A glass-fibre pencil is among the most useful tools I have. I first came across one 30 or more years ago in a home-electronics shop, where it was intended for cleaning metal contacts. I bought it on the off-chance that it would be handy for scale modelling too, and a quick experiment revealed it was also ideal for working with plastic and resin.
Basically, it works like a propelling pencil - except, instead of a graphite lead, it contains a core of glass fibres. It's extremely versatile because, depending on the length of the exposed fibres, they'll either work as a quite a gentle abrasive that's ideal for cleaning up mould lines and removing burrs after sanding, or a really aggressive sander on soft material like styrene. Basically, the shorter the ďnibĒ, the harder it sands and, because you can adjust the length, itís easily variable to suit the job at hand.
You can use it to level areas - itís great for tackling ejector pin marks - or even ďsculptĒ with it, sanding away material to replicate dents and uneven surfaces.
All the fibre pencils I've seen over the years have been 4mm in diameter - so I assumed that was the only size available. Thatís fine for general tasks, but struggles to get into nooks and crannies, so I was excited to spot Shesto's Modelcraft 2mm pencil when shopping online recently. As you can see from the comparison shot alongside my trusty 4mm pencil, it will be ideal for more detailed work.
The pencil arrives in a blister pack with a cardboard backing. The pencil itself is good quality, with a clutch-release (as against the screw-thread I've found on 4mm pencils) and is comfortable to hold and easily adjustable.
A really nice surprise was the length of the 2mm glass-fibre core, which basically occupies the entire length of the plastic body. This is much longer than I've found in previous 4mm pencils and should last for many yearsí worth of normal use.
Shesto includes pencils in 2mm, 4mm and 1cm sizes in the Modelcraft range. Iíve never tried the largest, but Iíll definitely get one now I know such a thing exists. This 2mm pencil was more expensive than the 4mm ones I'm used to (shopping around, you'll see prices between £8.50 to £12.00 or higher), but its refill is much longer, so things balance out. I imagine a smaller diameter core might wear out faster, but refills are readily available and cheaply priced.
A few words of warning
As much as I rate glass fibre pencils as supremely useful, I also have a love/hate relationship with them - probably more so than with any other tools I use. The reason? Simple; no matter how careful you are, the fibres inevitably break off - and when they do, they are like splinters from Hell! They pierce the skin like a hot knife through butter and are extremely painful. The tiny individual fibres are hard to see, so removing them usually requires a magnifier and fine tweezers. I donít even want to think what it would be like to get fibres in your eyes...
So - while a glass fibre pencil may look harmless, itís a tool you need to treat with respect, just like scalpels and razor saws, and keep safely out of harm's way when not in use (especially if youíve got children who can access your work space).
Bearing the caution above in mind, I thoroughly recommend including a glass fibre pencil in your tool set if you don't already have one. Just be careful, and you'll find it invaluable.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE
Highs: A very versatile tool - almost a variable-grit sander. It's affordable and will last for years.Lows: BEWARE stray fibres! No matter how careful you are, one will get you in the end - and you'll know about it!Verdict: A glass fibre pencil is an indispensable part of my tool kit. This 2mm size will allow more detailed work than I've previously used a fibre pencil for.
About Rowan Baylis (Merlin) FROM: NO REGIONAL SELECTED, UNITED KINGDOM
I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...