Jump to content
Model Cars Magazine Forum

An old story about the Revell '54 Sedan Delivery, and a Hot Jack Knife...


Recommended Posts

Dateline: 1975...Nine years of age and I was starting my 4th or 5th model kit to date. I had found the Revell '54 Chevy Sedan Delivery (with the Stars & Stripes Box Art) Kit as an opened, returned item at my local Jupiter Store (sort of a discount liquidation/overstock-based retail outlet for various department stores). Having (somehow) already finished the Revell '55 Bel Air and not yet fully understanding the pain that some of those late '60's - Early '70's Revell Kits could inflict; i plunked down some change for the kit. The kit had been taped shut at the store and had been marked as contents complete, so when I got home and opened it, I was baffled at the non-opened doors on the body, as the box art car clearly had opening doors! I looked the rest of the kit over and pondered my options.  I had an old hand-me-down copy of a 1969 Auto World catalog and all at once clearly understood the need for their much-hyped Auto Cutter tool that I had seen within its ratty, dog-eared pages. Now for those who are too young to remember this gadget, it basically consisted of a woodburner fitted with an X-Acto blade holder at the tip. In the catalog it was touted as a wonder-tool to end all wonder-tools! A full page was devoted to its various, amazing uses!

So, off i go to see my Dad, to present my dilemma and show him my wonder solution! My Dad, assures me that we do not really need that expensive gadget, and that he can open up those doors for me. He gets a candle out on the kitchen table and lights it, then pulls out his pocket knife. At this point, even in my young, inexperienced mind, the prospect of success with this particular method seemed rather dubious and voiced my concerns; but Dad could not, and would not be swayed. The results were quick and predictable, rendering my new pride and joy into completely un-buildable junk. Tearing up, i gathered my stuff and headed for the basement, swearing off ever asking my Father for help on any model car project ever again.    

Now, I never did get that Auto Cutter. I think as a result of this experience, i surmised early, and probably quite correctly so, that in unskilled hands such as mine, a heated plastic-cutting tool could become more of a liability than an asset.       

Anyone have any similar experiences to share?

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Auto World "cutter" was nothing more than a soldering iron with a blade... it wasn't a "cutter," it was actually a "melter." If you heat plastic enough so that you can easily slice through it, obviously you're not going to get a clean, straight cut. You're going to get a mess of melted, distorted plastic. I wonder how many people ruined a model by using that ridiculous "cutter"...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My dad has always been the most fumble fingered fella I've known. I learned early on not to hand him my finished models. "Well, you can just glue that back on. Oh, and that too. Sorry."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My father struggled to open the door on our family car and thought automobiles in general were appliances for getting from point A to point B. He never did come to understand my fascination with the automobile let alone building plastic models of them. At least here you will meet people of a like mind and interest. Welcome and enjoy.     

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I owned a woodburning kit left over from childhood. Seeing the Auto Cutter in the (1967?) Auto World catalog, I grasped the concept immediately. I somehow managed to jury-rig the blade, blade collet and collar of my X-acto onto the woodburner, and fired it up. The thing promptly melted the aluminum X-acto parts into lumps, and I guess I'm lucky I didn't burn the house down (though I did nearly manage to accomplish that a couple years later, though that's another story).

Later I acquired a genuine Auto Cutter tip for the woodburner, used it exactly once, and found it as completely unsatisfactory as everyone else.

Here's the really weird part of the story: Having destroyed my X-acto knife, it never occurred to me to just buy another one. For years thereafter I made do with my Dad's boxcutter-type shop knife. Can't remember when I did buy another X-acto--might have been later on in high school, when I went back to model airplanes, or it might have even been when I resumed modeling after college.

I think to this day I still have that original X-acto aluminum handle around someplace. I'll find some good use for it someday....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for this thread. I thought I was the only one who couldn't get the Auto Cutter to work as advertised. The one I had included attachments with which you could simulate dents, battle damage, etc.  Mostly all I produced was burns and toxic fumes!  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for this thread. I thought I was the only one who couldn't get the Auto Cutter to work as advertised. The one I had included attachments with which you could simulate dents, battle damage, etc.  Mostly all I produced was burns and toxic fumes!  

