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Removing parts from sprue

Cutting plastic model parts without ruining them
The basic tools for any modeler’s toolbox, and what you’ll need to remove and clean up parts are, from left, a hobby knife, side cutter, and sanding stick.
Keep the side cutter’s flat side as close as possible to the part being removed for a cleaner cut and less sanding.
There is always some remnant of the attachment point no matter how clean the cut from the snips.
Carefully shave away any remnants of the attachment point with a sharp No. 11 hobby blade.
Finish up with a few passes of a medium-grit sanding stick. Don’t be too aggressive here or you may need to fill the seam on your model later in the build.
One of the most basic activities in model building is also one of the most misunderstood, at least by beginners: removing parts from the sprue or parts tree. It’s normal to want to get in there and twist parts off or use a hobby knife to cut them away, but doing either could break your parts, or, at the very least, leave them with ugly deformations.

Instead, you’ll want to have three basic tools on hand to remove parts from the sprue: a sharp hobby knife, side cutters (what we colloquially call sprue cutters or snips), and a medium-grit sanding stick. These should form the foundation for every modeler’s toolbox.

For large, sturdy parts, you can place the flat side of the snips near where the attachment point meets the part and squeeze shut the jaws. You’ll notice that even the cleanest cut will leave a small blemish that would be obvious on a finished model or might interfere with the parting fitting correctly. What to do?

Start off by removing excess plastic by carefully trimming with a No. 11 hobby blade. The watch word is CAREFULLY. It’s easy to cut too deep and gouge the part. And don’t cut toward yourself, even though it may feel like it gives you more control. Hobby blades are sharp and there’s no one who builds models that gets away without at least one painful lesson in that fact.

After you’ve cleaned away the excess, make a few passes with the sanding stick to smooth the surface. Make sure not to remove more plastic than necessary while sanding. That will mean you’ll have to come through and fill uneven spots near the seam. Working slowly is the best bet, removing a little material at a time and frequently checking your progress.

And now you know how to cut parts from a sprue without ruining them. Have fun!

For more model building tips and advice, pick up Essential Skills for Scale Modelers

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