I'm in the progress of "C&O-ifying" an MTH Railking mallet and need to get rid of the horizontal boiler hatch on the front. Would a dremel and sanding barrel give good results? (with touch up paint)

Original Post

How steady are your hands and how good are your eyes? That's what it takes. Go slowly and don't go too deeply.

@ES44AC posted:

I'm in the progress of "C&O-ifying" an MTH Railking mallet and need to get rid of the horizontal boiler hatch on the front. Would a dremel and sanding barrel give good results? (with touch up paint)

My choice would be a rotary file, used at a controllable speed of your variable speed Dremel.

@RoyBoy posted:

How steady are your hands and how good are your eyes? That's what it takes. Go slowly and don't go too deeply.

I have used the dremel before and am perfectly capable of it, but I've only used it for cutting and never grinding down anything. 

It might be good to practice on a throw away locomotive body first. Any mistakes you make will be just learning experiences.

Not for the faint of heart.  I  cut this speaker into an older Atlas SW fuel tank with a dremel, and finished with a small hand file. 

Do it, the hardest part is making that first cut.  Out of the dozen or so steamers I have I can't think of 1 that hasn't seen the Dremel.  Masking tape around the area will help some, just don't be heavy-handed.  Files can finish the spot nicely.

My most trying "operation" was removing fluting from n OK Engines passenger car body to make a Seaboard Air Line Sun-Lounge car, something I would not do again.  Here's some photos of my efforts and sitting next to the GGD Sun-Lounge that was done a while back:


Here's 2 Williams/Samhongsa brass USRA 2-8-2 I modified to represent 2 different classes Seaboard used:


They started out the same, but 411 in the foreground was heavily modified to a SAL Class Q3 whereas 492 in the background was left mainly intact as SAL Class Q1

Steady hand and good lighting will get you going.

I Dremeled off the Bellpaire firebox hump from one of my RailKing 2-8-0 also:

MTH 2-8-0 2

boiler 3

I did Dremel thru the boiler but some JB Weld fixed the hole, backed by a piece of styrene:


Really surprised by the detail on these RailKing engines:

backhead 1


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I have best luck with an abrasive. Cutting tools tend to catch and jump unexpectedly. Then again a lot depends on big what you want to remove is. 

It won't be ready for primer until after filing and sanding smooth. There is always bondo if you go to far.



I think I'd agree with Pete on external details, the sanding drum is probably a safer option.  I use the carbide cutters inside shells where a little jump won't be an issue cosmetically.  I think you'll find the sanding drum will take material off pretty quickly.

Thanks for the insight everyone. B173A3E6-5A05-4B60-A661-1E7E0DECAC4C

Here is the offending piece. It’s only a mm or two (if that) raised above the rest of the boiler and needs trimmed down to get it flush with the body. I ordered a new piece that I will install vertically in the center. After some practice I’ll get to it soon! 


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Last edited by ES44AC

That's an ideal place to use something like the sanding drums, it looks like you can get perpendicular to it with the Dremel, should make it fairly easy to knock it off.  I'd just run it back and forth on it removing a little at a time until you get down to near smooth.  Then switch to a finer grit for the finish.

I have done a bunch of zinc grinding (you could call me a real "zinc pest"). Zinc is a pain, but good results can be had. I have ground that very smokebox hatch of the first loco below. You ought to try removing those original sandboxes - that involved a full-sized hacksaw and/or drilling holes all the way around the bases.

Typically I use a Dremel reinforced cutoff wheel (or wheels...) and a careful touch for the heavy lifting, then grinder tools to smooth things down (again with a light touch). Rotary files can be good. Bondo or epoxy can be used to fill low spots; epoxy for big holes. 

Do not be in a hurry. Zinc is hard when you want it to be soft and soft when you want it to be hard. Good results can be had. It was a lot of work (and that varies with your project, of course), but I was proud of the results.

Practice in a hidden area of the boiler or a scrap boiler for a few minutes with your boiler and your tools to get the feel of it

Both of the locos below started out as "RK Mallets". Both also have sound and TMCC. The top is a model of a NYC 0-8-8-0 hump switcher (they had a dozen or so of these) and is a reasonably plausible representation. Old AHM tender shell.  


This is simply a freelance 2-8-8-2 I did because I wanted to. Kind of a DRGW-flavored piece.



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You will want to mask off the rivets around the perimeter. Maybe a couple of layers of duct tape. I would try and fashion a disk sander for the Dremel for finish work. Maybe one exists already. With a disk the size of a quarter you should be able to get close to the rivets without sanding them off. Also much faster than hand sanding.


Lots of great insight in here! Thank you to everyone who replied with advice. Real nice work, D500. These RK mallets are good engines especially for projects. Since my engine is already lettered for C&O, I've decided to fashion it towards an H-5 2-6-6-2, even though my model is a slightly larger 2-8-8-2



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That Dremel "detailer's grip" Alan mention appears to be a good addition to your Dremel tool collection.

I wonder if it fits the older model Dremel hand helds?

That is cool.  Looks like it should fit any Dremel with the screw-on collar.

From the manufacturer.

Detailers Grip Kit is efficiently designed to create extra support for any rotary tool having a threaded nose piece, transferring the weight of the tool to the palm of the hand for improved tool balance and control.

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