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Scribing Tool


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Can anyone suggest the best scribing tool please to use on model aircraft to reinstate panel lines?


I have a Revell one (the same one also sold/marketed by others) and it is useless as it leaves burred edges and doesn't create a neat line at all.


Plus if anyone can give me some tips on how to go about scribing that would be really helpful as my efforts so far have been pretty poor, due to the poor scribe and I suspect my lack of technique.




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I don't know if it's the best tool around, maybe it is not, however I use the Trumpeter's tool and I find this works well enough.

In addition I also use the old "pin in a vice" technique, where the best pins are IMHO the ones used in a good drawing compass.

As guides I use a combination of dymo tape, flexible metal rulers, commercial scribing templates and electric insulation tape. The insulation tape is used to scribe on curved surfaces, as when cut in stripes it can be stretched to follow easily something like a 1/72 fuselage.

For certain shapes I sometime cut templates from vinyl using my Silhouette cutter and on a couple of models I actually made template as big as a whole wing with this technique.


Regarding tips, there are many around, the best I can give is to apply a number light passes rather than a single heavy one. This is even more important when scribing using a "soft" guide, like insulation tape or vinyl, as it is very easy to press too much into these materials, with the result of a line that is not straight. It is also crucial to do this when scribing on curved surfaces as too much pressure may result in the tool slipping.


One last bit of advice: not all plastics like being rescribed in the same way ! Softer plastics (like used in older Airfix kits or the Ertl issues of the Esci kits) don't take scribed lines well and it's trickier to achieve nice clean panel lines. Harder plastics, like one generally used on Japanese kits are much easier to rescribe but certain very hard plastics are also difficult (thinking of some short run kits)

Everytime I know I have to rescribe a kit, I first do a check on an invisible area, for example inside the wing, scribing a few lines with different tools to see which one works best on that plastic. In some cases I know I'll have to accept something not great...


Added here just for interest.. do it at your own risk if you really want.... many years ago one suggested trick was to clean the incisions with some aggressive solvent, like white spirit and similar stuff. This had the effect of removing the ragged edges and on some plastic it also kind of "hardened" the surface. Too much solvent however could damage the plastic, so it was a matter of finding the right amount to get the right result.

Even less health friendly, some used trichlorethylene, that is pretty bad stuff to breathe but was commonly sold as cleaner. This is even more aggressive on the plastic but someone had found a way to make sunken rivet and panel lines from kits with raised details: the trick was to sand everything, then apply the solvent with a brush. After a while the surface detail reappeared but as scribed. All surfaces needed to be smoothed with sand paper and the kit was ready to go.

I did try the technique many years ago on a couple of Airfix kits and found that the panel lines were not very well defined. However rivets showed pretty well so in my second build I rescribed the panel lines while using the technique to have the rivets reappear. Worth it ? Not sure...

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I use the basic Tamiya scriber (similar to the Trumpeter tool) mostly plus an overpriced Hasegawa kit - basically a pin and some templates. There are some very expensive Tamiya engraving bits as well as the basic tool, but I can't really justify the cost for these! 


One additional tip - beware fillers! Often you need to rescribe a panel line over a filled area. Many fillers I've tried e.g. Milliput, Squadron, Perfect Putty can tend to 'crumble' to some degree leaving a less than perfect edge (or perhaps I'm doing something wrong). Hence for areas that will need rescribing I use either a superglue and talc paste or 'gloop' (sprue melted in Tamiya extra thin cement). Both these scribe well.





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I use the Trumpeter one too (sold under various names). It works just fine, but you need to use light pressure to get a nice line. If you go too hard and rush it you'll get a "ditch" with burred edges. Also: pulling doesn't always give you the best result, sometimes you want to push instead. Practice makes perfect.

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I have a couple of these and replacement heads for them in various widths. Dspiae and Tamiya do similar sets. Far finer than the normal olfa and tamiya types and far sharper.



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I have 3 options these days. 

A scriber made by UMM from the States. This has a scribing end as per a normal scriber and also a blade at the other end. This is great for putting back panel lines lost on say the fuselage joins on aircraft. You can also make some nice lines by pushing with the blade. It might sound odd but it works. 

My other two are a Tamiya scriber and a good old needle in a pin vice. 

Those are my 3 for what it’s worth but the UMM is definitely worth considering IMHO



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  • 6 months later...

My go to is a Tamiya 0.2mm engraving blade. It’s expensive for a scriber but it’s an amazing tool for the job and with the handle it’s very ergonomic for my hands. It’s the perfect size for most panel lines and it gets a really smooth cut. 

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