Tim Bongard

 Detailed Models


Building Projects

"Life is a beautiful scratchbuilding project.

The key is to joyfully participate."

             In the process of working on the NJSF Brush Truck, building the Surf City Mack pumper, and rebuilding the TASC pumper, I realized there are a few things I do and use that help make my building easier and neater. And the longer I do this, the more I realize that building, finishing, painting, and decaling all work a lot better when your work area is organized more like you are doing surgery than continuing to create a mound of plastic and tools around you until you can’t find anything.

          This really drove itself home (again) when I had all three projects laid out in front of me on the workbench plus a 1/16th scale MG TC I’ve also been rebuilding. I was doing a number of little things that require doing and waiting, so multi project tasking seemed logical. Then I accidentally tipped over a bottle of accelerator and thankfully it spilled towards me, away from the models, and onto the cardboard topper I have covering my workbench. Whew! THAT was close! And I immediately cleaned up the work area knowing it was the clutter that made a near disaster possible. 

         ​So here are SEVEN things that work like gangbusters and will make your detailing and scratchbuilding work easier and more precise.

1) Slam Lock Tool – If you fit slamlocks to your cabinetwork, the challenge is getting the cutout for the slamlock just right. I fixed that by cleaning up a slamlock and supergluing it to the end of a toothpick. I then use this tool to check my progress as I carefully file the openings for the locks.

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2) Decanted Accelerator – Using accelerator to speed the curing time of superglues is something you almost can’t live without, but I can do without all the stuff hanging in the air from spraying the stuff. It really seems very wasteful in the small scales we work in and it simply isn’t healthy, so what I’ve gotten into the habit of doing is pouring accelerator into a paint jar and applying it where needed with either a toothpick, wire, or small tube. It conserves the stuff and makes applying it far more precise, plus no vaporized accelerant hanging in the air and building into a toxic cloud over my bench. Until the mishap above, I’d fill the jar about ½ way of more, but now I realized all I need is a tiny amount in the jar so if I knock it over again (likely), there will be a much smaller “event” puddle.

3) Wire Applicator – Take a spare X-acto knife handle and chuck up a small wire in the jaws to create a very fine glue applicator. If you use something like plug wire, you can really apply micro amounts of glue and you can cut down a wire or replace it when the glue finally builds up on the end of it.

4) 5PP Glue Plate – I also use a small plate to put a spot of glue on and then apply to the model parts with the applicator, toothpick, or a dental probe I have. What makes this plate so special is that it’s made of Poly Propylene. That means it’s both flexible and resists most of the glues we use in our hobby, so this one silly lid that I got from somewhere (and God only knows where at this point) has been cleaned off dozens of times by simply flexing it. The dried glues just pop off and into the trash they go. Look for lids or other stuff that has the 5PP recycling make on it and you’ll be ready to go.

5) Bull Dog Clip Photos – Find a handy way to get your reference photos out of the way. One easy way I found is to take a Bulldog clip and hang the photos on one of the shelf brackets over my bench as shown. By doing that, I can glance at them without having to unbury them first and they won’t know other stuff over when moved...

6) Surgical Set-up of tools – …which leads me to #6. I have a magnetic tool bar over my work area that holds many of my tools, but when working on a detailed piece I find myself switching from one tool to another and, if left unattended, I end up with a pile of tools on the bench that looks like a burial tell or junk heap. Of late, I’ve tried to be a little more disciplined and lay out the key tools I will need for a particular thing like they are surgical tools on a tray prepped for a procedure, and boy, does that make a difference! It actually eases the work while keeping things much neater and more orderly. It’s a procedural thing, but try it – it really works.

7) 10 minute Tidy – Which leads me to that last thing I’ve gotten into the habit of doing and that’s doing a quick “10-minute tidy” at the end of a building session. I put tools back where they belong, clean the top of the workbench, and put all the loose model parts or assemblies into their box or storage tub. I’m not really a neat freak, but I’m learning that this approach definitely has benefits.

Finally, as a bonus, think about using cardboard to top your workbench. It’s really cheap and will absorb spills, but also makes an otherwise ugly old bench look great or protects a new top from knives, paint, and other abuse. I have four separate benches – 1 for building, 1 for painting, and 1 for decaling, and one for casting, stripping, or doing photo-etch. The last bench is topped with ceramic tile to protect against the chemicals and the painting bench is a nice countertop from Lowes, but the other two are old doors covered with cardboard and they look great. The cardboard topper also helps deaden part bounce. Yeah, I still have parts vanish, but they generally bounce less on the cardboard than otherwise, so give it a try, especially if your bench needs a serious makeover.

I hope all these little things help!

Keep the glue out from under your fingers!