Where To Get Useful Items III - Compiled by Chris McCarthy

Originally published at Scaleforum in 2006.

Returning for the third year, this is a new display of randomly useful items and contacts to help our modelling that are outside of our hobby's mainstream or seemingly not well known. These suppliers have lots of things that should interest us - so do browse their websites!

The "usual disclaimer" that the Scaleforum organisers have no connection other than as satisfied customers or users, applies to all suppliers and all items mentioned.

Thanks to those members who have given feedback and suggestions. We have tried to take these into account where practicable.

Walsh catalogue H.S Walsh & Co Ltd

This year we are highlighting a well-known jewellers' supplier who has an excellent catalogue, reasonable prices and a good Web site for direct ordering. Many jewellers' requisites and tools are very useful for modellers and our display shows just a very small sample range of such items. The organisers now use this supplier as a key source. Be warned, though, that like all good catalogues there are as many enticing solutions looking for a problem as there are problems offered solutions! H.S Walsh has retail shops in Beckenham, Birmingham and Central London.

H.S Walsh & Co 020 8778 7061 www.hswalsh.com

Thermo Gel Thermo-Gel

When soldering or using a heat source, spread some of this gel onto a neighbouring part that might get damaged by the associated heat and it will act as a heatshield. Effective on most materials (eg plastics). Easily cleaned off afterwards. Available in useful 100gm bottle size.

Available from: H.S Walsh & Co

Ultra-Smooth glass-fibre sticks Ultra-Smooth Glass Fibre Sticks

Supplementing the usual glass-fibre brushes and metal scrapers, these hard glass-fibre sticks allow cleaning up and solder removal deep into areas others don't reach. In packs or individually, in various shapes, these sticks can be reshaped or "sharpened" easily using pencil sharpener or sandpapers.

Available from: H.S Walsh & Co

Gimp Gimp

Very fine wire-wound tube in various diameters (used for necklace ends). Good for representing vacuum pipes and air hoses on rolling stock, using a wire or other core for added strength. With a flexible core, can be combined with tiny permanent magnets to form connectable hoses. Chemically blackens well.

Available from: H.S Walsh & Co

Soldering millboard mat

We almost hesitate to include this simple item - but are struck by how many modellers use "any old" flat material for doing their soldering. Non-asbestos, cheap and made for the job, this millboard mat is available in various sizes. It doesn't scorch or degrade, items don't stick to it and, all in all, it's an ideal base on which to do routine soldering.

Available from: H.S Walsh & Co

Soldering honeycomb

Another soldering base but this time with a grid of regular, closely spaced, holes that can be used for holding down (use cocktail sticks, wire or whatever you need) or spacing parts whilst soldering them. One of those tools that you don't know how you managed before you got it! Both sides can be used. Comes in different sizes.

Available from: H.S Walsh & Co

Model rope Model Ship Rigging

Yes, you can use household thread when needing to represent model rope - but why not do as our ship modelling friends do and use rigging twine made for the purpose, as it looks like rope? This is available in various diameters, stiffness and colour from several manufacturers and is perfect for our modelling needs. Model Dockyard, whom we feature here as a supplier, is renowned amongst ship modellers for its huge range of fittings, parts and "stuff" from numerous manufacturers at home and abroad. Take a look at their extensive on-line catalogue where you are sure to find something that meets a need you may not even know you had!

Available from: Model Dockyard, Truro



Brushes for precise application of paint and solvents.

Sold mainly for military modelling, these tiny brushes have bendy ends to allow access into difficult areas for application of paint, solvent, flux or whatever. Available in various small sizes.

Detailing wire (enamelled)

We have noticed how other model hobby areas often use pre-coloured, enamelled, wire to good effect for detailing. This supplier has quite a large range of colours, wire material and diameters. Check it out.

Available from: Little Cars

Detailing wire (lead)

In addition we show yet another form of detailing wire, this time in lead. Very malleable, it is used in military modelling to represent pipework in engine bays and similar locations where consistent diameter and "bendability" that holds complex shapes is required. Available in various diameters from 0.2 to 1.0mm (by 0.1mm increments) it is ideal for our modelling purposes, too.

Available from: PDI Model Supplies

Micro Chisel


A chisel with interchangeable tips, Use it to remove rivet detail etc.

This is a serious piece of kit from Mission Models in the USA! A chisel with interchangeable tips, specifically designed for adapting plastic kits of model aircraft and armour. Perfect for our hobby too.

Use it to remove rivet detail, mould lines and generally to adapt and clean up plastic moulded parts or other soft(ish) materials. The tips range from 1.0mm to 2.5mm width and come in different shapes.

