Building Blocks

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Having a separate speed control allows virtually infinite speed options with a motor tool. Jim Forbes photo 3

Micro-Mark’s Mini Chuck can hold tiny drill bits. Be sure to have a set of No. 61 to 80 bits. Photos 2-10 by Jeff Wilson 4

Motor tools can make a variety of modeling jobs easier, including drilling, grinding, polishing, and cutting. Dremel Moto-Tools are the most well-known, whether the old black single-speed model 270 or the new two-tone 10-speed MultiPro model 395 T6. Jeff Wilson photo.

Motor tool basics
Polish your modeling with this cutting-edge technology
By Jeff Wilson
motor tool is often the first major workshop investment A modelers make, and for good reason. Motor tools simplify many modeling tasks, including drilling, sanding, cutting, grinding, and removing details from plastic and metal parts. Dremel Moto-Tools are the best known, but quality motor tools are also available from other companies. You can find motor tools – and their accessories – in hobby shops, discount stores, hardware stores, and home-building centers. Most must be plugged in, but battery-operated tools are also available. Cordless motor tools are handy, but if you do most of your modeling at your workbench a standard corded model will be fine. Try them out if possible, and find one that fits comfortably in your hand. You’ll find a wide price range. The two main determining factors are the number of speeds and the number of attachments included in the kit. When buying, consider both so you don’t spend money on features and extras you don’t really need. Variable speed is a must, considering the wide range of materials we modelers have to deal with. But instead of buying a variable-speed tool, consider a single-speed tool and a separate speed control, 1. These provide infinite control from zero through top speed. I’ve found the foot-pedal control to be ideal,
52 FineScale Modeler April 2002

The fiberglass-reinforced disk at left (Dremel No. 426) is much stronger than the standard (409) disk at right. 5

When cutting metal, clamp the item to be cut, use high speed, and follow a straight cutting line through the piece. 6

as it frees both hands to handle the tool and model. Hundreds of attachments are available, from drill and grinding bits to polishing wheels. Before buying a tool with lots of attachments, consider how you’ll use the tool and which attachments you’ll need. Drilling. Drilling holes is among the most common uses for a motor tool, so I recommend buying a chuck that accepts drill bits from Nos. 61-80 (as well as buying the accompanying drill bits). Micro-Mark’s Mini Chuck is one to look for, 2. When drilling in plastic with these small bits, use a very slow speed (as low as a few hundred rpm) to avoid breaking the bit or melting the plastic. Mark the location with a scriber to give the bit a starting point. When drilling metal, it’s important to keep the bit cool and to keep debris away from the hole. Use a drop of light oil (such as 3-in-1) to lubricate the bit, and on thick material back the bit out frequently and clear away the debris. Let the bit do the cutting. If you push down on a small bit it is likely to break. If it isn’t doing much cutting even after you apply pressure, the bit is dull – time to buy a new one. Cutting. Cut-off discs, 3, work well for cutting brass, aluminum, and other metal strip stock to length. Two types are

These high-speed steel cutters come in many shapes. Special diamond-tip bits are also available for use on steel and glass.

To avoid heat build-up, work slowly and remove small amounts of material at a time.

shown – I prefer the fiberglass-reinforced ones, which are shatter resistant. If you use standard disks, using two together will improve their strength. Never hold the piece being cut in your hand while using a cutoff disk – always clamp the material and keep your hands on the body of the tool and away from the cutoff disk. Keep your face away from the path of material that’s being removed. Use high speed and ease the disk through the material, 4. Let sound and feel be your guide – the speed shouldn’t bog down, and you should feel like the tool is doing the cutting without your applying excess pressure. Once you start, don’t stop – backing out of a cut and trying to re-enter the same area could cause the disk to shatter or buck out of the cut. Also, be sure to keep the angle of the disk constant as you cut, or the disk will bind or shatter. Cut each piece a little long, then go back and cut or grind the piece to exact length. Grinding. Steel cutting bits are very useful for carving, shaping, and engraving plastic and wood, and soft metals such

