Tools of the Trade: Rough Stuff

This entry in the Tools of the Trade series will discuss sculpting tools like sandpaper, rotary tools, and belt sanders.


After you have finished sculpting a piece, or modifying an existing piece, the next step is to sand the hell out of it. I usually start with a 100 grit sandpaper to shape the surface and remove any lumps that happened while sculpting. It is important to have a good light source, like a desk lamp, that you can hold your custom up to and look at it from multiple directions. Then I move up to a 200 grit sandpaper to even out the surface. Finally I use a 300 grit sandpaper to polish everything, and remove the tiny scratches made by the more abrasive papers. Afterwards, I wipe the surface off with a damp cloth.

I usually spend more time sanding a piece than I did sculpting it. I rip pieces of sandpaper off that are about the size of a credit card. It helps to fold them in half and use this crease to get into hard-to-reach places. I have tried a few different brands, and they all work about the same. One variety pack of sandpaper should last you for at least a year.


A Dremel is a type of rotary tool with numerous attachments for cutting, sanding, buffing, and more. The official Dremel brand is about $45, but you can do what I did and get a knock-off brand for $25. If the Dremel bits don’t fit, you can get an adapter for $2 or so. The bits I use most often for minimates are the cutting wheels and the polishing wheels. I used to use a Dremel almost constantly when I was making Marvel Legends customs. But for minimates, I actually haven’t used it as much. Especially once I re-discovered my belt / disc sander:

Belt / Disc Sander

I was lucky to get a basic belt / disc sander on clearance at Sam’s Club for $40 about eight years ago. I needed it for a home improvement project. Since then I have used it for dozens of minimate projects. This is definitely an expensive tool. A brand new one is over $100, but you could probably fine one at a garage sale or on craigslist for much less.

I use it for shortening minimates, such as The Blob. It works great for sanding pieces that need to be perfectly flat or square, such as mechanical parts. I also use it for removing unwanted material from existing pieces, such as the swords off Dawn’s cape from the Indiemates set. I just used it yesterday on a custom that had large icicles to make my sculpted pieces look much more like sharp pieces of ice.

Some of your might already have one of these, and never thought to use it for minimates. Or perhaps your Dad has one you can use. For you married guys, just think up a home improvement project that requires one a sander, and use that as an excuse to get approval from your wife. 😉

Previous entries in the Tools of the Trade series included Pointy Things, All About Paint, and Comparing Sculpting Compounds.

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4 Responses

  1. TM2 Dinobot says:

    Actually it was Magdalena that had the swords. I liked the proto where they were removable. 🙁

  2. Luke314pi says:

    Ah, thanks for the clarification. 🙂

  3. Jatta Pake says:

    Now I need to get a belt sander.

    I’m loving your website Luke!

  1. November 20, 2008

    […] a recent post, I recommended using a belt sander for easy minimate shortening and other uses. What I didn’t […]