step 5 of 6
Cut, drill and deco
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Build it: All we have to do now is cut off all the spines that are in the areas we want to use for tool storage, drill some holes of the right size and location to fit the optimal number of accessories, clean up the body, and apply a bit of deco to mask our work!
1. Cut: remove the spines
Step number one is to get the spines off the Stegosaurus. This is our first experimentation area, because: how? It’s soft plastic, so a high-speed rotary tool might do more melting than cutting. But we have it in front of us, so I gave it a try first. In general, I recommend having a cutoff wheel on hand which is designed for hard-plastic modding (materials like styrene and ABS). This approach did work, sort of, on the spines: but this dino is soft, most likely polyvinyl chloride (PVC). I found that the fiber cutoff made a somewhat shaggy cut, and was a bit slow.
A hot knife would also be a great tool for this. This one by Walnut Hollow is my current favorite. But, you need to use it with a nice fume mask, because some common plastics make toxic fumes when heated. An additional good ideas are a. work outside or b. use in conjunction with a fume fan (this Hakko one is my go-to). If you do any soldering, you might already have a fume filter like this one.
I next tried some snips, and they worked pretty well. The pair I had readily to hand when I made this project were a bit fat-tipped, so they didn’t cut super clean and close. If I had been more patient and dug up my electronics cutters they would have worked better. My go-to pair for this type of task are these Hakko high quality fine angled snips.
2. Clean: smooth the cuts
So turns out the snips leave a bit of each spine’s base behind, for a more uneven finish than I’d like. For cleaning that up, I first tried a metal burr. Burr cutters are super important for shaping hard materials like styrene, wood, soft metals.
But the dino’s plastic is just too soft. So, since I couldn’t find my hot knife, I was forced to bring out my xacto. I avoided it at first, because having to use a lot of force with a super sharp blade is normally to be avoided, because that’s how nasty cuts can happen.
But I did have my favorite extra-sharp razor knife right on my bench, so gave it a shot. My current favorite crafts knife is by XX, it comes in packs of knives, and each knife has inside it ten breakaway blades, so the whole setup lasts a LONG time. And these particular ones I recommend have a 15deg blade, which is super helpful for fine detail work.
And wow, this works great! A nice sharp knife cuts this plastic like butter, even without the heat of a hot knife to ease the way. Just takes those spine bases right off. The only problem of course is that you can also cut into his back and lose a little of his nice coloring if you cut too close. What I think we’ll do is after we get these things off is we will add some coloring back with a sharpie.
Notice in the video that I’m cutting towards myself. A lot of people say don’t do that, because it’s dangerous. But you know, it’s also dangerous to cut away from yourself. And it’s really hard to have good control. So my preference is to prop my hand against the cutting surface, and move real carefully, and just make sure that I’m not cutting towards my other hand or my face etc.
Also, with these retractable blade setups, it’s a typically a good idea to have less knife sticking out, so there’s less blade to go flying off and hit somebody.
Just a touch of trimming is all we really needed! We’re gonna touch up this area with a sharpie later anyway, to darken the area back up again so that he doesn’t look quite so stripy.
3. Drill: fit and test
Okay, so the next thing we need is a ” drill bit. It’s from the core Dremel drill bit set, the bit that is no larger or smaller than it’s shank. This means that any hole we drill with it will be just right for a great many Dremel bits, because most have the same size shank. Fit the bit, lock it in, turn up the speed to 20 or so, and have at it. Drill holes all along the spine of the creature every 1/2″ or so.
Optional: we could also drill along the sides of his body to store a whole lot more tools. The effect would be a sort of spiny porcupine, and would come to resemble an anklyosaurus. But since I’ve only got a few tools at the moment, we’re going to go with what we’ve done so far. Now let’s test fit: in no particular order, I’m just going to poke in some things and see what fits best where. After a bunch of trial and error, you’ll find an arrangement that looks dino-like.
It looks like I drilled randomly; I was just guessing; I drilled almost the right number of holes. I’ll test fit: fill up all the holes that I drilled, drill any extras needed, then once it’s good, pull all the tools out again for finishing.
4. Finish: touch up the back area
Once the bits are out again, take a sharpie and draw a black stripe down its back to cover up the cut marks left when we accidentally cut off some of the paint deco. I think we don’t need to get complicated with paint. Let’s just go in and sharpie-up those green cut areas until it looks nice. When it’s dry, it’s going to be a little bit more muted, and it’s going to look sweet.
Finally, let’s go ahead and put the stuff back in… Looks beautiful, huh? Pretty awesome tool holder. So now on my workbench I’ll have my dremel and right next to it I’ll have my Dino holding my key go-to accessories, ready to hand. I think that’s pretty kick-ass.
The finished primordial tool holder
Next: conclusions, next steps, documentation, sharing