as brass and aluminum. They come in several shapes and sizes, 5. I find the standard cylindrical-shaped head bit the most handy for grinding away plastic, 6. Use low speeds when grinding plastic, and pause frequently to ensure that heat doesn’t melt the material. Higher speeds are needed for metal, but once again, make sure that the bit and material don’t get too hot. Diamond-tip cutters – which look similar to the steel bits but generally have smaller heads – are also available. They can be used to cut steel and etch glass. Regardless of the material, you’ll get the smoothest cut by going slowly, removing only a small amount of material at a time. Pull the cutting bit back (against its rotation) while applying gentle pressure. Abrasive stone grinding bits are useful for carving, shaping, and removing burrs from brass and other metals, 7. Use high speeds but pause frequently to keep heat from building up, 8. High heat can melt soft metals such as brass into the stone.
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Cutting bits. break. Other accessories. 10 Wire brushes. chrome. glass. felt pads. or the strands can detach and become airborne. Most motor tools have stands that let you turn your tool into 54 FineScale Modeler April 2002 Jobs for the motor tool Working safely with motor tools Safety can’t be overemphasized when using motor tools. They (and bristle brushes) can be used alone or with polishing compounds. and pewter. One of the handiest motor tool attachments is a flexible shaft. Always wear a dust mask when sanding or grinding. The motor tool is hung next to the workbench. with enough torque to cause serious injury. and other materials. This is just an overview of some of the tasks that a motor tool can do. FSM points (grinding bits or sanding drums) grinding bit) and felt wheel) . even if you’re simply drilling a hole in a plastic car body. and consider a full-face mask when grinding or cutting metal. Clamp the stone into a vise. Wire brushes are good for polishing metals such as nickel silver. you’ll discover other uses for it. grinding pads. Like any modeling skill.7 8 Aluminum oxide stones (brown) work well on soft metals. The bit turns at speeds up to 30. Drill bits can break. Use a medium speed (not above 15. and soon you’ll be using your motor tool with confidence on your contestquality models. Felt discs come in different shapes and are handy for polishing plastic. and bristle brushes can be used to polish many materials. Think of a motor tool not as a miniature drill. Once you get one and begin playing with it. – Jeff Wilson a drill press. steel. and the flexible extension shaft fits easily in the hand and lets you maneuver bits into tighter areas. Try using various attachments on scrap models and material. then grind the bit against the stone. Many possibilities. Silicon carbide wheels (green) can be used on steel. 9. 10. or slip. making it fit more comfortably in the hand and making it easier to get into tight spaces. Polishing. Another handy add-on is a small router table.000 rpm. 9 Grinding wheels work well for removing details from cast-metal items such as this die-cast car door handle. and dust and scrap material can fly up and cause eye irritation or injury. When using a high-speed cutting bit. Always wear safety glasses. The head on a flexible shaft tool is small. Always know where your hands and fingers are in relation to the bit. Remember that bits used at high speeds can get quite hot – be sure they (and the material you’ve been working on) have cooled before you handle them.000 rpm. using a motor tool requires some practice to become comfortable and proficient. and cutoff wheels can do a lot of damage if they bind. • Reducing overly thick cockpit walls (cutting bits) • Quickly eliminating resin pour stub attachment • Cutting brass rod (cut-off wheel) • Cutting steel tubing (cut-off wheel) • Drilling rigging holes (drill bits) • Producing sharp edges on exhaust pipes (tapered • Polishing natural-metal finishes (rag wheel) • Polishing scratches in clear plastic (rubbing compound • Polishing metal surfaces (wire brush) Stone bits can be cleaned with a dressing stone (look for one in an outdoor-equipment store). There are many polishing tools. but as a small router. and stone.000 rpm). Never use a brush at speeds higher than 15. hold the work in a vise instead of your hand.

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