Tool talk, of a sort...

Last modified: Monday, April 8, 2002 5:46 PM


This is one of those rare "Tool Talk" articles that I write to let you know about some kewl or useful customizing tools and materials. Great... More stuff to squander money on, huh? This hobby covers a LOT of area: Depending on the scope of your interest, the list of essential tools can be pretty lean. But more likely, as your interest grows, tools and materials can become a bottomless pit of spending. Some stuff is useful every once in a while (my Dremel mini sander), some of it isn't useful at all (to me, at least-- the Unimat), and some are indispensible (My Dremel Mototool). Then there's stuff like my Home Depot air compressor which I don't use all that often, but which is waaaay cool and makes me regret wasting money on a dinky hobby version. But you probably don't need every tool produced and you'll probably use only a handful regularly.

When it comes to materials, more is better since that broadens the variety of stuff you can produce and it's a source of inspiration too. You don't know what you'll want to make a year or two down the road. Keeping an eye open for unusual materials can be a good, albeit packrat-like habit; a lot of times you don't get a second chance. It's great if it's there when you need it.

12/10/01- DREMEL STUFF
A New Chuck To Preserve Your Sanity For you oldtimers, this is a kewl little thing for your Dremel Mototool and it doesn't cost a bundle. It's their new (or fairly new) keyless, collet-less chuck (left). Older Dremels came with the keyless chuck (center), but it didn't fit their flex shaft. With a flex shaft, if you wanted to change bits with different shaft diameters, you had to switch out collets (right). Do this a bunch of times and it will start to drive you crazy. I was considering buying a second Dremel just to avoid that. The new chuck is thinner than the old one, but slightly fatter than the chuck that uses collets... so you have to adapt to it lest habit leads you to grind away part of your fingernail as you focus on your work (you can tell without looking-- it generates heat and stinks).

If I Were To Buy A Mototool Today... Dremel makes lots of different model & sets so you can spend a little more and get this, or a spend little more and get that... and now they even make a digital one. Wow. Digital cutlines are so much more tubular than analog ones. If I had to do it all over again and I didn't keep spending my money so frivolously, I'd pick up their bare bones model, the 275. This is one of their few fixed speed models (It's dual speed, I think: 15,000 and 30,000 rpm). The majority of their product line have a variable speed control built right onto the tool with a speed range from 5,000 to about 30,000 rpm. They tell you that the low speed is good for plastic, but from what I've seen, a lot of plastics melt when cut at that speed. It just so happens that the foot speed controller accessory only works with single speed Dremels-- like the 275. Connecting it to the variable speed Dremels burns out their controller. And the foot control speed is continuously variable from 0 to whichever range you have selected. Now that sounds promising... Mind you, I haven't used this setup before so I don't know for sure...

12/10/01- TINY BUTTONS
This is old news, but I just got around to placing an order from Sue's Sparklers. This Internet retailer sells small iron-on metals in various shapes, like circles, squares, stars, etc. Some folks have taken to using the round ones as buttons. The 1.5mm size is suggested for doll buttons at the site-- This is about the size of a pinhead, so it's kinda small. Of course, not everyone wants shiny gold or silver buttons on everything, either! I bought several different shapes and sizes with the idea of using them as detailing bits for projects, like faux rivet heads. Wish I'd bought a greater variety of sizes. You never know when you might have a need for stuff like this. If you order, don't be shocked when the package arrives: 1 gross of buttons ($2.50) sounds like a lot but looks more like a smidgen. What can I say? They're tiny. (For comparison, Dragon's tiny button is shown at bottom. In you ask me, the proper size for a button is the center part of Dragon's button.)

12/10/01- TINY ZIPPERS
These are also tiny and they're available at... Tiny Zippers! For a looong time, customizers have been plagued with the problem of hugely out-of-scale zippers. This isn't a solution to that problem, but these are probably the smallest zippers we'll ever see. Dragon's started using them and they do make a difference. They go for $1.50 each (unless you buy in quantity) and are available in a handful of colors. Beware though: The odd colors beyond basic black and white may not be quite what you expect. I ordered several gray ones but they were considerably lighter and greener than I expected. Someday I'll have to get back into sewing mode to see what I can do with these guys.

12/10/01- TINY EYELETS
These are one of the things that customizers have lusted for since first seeing them used in ApeJoe's web belts and in some of those awe-inspiring Japanese customizing sites. The problem was, the eyelets and crimping tools were difficult to find. Eyelets are an industrial part sold in huge quantities-- priced by the tens of thousands. The industry uses autofeeding eyelet machines capable of crimping so many thousands per hour. Outside of the prototype production department, hand crimping tools weren't much in demand and had to be custom made at considerable expense.

That's changed now that micro mini eyelets (and other sizes) and the crimping tool are sold by Goodie Two Shoes. The crimping tool consists of a standard leather hole punch for making the hole; for crimping, unscrew the hole cutter tip and replace it with the setter bolt. (It therefore makes sense to have two of these tools-- a cutter and a setter- unless you actually plan your work.)

One caution, which may be totally unfounded and atypical: My order was placed and went unacknowleged for almost a month. I'd forgotten that I'd placed the order!

This info comes from Teri of Firebird Arts & Music. They sell a wide variety of 1:6 swords and musical instruments at the site, so check 'em out. Thanks, Teri! --Jimbob

"...Avery is marketing a 8 1/2" X 11" plastic sheet that can be run through a ink jet printer---then items can be cut out, heated in the oven and shrink to 1/3 of the original size. The final product is very solid, and about 1/16" of an inch thick.

So far I've made some ribbon bars for a Navy friend's Joe collection, medals, and fancy horse bits for 1/6 scale horse.

Any holes should be punched before shrinking. And a pin can be poked through the un shrunk sheet, to create a item on with a custom attachment.

In addition to creating flat shrunk things, with a bit of care, the plastic can be worked around a form and heated with a heat gun. The final product can also be painted once it is shrunk. Painting before the shrinking creates a interesting bubble finish.

I'm trying to track down a wholesale supplier to add the product to my website along with all the other 1/6 scale stuff. But this product is just too much fun, and solves a huge number of problems in creating small items for the Guys & Dolls, so I figured you would be a good place to spread the news. For 1/6 scale items, print at 50% of the original size. (A 4 inch ribbon bar should be 2 inches long when printed) The plastic will then shrink another 65% or so ending up with a item very close to perfect 1/6 scale..."