It is difficult to find many modelers that have never used a Flex-I-File product. Most modelers have several of the Flex-I-File aluminum sanding frames on their workbench, and several packets of the abrasive refill tapes ready for use. Then there are the Flex Pads which are available in varied grits. Just in case the reader is one of those “unfortunates”, this review will result in some of your model money being spent.
Before we dive into the review, to be clear, the sanding frame is also sometimes referred to as “the handle” to which the abrasive tape is attached. And the abrasive tape is sometimes labeled “the sanding strip”. A Flex Pad is also known as a sanding stick.
The Flex Set being reviewed includes:
- 1 aluminum frame
- a total of 8 abrasive tapes, featuring 4 different grits - tapes are color coded by grit size
- 5 Flex Pads, each providing a different grit, one of which (the pad which is labeled “Polisher/Finisher” has three grits on the same pad.
It might be useful to provide some measurements for those who are not familiar with the materials in the Flex Set.
- The Flex Pads, also known as “sanding sticks”, measure 5 ¾”x ½”, or 14.5 cm x 1.5 cm.
- The frame is 3 ½” “deep” with a span of 5 ½” to accommodate the length of the abrasive tape.
- The abrasive tape has grit on only one side and is 3/10” wide with a length that exceeds the span of the frame by about an inch. Both ends of the tape are folded back onto the non-grit side of the tape and the overlap is attached to the backside of the tape with an adhesive that is very durable. A small opening is left so that the pins on each end of the frame can hold the tape tightly. The tape and frame have enough “slack” to allow the tape to fit around curved surfaces while sanding, which the modeler will find beneficial.
As mentioned above, the pads are color coded according to grit.
- Gray – Coarse – 1500 grit.
- Tan – Medium – 2800 grit.
- Dark Gray – Fine – 3200 grit.
- Red – Ultra Fine – 6000 grit.
The grit/color coding is the same for the abrasive tapes. Both the tapes and the pads can be used for wet sanding as well as dry sanding.
The sanding pad that features three colors (and three grits) is identified as the “Triple-Grit Polisher/Finisher”. Just look for the pad which is half black/ half white on the same side. This pad, as mentioned on the product package and on the website as “primarily for removing imperfections and restoration of clear plastic surfaces”. The black area has a larger grit count so it can remove scratches. The white area has smaller grit so it will help to blend the surface upon which the black area was used. The gray area is used to polish and buff out the surface being repaired.
My personal experience with the Flex-I-File product goes back quite a number of years. I have found that the abrasive tapes have a long lifespan. I have some tapes that have been used on five or six projects, over a period of 18 to 24 months. Of course, the lifespan of a tape depends on the size of the model being sanded. The sanding pads also can be used on several projects, but eventually the grit is worn down and the item must be replaced. On rare occasions, I have used an abrasive tape for so long that it snaps apart while in use. (Most don’t reach that age or state as I’ve worn off the usable grit) To “reload” a new tape on the frame is so easy that I often do it one-handed while continuing to hold the project model in the other hand.
Mentioned earlier, the tape and pads can be used for wet sanding as well as dry sanding, and I will conclude this review with a “helpful hint”. There are a pair of items that can hold water into which the frame and tape will easily fit. The red jar lid in the accompanying image is just a bit wider than the span of the frame, and when filled with water, it is deep enough to “wet” the entire tape. The margarine container is not long enough at the bottom to accommodate the frame and tape, but when filled with water the tape can be totally submerged without difficulty.
Having the proper tools to sand your project will help you to achieve a higher level of quality for your “build”. These Flex-I-File sanding tools fill that role. For those of you who attend modeling events around the country (both the USA and Canada) you may see Flex-I-File occupying a vendor table or two (usually more than that!) I’ve found that their selection of items is always excellent and the staff at the table are always friendly and polite. Look for them and take the opportunity to load up!
This product is highly recommended based on the high quality of the sanding surfaces, ease of use, durability of the sanding frame, color-coding by grit, and ease of use of the website. Thanks to Flex-I-File for providing this product for review by IPMS-USA.