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Tips and Tricks

For a long time people have been asking if there are any tips and tricks to use when detailing N, Z, and HO scale locomotives. The following are hints that will help you understand what tools you need and what they are used for.

Installation Videos

To assist modelers with the installation of our products, BLMA Models has produced several videos outlining the steps to take when installing your favorite detail parts. Be sure to look check here in the future, as we will be adding more videos when the become available.

Grab Iron Installation Videos
Fans Installation Videos
Modern Cantilever Signal Bridge Lights


Go with medium nose toothless pliers. Needle nose pliers can be hard to work with because of their long, pointy nature. Having short or medium sized pliers will allow you to handle detail parts, such as grab irons, etchings and others, without damaging them. When installing grab irons, hold them with pliers to get more control then you would with tweezers. Remember, when working with wire you must be very careful. If you clinch the wires to tightly you will literally smash it and render it useless.

A good rule of thumb for working with detailed parts like these is; use fine tools to work on fine parts. A pair of fine, steel tweezers work great for adding ditch lights, rear view mirrors, windshield wipers, etc.

Sanding Sticks:
Sanding sticks, both coarse and fine types, come in handy all the time. Due to the fact that they are wide and flat, you should be able to have a nearly perfect straight and flat surface on the piece you are sanding. Sanding sticks also come in handy for smoothing out large areas such as the rear of diesels where the molded - on grab irons were located (see BLMA #59 instructions for more details).

Hobby Knife:
This is an obvious and necessary tool. You just need to keep your blade (preferably #11) very sharp and always use it with caution.

Toothpicks can be a valuable resource for they can be used to apply paint, glue and other liquids. To achieve the best results, the fine top, round style is recommended.

Glues and Paint

It's always important to use Super glue (CA) when gluing any detail part. Unlike white glue, Super glue can actually bond two similar surfaces together and make the joint stronger than the rest of the part. In order to avoid a messy situation and control how much and where the glue goes, apply it to parts with a toothpick.

Some people fail to realize that highlighting certain detail parts with paint can change the look of a locomotive drastically. To give your parts more a distinctive appearance, follow the steps laid out above, using toothpicks to do the painting, in the Glue section in order to paint exactly what you want. For instance, use red paint to highlight fuel fillers and sight gauges on the locomotives fuel tank, use silver paint to highlight headlight housings (per prototype) and use gloss black to fill in the small window on the nose doors of modern wide cab locomotives.

Basic Rules for Detailing

  1. Take your time.
  2. Always use sharp knife blades when removing or cleaning up details.
  3. Test fit the detail parts before you put them on as moving them later will most likely destroy both the part and your shell.
  4. Use prototype photos so you're not guessing where to put things.
  5. Make sure you have fun and enjoy the experience.

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