Today we’re going to be Hacking Hot Wheels, Dissecting Diecast and Cutting Castings …wait…. ohhhhh yeah! Love a bit of alliteration action in the morning :p
Knowing how to cut precise sections and panels from your Hot Wheels castings is one of the most fundamental skills required if one is to take their customising to that next level. Today I will be showing you how to do just that, and in the interest of covering the topic thoroughly I even brought a couple of friends along so they could share their techniques as well.
Tools Required To Cut Diecast Cars
The first thing we need to talk about are the tools required, because unless you are Chuck Norris you simply cannot cut your Hot Wheels custom-to-be, like at all.
- Jewellers [Hack] Saw
A jewellers saw (pictured below) is the most important tool because it is the only way to cut your diecast precisely. They are available on eBay for around $20 – and that’s including around 100 blades. Speaking of which, When you are cutting your hot wheels you will find yourself snapping blades very (very) often. The blades themselves are incredibly thin and it only takes a slight tug in the wrong direction for them to snap away. Changing them is quick and easy so it’s not a problem – just be sure to purchase one that includes at least 100 blades or find yourself back on eBay in a week or so 😉
- Dremel (Rotary Tool)
A Dremel is not a necessity* but it sure does help out a lot. The Dremel is great for cutting cars or sections of cars when you have no intention of using the ‘other bit’ as it will slice through the diecast in no time at all. Actually I tell a lie, it takes a fair amount of time because when you are cutting your diecast car in half it takes all of 8 seconds to get so hot that you literally have to put it down and wait 5 minutes – at which point you’ll get a whole 12 seconds worth of cutting (if you’re lucky). But I digress.
The disadvantages of using the rotary (OMG 13B Fully sick!) far outweigh the advantages and as such I tend to avoid using it as much as possible. The first problem – apart from the overheating issue is the fact that even a thin metal dremel blade(disc) is at least a mm thick and will leave a noticable gap in the diecast. Kind of an issue when you want to cut say a bonnet or a door that you wish to actually keep!
The other problem is the fact you are cutting not with a straight blade that you control but with a spinning disc that rotates perpendicular to the way you are holding it. This creates havoc with any precision cutting you are trying to do and as the disc is a circle it will not cut small sections but leave large gashes the length of the circles diameter. [Note in the image below how there are small cuts in the roof extending beyond my intended line – a result of the Dremel’s spinning blade. Also note the thickness of the cut left by the blade. Ain’t nothing precise about that!!]
As a customiser I have to say the Dremel is totally a necessity – just not for cutting hot wheels.
- Metal Files (Plural)
OK so the metal files are also kind of a necessity because without them we cannot 1) fix the cut lines so they are even and 2) clean the edges of our cuts so they are safe to touch – not to mention looking sweet.
I personally use a combination of a small file that allows me to get into almost any gap and a triangular/square shaped file which allows me to precisely file corners so they are neat and is also good for general filing duties as well. Both files are pictured below for your reference:
How to Cut Hot Wheels With a Jewelers Saw
I know what you’re probably thinking – “why do I need to know how to use a Jewelers saw? It’s a friggin’ saw dude!” and you’re right. But then again there’s a few little nuggets I think I can share that will make the whole process of cutting diecast cars a little bit easier and a lot more fun 😉
Cutting a Casting Completely in Half
If you are cutting your car in half then the only concern you have is making sure you cut straight and true, and in the spirit of Jeremy Clarkson “How hard can it be?” turned out to be exactly that! Let’s go through the process and see what could possibly go wrong so that you’re better prepared than I was.
- First things first you need a guide so grab a felt tip pen or marker and make a marking on the edge of the roof where your intended cut line is.
- Now make a similar mark on the other side – using whatever panel or section is closest as reference. This is the truest way to get an accurate and dead straight line across the vehicle.
- Now repeat the process at the bottom of the car and then using a ruler draw a straight line joining the two marks. Again keep a close reference and make sure your line is identical on both sides.
- Make your first incision with the blade at the corner of the roof where you made your initial mark and using the vertical guide start cutting at around 90 degrees (equal across the top and the side)
- Once you have cut a few mm down and across gently remove the blade (careful not to break it) and place it in the same cut line but so that it is angled dead flat against the roof. Gently cut and as you do angle the blade over the curve of the roof so that it touches down onto the mark on the opposite side.
- Repeat this process a few times and soon enough you will have a nice dead straight line across the roof that is deep enough to naturally hold the blade in place. Now you have the beginnings of a cut that is almost guaranteed to be dead straight and even.
