That was it. I was doing to much. There was no need to unlink the planes (duped them), or import a base model to link to, or anything. It was as simple as loading the ascii mdl into gmax, rotating the hilt, select all, reset form x, export. Run it back through mdlops replacer and voila!
Thanks for thinking of the extra plane set. And again thanks for all the great models, if just rotating one has been this much trouble for me I'd really be in trouble starting from scratch
Off to work some scripting now ... look for need help with XXX scripts posts soon!!!