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How do Modellers and Miniaturists Use Glass Fiber Contact Cleaning Brushes?

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Glass fiber contact cleaner brush in a retractable pencil style holder.

Glass fiber contact cleaner brush in a retractable pencil style holder for removing paint and rust and cleaning electrical contacts.

Photo copyright 2010 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.
Question: How do Modellers and Miniaturists Use Glass Fiber Contact Cleaning Brushes?
Glass Fiber Contact Cleaning Brushes, sometimes called fiberglass erasers, are fine clusters of spun glass fibers encased in a plastic or cord covering, or more commonly, set into a retractable pencil type case which allows the fiber core to be adjusted like a pencil lead in length. The spun glass fibers are a very fine abrasive used mainly by watchmakers but they have many uses for modelling and miniatures. The retractable pencils are often available with replacement glass fiber cores and come in different core widths.
Answer:

Spun glass fiber contact cleaning brushes are very fine stiff abrasives, used originally by watchmakers and jewellers to polish and clean. They are often found in electrical supply stores where they are used for cleaning electrical contacts, and solder. They are very good at removing paint or other materials including rust from wear grooves, and are fine enough to be useful for cleaning the riffling on jewellers files and micro files. They are good for removing dried paint from detail areas in metal gaming figures, although they must be used with care to avoid scratching out detail. They can be used to create a matt finish on soft metals.

For modelling and miniatures these brushes are useful for cleaning electrical contacts for dolls houses, model trains, or slot cars. They are gentler than brass or steel brushes, although they must be used with care as they can scratch or abrade deeply if overused. They can be used to keep tools clean, especially files, and they will gently 'erase' rust from rusted surfaces. The fibers are also good for creating 'tooth' on smooth plastic surfaces before gluing parts together, and are also good for cleaning surfaces before soldering. The stiff fine bristles can also be used to create wear spots on painted and wooden miniatures, or for creating wear on printed paper surfaces, where they act like fine sandpaper.

The fine glass fibers wear down, so care should be taken to avoid using them where glass fiber residues might create problems (cleaning metallic threads in cloth for example). Glass fibers should be carefully removed after working on surfaces to avoid possible issues with glass splinters. Care should be taken when using them on fine metals that you do not damage the surface too heavily.

Price and Availability - Available from specialist miniature tool and lighting suppliers, and from electronics and jewellery suppliers. Cost under $10, depending on size, and if spare glass cores are included.

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