WARNING! When you are cutting you naturally roll your wrist to the side which causes the blade to cut down at an angle. Because it is so slight and the turning of your wrist is natural you don’t even notice it.
LESSON? Keep a constant eye on where your blade is throughout the cut or you stand a very good chance of going off course – way off.
When I cut this Kool Kombis head off I didn’t pay close attention and as a result had to file down a section of the other side to compensate for my error.
Cutting Precision Sections and Panels in a Casting
If the cut you require is in the middle of the bonnet or anywhere that requires a precise edge on all four sides (or even two for that matter) then you need to approach the cutting with a bit more thought. Let’s tackle some of the more fundamental concerns:
- Why Can’t I use my Dremel?
When it comes to precision and accuracy a Dremel is kind of like a bull in a china shop. You’d be like ‘OK I’m just going to make a little cut in HOLY SHITBALLS WTF just happened?!’ and your custom would have a gash in it right down the door (or something).
I mentioned the disadvantages earlier but one thing I didn’t mention was the jump, because this ‘Bull in a china shop’ also loves to jump around (jump around jump up jump up and get down – how good was that song!) AHEM….
I think of the countless customs that I have stuffed up over the course of my customising life and I reckon at least 80% were because of the Dremel jumping or moving off its intended line during the process. And it’s not just the blade!
Another thing you need to watch out for (and even then you’ll still do it!) is the rotating part of the dremel that holds the blade. It is made of a roughened metal barrel and as it sits a good inch below your blade you tend to forget about it, meaning while you are carefully slicing through your B pillar the metal barrel is gouging a nice noticeable gouge in the side of your car. (and may I be the first to say @%$#!!&%*!@$&!!!)
Oh wait, there’s one more reason why we can’t use the Dremel or rotary tool – the blade is just well, it’s bloody useless at doing anything other than just being generally angry all the time. Not only is the blade itself impossible to use for cuts narrower than an inch, the blade itself is almost a mm thick and with the speed and heat friction it creates the cut itself ends up a good 1 – 2mm wide. This is no good, no good at all. So we say bye bye Dremel.
- How do I hold the car in place when I am cutting it?
This comes down to personal preference in the end but I find that holding it in my hand is the best and most accurate way to cut. Sometimes I am forced to use my vice as the section of car I am cutting is simply too small to hold but more often than not I will find a way to hold it down against the table or simply in my fingers. Note that the blade itself helps steady the car as well and once you get some movement it tends to follow the course (for the most part)
Another reason I prefer to use my hands is because once the base is removed it does not take much force to bend the entire casting and using a vice means that is always a possibility.
TIP: I stack a few thick books against the edge of the desk and place the casting on top so that 1) The casting is at eye level when I cut and easier to see clearly, and 2) the extra drop allows me to angle the blade down a lot more and gives me better access to the casting.
- How do I get my blade in there in the first place?!
If you are cutting out a hole in a roof or a bonnet – or even the bonnet itself then you are faced with a situation where you need a hole in order to begin cutting. If like in the example above you have no intention of keeping the part you are cutting out then you have two options. The Dremel is obviously the first option and as you can see above it is a great tool to help do the majority of the leg work – just keep in mind….everything I’ve said!
Your other option – and the door most people choose to take is the drill. By drilling a small hole near the corner of where you intend to start cutting you can then simply attach your blade to one end of the hacksaw and insert it through the hole before attaching it to the other side. Rather finicky actually and as much as I hate to admit it – more than a few times where I have focused so much on getting the blade through that I’ve ended with the saw facing the wrong way or the blade on upside down or something equally moronic!
- How on earth does one turn a perfect (square) 90 degree corner in metal?!
You’d be surprised how easy it is to do actually. A combination of the blade being so thin and the fact you are a stubborn little customiser (go you!) means getting it to turn when you want is simply a matter of patience and …blades, quite a few blades actually.
Once you reach the end of your cut line you literally start turning your blade towards the new line and force it as gently as possible to face the new direction. As you do this you might find a few cuts up and down while turning helps free up the friction and get the blade turning, this is after you’ve replaced the last three which snapped as you attempted to turn to quickly. It’s OK we’ll wait for you to change it again 😉
After a few turns you will then be heading down your new line and you will have a corner that is almost perfectly square (and practice really does make perfect)
- What if I want to keep the section of car that I am cutting out?
Well now you’ve gone and done it – why do you want to keep the panel? You’re really making things difficult, you know that?!
When it comes to cutting out a panel that you want to keep there are some sacrifices you need to make – however due to the way Hot Wheels Cars are put together it is a sacrifice we can all but hide.
