photo b25057d1-2a8e-4652-8627-502b93ccd5b6.jpg

Monday, August 22, 2016

The art of scribing lines and making notches

Before I start, a disclaimer of sorts. I just want to stress that I am no expert in scribing and detailing. But I do have a certain level of proficiency that is good enough for me to get by. The tools and methods I mentioned below are derived from practice and experience I accumulated over the years. So it might not work for others. 

When I started out in 2002-2004, scribing panel lines was unheard of. The first person who mentioned it to me was my Mentor, Leon Ku. He was doing it and encouraged me to give it a try as well. It was an interesting technique to me back then. Little did I know, our Japanese counterparts were already light years ahead of us in this department. 

One of my first works where I attempted scribing, A mustard colored EX-S. 

So this may or may not be informative to some of you. But I have been asked several times on this aspect of modification. I sucked at presentation or video tutorials. Therefore, I decided to put up a little write out explaining the tools and other stuff for the beginners. I'm not good at making graphics and illustrations so my advanced apologies for my primitive presentation. 

Tools. Ten years back, you probably can't find any decent scribing tools compared to today. I only had a P-Knife to start with. So it was a hallowing experience trying to scribe. Well, here are the tools of the trade. 


BMC Chisels 

These are like the Excaliburs of the modeling world. Exquisite worksmanship and extremely sharp. Length is just right for you to hold comfortably. But price? you have to pay a premium for it. But they are rather fragile. One drop and that's it.  Hard to get as it's always out of stock. But IMO, the best chisels out there. 

Step 1: Show off your chisel

Step 2: To make a notch, first dig in perpendicular into the surface at one end. 

Step 3: Then set the tip of the blade so that the chisel is almost parallel to the surface and slowly  push forward. This may take some practice.  

Step 4: Apply minimum strength and you push forward. The sharpness of the blade should do the job for you. The key here is not the cut in at any angle but rather skim along the surface making shallow depressions.

Step 5:At the other end, repeat step one. 

Step 6: Show off your notch. It may look a little raw at the edges. You should sand down with a 1000 or higher grit sandpaper and clean away the excess. Priming will correct those little blemishes and make everything look awesome! 


Madworks Chisels 

New entrants to the tools market. I tried them a few times. But the lack of a holder is cumbersome for me. I do not want to be interchanging blades between scribes as it is both a hassle and distraction to me. For a chisel with that kinda of craftsmanship, it is surprisingly affordable. 

Sqaure shaped scriber by Sujiborido 

Another premium product. And considered a luxury to me. It basically scribe parallel lines along edges. Not easily available and spare blades will be even harder to catch than those rare Pokemons. A white elephant if you ask me.   

Holly Scriber by Shimomura Alec Co Ltd

Yesss... This is my most utilized scribing tool in my arsenal. I used them for at least 90% of the time. I do have a hard time convincing people that this is the right tool for scribing. This is because of its odd shape and high price. But to be frank, these three are all you need to scribe lines. Extremely sharp and the tip is very durable. Survived a few drops under my watch. 

The above picture shows how you hold it with your thumb and index finger during scribing. This actually gives you a lot of stability and control. Over scribing or any wayward cuts are kept to a minimum. Since it's so sharp, you do not have to exert any strength at all. Scribe by pulling the tip towards you two or three times and you're done. Sand down afterwards. 

 Hasegawa Trytool Saw Blades

Another useful tool that has been overlooked by many. It's primary purpose is for sawing parts and stuff. But it can be used for scribing as well. 

Similar to the Holly scriber, but flimsy and less durable. 

 Hasegawa Modeling Scriber

 Perhaps the most common tool for scribing lines for ergonomic reasons. For reasons unknown to me, every time I uses this, I ended up reverting to my Holly scriber. Perhaps I got so used to the unconventional ones lol. But, it's certainly useful to have for those starting out.


So what are these strips of metal for? Well, they are my rulers and guides scribing. I can't do without them. And they are flexible so they can be bend over curved and undulating surfaces. I use them A LOT.

