Holding small, and not so small, parts in place when you’re airbrushing a model can be a delicate operation. You want to get a good even coat of paint and as important, you don’t want to ruin that coat of paint by leaving any smudges or worse, a partial fingerprint.
There are several commercial part-holding units available, and they’re fine for holding medium to large parts but what about the small parts? Many of these commercial units have a modified alligator clip at the end of a straight, or flexible, rod of some sort. These rods then sit in a base while your painted part dries. Many of these alligator clips however are just too big to hold the small parts firmly.
I was doing some painting recently and came up with a good solution for holding both small and large parts using micro alligator clips from Radio Shack (part #270-0373) and 1/16 inch brass rods from K&S Metals (part #8162). The best thing about this rig are the micro clips, they have a slightly squared nose and a series of lines formed in into the jaws, these design elements do a terrific job of holding parts securely in place. The spring mechanism is surprisingly strong for such a small clip.
I used these brass K&S rods as I had a package handy, but I’d guess you could just as easily use something like bamboo skewers from a supermarket to attache the rod to the clip with a bit of epoxy. This is a very quick and inexpensive set-up to make with the clips costing $2.99 for a package of ten and the K&S brass rods cost under $3.00 for a package of three.
I soldered the rods to the micro clips with a resistance soldering unit and it took a bit of heat to make a good joint. You can see how the brass rod became slightly discolored due to the heat needed; if I do this again I’ll probably use epoxy to attach the clip to the rod just to save a little time.
The brass rods come in 12 inch lengths that I cut in half; a 6 inch part holder is fine for my needs. When I’m working on my models, once the parts are painted I can simply push the rod in to a block of scrap foam to hold them as the paint dries on my parts.
The biggest surprise here was how strong these little micro clips are and how firmly they grab. In the photos here, I show a clip holding a smokebox door from an Nn3 kit. To give you an idea of size, the door itself is .2 inches in diameter and the sprue-nub on the back of the door is just .060 inches and the micro clips holds it nicely.
These parts holders are cheap and easy to put together and incredibly useful for keeping your fingerprints off those freshly painted model parts.
One note: On the micro clip package the part # is shown as 270-0373, but on the Radio Shack website the part is listed as 270-373. An extra “0” seems to have worked its way on to the package printing.
Category: Useful Tools