Central Phoenix Railroad
I am going to hopefully start my railroad soon. I would like some of my work to be scratchbuild, such as, buildings, bridges, depots, etc. Can someone please give me some tips on scratchbuilding? Also what are the needed tools?
Thanks in advance,
Chris Moore
Here's what's in my arsenal so far:
Safety glasses
Dust masks (disposable painter's masks work fine unless you're using caustic stuff)
Metal rules, 6- and 12-inch
Pens / pencils / sharpeners
Files / rasps
Drill and bits (I have a Dremel, but still use the hand tools)
Masking tape
Clamps - C-clamps, clothespins and grippers
Finishes and brushes
Paper towels
X-acto knives, saws
Miter box
Aspirin and tranquilizers :D
Thanks for the info Claudia. I'm not sure how much of that stuff I have, but I know I have some of it. Any tips?
The really basic items you will need are:

Steel scale ruler
Xacto knife and lots of blades (alway use sharp blades)
Fine sandpaper
glues - white or yellow, CA, and plastic

A plan

Always paint/stain before applying glue unless you plan to use an airbrush.

Always complete all the walls before glueing them together. This includes putting in window glass and window shades. It is much easier to do this while the wall is flat instead of once the building is all together.

Use bracing in the corners and in the roof to add strength and reduce the chance of warpage.

Ask questions. :D

Measure twice, cut once.
That is definitely the most important advice!! Your plan doesn't have to be elaborate, but at least sketch your structure if you don't already have a picture to work from. Then make a list of the components, including measurements. Don't cut everything at once because you might discover that some of your measurements need adjusting for proper fit. Rather, begin from the ground up with the major parts such as walls, and as David said, complete those and associated millwork before assembling them.
Whatcha building with? Wood Paper/Cardboard, Balsa, Brass/White Metal, Plastic/Styrene? The tools noted are great but, you also gotta know your material(s).
To David's list, I'd add some form of square (a tool used to accurately measure 90 degree angles). I use a set of 1-2-3 blocks, so called because the sides measure 1 inch, 2 inches, and 3 inches. They are machined very precisely: mine cost under $10 and have dimensional tolerances of 0.0005". I use then when gluing up walls. The neat thing is that, being steel, magnets can be used for clamps. As an alternative a small (3 to 6 inch) machinists square (fixed blades) or combination square (the head slides along the rule) can be used.

I'd also add an inexpensive vernier or digital caliper. This tool makes it very easy to measure the size of doors and windows and transfer them to the walls.

You might also want to read Claudia's tool thread at