"So where do they come from?" you asked. Well, they are actually leftovers from photoetch (PE) templates. Those long borders encasing the PE parts which are of no use. Or so they think ;)

HIQ Parts Craving Guide Tape

This may sound silly. But this is only a new Revelation to me recently. I have never use the Dymo tapes everyone is using since I'm so accustomed to using just metal strips as guides for so many years. But this tape is very useful. Its adhesiveness is really strong so the tape doesn't shift as you scribe. And it's transparent so you can see where you're going. Definitely a must have for those starting out. 

Magnifying Glass with light station

This is entirely optional. For old men who have hyperopia or "long-sightedness" lol. Those notches at 0.1 mm thick is almost impossible to see with your naked eye. Some assist is good to put less strain on your eyes. 

Now, why is this seemingly insignificant object doing here? Well, this is probably one of the most essential tools I will have on my table. Simply because it temporarily hold things down so that I can free up both hand for scribing. And it beats the clamp vice since it is easier to set up, versatile and readily available. Plus, there are so many other uses for it. 


To me, when its come to panel lines, the technical aspect of it (scribing and notches) is the easy part. The hard part? How do you design them? People seem to have the impression that i can conjure something out of nothings. Well, all I can tell you I'm no Dr Strange. It took many years to develop that acute sense of what goes where and stuff. And till today, my style is constantly adapting and evolving. 

I always browse online sites for inspirations and ideas. Site like:-

1. Pinterest, a treasure trove of mecha designs. 
2. Mecha/concept artists' publications. 
3. Fellow modelers' works. 

The few modelers I actively follow are Greworks, Anahem FactoryShunneige and 
Amethyst to name a few. Between them are the best concepts, detailing and builds I have ever seen. 

So I think that's about it. Scribing lines and making notches, depressions may seem hard at first. But it is all a matter of practice. I always believe if you invest enough time and effort, anything is achievable. Of course I am not telling you to go burn your wallets by getting the best tools out there. Sometimes, you can look for alternatives or some modeling hacks that can save you time and cost. 

So I sincerely hope this will help some folks or at the very least provide an insight on how I work those lines!

Till next time! 


Great writeup! Iv never been good at lines and always feel discouraged messing them up and getting stray lines. Thanks to you and Mechaman, I'm gradually going to start adding more to my builds! Cheers!

great one, been a while since I've been to your blog.

Thank you for these beautiful information. It helps me a lot to understand and to improve myself in the technique of scribing.

Best Regards

Alfredo the CrazyKid

Hullo there

I am just starting out and have the Tamiya Scriber but thinking to invest in some BMCs - my question; do you (or one of your mates)got a Tamiya scriber? If so, how wide is the tamiya scriber when compared with ones with a measure on?

Cheers for the great article - I esp like the annotated photo with different widths marked in = inspirational!


The Tamiya scriber is not rally suitable for panel line scribes. So avoid it. GO get BMC or Madworks chisels!

Thanks mate - yeah BMC seems the way to go, for the record - I'm told by a reliable source that the tamiya scriber ii / p-cutter is 0.55mm wide.

I picked up a nice etching scriber from a jewellery supplies shop in Hatton Garden (where all the jewel peeps are here in London) and that already gives me so much more control to make those first marks than I achieved with the Tamiya jobby...but know that the tamiya scriber is a decent tool, I just have to keep finding applicaions for it - ie that hook shape is really handy.

Peace & love from London

Glad to hear that TobySan. Never stop trying and learning! Keep it up!

Which size of the Holly scribers do you use the most for which scale? I can probably afford one every now and then so I want to know which is the most useful for the scale I plan on working on the most.

Holly Scribers are only available in 3 sizes. 0.1,0.15 and 0.2. I use 0.15 and works on mostly 1/100 scale.

Hi, I'm looking for a new scribing tool. I've been using the tamiya scriber and just can't get along with it.

I was looking at the bmc chisels when I found funtec engravers. Have you used these? I will most likely buy the holly scribers however, unless the bmc chisels are that much better. Also have you used the handle for the chisels??

Many thanks,

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...