It's another day at my workbench, and I'm prepping figures. There's a bunch of 15mm Wild Elves back from a painting service, and before I base them, I want to file the bottoms to make sure they're flat and remove any glue left by the painters. And there are some 15mm Amazons that I'm prepping for painting, so I want to file those bases smooth.
But my fingers hurt! I'm so tired of holding minis in my hands and filing them by hand.
Isn't there a better way?
Well, maybe this gadget can help...
OK, the case has a blank label, so I wrote the name on the box so I wouldn't forget what was in the plain black case... and I guess it was upside-down when I did it.
It's something called the Smart Finish Sander/Filer...
It's a hand-held electric... um, vibrator... which accepts various clip-on tips...
...some of which are tiny files, and some of which are sandpapered paddles - hence the name Sander/Filer, I imagine.
Case 1: The Amazons
Let's start with an easy one: these 15mm Amazons have lovely wide, round, flat bases, but there are some minor metal bits sticking out that should be easy to knock off. The sandpaper tip presses onto the device and clicks into place, and I turn the Sander/Filer on.
Hmmm. The device is relatively quiet, and is easy to hold. It only takes a few seconds to sand the bottoms of these figures (there's only a few of them - they were missing from my original order, and have just caught up with their sisters). The size of the sandpaper tip is more than wide enough for these extra-wide 15mm bases.
The only difficulty I'm having is that you would think it would be easy to press the figure up against the sandpaper tip, but the vibration of the tip seems to knock it away from the figure. It's not terribly hard to use, but not as easy as it should be.
Case 2: The Elves
These Elves should be in pretty good shape, as they've just come back from the painting service. However, I based some other figures in this army earlier, and noticed two problems. First, the bases are more wavy on the bottom than flat and gave me some trouble getting them to stand while being glued down, so I want to see if I can knock off some of the bumpier parts. Also, I noticed on the other figures that there was the occasional bit of dried glue still on the bottom (presumably from when the painter mounted them for painting), so filing that off should help the figures' "standability" later.
This time, I'm trying the file tip...
Hmmm. OK, I'm liking this tip a lot better. Because the metal has some flex in it, it is much easier to get it to conform to the flat base of the mini (and stay there). Also, I thought the tip would be hard to use because it is so narrow, but I'm finding it easy to wiggle it around to cover the entire base.
One thing worth noting is that, unlike a manual file, you're not supposed to bear down with your strength against the object you're filing. The idea is to be gentle and let the tool's vibration do the job.
Because the file is narrow - or maybe because I'm a klutz - the file sometimes slips off the base to the side. With a painted figure, that risks nicking off some of that paint job I've paid for! Fortunately, it seems the natural action of the file is to deflect away from the object being filed - so I've had several slips, but no collateral damage.
I think I'm actually doing a better filing job with this tool than I do manually, as when I'm holding the figure in my hand and using a regular file, sometimes I get a slope going where there ought to be a flat. This file just naturally conforms to the plane of the base. Maybe it takes a little longer. But my fingers aren't getting roughed up!
Case 3: The Leaning Elves
I've saved a few of these Elves for a final test. This particular pose in this set has an unfortunate slope to the bottom of the base. (It's not a bent base - the bottom just has a slope to it that prevents the figures from standing straight.) So I want to file down one side to get a flatter base.
Again, I'm using the file tip, as it seems to work better for me and remove more metal. I apply the file where I want the metal removed, and then... wait. No heavy pressure, just... wait. I can see the metal dust floating in the air around the file as it works.
Does it do the trick? Well, I was able to flatten about half the base before I got tired of waiting. Obviously, it would do the whole job if I was more patient. But I have to say this isn't the best tool if you're looking to basically resculpt a figure base.
And I didn't notice this when I was doing the earlier filing, but this time there's significant metal dust in the air. It's heavy so it sinks fast, but my eyes feel gritty and my airways are drying out... eye protection and a dust filter next time, I promise.
For light clean-up of 15mm figures, I think I'm sold on this tool (and the filing tip). And I'll keep it around to see how it handles other jobs as they come up.
Here's the manufacturer's product listing. It retails there for $63.50 USD.
One complaint is that the case doesn't sit flat when empty (unless the tool is in it to weigh it down). It's prone to flop over and scatter all your tool tips about.
(Note: Since I purchased mine, they've come out with a cordless model as well.)