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Chiseling Plastic Grabs and Ladders - Pros and Cons for Tools

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  • Member since
    December, 2010
  • From: Portland, Oregon
  • 272 posts
Chiseling Plastic Grabs and Ladders - Pros and Cons for Tools
Posted by Attuvian on Saturday, November 11, 2017 11:28 AM

Winter's a-comin'.  I am going to try my hand at replacing the cast plastic grab irons and ladders on a few old Athearn Blue Box and Accurail kits.  I'm sure there are differing opinions on the best edges to use.  I may be missing a couple, but here are the options that present themselves to me at the moment: Xacto or Excel chisel blades (#s 17, 18, 17A), Excel's small or large "Carving Chisel" blades (much stouter, used with their K7 handle) or MicroMark's hefty (especially in price) Plastic Modeler's Chisel, in either 2 or 4mm.

I'm inclined to the narrowest in all cases.  I'm also inclined toward the MicroMark because of its apparent mass and the rather substantial foot or shoe behind the cutting edge that would seem to provide an additional safety factor.

I understand that a liability with the Xacto or Excel blades are their the sharp corners - which can be mitigated by rounding with a hone or fine grinding wheel.  That said, please offer your pros and cons.  BTW, though my hands and fingers have substantial mileage on them, at least they're still relatively steady.  Geeked

John

  • Member since
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  • From: Franconia, NH
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Posted by dstarr on Saturday, November 11, 2017 1:39 PM

I use Xacto 1/8 inch wide chisel blades. I don't bother to round off the corners.  Works good. 

  • Member since
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  • From: Chamberlain, ME
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Posted by G Paine on Saturday, November 11, 2017 1:52 PM

I use a Modeler's Chisel for plastic from Micro Mark. I have the 4mm one; they also have a 2mm. I think I have better control with this solid chisel that when I use the X-Acto chisel blade. Less gouging

https://www.micromark.com/4mm-Plastic-Modelers-Chisel

https://www.micromark.com/2mm-Plastic-Modelers-Chisel?_ga=2.94549848.557525795.1510429666-1354637477.1479271767

 

George In Midcoast Maine, 'bout halfway up the Rockland branch 

  • Member since
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  • From: Portland, Oregon
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Posted by Attuvian on Saturday, November 11, 2017 2:20 PM

G Paine

I use a Modeler's Chisel for plastic from Micro Mark. I have the 4mm one; they also have a 2mm. I think I have better control with this solid chisel that when I use the X-Acto chisel blade. Less gouging

George,

Have you used it enough that it has ever needed to be redressed or sharpened?

John

  • Member since
    January, 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, November 12, 2017 10:15 AM

Hmmmm.

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I just carefully use an eXacto #17 chisel blade, and I do it very carefully.

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Gouges do happen, but they are easy to use a sanding ball on and turn them into dents.

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I really do not fret about small imperfections. Once the train car is on the layout, no one will ever see them. If you are building display models you will need something closer to perfection.

.

-Kevin

.

Happily modeling the STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD located in a world of plausible nonsense set in August, 1954.

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  • From: Canada, eh?
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Posted by doctorwayne on Monday, November 13, 2017 1:53 AM

I usually use X-Acto's #17 or #18 blade for removing cast-on details.  You can use a cut-off disc in a motor tool to alter the blades to suit specific job requirements, like the one shown below (the coupler was the focus when the picture was taken)...

Some folks doing this type of work for the first time aren't aware that the blade is used with the bevelled edge against the work, and not facing away from it.  Facing that edge away tends to force the blade deeper into the work, causing gouges which then need to be filled.
The chisel-type blades are very easy to keep sharp using an oilstone/whetstone, and are less likely to slip if they're sharp.

I prefer automotive glaze and spot putty for repair work.  It's cheaper than the various hobby-specific products, and works better.  The directions suggest kneading the tube with the cap in-place to mix the solvents with the filler material, but I've found it easier to simply remove the cap with the tube upright, then stir the contents using a small screwdriver.  When the screwdriver is withdrawn from the tube, transfer the goop from the screwdriver to the X-Acto blade, then spread it on the area to be repaired.  Multiple thin coats work better and dry faster than one or two thick coats.  The dried filler sands easily and and accepts paint well.

This brass tender had cuts in the sides of the coal bunker, where a previous owner had attempted to cut the area down to the level of the cistern's deck.  After backing the openings, I partially filled the cuts using JB Weld, and when that had hardened, applied the spot putty...

After sanding the patch, which also removed some of the rivet detail, I applied rivet decals, then added paint...

This Bachmann tender was shortened by cutting 4' out of the area between the coal bunker and cistern.  The joint where the sections were re-joined got the spot putty treatment, too...

Wayne

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  • From: Bradford, Ontario
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Posted by hon30critter on Monday, November 13, 2017 3:41 AM

I use a rounded blade. I believe that it would be properly described in woodworking terms as a 'gouge'. It came with a set of wood working chisels that my Dad gave me years ago. If you look at the blade from the sharp end it is shaped like 'C'. The 'C' shape has an advantage in that there are no sharp corners to dig into the surrounding surfaces. I'm not very good at sharpening tools but even with my limited skills in that regard it takes the molded on grab irons off quite cleanly.

The tool tip is shaped like items 'B' and 'C' on this page:

http://www.leevalley.com/us/Wood/page.aspx?p=58812&cat=1,130,43332,43703&ap=1

Dave

  • Member since
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  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
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Posted by dknelson on Monday, November 13, 2017 11:32 AM

I have and use and like the MicroMark chiseler tool but also use Xacto blades, where it seems to me I have slightly better control.  Chiseling away grabs and ladders and other details is a skill, and like any skill takes practice (and refresher practice when you have not done it for a while).  That is what my supply of junker freight car shells is used for.  It is also evident to me that some versions of styrene take better to being chiseled than others.  Fortunately the Athearn blue box styrene takes well to being chiseled.

Dave Nelson    

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  • From: Canada, eh?
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Posted by doctorwayne on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 12:30 PM

I knew that I had a photo....

...or two...

If you've got time to kill, there's more freight car modifications going on HERE.

Wayne

  • Member since
    April, 2001
  • From: US
  • 289 posts
Posted by blabride on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 12:35 PM

 

Mission Models also makes a very good chisel. Cheaper than Micromark and the chisel can be removed and replaced. I used it to remove the cast on grabs on some older atlas pumpkin scheme T&P GP 7s. Most scale modeling hobby shops and online places carry Mission Models products. Spruebrothers for one does.

SB

  • Member since
    December, 2010
  • From: Portland, Oregon
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Posted by Attuvian on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 6:00 PM

Thanks, all!  Looks like we've hit the major options nicely among all the responses.  Even got two visits from the Doctor.  We can tie this one up and put it away.

We model railroaders do our part to keep the economy afloat - we spend money.  But hopefully less than we could, most learning the finer points of avoiding retail.  Some of us may even be what's noted below:

When I was younger, someone called me a chiseller.  Few use the term any more but us older guys know what it means.  Little did I know that it would become part of my MRR destiny, from TWO perspectives!

John

 

  • Member since
    April, 2007
  • 198 posts
Posted by RicZ on Friday, November 17, 2017 4:05 PM

I have a MictoMark tool and after removing the cast-on grabs from a locomotive and several cars, I think it is the best.  Use the curved end under the edge, work slowly, guard against trying to remove too much all at once, sand smooth to complete the process.  Works great!

RicZ

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