Last modified: Saturday, January 6, 2001 6:20 PM

This page is intended to be a collection of miscellaneous technique discoveries for things that don't merit a full page treatment. (It's pretty lean right now, and I may never think of another "quickie tip"...)

12/01/98- HELMET STRAPS: Although most often you see helmet straps unbuckled, there are times you might want it strapped on: The German paratrooper helmet comes to mind. Elastic straps are utilitarian, since they allow you to remove the helmet easily but they look kinda funky, especially if they've got a big honkin' hook buckle. You can make a cool-looking leather strap with a better scaled buckle and retain most of the utility of the elastic one by supergluing short lengths of elastic to the leather, so that it's hidden under the helmet. That way you can use one of those impossible "use-tweezers-to-remove" scale working buckles (left) or even a non-functioning casting of a buckle (Paul Walmsley's on the right-- although his is glued onto an elastic strap), and still remove the helmet easily. No brainer, huh?

11/24/98- BARREL BORES: Barrel bores are easy to add, but the type of plastic plays a big part in how they look: Some plastics don't grind as cleanly. Top Cop plastics are only so-so. I usually use an engraving bit on a Dremel Mototool to make a small pilot indentation, then do the actual drilling with a pin vise drill. I find it easier to position the hole using the Dremel since you don't have to use any force: the drill bit by itself may tend to "walk" slightly, and you may end up with an off-center bore.

LENSES: Top Cop's flashlight and scoped rifle can be improved by adding lenses. As with the barrel bore, the initial holes are started at dead center. Then they're expanded by using other Dremel bits. This is easy to do if you're adept with the Dremel mototool. For the flashlight, the ball-ended cutter bit expands the hole until it's deep and wide enough. You may want to use smaller rounded bits to deepen the hole slightly. Then, the interior is lined with either tin foil or Bare Metal foil. (I just thought of this: You can cut a flat-walled groove at the front using the barrel-shaped cutter so that the lens can fit flush, or slightly recessed into it.) The lens is a piece of clear packaging plastic cut with a paper hole punch. Finally, glue the lens in with some Microscale Kristal Klear (found in the decal section of hobby shops)-- it's like thin Elmer's glue, and doesn't craze clear plastic.

For the rifle scope, you do the same, except use the barrel shaped cutter to make a flat inner wall for a good ways into the scope. Most scopes have a glare ring before you get to the lens. To make the curved lens, find an object with suitable curvature-- I use the ends to my paint brushes. Heat some clear packaging plastic with a heat gun and ram the form through. Then carefully trim the plastic to a perfect circle (hah). Sanding the edge flat will help zero in on the shape and size; just put the lens on your finger and drag it across sandpaper. When you're done, it should fit perfectly within the hole you've cut. You may want to paint the inside of the lens black-- this makes it look more glossy and won't show the end of the hole you've cut. Finally, insert the lens into the hole-- I didn't even have to use any glue, since the piece is fairly far back and pressure-fit into the hole.

11/22/98- COILED CORDS: I liked the coiled cords on Ertl's Real Heroes figures so much that I decided to try making one of my own. Now you might think that all you have to do is wrap a wire around a rod-- but you would be wrong! That would be too easy. Instead, you should remove the wire from the insulator, wrap the insulator around a rod and hit it with a heat gun ("it's the dry kinda heat..."). When the cord cools, the insulator will be "trained" to this happy shape. You may have to stretch it out to break any fusing between the coils, but when you're done you'll have a droopy coiled cord. Practice a little: you've got to get the temperature just right without totally melting the insulator. Your clue is when it starts to turn glossy.