RB Productions | RB-T019 Scribe-R vs the Tamiya Scriber
Reviewed by Matt Gannon
Scribing is one of those tasks that a lot of modellers love to hate and inexperienced modellers fear. However, when you have the right tools something what can so often seem a chore becomes a no fuss part of your normal skill set for producing models with the surface features you want. No longer do you have to dread putting back the detail you´ve just sanded off. You´ll be able to do that and reposition access hatches, ports and other detail features on your models. With a little practice it will become a no fuss task.
LSP has more than a few articles on how to scribe your panels. Each modeller will end up using the tools they feel comfortable with so its not surprising that the list of sharp objects to scribe a plastic surface varies from a humble pin, the back of a hobby knife through to a dedicated scribing tool. If you´re a bit like me and reasonably new to the task Radu Brinzan has a scriber called the Scibe-R that you just might like to try.
Radu´s scriber comes as a photoetch sheet that you assemble and place into your trusty No 1 hobby knife . In each package you get three scribers and one holder. The scriber is bent and inserted into the holder. The two pieces are then placed in the cross-shaped tip of your No 1 hobby knife and then you´re ready to go. The assembly is straightforward although occasionally I found I had to adjust mine to keep it all firmly together. This was likely due to a little flexibility of the photoetch brass although it was only a few seconds fiddling at worst. Its also worth mentioning that the holder itself has tiny teeth along its ´dorsal´ surface. If you run this across a curved panel ( e.g. the dorsal surface of a fuselage) you´ll be able to easily replace any lost detail as a result of joining fusleage halves and dealing with any seam lines. As the teeth on the dorsal surface are very fine, any light pressure gives you great control for precise placement of your detail line. This is opposed to something like the Tamiya Olfa cutter which has the distinct risk of a slipping during use and producing an annoying gouge in the plastic that requires filling and sanding.
You´ll probably read this more than once but I believe having tools that insert into your hobby knife makes your work bench much less cluttered and makes tools easier to find. Not only is your tool bench less cluttered but the ergonomics are great. Given how often any modeller uses a No 1 hobby knife it´s a handle that your hands are already really familiar with. That ergonomic feature alone gives the feeling of comfort and familiarity and avoids the ´alien´ feeling of an alternative scriber handle you might only rarely pick up. Straight away you´ll scribe with more control, greater confidence and finesse. I certainly found this when testing Radu´s scriber head to head with a new Tamiya scriber.
At first glance Radu´s scribing holder looks very similar to a typical Plastic/Laminate scribing blade (Olfa cutter shown above. It also looks very similar to some PE scribing blades reviewed by Rato Marczak from Scale Motorsport. Looks though is where the similarity ends because on closer use and inspection one can see Radu has used the best parts of the plastic/laminate scribing shape but incorporated his own totally different tip in the Scribe-R. In fact, the Tamiya scriber reminds me of the typical Olfa box-cutter blade except that its thinner. The shape of the Tamiya scriber creates wonderful rigidity for the scribing tip that is perfect for consistent pressure and stability. This is most appreciated when you scribe a line on a flat panel in the typical fashion by drawing the blade towards yourself between two points.
So after scribing a Hasegawa Spitfire Vb what did I think of both?
Radu´s Scribe-R allows a much finer panel lines to be scribed. With a light touch the finest of lines can be faithfully reproduced. You´ll certainly avoid that big V pattern that the Tamiya scriber produces. Given the amount of model kit reviews that emphasise the value of subtle panel lines and detail as opposed to trenches I think without doubt it is the winner for me. It is diabolically sharp so no oomph is needed at all. It copes far better than the Tamiya scriber with complicated shapes and curves. The Scribe-R moves smoothly and predictably as you scribe a line over the radius of a leading edge or a cannon buldge. The Tamiya scriber struggled in similar areas and overall I felt it was a much more clumsy instrument. In use the Tamiya scriber often required a pause in the scribing stroke when you were required to shift your hand position. As a result, when using the Tamiya scriber I ended up with inconsistencies in the depth of the scribe whereas I certainly didn´t feel this was the case with Radu´s Scribe-R.
The Tamiya scriber did however feel very high quality and was truly excellent at long straight lines on a flat surface. After trying both scribers the Tamiya scriber would also be my instrument of choice for separating flaps, ailerons, or elevators. This is no doubt due to its more agricultural feel, something that lends itself to beefier tasks. However, as soon as it came to a non-flat surface or a curve close to your body and at the end of a stroke, the necessary shift in hand position made it significantly more awkward to use. It is not only the handle but the shape of the Tamiya blade that creates this awkwardness despite it offering excellent rigidity and stability . For small access ports you´d probably be better off using a sharp metal tip like the one in Chris Kirchoff´s tips on "How to Scribe a model". Nevertheless as I couldn´t put my metal tip to hand I tried using Radu´s scribing tool. It won hands down compared to the Tamiya tool. Radu´s Scriber-R did the job but the Tamiya scriber didn´t have a hope...it just was too cumbersome.
I hope you get some value from the pictures. I´ve scribed the model using a different tool for each side. I sanded off all the surface detail and there is a few layers of Mr Surfacer 500. I applied a Clear gloss fnish and then ran some burnt umber oil paint wash into the panel lines. Be kind as this is only my third ever serious attempt to scribe a model. I´m sure you can see where I´ve made gaffs, part of which is the learning curve in using these tools and my reasonably dodgy scribing guides. Naturally, the flatter the surface the easier any scriber is to use. I also got better as I went along. I found with the more subtle lines the Scribe-R produces, a couple of coats of Mr Surfacer 500 can almost obliterate the detail if you´ve been lighthanded. In the pictures you will see some parts of the panel line haven´t taken up much wash for the Scribe-R parts whereas even with a light hand using the Tamiya Scriber prodced deep enough lines to readily accept and keep the wash. The bottom line is, if you want subtle...the Scribe-R is your tool for sure. I also found joining two intersecting lines easier with the Scribe-R as its point was out in front, clearly visible to your eye. This is in contrast to the Tamiya scriber where the blade tip is covered from sight.
At the very least undertaking this exercise in taking turns using both scribers gives me the confidence to recommend Radu´s scriber as the one most likely to take the fear factor out of scribing for even an inexperienced modeller. I think the Tamiya scriber might potentially work better with a few technique changes but it´s very cumbersome. It does feel and look to be awesome quality and is very useful for separating control surfaces. However, if your primary mission is scribing and replacing detail lost due to construction, and you´d like to do that with finesse and ease, then the RB Productions Scriber is the one you want hands down. I think this is an exceptionally well thought out and simple tool.
Thanks to RB Productions for the sample of the Scribe-R.
Tamiya Scriber courtesy my wallet.
© Matt Gannon
This review was published on Saturday, July 02 2011; Last modified on Wednesday, May 18 2016