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Oct 03, 2017, 02:43 PM
aka Tony

Cutting or Sanding Tool ?

I hope to be building my first balsa scratch build in the next week or two.
I have already scratch built two foamies and have a couple of balsa kits under my belt.
I thought I might reward myself with a new tool which will go in the model room.
I have a good jigsaw that I could mount under a purpose built table, for cutting inside formers.
To be honest, I really don't like scroll saws. Had a craftsmen and wound up tossing it.
All my model cutting needs have been handled in the past with box cutters.
So one of my thoughts is to continue with the box cutter and purchase a small bench top sanding machine. I think that a 5" or 6" disk would be real handy to finalize the cuts on ribs and bulkheads.
A table top band saw is also one of my choices, but could probably be a future purchase.
My budget is limited, so I can only purchase one for now.
I do have a large band saw and full size sanding machine in my outdoor shop. Not the best for model work.
I would really appreciate your opinion concerning which tool would be the most practical.
Appreciate all and any input.
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Oct 03, 2017, 06:32 PM
-insert witty saying here-
Hemikiller's Avatar
One of the smaller belt/disc combo sanders works pretty nice in the model shop. I won't speak to brand, as there are a lot out there, but most of the brand name ones are pretty decent.

Undermounted jig saws work great, a friend did that and there wasn't a former he couldn't cut.
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Oct 03, 2017, 07:49 PM
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AA5BY's Avatar
An alternative to a scroll saw/jig saw would be a rotary cutter like the Dremel Trio tool. It does a good job as a rotary sander as well and a fair job as a router. Mount it inverted for scroll saw work with a 1/8" rotary cutter. Or use it as a free hand rotary cutter, router or sander.

I use it to make cut outs in cowls, for switches, for inside reliefs of bulkheads, for many model task.
Oct 04, 2017, 08:18 AM
Registered User
I make all my balsa cuts with a knife and straight edge. For cross cutting I use a razor saw. About a $10 investment. For the times I need to rip some stock I use a 14" band saw. Like you, I have a jig saw and hardly ever use it. I do have a combination sander with a 6" wheel and 4" x 36" belt though. Very handy.

I will add that I think it's better to buy a larger tool than you think you need for hobby work. You might do a little woodworking or have a home improvement project that requires the larger tool. They also are made to take more use than something tiny and will last longer.

Oct 04, 2017, 11:01 AM
Registered User
In Architectural Model shops where multi thousand dollar models are produced daily.
A large 12+" disk sander and a Quality table saw are the basic / used every day tools.
Precise cuts and finishes are critical.
A large disk Sander is V good for model making. Far more useful than a belt or belt sander combo... which are usually for smoothing out rough cuts.
Not inexpensive though and these do eat up shop space.
Oct 04, 2017, 12:25 PM
B for Bruce
BMatthews's Avatar
Scratch, for years I never really liked any scroll saws. But recently I figured I'd give it one last chance before I turfed mine out on it's motor. I invested in a variety of Olson brand blades after looking up information on blade selection for scroll saws. The blades I ended up with when selected for optimum performance on thin and light woods like our balsa and thin plywoods turned out to work FAR better than the junk cheapie blades that came with the saw. It really did transform the saw. So I'd suggest you put a little of your money into buying two or three different style Olson blades to fit your saw before you give up on it.

The saw I'm using is a higher end Ryobi saw. But since it's Ryobi it's hardly REALLY high end. Just that it's the one that was done a little nicer with variable speed.

Now as to sanding.... . Sanders are extremely bad for dust at the best of times. And with the "hang time" that balsa has it's especially bad. So to keep it out of your lungs and from coating EVERYTHING in your shop and getting out into the rest of the house you really need to look not just at a sander but also at a good dust control setup.

Frankly I've never felt the need for a POWER sander. Instead I use sanding blocks and the square end of the work bench or similar. I rub the sanding block along the edge of the bench with the part being sanded on the bench top with the edge just sticking out a hair past the edge so the sanding block cuts what is needed away. Basically a hand powered sander that does the same thing as a big disc sander. The key is using good quality sanding blocks made from flat plywood or similar. Not those horrid rubber "things" or the sheet metal ones or the foam blocks.

I know it's not electrically powered so some of the pizzazz value is missing But it makes up for it by being WAY tidier.

