Scribing technique

By Alex Dumas 2008

Many people have asked me what technique I use to scribe lines on my models, so in this short article I will try to explain a simple technique I have developed over the years. The pictures were taken during the making of the my BSG Viper Mark 7 pattern.

The tools

The first tools you will need are good engravers (scribers). There are many tools that can be used to engrave details in plastic (even needles or broken Xacto blades) and I have tried quite a few but for delicate lines I really like Hasegawa's Scribing Tool. Of course, the tool to use will vary depending on the width and depth of the details to engrave.

You will also need guides to scribe nice and 'strait' lines. Clear plastic sheets (i.e. clear foils) are great to make rulers and templates since they are fairly flexible and you can see trough which is quite convenient for positioning. 3M's flexible plastic tape is also very handy for curved surfaces or complex patterns.


The technique

Always use a guide to make uniform lines; Don't try to engrave lines without because you will ruined your model (believe me I have tried...) Apply gentle pressure on the engraver and make a few passes in both directions to gradually scribe the line deeper (it usually takes 5 to 15 passes). Don't try to engrave the line in one stroke as you might end up with unequal depth and you will have a hard time keeping the guide in place (tip: use a small blob of blue-tack to help hold the template in place...)

Below is an template I have made in clear plastic (used for the front wing's edge which you can see the result in the second photo below...)

Even with guides and carefulness scribing you may damage the surface while scribing. Don't panic! Use some putty or epoxy putty (for larger damages) and re-scribe once dry. Applying a primer on your model before engraving will ease the process because details will be much easier to see as you progress (tip: use a primer that will contrast with the plastic color ...such as a grey primer on white styrene like below)

Sometimes plastic guides just aren't flexible enough on some surfaces so flexible tape can be used instead. While 3M tape is tick enough to make a good guide it is not as rigid as plastic so go easy on the pressure you apply on the engraver (remember, make multiple passes...)

After a few passes the line becomes deep enough to remove the tape and finish without any guides. Again, go very gently and let the engraver make its way in the newly engraved line.

Flexible tape also let you scribe more complex pattern in one operation like in the example below. Notice on the picture below that the scribing is done after giving the model another coat of primer (it helps to see the details ...and defects too!)

For more details on the Viper Mk7 project, click here.

I hope you have enjoyed this 'jump start' article and good luck scribing your models!

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Alex Dumas