DIY Dollar-Store Detail Sanders

by  Joel Hamm


            Granting to the Peoples’ Republic of China “most favored nation” status may not be such a great idea. It wreaks havoc with our trade deficit, steals jobs from US workers, and props up our ideological and economic rivals. On the plus side, it has enabled the establishment of a nationwide net of retail stores (“Dollar Tree”) wherein everything costs just a buck. That’s because the merchandise is all cheap Chinese knock-off of “legitimate” products. Cheap, by no mean,  means

Unusable. Modelers with a stack of one-dollar bills can stock their supply larders without bothering their budget for the soon-to-be-released Hasemiya 1:1 scale ME109. Just a few of the goodies 100 pennies will buy:  hobby knife sets, 3-paks of liquid and gel cyano-glop, indestructible sanding sticks (nail care dept), sandpaper, an assortment of cleaners, and an endless array of snap-top Tupperware thingies for storing spare parts, decals, and such.


            Some of this serendipity is no so obvious to spot.  A wad of imagination is necessary to pick out the potential of some products. Best example is their battery powered electric toothbrush. Actually, there are three different types appearing periodically on their shelves.  Each can be converted, with minimal fuss, into a detail sander for getting into those hard-to-reach-without-doing-collateral-damage crevices. Each promises its own application.


            One model vibrates indiscriminately; another has a brush head that oscillates along the longitudinal axis, the third has a small round “Sonicare” – type head that rotates back and forth perpendicular to the body. Surgery consists simply of slicing off the bristles, filing of any stubble, then attaching a piece of wet/dry sandpaper with foam mounting tape. Enhancing the brush heads can embellish the job.  I extended the vibrator and oscillator by gluing on pads cut from a rubber eraser. To the “Sonicare” brush head I added  an extender  “foot” cut from thick plastic card. This stretches the reach as well as the linear extent of its arc.


            Each sander action has a particular best application. Vibration is indispensable for cleaning up small parts such as gear legs and prop blades. Oscillation works well on larger jobs such as smoothing fuselage seams. “Sonicare” type rotation, particularly with the extender foot, gets into tight joint lines as where wings join body or nacelles; also cures paint or surface imperfections tucked inside a panel or rivet line. All work well polishing transparencies.


            Check out Mapquest or the Yellow Pages for your nearest Dollar Tree Store. Fill up on odd’n’ends and grab a fistful of $! Electric toothbrushes.  Some to make your own sanders; some for your buddies, and some because they also do a fair job at brushing teeth.


P.S. Panasonic batteries sold at Dollar Tree are worthless. Get the good ones from the Energizer Bunny.