Razorwire – Got to Have It

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Razorwire has been a fixture on the world’s battlefields for well over a century. You can’t have a war without razorwire. Tabletop gamers are clued into this, now it’s time for scale modellers to take notice.

A company called Army Painter offers extremely realistic looking razorwire. Army Painter makes their products with tabletop wargaming (Flames of War, Warhammer 40K, etc.) in mind, but a few of their products can also be useful to modellers. Case in point: Army Painter’s Battlefields Razorwire.

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To the naked eye, this stuff looks exactly like a tiny coil of razorwire. I mean it really does look like razorwire, and it even feels like it has sharpened points all along its length. To see how they accomplish this effect, I took a macro photo of their wire to discover how it’s made.

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This is a segment of the wire, approximately 12mm in length. You can see how they wind one tiny strand of wire around another. The wound strand even has rough serrations cut into it, which is what, presumably, gives it that sharpened texture. The effect is most convincing!

My showcase of this product on YouTube

Up to now, the packages I’ve bought contained 2.5 metres of wire, and sold at my local gaming store for about nine dollars (Canadian). As I understand it, Army Painter has recently changed their packaging, and now give you three metres of wire with no increase in price.

I believe these rolls of razorwire add several extra degrees of realism to any armoured vehicle model. No armoured force would ever venture into combat without bringing along a healthy supply of this wire for securing their defensive positions. Look at photos from any modern conflict, and you’ll see rolls of razorwire lashed to the exteriors of virtually every infantry vehicle.

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My “IKEA” Track Link Tool

What’s that? You didn’t think IKEA sold track link assembly tools? Well, you’re right, of course – they don’t. They do, however, sell an item I was able to adapt into such a tool.

I’d been on the hunt for something to help with the tedious task of assembling scale AFV tracks. I’d seen a few ideas, but they lacked important features, were out of production, or they cost more than I was willing to pay (which to be honest wasn’t much).

During a recent trip to our local IKEA I noticed a big display of their LEGITIM chopping boards. I sensed these could somehow serve a use in building models, then it struck me: I could cut one up, and use it as the basis for a kick-ass track jig!

The LEGITIM is made of polyethylene, a high molecular weight plastic. What that means is it’s durable, easy to machine, and immune to pretty much any chemicals a modeller might expose it to. For a mere three dollars, I was willing to give my little idea a try.

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⇪ The essential components: IKEA’s 8mm thick LEGITIM chopping board, a star-shaped knob, a short 1/4″-20 bolt, and a four pronged T-nut. I also used a number of small screws to attach the nose portion of the jig. That’s the complete parts list. Total expense was a little over five bucks. Creating this jig was less about cost, and more about the effort taken up by the machining.

I used a mitre saw to cut the polyethylene. The adjustment slot and rounded-over nose edge were formed on a router table, and all the holes were bored with a drill press. These are each basic shop machines for a do-it-yourselfer. I would’ve preferred not to have the screw heads visible, but because polyethylene can’t be glued, I had little choice about that.

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This particular jig can accommodate track sections up to twelve centimetres long, with individual links up to five centimetres wide. If someone felt they needed a longer or wider jig, simple changes to the design could easily permit that. The links shown in the photo above are from a Takom 1/35th scale Chieftain. Fairly large AFV tracks, to be sure, and my jig handles them effortlessly. I purposely left extra space in front of the adjustment knob as an area for sorting links.

An individual link track assembly tool is a handy item for any armour modeller, and I now have the satisfaction of owning one I built myself. Hopefully, other modellers will see this project and get inspired to try building their own.

Watch my Demonstration on YouTube

My New Favourite Hobby Knife

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I’ll just say right from the beginning: the Fiskars Heavy Duty Knife is, hands-down, the finest hobby knife I’ve ever used!

My Review on YouTube

Hobby knives may not command your attention like some of the more sophisticated tools of the trade. They’re not as sexy as, say, an airbrush, but no other tool could be more important. I own a multitude of hobby knives, always looking for the “right one”. The perfect knife will function well, be comfortable to hold, enjoy nice balance, and it’ll hold sharp blades securely.

Let’s take a quick look at a couple of more popular knives I’ve tried, and see how they stack-up:

  • Of course everybody knows X-ACTO knives. I purchased my first X-ACTO as a youth, more than forty years ago. I started with a #1, modified it with a brass collet, later developing a preference for the #2 handle, with its larger diameter.

X-ACTO knives boast perfect balance, then score poorly in all other categories. With little surface texturing, they can be awkward and uncomfortable to grip. Their aluminum collet doesn’t grip blades as securely, forcing you to really tighten down on the collar to keep the blade from slipping. That often leads to galling, where the aluminum collar binds against the collet. I addressed that issue by switching to a brass collet and collar, which reduces binding.

These days, the biggest knock against X-ACTO products is they’re now made in China. The drop in quality is quite noticeable. Chinese made X-ACTO blades are nowhere near as sharp as the old made in U.S.A. blades were, and they loose their edge very quickly. You can still buy X-ACTO blades made in the U.S., the Z-Series, which are distinguished by a zirconium nitride coating. You get the same American-made quality, but you’ll pay more.

The second tool I want to mention is the Olfa hobby knife.

  • The Olfa scores better across the board, with the sole exception being balance. Olfa’s knife feels more comfortable in the hand, with a nice rubber grip. The collet on Olfa knives is much better machined than any X-ACTO knife, with a tight slot to hold the narrow shank of Olfa’s smaller blades. Olfa’s blades are better than all others, including the Z-Series X-ACTOs. Olfa even thoughtfully moulded a small tab at the top of the handle to keep the knife from being able to roll away from you.

Sounds great, right? So, what’s the problem?

Balance is the problem. The Olfa knife is a bit too long for my liking, resulting in just a bit too much weight toward the back-end, when I’d rather reposition it nearer the blade. The plastic handle on the Olfa is ten centimetres long, and weighs ten grams. I sometimes wonder if lopping-off a couple of centimetres/grams from the butt end wouldn’t yield a more wieldy tool…

That brings us to my new favourite knife: the Fiskars.

  • It seems Fiskars identified the best qualities of the competition, then combined them all into one perfect tool. The Fiskars has a wider diameter handle, with knurling, a comfortable, contoured rubber grip, lovely balance, and it has the unique ability to accommodate any standard #11 blade, whether X-ACTO brand or Olfa. The blade that comes packaged with the Fiskars knife seems to fall somewhere between the others in terms of sharpness and edge holding – better than X-ACTO, not as nice as Olfa. Since the Fiskars collet is a near-clone of the Olfa’s, I intend to always use Olfa blades in my Fiskars handles.