I don't want to take away from the valid answers about sanders in commercial shops. A good range of sanders is a must in such cases. But such shops also are supposed to have excellent dust control and collection setups. And that's a huge part of the comfort level for any powered sander IMO.
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Oct 04, 2017, 12:27 PM
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AA5BY's Avatar
Originally Posted by Bare
In Architectural Model shops where multi thousand dollar models are produced daily.
A large 12+" disk sander and a Quality table saw are the basic / used every day tools.
Precise cuts and finishes are critical.
A large disk Sander is V good for model making. Far more useful than a belt or belt sander combo... which are usually for smoothing out rough cuts.
Not inexpensive though and these do eat up shop space.
Yep, a disc sander is the most used power tool in my model building. Mine is a 8"self made. I was fortunate to find a motor with an auto brake that stops the motor once it is powered down. It has worked flawless for the forty years of service it has given. I have gone through many sanding disc however with those installed using spray adhesive. I make them out of floor sanding paper used with hardwood floor sanding machines, which are cut to to round disc using an old war out set of scissors. When ready to replace, hit the disc with a heat gun and it comes off easily.
Oct 04, 2017, 12:32 PM
aka Tony
Thank you all gentlemen for, your advice.
Just to be clear, I do have a small woodworking shop in an outdoor steel shed.
Good for most cabinetry projects, but not fine enough for model work.
Also, its not heated, and winters coming.
From your input I feel that I'm on the right track by utilizing the jig saw, and searching for a small bench sander.
Needs to be kept in a 11x10 room indoors so I might have to figure a way to hold down the dust.
Thank you Bare:
Certainly a single disk sander would be adequate, though I think for my purpose 12" is overkill. Did a short search for one, however it appears that most of the small bench types come with a belt sander. That is a 4 or 5 inch disk and a 1 inch or 4 inch belt.
Nice tool AA5B:
Perhaps a bit later.
It appears that most dealers are out of stock.
Sorry EB, almost missed your post.
Yep...used those rubber type sandpaper holders for years in a former life.
Thanks very much for your input.
I may try your method in this first build and see how it works for me.
Last edited by Scratch99; Oct 04, 2017 at 12:42 PM. Reason: Missed post by EBMathews
Oct 04, 2017, 01:02 PM
B for Bruce
BMatthews's Avatar
Keep in mind that on a disc sander that you really only can use one half of the disc for many parts. So a 12" sander is really a 6 inch usable area for the most part. And a 6 inch unit is only a 3" usable area.

If you have a wood working shop why not consider making your own "slow speed model sander"? Use a saw arbor or similar to rig up a half speed disc. And go for an 8 or 10 inch disc. How I think I'd do it is to build the sander in a "box" that acts both as the frame for the sander as well as the dust collection shroud so a vacuum can be hooked up to a spot on the box that ensures the best dust control.

The half speed idea would really slow down the cutting action and be pretty much useless for any regular woods. But for balsa I think it might just add a nice bit of control instead of the sandpaper being basically a "laser cutter" to the balsa. By having a little more feel you might find you have a little more control. .... Hmmm..... an old multi speed furnace fan motor perhaps?

An internal baffle between the disc and the motor would aid with dust control to keep any internal dust flow from the motor.
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Oct 04, 2017, 01:20 PM
aka Tony
Right! Just what I need, another project.
I do have this really old electric motor that already runs at a slow speed.
Oct 04, 2017, 02:32 PM
Registered User
AA5BY's Avatar
If you decide to build your own... pictured is one that uses a hardwood plywood disc. It is fitted with an adjustable angle table and has both a square guide fitted on 1/8 dowels into the table and an adjustable angle gauge.
Oct 04, 2017, 02:57 PM
aka Tony
Neat AA5BY.
Here's what I found:
1/12 HP is printed on body.
It seems to revolve at a good speed to sand balsa. Thinking direct drive?
No wobble in the bearings. Very Quiet. Runs strong.
Starts to warm after ten minutes.
Its really old, but I hope usable.
Actually kept it out of sentiment during my move here.
Oct 04, 2017, 03:10 PM
Now I have to land that thing?
PGregory's Avatar
Brings me much joy:
Dremel table saw, somewhat rare, but come up here and on eBay - rip all your sticks from sheets or bigger stock - custom sizes now at your fingertips.
Cheapo HD Belt/Disc, for finishing but espechially for shaping: HERE
Draw Saw - the xacto ones have teeth that cut on the "push," this one cuts on the draw - ZONA HERE
Steel building surface and many magnets - I am much happier this way than with push pins
Dremel for all odd jobs - cut-off tool is probably most often used option
All kinds of custom sanding blocks, wood and foam shapes.
Oct 04, 2017, 03:56 PM
Registered User
portablevcb's Avatar
I loved my Dremel jigsaw and used it a LOT for cutting ply and thicker balsa. Next to it was a cheap (Harbor Freight) combo sander. Used the belt and disk. Disk was better for more precise stuff. I did not build huge models so these did fine for me. And I did have a vacuum hooked up to both.

Oct 04, 2017, 04:19 PM
B for Bruce
BMatthews's Avatar
If it were to be used for any "real wood working" I'd say 1/12 is WAY too low a power. Or did you mistype that and it's really 1/2HP?

If it really is a low power 1/12 hp then it would likely do fine for model use.
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