Scale Model Tools and Accessories

By D. J. McAdam.

Whether you're building model cars, model airplanes, model ships, or anything similar, having the correct tools can sure make life a lot easier.  Your projects will also turn out better.  There's no practical way of listing everything here that you could ever need, and different model-makers have different preferences anyway, so I've listed the main things that are good to have, and you can take it from there.  Please note:  Some of the things listed below are incredibly sharp, or otherwise dangerous to use if you're not careful.  This list assumes you're an adult using such items, or will be utilizing these tools under adult supervision, that you're going to be extremely careful when using such items, and that you'll use any such items entirely at your own risk.  If you can't use such items safely, do not use them.  Along these same lines, please make any sharp, toxic, or otherwise dangerous materials inaccessible to others in your household, including small children and pets.  My rule: If you don't have the time to put everything safely away when you're done working on a model for the day, don't start. 

Sprue Cutter.  You know how those parts to your model kit are attached to a plastic tree?  You want to remove them from that tree as cleanly as possible, which means doing something other than twisting them off.  Basically, you want to use a sprue cutter, pictured here.  A sprue cutter is different than a wire cutter, because with a sprue cutter you can get really close on one side when cutting.  (Some day you'll probably also want the wire cutter, but it's not an essential tool.)  I have a Testors sprue cutter, which I purchased from Hobby Lobby for about ten bucks.  There's also a sprue cutter in the Tamiya Basic Tool Set (which I think I also have, purchased in the Philippines and now lost in the depths of my closet somewhere.)

Sanding Sticks.  You do a fair bit of sanding when building models, and you will eventually end up acquiring every type of small sanding device known to man.  A good place to start is the Flex-I-File Flex Set #550, made by Creation Unlimited Hobby Products, a Canadian company.  You can visit the company's website at .  I bought the set from Hobby Lobby, and got a great deal, because I went online first and found a coupon for 40% off any one item.  The set retails for around $26.

X-ACTO Knife.  There are all sorts of X-ACTO knife sets out there, so go ahead and look around and find something that appeals to you.  You'll mainly need the knife itself and plenty of new #11 blades, but all sorts of other blades can be useful at times.  The X-ACTO Precision Razor Saw Set is also handy.  You'll also want a utility knife nearby.  This is a good time to re-read the warning above about being careful when handling things that are sharp.  Also, remember to dispose of old blades safely. 

Self-Healing Working Surface in Ventilated Area.  What I mean by this is, simply, don't use your utility knife or X-ACTO knife on your model and find that you've dug into the table where you're working - have some sort of surface that can be cut without upsetting anyone and that will stop the knife from going through it.  And don't work in an area that isn't well-ventilated, because the paints and cements you'll be using were meant to be used in well-ventilated areas for your own safety and for the safety and comfort of others.

Tweezers.  There are all sorts of tweezers, and "hobby tweezers sets."  Tweezers come with different tips, and different angles, so you'll end up acquiring an assortment of these as well.  Some small model pieces are just too tiny to manipulate with your hands. 

Pin Vise.  A pin vise is really a very small hand-operated drill, which you'll use to make holes in plastic.  You may not have to do this on your first few models, but the day will come - when it does, go get a pin vise. 

I'll discuss painting tools, putty, and adhesives elsewhere.  The good news I'd like you to take from the above list is that you can see that you do not need a huge number of expensive tools to get going in scale model building.  Of course, if you like buying tools, you'll probably never run out of things to acquire.


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