Available from: Accurate Armour and other UK suppliers (use Google)

Mirror paint Ultimate Mirror Paint

This is excellent! Paint the back of any glass sheet (from microscope cover glass, 35mm colour slide glass etc. upwards) and you get a perfect mirror. Can be airbrushed if desired. Used industrially for repairing scratches in old mirrors. In our hobby mirrors can provide illusory depth to scenery or, of course, to detail "heritage" coach compartments - but trying to cut standard mirrors is not for the faint hearted or always suitable, and other reflecting material just isn’t the same. This paint means you can much more easily use mirror techniques. Another use is to make up a small inspection tool to look deep into a recalcitrant loco chassis, for example, by coating a sliver of cover slip and fixing it to a bent wire strip.

Available from: Sylmasta Ltd.

Vehicle headlight inserts Vehicle headlight inserts

The organisers struggled for a while deciding how to get decent looking headlights on some model road vehicles but then found these, from PSP Models Ltd., which fitted the bill perfectly. Available in various diameters, they are suitable for augmenting headlamps in many kits, cast or other road vehicle models to good effect.

Available from: Scalelink Co. Ltd.

Punch and Die sets Punch and Die sets

These are real tools, not toys!
Consistently forming rivet heads or representing bolts or nuts of your chosen diameter is now easy with these tools, available in round or hexagonal form. Just slip in plastic sheet (or soft metal like pewter or foil) and punch through for the diameter and type you want. Apply to the model - voila!
Originally made for the military modeller, they are perfect for scratchbuilders in plastic or those adapting plastic models.

Available from: Historex Agents.

Micro-Mesh surface finishers Micro-Mesh surface finishers

A wide range of surface finishing materials from USA, from 800 down to a staggering 12,000 grit size (eg we normally use fine wet-and-dry in 400 grit!). Very good for getting that perfect look, before or after painting.

It is made with a flexible cloth backing, topped with a layer of specially formulated latex. Silicone carbide or aluminium oxide crystals are bonded with a flexible glue. When contact pressure is applied to the work piece, Micro-Mesh crystals recede and rotate slightly to present their sharp cutting edges evenly across the surface, cutting together on the same plane with positive rake.

Micro-Surface developed this "polishing technology" so a very fine scratch pattern is produced with a relatively large crystal. The result is longer lasting material that resists loading, reduces polishing time, and produces the finest uniform scratch pattern with the most economical process.

Use dry or wet. Available in a mixed pack of various grades and forms (including pads, as displayed) or individually in sheets.

Available from: (pack) Little Cars Available from: (sheets) Craft Supplies Ltd.

TSO publication TSO (The Stationery Office) - on demand service

We had not realised, until a recent need arose, that TSO has an on-demand service and prints to order, at really very low prices with immediate delivery, a vast range of official documents going well back into the 19th century.

Many old railway related documents are available that help our quest for modelling accuracy and we illustrate here the cover of one that we bought recently.

They also list a huge range of hard-to-get or obscure commercially published railway books going way back.

Use their on-line search facility to find and order what you need, although their search engine is not the easiest!

Available from: TSO Online Bookshop.

Ultra strong magnets Ultra strong magnets

Yes, we showed some interesting magnets last year but make no apology for now showing the strong, very small 1mm diameter, button magnets.

The magnets can be used for actually coupling vacuum and air pipes on rolling stock if used with Gimp (see display elsewhere) or similar.

This can be for cosmetic reasons and/or to make electrical connections between vehicles, say for lighting feeds. Also shown are a range of larger button magnets and ultra-strong plate magnets that are ideal for use as temporary clamps or hold-downs (when used with a ferrous base) or as a semi-permanent joint. Many other types available.

Available from: Engineered Concepts (in USA).

Parallel action pliers Parallel action pliers

We were struck by the following recent exchange on E4um, as we had also faced this problem:-

Comment: "I have always been troubled by the problem of forming small components in etched kits."

Response: "Treat yourself to a pair of "parallel-action" pliers. You won't know how you ever managed without them. Small components can be gripped firmly right at the edge for bending, etc."

Quite right! So we are showing one type (there are several) here, available from well-known suppliers.

Available from: Squires Tools. and Shesto.

Carbon fibre rod in three diameters Hi-tech and "different" materials

This cottage-industry supplier to the free-flight model airplane hobby has a fabulous range of hi-tech and "different" materials and "stuff". Prices seem very reasonable. Experimenters from our own hobby will just love this site! Just as a teaser, we are showing carbon fibre rod in three diameters. Much of what they sell doesn't seem to be readily available in hobby quantities elsewhere - or was even known to us at all.

Excellent web site which includes a number of "how to use it" manuals for different materials.

Available from: Free Flight Supplies

EZ Line in use as telegraph/telephone wires. E Z Line elastic polymer

Years ago, Bernard Weller sold a useful elastic polymer that stretched rather than broke or deformed when bumped or snagged. Ideal for telegraph/telephone wires and the like, when it disappeared from his lists there was nothing like it available from any other source that we could find.

Well, we have now rediscovered it in USA! Available in several colours and two diameters.

Available from: Berkshire Junction Model Railroad Supplies