What Splines are Best?

Over the last few months there has been considerable discussion as to what splines are best, well actually since the Christmas break. This all stems from the clay being that much harder than I can remember, I don’t quite know if the formula has changed slightly due to the fact that the majority of the studios are milling most of their full size models from the get go but it is taking its toll on the wooden splines. Like most people in the industry my splines are on the old side having been made years ago from laminated beech or maple to ensure some sort of stability in the various climates around the world.

I have numerous types of splines ranging from solid wood that have been ripped on the table saw and planed and sanded to a smooth finish, to laminated that are also planed and sanded. I also have plexiglass splines as well which work equally as good as the wooden ones.

With the plexiglass spline, unless it is of a dark material it is often difficult to see if there are any holes in the surface when looking under the spline because of the clear color. You have to rely on the marks made by the spline instead, like I said the more desirable plexiglass is of the darker variety.

Of late the material of choice has become carbon fiber, with its superior strength and light weight it is easier to carry from job to job especially if you are a contract modeler. The difference being, it is not so easy to make and buying carbon fiber splines from the few tool suppliers that carry them is extremely expensive. The drive to find a better spline to deal with the harder clay is interesting, but what I find hard to understand is the clay difference especially as it is the same brand and type. Is it the lack of oils due to the oil prices or is it being driven by the automotive companies and their desire to mill the models. The clay is also proving difficult to stick to itself, a problem that did not exist six months ago. Anyway that is another discussion.

Another method of making splines that I have seen is with Formica. This thin man made material was used to cover counter tops and with a thickness of 1/32″ or 1.0 mm, it is laminated together to produce the thicknesses you require. For best results vac bagging to a surface plate gave a uniform thickness with flatness. It would be interesting to see by a modelers standpoint as to what he or she uses on a regular basis.

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