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I recently got the "Scotland" 1/64 scale and discovered the deadliest and the blocks are really really REALLY small!


I know I will need to drill out the holes for the rigging to go through the holes, even if I crazy glue the tips of the thread.  So what I'm worried about is the drill bit cracking the item.  What can I do to avoid this problem?

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Just how small is 'really really small?  I often use blocks 2mm long and have never had to drill out holes larger, although it sometimes helps to run a drill through the hole to clear it out.  If you clue the end of the line and wipe it so that the glue isn't making the line larger you should be OK.



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You may also want to make yourself a clamp with a depression at the front for holding the block, while working on it. Think of a wooden clothes peg cut flat at the front so that closing part is really right at the front. The pegs are cheap, so can make yourself several to accomodate different sizes of blocks and in different orientation. You may need to increase the holding force by winding a rubber band around the front.

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CA gluing the end of the line to be used as you mentioned above is a good thing to do, more so than using a wire threader.   Once the CA has dried, use a scalpel to slice it to create a sharp point.  I like the Swann Morton blades and holders, but there are others from which to choose as well.  Even the smallest line can be treated this way, yielding a needle point to push through the hole in the block.  

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Good move, but pay attention, there are actually two kinds, the five-sided cutting broaches and the round smoothing broaches. They also come in different size categories, the smalles for watch work and the largest (up to about 6 mm) for clock work. Watchmakers supply houses have them, but these days they can also found on ebay etc.

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Fly tying vises are great. Anything that holds the workpiece will generally improve efficiency and accuracy by orders of magnitude over fingers. (Don't ask me how long it took me to learn this bit of wisdom! :D )


Many modelers are familiar with the following "holders." I'm posting them for newcomers who may not have encountered them as yet.


The jeweler's hand vise:  These come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. My favorite is one which adjusts by twisting the handle, which screws the handle up a threaded shaft with a cone at its base which forces the jaws together. It has grooved teeth to hold various sizes of wire for drawing through a draw plate and a hole through the shaft and handle which permits holding the end of a wire or thin dowel close at the jaws while letting the long end project from the end of the handle. The handle can be held in a larger soft or protected jaw bench vise to free both hands to work on the workpiece. They're relatively inexpensive.





Universal work holder: These vises hold irregular-shaped small objects. They have small metal pins that are inserted wherever one desires on the face of the vise to hold the workpiece, either by moving the jaws together to clamp down on the piece, or, as with rings, placing the pins inside the ring and moving the jaws apart to hold the ring from the center. The entire vise "head" can be screwed off the handle and placed in a bench vise with the jaws tightened on the squared edges of the bottom of the vise head. Another inexpensive and very handy tool.





"Third hand" gizmos:  Everybody must have seen, if not owned, the ubiquitous "Third Hand," the black base with ball-joint articulated arms with alligator clips or other usually useless things, like small magnifying glasses, on their ends. The ball joints are loosened and tightened with wing nuts. They are very inexpensive and often sold as catalog "loss leaders" for a few bucks. I have a couple. The first was next to useless because the wing nuts didn't really hold the ball joints tightly. The second, a higher priced one, was no better for the same reason. Not recommended, but your mileage may vary.





There's a new wrinkle on the "Third Hand" coming out of the electronics production assembly industry (for holding small printed circuit boards for soldering) which is not particularly inexpensive (starting at around $25 and running up to around $75 for the super-size deluxe model,) but looks very promising. It's called the "QuadHands Magnetic WorkBench" system and comes in a variety of configurations and sizes. It consists of a flat heavy steel plate and bendable "gooseneck" arms with replaceable alligator clips with removable silicone jaw pads at one end (which can be rotated and locked in place) and rare earth "super-magnets" at their bases. The arms can be placed anywhere on the steel base place and bent as desired. I'll probably spring for one when I next have a bunch of small part soldering to do. I haven't seen one in the flesh as yet. If anybody has worked with one, a review would be welcomed. These have been widely copied by our Asian friends. The "real" QuadHands products are Made in the USA. (Additional "arms" of varying lengths may be purchased separately.)






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Posted (edited)

I may have posted these pictures before. Below a selection of the various work-holding tools I have collected or made over the years:




1 - Archimedes drill for watchmakers.
2 - Slender modern pin-vice with hollow fluted brass body.

3 - Slender antique pin-vice with hollow fluted brass body.
4 - Shop-made pin-vice with walnut body and head made from an insert drill-chuck; these drill-chucks are unfit for their intended purpose as they usually do not run true.
5 - Eclipse toolmaker's pin-vice with knurled steel body; these come in different sizes.
6 - French-style pin-vice; these are closed with the sliding ring and have usually brass inserts in the two jaws that can be adapted to special needs;
7 - Dito, here the jaws are replaced in hard-wood for delicate parts.
8 - Antique laboratory pin-vice with fluted wooden handle.
9 - Modern pin-vice with fluted wooden handle; these come in different sizes and capacities.
10 - Antique toolmaker's pin-vice for very delicate work in confined spaces.







1 - Toolmaker's hand-held vice that is closed with a sliding ring.
2 - Hand-vice with parallel serrated jaws moved by a screw.
3 - Antique american style hand-vice; the jaws are closed by screwing in the conical body; the handle and body have been replaced.
4 - Hand-held collet-holder; this uses horological lathe collets; the advantage is that work can be transferred between the holder and the lathe when it has the nominal collet diameter.
5 - Castrovejo surgical non-locking needle-holder; they come in various sizes, this one is for eye-surgery.
6 - Antique surgical locking needle-holder; these come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes.

I tend to go around flea-markets and ebay to look for antique pieces or 'seconds' from the production of professional medical tools and the likes (regular prices are just not affordable), because the quality is usually so much better than what hobby shops try to flog to us hobbyists.


The problem with many pin-vices is that their jaws are serrated - not good for use on wood. Finding one with smooth jaws is not so easy.


We also had a thread here some time ago on 'third hands', where people showed their home-grown ones. OK, this is something for those with the right machinery, but the ones you can buy for a few € / £ / US$ today tend to be too flimsy and imprecise.


Below is the one I made myself on the basis of an inherited cast-iron lab stand. It can also double as a little vice with a function similar to those fly-tying vices. I made clamps from different materials, such as steel, brass and Novotex and the ubiquituous electrical 'crocodile' clamps can also be used. In addition, I bought some ceramic jaws as used in soldering tweezers, but did not get around to make the clamps for them yet. I also made two types of hooks to hold blocks and ropes respectly. Another useful attachment are little collect chucks that clamp from near zero up to about 3.2 mm - 1/4". These chucks with collets can be found on ebay at around 2€ or so. They are useless for their intended purpose, but good for holding wires and other round objects - even thin flat objects, as they are slotted cross-wise.






Edited by wefalck
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I love my Castroviejo corneal scissors (5)! The vintage/antique watchmakers' hand vice (2) is also a really useful tool. Haven't had as much luck with the sliding ring version; it always slips when I don't want it to! Its advantage is that it has small jaws.

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No. 5 is not actually Catrovejo scissors, but a needle-holder. I also have two pairs of Castrovejo scissors. The first, smaller one I bought some 25 years ago and it is only used for rigging to keep it sharp, so that I can cut the thinnest lines or fluff.


The sliding ring ones seem to work quite well for me and I have used them a lot in recent times. In order to hold my miniature (1.4 mm long) blocks, I cut a recess into the face of the brass pads in one of them.


Hand-vices where the jaw open parallel are not so easy to find, but I found these two specimens on a flea-market/ebay. New they tend to be very expensive.

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