Friday, May 4, 2018

Removing Flash from Plastic Figures

Plastic soldiers and models are usually made using molds composed of two big pieces of steel that fit together.  Molten plastic is injected into the mold under pressure to insure all the cavities are filled with plastic.  When the two halves don’t match up exactly some plastic will leak out.  This leaves some amount of excess plastic along the mold line, or seam, of the model.  Companies expect this “flash” as it is called, to be removed by the consumer.
If you can’t see the flash well, it’s difficult to remove.  I like to use an Ott light; they provide a very bright natural light that’s designed for people who craft or hobby projects.  It makes a huge difference when you can see the flash clearly.

Use the proper tool for the proper job.  Don’t use a cheap sprue cutter.  Don’t use nail cutters, wire cutters, or even knife blades to cut troops off the sprue.  That extra bit of a nib you have to remove from each soldier is just that much more work.  Spend some money on a Tamiya sprue cutter.  It's about $25 or more.  It's expensive, it's worth every penny.  I have every brand and every version of sprue cutter, all of them, the Tamiya is way better for cutting troops and bits off the sprue.  

The Tamiya sprue cutter is very thin and one side is very flat.  It will allow you to get right up next to the part when you cut it from the sprue.  Often no more trimming is necessary because the cut will be perfect.

However, don't cut anything except plastic with it.  You will ruin it if you cut metal, even once.  I keep an extra pair of wire cutters nearby when cutting model parts or troops off the sprue in case I need to cut a piece of wire.  The metal used in a sprue cutter is soft and will deform if you cut metal with it.

Then use the trusty #1 X-Acto handle that takes the old standard #11 blades.  But the old #11 blade is obsolete for cutting off flash.  I use Model Master #11 blades or the X-Acto Z series Gold Blade.  Like the sprue cutter they cost more, but you get more value for them.  They are very sharp and worth every penny.

I replace them frequently but I save the old blades.  Old blades get put on old handles
for rough work on metal figures or other projects where a perfectly sharp blade is less critical.  Change blades after every hour to keep them sharp.  A sharp blade is a safer blade.

One final note, don’t work for more than an hour at a time.  Get up, walk around, drink some water or juice and take a break for at least 15 minutes.  Your eyes need to rest. Your mind needs to be sharp because those blades are sharp.  

My best friend, Randy, from Fidelis Models puts out a newsletter from time to time and I wrote this article originally for that newsletter.  I have reposted it here because I have had people ask me about flash removal. 

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Bob G. said...

And to think for ALL these years, I used an X-ACTO knife (and shed some blood along the
I did not KNOW they had a specialized SPRUE-CUTTERS...whoever thought that up MUST have made a mint!
Softer plastics aren't too rough to work with, but the HARDER, more brittle plastics (model aircraft) can be a real challenge, and more care needs to be taken, so as not to remove anything from the actual part. Experience comes with

Thanks for the advice.

Have a good weekend.
God bless & and carry on.

Mike Creek said...

Happy to be of service G.