Let’s assume that the section you wish to remove is the bonnet – it’s the most common and obvious choice for this sort of precision surgery and it’s a good all round example to use. First of all you need to accept that there is no way to make an initial incision in the middle of a panel without using a drill or a Dremel rotary tool and so we are left with only one choice – we start our incision where the bonnet meets the windscreen and sacrifice the leading edge of the bonnet (and imaginary firewall) for the greater good. This is no big deal because not only does the interior and windscreen all but cover this, the engine which you have clearly added (why else would you remove the bonnet?!) looks so damn badass no one is even looking at the missing bit.
For sections like doors and bootlids or hatchbacks you simply apply the above tips for cutting sharp corners and access the initial cut from the most obvious place – which for doors are from the window ledge and for hatchbacks and bootlids are from the back at an angle that cuts both the top and back of the leading edges.
- Anything else I should watch out for?
As a matter of fact…
My attempts to cut the bonnet from this Nissan 180sx ended in tragedy because I failed to notice how thin the diecast above the wheel arch was. As a result the minute I reached the thinnest point the entire thing bent dramatically forward. I attempted to gently bend it back knowing full well I would never get it exactly right anyway and was met with the sound of it giving way completely. The only reason this snapped is because I was not paying attention – so the lesson here is to always be aware of where your blade is and what you are cutting – because had I noticed and held the casting right at that point and been gentle with my cuts I would have had no issues what-so-ever.
And now I’m going to hand the mic over to some friends of mine…
How To Cut Out Panels … With Tinsnips?! | @RichardFormula1
When I discovered how my mate and fellow administrator of the MCH Facebook Group was cutting his custom hot wheels cars I just had to get the details so I could share it with you. Why? Because the way Richard approaches the task is so unique and effective it means those who can’t necessarily get access to a Jewellers saw or Dremel still have an option – assuming they can get tinsnips, which I’m assuming are stupid easy to get hold of. Nice one Richard!
You’ll Need a Drill and a Pair of Tinsnips and then you’ll do something like this:
“Here’s a pic of how I cut out any holes after drilling. Just stab the end of the cutters into a hole and then jimmy it back and fourth and so on.”
shit Dairy Delivery load of filing to clean up the edges and voila!
And don’t assume this method only works on large sections either…
How To Cut Dead Straight Lines. Every Time! | @Carllector
Here’s a quick tip from Douglas Cheung on how to make sure your cut lines are and remain straight and true. He shared these tips whilst teaching us how to hinge doors and bonnets (which was totally epic btw) but in the interest of relevance I thought I would share them again here.
“For example you want to cut out the hatch door of this 260z, you can see the lines/ edge of the door on the body. But while you’re cutting, it might be abit hard to focus your eyes of the edge of the hatch while moving the saw constantly.”
“So you can put some masking tapes over the area you’re cutting out…”
“And use a fine tip permanent marker to trace out the lines/ boarder of section you want to cut out…”
“Now it’s much clearer for your eyes to see where to cut, since it’s black on yellow instead of dark lines on dark blue.”
“And lastly, if at the end the sections you’ve cut out is really uneven or rough edges, you can always use sand paper to flatten the edges.
Always practice on bigger pieces first like bonnets or roofs. If you’re not concise then avoid cutting sections on the car that has thin pillars, like doors, hatch doors because 1 mistake and you cut into the pillars the entire car is pretty much ruined. But really, the more you practice, the easier and quicker it’ll be. I can now do it free hand without the masking tapes.”
Simple tip but one that I personally never thought to do! – hope this awesome little tip helps keep you on the straight and narrow and out of cutting trouble moving forward
Summary and Conclusion
I think it is fair to say that hidden amongst all that verbal diarrhea is a truly comprehensive guide to slicing and dicing Hot Wheels diecast cars. We’ve covered all aspects of what to use – and how to use it effectively – and we’ve gone through all the different types of cuts you need to be able to truly go mental on your next custom 😉 If there is anything else I missed or you want specific details on then please ask in the comments below. This way I can answer and the information can be shared with everyone – which is how it should be right? 🙂
I’d also like to take this moment to send a special thanks and shout out to Douglas ( @Carllector ) and Richard M ( @RichardFormula1 ) for taking time out of their day to share their experience and wisdom with us. I really appreciate the effort and think your tips have really helped make this the most thorough guide to cutting diecast cars that ever there was. Now go follow these guys – all you need to do is click their instagram handles above and you’ll be taken straight there. Easy 😉