Oh, yeah, I still have that smell logged into my memory :(

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Being an "older" modeler I remember seeing that add many times. I never bought one but used a "hot knife" using the stove as my heat source. The results were less than great . I too remember that smell of melting plastic.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I used to heat up my Xacto blades ALL the time as a kid. Dad always wondered how I ruined so many of them. But I always had ok success at cutting with them. I didnt get them red hot just enough to help push thru the plastic. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My father struggled to open the door on our family car and thought automobiles in general were appliances for getting from point A to point B. He never did come to understand my fascination with the automobile let alone building plastic models of them. At least here you will meet people of a like mind and interest. Welcome and enjoy.     

My Dad to a tee! 

Thanks for that, David

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now let me tell you my Dad built em right out of the box for me and my brother and was quite willing to let us have a go. I figured it out. My brother got a set of drums.:lol: But I bless my Dad for getting me started.

Now where was he when I started the "Kustom" project. Hey, putty's putty ain't it ? Well that was my thought when I came up short on the model car putty and substituted some nice full grain "WOOD" putty. ever try sanding that stuff ?:wacko:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The early issues of the '53/'54 Chevy kits include brief instructions on cutting the doors open.  They specify scribing the door lines with a sharp knife.  The hot knife would have been overkill as the early issue bodies were extremely thin in the panel line areas.  Later issues leave those instructions out, probably in large part because those hinges were so sloppy, even more so than the ones in the '55-'57 kits.

I wouldn't use an Auto Cutter for finish work, but I still do use a similar X-Acto tool for rough work like radiusing wheel openings.  Don't plunge the thing halfway in, just use the tip, and it works fine for stuff like that.  It could be plugged into a Dremel speed control to turn down the heat a bit, which might make it more useful...but I've yet to try that.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A memories! I too got suckered in by those ads in Auto World and had to have one. Our local hobby stores did not the Auto World brand, but they had one made by Xacto. So that's the one I got. It was basically an Xacto soldering iron with a screw in tip that held a good old #11 blade.

The best I was ever able to do with it, was ruin the interior of an AMT '71 Thunderbird, by accidentally laying it on top it. Melting through the dash board and the front of the interior bucket. Using it as they claimed? It just did not work very well. It barely went through the plastic and the blade would lose heat, and need to be heated up some more to make more of the cut. It made nice blops of plastic along the edges that needed to sanded off after the cutting. Making my doors too small to really look right in their frames. It was a complete disaster. And I don't think the problem was with having the Xacto brand vs. the Auto World one.

Over the years I purchased a lot of cool stuff through those old Auto World catalogs. 99% I was happy with. And I've owned a lot of Xacto products. Which other than the soldering iron with the knife blade attachment, I've always been happy with their products. This was a concept that worked better on or in paper, than it did in real life.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

... I wonder how many people ruined a model by using that ridiculous "cutter"...

I did, more than one. Funny, I seem to remember seeing an article in some old model car mag that showed somebody actually getting decent results from the thing. I thought I must be an idiot because all I could get was wavy, melted, huge gaps.:D

... Our local hobby store... had one made by Xacto. So that's the one I got. It was basically an Xacto soldering iron with a screw in tip that held a good old #11 blade.

Yup. WAY before I started chopping tops, etc. I tried it for opening doors and decklids many times before I finally came to the conclusion that it really was a case of using the wrong tool, not a case of operator idiocy. B)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I recall an article where someone HAD used the diabolical device to open doors and trunks: his method was to use two bodies! One, to cut the doors and trunk lids out of, well inside the shut lines, and then finish the openings to size and shape with sanding and carving; then do the opposite to the OTHER body, to get "clean" pieces.... no small wonder builders like that had parts boxes filled to overflowing.... two, or maybe MORE kits to do ONE example....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The early issues of the '53/'54 Chevy kits include brief instructions on cutting the doors open.  They specify scribing the door lines with a sharp knife.  The hot knife would have been overkill as the early issue bodies were extremely thin in the panel line areas.  Later issues leave those instructions out, probably in large part because those hinges were so sloppy, even more so than the ones in the '55-'57 kits.

