Modern Scribing Solutions
By Steve Hustad
I’m a die hard 1/72nd scale modeler who is forever looking for a reliable high quality plastic panel line scriber that’s suitable for small scale modeling.
I’ve tried stainless steel (and other inferior metal) scribers that are too big, too wide, and that I’ve had to reshape using my Dremel motor tool and rough sanding discs/’tubes’. These work great when properly and laboriously modified that way, but soon become dulled and then need ‘re-sharpening’. Also, many previous manufacturers of such “dental tool looking” scribers have ceased production of them over the last ten years or so, forcing me to look elsewhere and consider some pretty odd replacements – most of which have turned out to be (shall we say while maintaining a family language website here?) “less than satisfying”?
Right now, I have a pair of butchered 1/72nd (of course!) Me 262A kits on my model bench – each destined for a separate diorama, so they’re being modified to ‘under construction’, and/or, ‘post-war wreak’ status. One is the older Hasegawa kit (still one of the best in God’s scale IMO), and the other is the newer (but less well molded) Revell of Germany kit. The subjects being modeled required the chopping up of pretty much all of their main components - removing access panels, sawing off noses, cutting away wing slats & fuselage to wing fairings, fitting ‘opened up’ resin replacement engines in place, and so on.
Naturally, I then needed to re-scribe many of the panel lines since many were obscured or eliminated by these modifications, plus a few that needed adding because the kit’s designers missed a few details, etc.
So this is the stage I was at when asked to do the reviews for these three new (to me anyway!) products. And the request arrived at a perfect time because I was also faced with having to re-work (again) my existing dulled ‘dental pick’ style scribers and wasn’t looking forward to that laborious task either.
Now for some background here:
I tried this new tape and scriber on three different surfaces:
- Bare plastic (rejuvenating sanded down panel lines adjacent to re-worked areas),
- Atop/over Apoxie Sculpt A+B water based putty filler primed with Mr. Surfacer 1000, and
- Atop/over Tamiya gray (basic) acetone based putty/filler also primed with Mr. Surfacer 1000.
All surfaces were thoroughly sanded smooth and ready for paint other than needing panel lines strengthened, added, or replaced.
But first some basic observations:
The two widths of ‘scribing guide tape’ are rather thick (but we do need that edge for guidance!), but they’re also flexible for easily going around curves and with a self-adhesive applied to the back of it for adherence while scribing – important!
The Holly t0.1 ‘Line engraving Tool’ is about 1.5” long, and EXTREMELY THIN! I believe the “0.1” refers to 1/10th of a millimeter. It’s so thin that it flexes noticeably from side to side if too much pressure is applied, but never collapses upon itself or bends. It appears to be made of an extremely high quality of spring-steel. It has a two sided clear rubber(?) knob at the handle end for gripping. Its point is very sharp, very pointed, and very thin at its 0.1 thickness so is perfect for 1/144th scale or 1/72nd scale models if we want to stay within the realm of ‘scale thickness’ (and we do).
Onto the actual usage now over the three different previously described and prepared surfaces:
- Bare plastic (rejuvenating sanded down panel lines adjacent to re-worked areas), no primer; This was the most successful, easiest, and most trouble-free application. The tape adhered well, didn’t move, wrapped around curves nicely (the 3mm worked better in that regard vs. the 6mm), and the scriber ‘troughed’ through the plastic sharply – producing a very fine straight line that would be acceptable even for fussy 1/144th scale modelers (Matt B.). No problems here. (Editor's note: I successfully restored some panel lines on a Brengun 1/144 Horten Ho 229. They look great.)
- Atop/over Apoxie Sculpt A+B water based putty filler primed with Mr. Surfacer 1000; pretty much as for #1 above but some of the Mr. Surfacer 1000 that I’d applied over the putty and sanded down was pulled up by the tape in a few tiny areas. These required a re-application of the Mr. Surfacer, a re-sanding, and then finally a re-scribing with the Holly tool (this time sans – tape as there was enough of a guide left from the first attempt to ensure accuracy. No problems with the re-try here - or with the Apoxie-Sculpt puttied areas at any time.
- Atop/over Tamiya gray (basic) acetone based putty/filler also primed with Mr. Surfacer 1000; This went as per #2 above, but with some small areas of Tamiya putty pulled up as well by the tape. In addition, panel lines scribed through this putty suffered some flaked off putty from the scribed panel line edges here and there. These issues were more time consuming to rectify. The Tamiya putty is very similar to the standard Squadron (and other brands) “Green putty” which has always been somewhat intolerant of being scribed, cut or drilled without some damage because the stuff tends to be flaky/crumbly when cured if disturbed. I re-puttied and re-primered the damaged areas but had a similar problem scribing through the putty the second time, yes, less problems, but not gone entirely. I was able to eliminate the tape pull-up problem by lessening its adhesive power while keeping it sticky enough to stay in place.
So there you have it. Two (3 counting the two different tape widths tested I suppose?) excellent products when used well and when going into it with some open-eyed foreknowledge of where you need to be more careful.
But overall, this scriber performed well, appears to have remained very sharp even after many repeated usages – even on Hasegawa’s harder than your typical kit’s plastic (the other kit was a Revell). I like the shape, rubber gripping ‘knobs’ and compact size too, as it all contributes to having a bit greater control while getting in closer. I’d like to try a slightly thicker (0.2mm?) version if available because that might be just right for 1/72nd scale subjects. The scribing tape did provide a reliable solid and higher scribing edge (than normal tapes) for all surfaces though be careful when applying over putties and acrylic primered surfaces! Also note that this tape can be re-used all over the model as the adhesive backing degrades only gradually.
Please give these products a try, as they might get you to change ‘your scribing ways’ on that long dusty and bumpy road to better modeling!
Our thanks to Model Paint Solutions for the review scriber and tapes.