Do’s and Don’ts when using your modeling nippers is an article we decided to make, answering the questions we received after publishing Cheap Nippers post. The latter one stirred the waters, but the Q’s we got are far from what we expected and some of them surprised us a lot. Instead of discussing the Cheap Nippers as quality or availability, we got a trend resembling more of a “How to destroy this thing?” guide. Nevertheless, since plenty of people are wondering about it, it gave us the incentive to publish a short “What To” and “What Not To” do guide.
Using your expensive and high precision modeling Nippers is just like using any other tool on your bench. Draw a little parallel to your Airbrush for example. You don’t use you .2mm nozzle to spray varnish layer over the model, nor to prime it. As Confucius once said: Don’t use cannon to kill mosquito. Because this is what you would’ve been doing in the case described above, just reversed. Shooting a sniper to hit an object at an arm distance. Same goes for anything you use – you need to use it properly, maintain it in timely manner and keep it safe.
Cheap, general purpose cutting tool
Your nippers, no matter cheap, workhorse, old or expensive are just as that. It kinda confused us why one would want to buy Cheap set just to use it for anything and see how far that would go in time. But we do understand, that people in their nature are extreme living things, always testing the boundaries around & within them. But let’s not do that with the Nippers. No matter how much one paid for a pair, we believe that one should use it properly.
Let’s start with Don’ts. They are more than Do’s anyhow.
- Don’t use your nippers to cut metal parts. That includes Photo-Etched material.
Cutters can do it, high- or low-quality products. But that will most likely slowly damage them permanently and beyond repair. Sometimes it might happen instantly. So be sure to avoid useless testing. The fact that they can doesn’t mean that they should. For example, with PE any X-Acto knife can help and blades are cheap and interchangeable. There are many sizes, shapes, qualities available. If you break it, you just put the new one on. Try changing your Nippers’ business end. Then let us know how it went.
- Don’t use your nippers to cut transparent sprues.
Surprised? Technically, you shouldn’t be, because you are a modeler and you already know that sprues are made from different plastics and they feature different stiffness and elasticity. Clear sprues are often tougher, which puts your nippers at higher levels of stress. Subsequently, you put the clear material at higher level of stress, because of …Newton’s Third Law. That cannot lead to anything good. And we know that Clear Parts can often be a b*tch, however nippers are not the solution. Rotary tools are your best option. But that’s another story.
- Don’t put your nippers flat on your bench.
You want a hanger. Let them lying around on your cutting mat and you can easily drag them with your sleeve /or anything for that matter/ to the ground. Then gravity helps and since the business end of the nippers is heavier, you can guess what happens next. Misalignment is an option after a ground strike. Damage to the pointy tips. Dents on your floor. Or your foot. You name it. Just don’t. Hang ’em somewhere.
Even the cheapest precision nippers comes with a cover
- Don’t over-squeeze when cutting.
High quality nippers are a precision tool, not a butcher’s one. Think of them like a scalpel, not an axe. Do not use jerky motions nor rapid ones, pretending that you know how to do it as good as any robot in Japanese Car Factory. Be delicate, cut with slow speed and don’t squeeze too much. Good nippers, mid-priced or even very cheap ones, can cut through the attachment points as they go through butter. In order to preserve this specific quality of theirs, you need to treat them with care. Do it slow, with mindful movements and you will enjoy them longer.
- Don’t use the same pair for everything you do.
You want more than one pair. Actually, you need more than one. So if your wife is complaining that you are spending your vacation money on second or third expensive nipper set, just remind her that the other way might involve buying multiple kits instead, because you’ve damaged something using the incorrect tool. It is a win-win for you and it is an acceptable excuse.
But seriously – don’t use precise set to cut your sprue in half. Use something rugged, made for tougher tasks. Again, Confucius, just the other way around. Let this guide you. You can use your cheap set to cut not-overly-important sections of the model /and not for destruction tests!/, while you use your precious sniper-smart-weapon-nippers for the most delicate items. Just be mindful. You are a modeler, you already are a reasonably thinking human being!
Now the Do’s.
- Tune them properly.
On many nippers there is a screw for adjusting how they’ll work. A stopper of a sort. Some even feature the little tool /tiny screwdriver/ to do it included in the set. There is YouTube too. Plenty of information around the Wide Web how to set them up. And the first thing to do when you get them is exactly that. You don’t get in a car and NOT adjust your seat before driving. Pretty much the same concept here. And if you don’t have adjusting tool, just accept what company you bought from gave you.
- Keep them clean.
After every session you need to clean your nippers. You want to clean the rubber handles if you have left something on them. Paint, glue, whatever. But most importantly, brush off any residual material that might’ve stuck on your cutting edge and around the stopper or spring. It might seem harmless. But more often than not in time this creates troubles. And with the plastic pieces, sometimes something stiffer might find its way and end your nipper’s career in a second. So don’t test your luck. A nice brush does a great job for this purpose. Air Blow with decent amount of pressure and an empty airbrush too.
- Keep your cover on.
Most of the nippers come with some form of a cover of the sharp, pointy end. Even though not all nippers are pointy, the cover is usually there. And if yours didn’t have one, be sure to make it on your own and keep them in it. No matter how careful one is, there are those weird moments in life, when everything goes upside down. Your nippers are going down in 99% of the cases and with their most important part heading on. Use the cover provided. Plastic or leather, it is there for a reason. If not – DIY.
Nice leather cover featured in more expensive sets
- Keep them lubed.
This is a controversial “Do” part, so we left that for last. Some say – “Lube them!”, others – “Don’t do anything you have no clue about.” The truth is, this tool features metal surfaces, touching each other and constantly. Friction is merciless. If there is no lube, there will be excessive wear with time. It is pretty certain, that there is lube there from the get go. The factory took care of that. But if, for whatever reason you need to clean them thoroughly, you might need to put some extra to be on the safe side. If you are not sure how, go on Reddit, open a thread. Or in your favorite Forum. Just be sure to have your tool lubed. If you feel the rubbing, it is no good.
And that’s basically it. Of course, there is more to it on every point expressed up in the article. But people are such, that if they don’t encounter troubles on their own, they hardly truly learn. However, your best bet is to try and learn from others’ mistakes, because you have not-long-enough lifespan to make all the errors on your own. That goes for anything of course.
Nippers are not the most important element on your bench, but it won’t hurt if you treat them nicely. Just as a conclusion: don’t do with your cheap nippers anything that you wouldn’t do with your most precious ones. They are not made for that. Its a simple logic. It is a tool and if you take care of it, it will take care of you.