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Fundamentals of Car Modeling

Tool School

Using riffler files to work in hard-to-reach spots
RELATED TOPICS: TOOL | FUNDAMENTALS | HOW-TO
Have you ever needed to file away an ejector-pin mark on the floor of an interior tub? You're usually faced with cutting the sides away from the tub so you can get at the mark with your straight files, or hiding the marks under thick coats of paint and flocking material. How about when those marks are on the underside of the roof? Working through one of the window openings is a sure way to accidentally file away big chunks of the window frame. There's a better way to handle tough filing jobs like these.

Riffler files are curved to give you the ability to safely and easily reach those impossible areas. Straight files typically come in sets of five or six different shapes, with flat, round, triangular, and half-round cutting surfaces. A set of riffler files has the same basic shapes as the straight file set, but each file is curved either along or across its cutting surface to reach into areas and around obstacles as you work. Riffler files are available with find, standard, and coarse cutting surfaces to handle all of your difficult filing needs.

In the accompanying photos, the short bed from an MPC "Fall Guy" pickup truck kit has had its roll bar mounting holes filled. The plugs need to be filed smooth, and they're located in spots that only riffler files can reach. In Photo 1, a flat riffler file that's bent across its cutting face is used to file the plug smooth within the narrow confines of the bed's wheelwell. You'd never get a straight file in there!

In Photo 2, an angle-faced riffler file, curved along its cutting face, is used to reach around a corner to smooth a plug that's between the front wall of the bed and the wheelwell. With this file, you can reach through the tailgate and around the wheelwell into the corner.

After filing, you can smooth the filed areas with the lowest-grit sanding cloths from a polishing kit; they're usually too coarse for polishing work, but they're ideal for smoothing bare plastic. Wrapping the cloth around an appropriately shaped riffler file will help you reach the area you need to sand.

A word of caution: Don't try to save a few dollars by bending your existing set of straight files. The metal used in files is strong, but brittle, and can shatter unexpectedly when stressed. You should be able to find the right set of riffler files for your needs in any well-stocked hobby store, or through mail-order hobby-tool suppliers.



1. MPC's "Fall Guy" pickup truck it came with mounting holes in the bed for a roll bar. To model a stock bed, I filled the holes with white plastic rod that I glued in place with liquid cement. Once this cement was dry, I cut of the excess rod, but still needed to file the plugs smooth with the rest of the bed. The angle is too steep for a straight file to work here. Only a riffler file, which is bent across its cutting face, can do this kind of work.


2. A straight file wouldn't work in the front corners of this pickup truck bed. Working over the bed wall or the wheelwell would be tough - the angle's too steep. Reaching in from the rear might work, but the file's movement would be restricted. A pointed riffler file, however, is tailor-made for this kind of task. It will reach around the wheelwell and into the corner, filing down the plug without damaging the surrounding details. Give riffler files a try!

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