As a continuation of articles about general tools for scale modeling, this one here will present a tool that is used usually for different than modeling purposes. Interestingly, sometimes tools not specifically made for miniature applications can be of use for scale modeling. This one here is the perfect example. What it represents is a profile measuring device /or contour gauge as some call it/ and it is meant to be used for home mostly, where you can get a profile of something and use to draw it on paper afterwards. Maybe something to put next to your wall where there is a cable tunnel, or some edge that you might want to avoid with your wooden floor. What can be better than to know how to cut and remove exactly?
How this device works is self explanatory. It consist of many sticks, aligned in a row. Those can be made out of plastic or metal and in this particular case is metal. Once you press the device next to something curvy, each stick takes different position and upon removal you have a copy of the outer shape of the item you just measured. The sticks stay in shape of course, and you can transfer this on paper or whatever flat surface easily afterwards.
Now think about it the other way around. Instead of taking measures for the outer surfaces, which is great for modeling too, the real value of this device comes from taking the profiles of the internal shape of the model. Just imagine: you want to build an interior wall in an aircraft, submarine or a ship and somehow you have to replicate the proper shape of the wall so when you cut your plastic, to give it a chance to fit good. Using only your eyes the chances are slim.
Taking measurements with this tool is easy though. You can get the proper shape of the interior of almost any scale model and when you transfer it on paper to spare yourself the hassle of wasting precious spare scratch plastic material and eventually some nerves while struggling while doing it only by guessing. In other words, you get the 3D appearance of the model and when you copy that on paper you are now in 2D and this is one of the hardest tricks in scratch building. Those who buy Evergreen plastic often knows what I am hinting here. Their stuff is expensive!
Of course, with the technology available today, you can find a tool that use a laser for high-precision measuring and you can often transfer this directly to your computer screen. But here we are not talking about spending loads of money for such a tool either. The trick with this tool is, that it is cheap, because it is very simple. The other thing about it is, that you will use it only for some portion of your scratch building adventures. We can all agree that taking profile measurements is not what you will do on every model and on several sections of it.
However, one must consider that in order to rip apart one aircraft in 48 or larger scale, a lot of profile sections should be replicated, both on the wings and the fuselage. Same goes for different sections of any submarine that you might want to present with cutaways. There are always fragments, ribs and more, with different shape and making those from the ground up is a lot easier with the help of the contour gauge.
All in all, this tools seems like a very good addition to any modeler’s bench and mandatory for scratch build fanatics. Its simplicity allows for easy transferring of the inner or outer 3D shapes and their transfer on paper in 2D. The price of it is another advantage, but that of course, is not all. The tool can come handy also to measure the proper shape of the model and compare it with a drawing that you might have. When it comes down to rivet counting, it can hardly get better than that.
So if you have a riveting tool, a chisel, a line engraver and all the other nice goodies for scratch building fun and you are into altering your models, this is one tool that you need to look into. You will be surprised how much more you can do with this simple gauge and how easier things will become.