I wouldn't use an Auto Cutter for finish work, but I still do use a similar X-Acto tool for rough work like radiusing wheel openings.  Don't plunge the thing halfway in, just use the tip, and it works fine for stuff like that.  It could be plugged into a Dremel speed control to turn down the heat a bit, which might make it more useful...but I've yet to try that.  

This story is pretty much anecdotal, presented for your amusement only....

A memories! I too got suckered in by those ads in Auto World and had to have one.....Over the years I purchased a lot of cool stuff through those old Auto World catalogs. 99% I was happy with. And I've owned a lot of Xacto products. Which other than the soldering iron with the knife blade attachment, I've always been happy with their products. This was a concept that worked better on or in paper, than it did in real life.

I would totally agree that the bulk of Auto World brand  marketed items were top notch! From the Mini-Men to the Sponsor Decal Sheets it was all good stuff. I wish i could find some more decal sheets! 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

About the only good use I got from my Auto Cutter was using it to flare wheel hubs/stub axles and tie rod pins, and cutting up old models for my junkyard diorama (looked like somebody used a blowtorch in a hurry - the effect I wanted). It also taught me about second-degree burns - good thing it happened in the winter, as I had to reach out my bedroom window several times that night and grab snow off the roof to dull the pain in my thumb.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had one too

Actually snapped the blade off the holder

and I think broke the iron itself too.

I liked their Hinges (2-pc)

wish I could have gotten a few cases of them

Worked good on the Chevy Van I opened the rear doors on

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Being an "older" modeler I remember seeing that add many times. I never bought one but used a "hot knife" using the stove as my heat source. The results were less than great . I too remember that smell of melting plastic.

Hmm, stove as a heat source, and knives being used. I remember a smell much nicer than melting plastic...  :P

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll admit to having one too!  It was on the basis of the recommendations in both Model Car Science and Car Model magazines that I sent in a money order for a dollar forty nine cents comes to mind, this was probably around '64, so a $1.49 was pretty big money.  I remember waiting and waiting, then waiting some more, AutoWorld was never the quickest shipper I think they must have shared the shipping department with J.C. Whitney and Johnson, Smith Novelties, because six weeks was like average.  When you finally got it, it was like Christmas and your birthday all in one, because as a kid it took so long to get that sometimes you forgot that you even ordered something!

The first "Project" I attempted with the AutoWorld Auto Cutter, was opening the doors on a '59 or '60 Corvette Promo (which I wish I still had in its pristine, pre melted state), given to me by my Uncle.  Soon the door shortening turned into a vertical sectioning project, I blamed the issues on the Promo's extra thick plastic.  For the Auto Cutter's second attempt I began work on a Monogram 1/32 scale Fiat Altered, which the Auto Cutter Altered too much to salvage.   I did manage to do some of the fancy "stitch welding" which was demonstrated in like two pictures in Model Car Science, I remember being majorly stoked about that!  Alas the Auto Cutter was relegated to a tool of destruction, for which it was suited quite well!!

What I remember the Auto Cutter doing best was burning skin either by itself or by molten styrene!  I still have a rather noticeable scar on my right hand between ring and little finger, right in the web.  Molten plastic is nearly impossible to remove from burning skin, it just burns deeper until cooling to the point where it finally cools and no longer burns deeper (or melts completely through)!!!   Once cooled to that point it is literally welded to the skin and whatever else it has burned through.  Now there is one slight benefit to burning yourself with molten plastic.  The molten plastic is so hot it cauterizes as it burns, so there is no bleeding to make one more squeamish than they already are from the excruciating pain and combined smell of vaporized skin and melted plastic!  Remember this was before companies felt the need to place warnings or even age recommendations on packaging.  Otherwise no 8 or 9 year old kid would be burning themselves with scars still visible today!  I often wonder when I hear or read about people getting themselves  branded with a red hot chunk of metal, did they get that idea from the AutoWorld Auto Cutter?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had an Auto-Cutter, and used it successfully to open a few sets of doors on models, but you had to be careful, and work slowly, or it would overmelt the plastic, making a big mess! I remember using it to cut the front clips off a 58 Edsel and a 57 Ford, then grafting the Edsel clip to the Ford. I stopped building model cars in 1971, and used the cutter with a different tip as a soldering iron till about 2002!

Sam

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...