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Tips and Tricks

What follows is a list of the various tools, tweaks, and other generally useful information I've picked up over the course of building my figures. If you're looking to squeeze every last ounce of detail into your printed model (as I constantly am) these are just some of the ways to go about it...

Useful tools to keep around the place:

  1. Soldering iron with a narrow tip (and a LED light, if possible) - Very useful for "cleaning" prints of stray blobs of filaments, smoothing rough areas (especially stringy overhangs) and if you're brave enough... can also be used to manually add lines and other details to a print prior to painting. You'll want the narrowest most needle-like tip you can get, and one with a LED light is nice so you can see what you're doing.

  2. Dremel tool - Also useful for fixing mistakes especially when you want to slightly grind a part down or widen a hole. Be cautious when using the dremel, as it will quickly heat up the plastic and pull off larger chunks than you may have wanted. This is especially the case if you used a fill percentage below about 80%.

  3. Very sharp needle nose tweezers - The finest narrowest pair you can find. Essential for when you have to reach down into crevasses either to position a small part or retrieve some little bit of plastic that's rattling around.

  4. Hakko CHP PNB-2005 Long-Nose 45° Angled Pliers - These pliers are a livesaver when trying to get a grip on small components at an angle, and removing support structures up inside the body of figures.

  5. Hakko CHP PN-20-M Pointed Nose Micro Pliers with Smooth Jaws - Small but allows you to get a good grip of very small pieces. I prefer the smooth jaw ones since they're less likely to leave lines on whatever part you're gripping.

  6. Hakko CHP 170 Clean Cut Micro Cutters - These wire cutters cut in nice clean straight lines, and are excellent for snipping off unwanted support structures (like the ones on the Quark's tips)

  7. Hakko CHP PN-2008 Long-Nose Flat-edged Pliers with Smooth Jaws - Less essential than the others, but it's nice having a larger flat smooth pair of pliers that won't leave marks. Sometimes, if a component got bent or squished, you can use these to squish it back into shape without leaving grip marks.

  8. Paint Scraper - One of these should have come with your 3D printer, but if not, pick one up for prying off stuck print jobs and/or scraping off residue.

  9. Xacto Blades - Essential for scraping off unwanted blobs or whitling down components that are slightly too big.

  10. Regular Pliers - Standard pliers. I Mainly use these for ripping out support structures where finesse isn't required.

  11. Small metal ruler with mm and inches- I use these all the time when designing my figures, but they come in handy as a straight edge when trying to make a precise straight cut.

  12. Cheap non-aerosol hairspray - I use Suave Max Hold, since it's literally the cheapest. Non-aerosol hairspray is your secret weapon for getting the bottom layer of your print to stick to the build area and prevent curling, especially on heated beds. For extra large prints (like the TARDIS Console, War Machine, etc.) I recommend squirting down a layer seconds before it starts printing (don't put it down too early or it'll evaporate before it does any good) and then at various points while it's printing the first layer, especially around the corners. Try to only spray in areas when the print head is in the opposite corner so you don't gunk up the fan or print head itself. If you're not using a glass plate, you will occasionally have to use the paint scraper to scrape off the disgusting residue once it's built up.

  13. Detail brushes - You'll want the finest sharpest points you can find for painting your figures. I tend to rotate through my brushes, using new extra pointy ones for fine detail work, and then once they've been washed a few times, those become the general "filling in" brushes. Once they start getting a bit natty on the ends, you can sometimes use the micro cutters to snip the end off and extend their lifespan a bit.

  14. E6000 - Better than crazy glue for gluing down large pieces that need to be able to flex like springs, or when you need to cover a lot of surface area at once (like gluing the two TARDIS console halves together.)

  15. Gel Super Glue - Never use the liquid stuff or model glue if you can help it. It just gets everywhere and leaves those white "fume fingerprints" on everything. Gel superglue should be used for gluing small pieces together where you don't have enough surface area (or it's too visible) to use E6000.

  16. Rubber Tipped Spring Clamps - Vital when gluing large flat pieces together (like the TARDIS console) where they need to be absolutely flush.

  17. Testor's Enamel Paint - I'm no expert when it comes to model painting, but this stuff is pretty easy to blend, and doesn't peel off like acrylic.

  18. Testor's Enamel Thinner - Good not only for cleaning your brushes but for doing light color washes on figures you want to add a slight highlight or gradient to (like the Yeti's fur, Alpha Centauri's cape that blends yellow to green, etc.) Most enamel paint sets come with a small bottle, but I like to have a lot around.

  19. Dullcote Lacquer - Adds a protective layer to bare filament and enamel paint alike, with the added benefit of toning down the gloss sheen of enamel paint when finishing off your figures. Very useful stuff indeed, but make sure you shake the bottle thoroughly before using and try to keep even coverage over the whole figure.

Useful printer add-ons:

Coming soon.

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