Pinning and How to Do It

Hobby, New Players, Painting & Modelling

Here is a step-by-step article on what “pinning” miniatures is, and how (and why) to pin.

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I am building a generic Combi Kotail.  The Gao-Tarsos gave his arms to this project, but I’ve run into a problem.

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Problem:  The Combi Rifle arm from the Gao-Tarsos has a circular socket, but the shoulder of the Kotail has a square nub.  I tried clipping the square nub down, but that doesn’t help, because the new arm looks bad over the original shoulder.

I need to fit the arm into a new place.  So, I will need to “pin” it.

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The tools I use for modeling and pinning are:

Warm soapy water (for washing the metal)
Tap water (for rinsing)
Rag
Adhesive

Dental scraper
Knife
Snips
Needlenose pliers
Sandpaper
Dremel with sanding bit and 1/32″ drilling bit
Panavise
Greenstuff

If you’re new to assembling models, the first two things to know are wash your models before building them, and score the joints.  “Scoring” means scraping or scuffing, so that your glue has more surface area to hold onto.  It helps much.  I use a dental scraper, although sandpaper or a sanding sponge works, too.

There are a bunch of adhesives you can use, but I just use a gel superglue, it’s been fine.  Snips are for snipping off “flashing” and “sprues”, the little jutting metal bits that aren’t supposed to be part of the mini.  (You can use just your knife, but snips are usually easier and safer.  You can get a pair of mini snips from a hardware store for like 3 bucks.)  Sand those after you snip.

panavise isn’t necessary, but makes working on your model much easier.  Greenstuff is easy to use, but we’ll cover that later.

But back to pinning:  you can use a paper clip or safety pin (hence “pinning”), but I use a bit of wire.  The intention with the wire is to drill a hole into the model’s components, to mount the wire through, which strengthens the joint.  A well-pinned model will stay in 1 piece, even after falling off your table.


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Pinning is easy, but I’ll walk you through step-by-step:

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Before I drill the hole, I need to fiddle with the Kotail, to make extra sure where I want to put the hole for that right arm.

I just eyeball it, but you might decide to mark the precise spot..

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If you have a clamp, vise or panavise, go ahead and tighten in the first piece to be drilled.  The metal is soft, so don’t overtighten it, or it may warp or bend.

In any case―I don’t want the Kotail wiggling around when I drill.  The hole will be messy, or I might skip off the spot and scrap something I didn’t want scraped.

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So, the first real part, the scary part.  Drill in a hole.

If you have a Dremel and know how to use it, skip this part.

If you have a hand drill, it’s pretty self-explanatory to use.  I’d show how to use a hand drill, too, but I gave mine to a friend.

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You might have just bought a Dremel, and, as a proper millennial, skipped the instructions.  Some things to know:

You put your bit in like this, in order of left to right.  Collet first, collet nut second, then the actual (drill) bit, then tighten.

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Hold the little button to tighten the nut.  Don’t overtighten.  A quarter turn with the chuck is enough.

 

Your drill bit―especially a little 1/32″ like this―should be fairly deep into the collet.

You don’t want the drill bit poking out far, or it will bow and wobble in the middle when you drill.  That’ll mess up your hole, and potentially break your bit.

Finally, turn the speed up to like 25 at least.  Speed does the work with a Dremel.


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Okay, so should have have a nice clean little hole here.  The hole doesn’t need to be very deep.  A milimeter or two is plenty, plenty.  (Many hobbyists drill straight through both ends of the shoulder, but I don’t find this necessary, especially with the newer sculpts.)

You’ll know it’s deep enough if you can clearly tell when your drill bit is “in” or “out”.


Repeat this for the second part that needs to be pinned.  (In my case, the Combi Rifle arm.)


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Now that you have two holes, cut a small piece of your wire (or pin, or paper clip).

I also recommend scuffing your pin bit here with sandpaper, as that adds extra grip to your adhesive.

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Put adhesive in the hole, or on the pin, whichever you like.  I use pliers, since my wire is very snug with my 1/32″ bit, so I need a bit more precise strength.

(You can also stick in the pin first, then cut to size.  Whichever you like.)

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The pin should be clearly visible.  If it’s hard to see how far out it’s sticking, remove it immediately.  It will be hard to fish out the pin if it’s too short and the glue is dry.

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If you’ve done everything right, the two holes should line right up for the pin.

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See?  Easy peasy.  And that arm won’t fall off now!

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Add your new conversion to your collection, and welcome to the Cool Guys Who Pin club.

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6 thoughts on “Pinning and How to Do It

    1. My brother broke a bunch of his Dremel bits, so he prewarned me before I picked one up this winter. I haven’t broken my bits yet–you might just be pushing too hard, or setting it too slow (or too fast).

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