could lead to a whole book on basic tools and their uses. Now the usual answer is some hobby type knife usually the #11 X-ACTO, a cutter to remove parts from the sprue, tweezers, basic files and sandpaper in various grits. As you progress in the hobby you will find a need for other tools.
So my answer to anyone is that after you have acquired the above-mentioned tools one of the handiest tools you can get is a Flex I File. The Flex I File is simply a rectangular frame that allows you to place strips of various grits of sandpaper onto it. It allows you to get sandpaper into what would ordinarily be difficult places to remove seams, ridge lines or ejector pin marks. It is ideal for figure modelers since it allows you to follow the complex curves on figure kits. It also reduces what my father called “ one finger pressure” when sanding. “One finger pressure” puts extra pressure in a specific area and can lead to uneven lows and highs in the model kit.
You can buy Flex I File frames commercially and the sanding strips that come with them. Now for the editorial. A Flex I File is like a shaving razor blade handle. You are not really buying a razor blade. You are buying a handle which only allows a specific blade cartridge to fit. You must buy that razor cartridge. So, it is with the commercially available Flex I File strips.
In modeling today there are various “Schools” There is the Mig school, The Shepard Paine School and I belong to the “I want to put the money into the kit, not supplies to build it.” Thus the general cheap-ass approach.
So let us get on with the step by step:
In the above picture, we have three flex I file frames. Two are commercial and the one on the top left is in a car stereo installation tool picked up at a yard sale for 25 cents. All three can use homemade sanding strips.
In the photo above are the tools to make your own flexi file strips: scissors, a divider for measuring, CA glue, that friend of the modeler; paper clips and sandpaper. Here’s a tip: buy sandpaper at the hardware store, auto supply store or similar. The variety of grits is astounding and the cost is astoundingly low.
The photo above gives us our starting measurements. The frame measures four and a half inches wide at the bottom and the pegs are ¼ inch long.
So we have laid out the ruler and are ready to cut a strip. I use a #11 scalpel blade because I like the risk of cutting myself as I do this step.
So now I bend over the backs of the strips and clamp with our friends the paper clip. I then insert a drop of CA at the end of the strip to make a loop. Let it dry and:
Voila!! The finished strip is installed.
The advantage of making your own strips is one cost saving. A sheet of hardware store brand paper makes dozens of strips. This is what I call a maintenance project. I will sit down and turn out bunches of these in various grits up to 12,000. I store them in a plastic box with dividers for the different grits.
- Dr. Bob, General Cheap Ass Modeler