Your "Can't Do Without" Tools


House Mother, Cheerleader
What kind of tools do you use in your workshop for kitbashing, scratchbuilding, and repairs? I want to try some "do it yourself" projects, but the only tools I have are the ones I use for assembling kits. My toolbox includes tweezers, hobby knives, files, miscellaneous cutting tools, eye protection, and of course, Band-Aids. ;)

I'm going to start small --- very small --- with a G-scale outhouse made from cedar or redwood that will weather nicely. But even that needs some precision cutting or mitering to make it fit together and look right.

I know there are miniature power tools available, but that may be overkill for me at this point. But..... I love to play with tools and gadgets, so I'm open to suggestions.

Please tell me which tools you have in your arsenal, the absolutely "can't do without" items for constructing and detailing your modeling creations.
Hmmm....well, considering I haven't really constructed much in the way of scratchbuilt models, I think I'll find this thread interesting as well. Here's what I do find myself using whenever I do have a chance to 'tinker' though:
  • X-acto knives
  • X-acto saw (small miter box with fine-tooth saw)
  • Plastic 'nippers'
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Straight-edge / metal ruler
  • Various drills
  • Various glues (CA, wood glue, white glue, contact cement, rubber cement...)
  • Small vise
  • Paint brushes / trays, etc.
  • Lots of little containers for small parts
  • Sand paper
  • Files
  • Soldering pen / iron / torch and appropriate supplies
  • Airbrush (only used once...not brave enough to get it out again)

Tools I have access to at 'the shop':
  • Milling machines
  • Grinders (bench / pedastool)
  • Drill press
  • Vertical CNC
  • EDM's (2 sinkers and a wire)
  • Plastic injection molding machine ( :) )
  • Lathe
  • Welders / supplies
  • Tube bender
  • Heat-treat oven
  • Band saw
  • Belt / disc sander
  • Glass beader
My biggest tool is a 14" bandsaw on a stand. I use that for cutting just about everything. Wood, plastic & pvc tubing. I have a steel cutoff saw for cutting the heavier stuff like 1/4" steel rod that I make my big bridges out of. I weld them together w/a mig welder.
Plus I have all the average hobby tools & some that I have made. Another item that everyone should have is a facing block for building flat structures w/magnets for holding. I also have an old wood vise attached to the end of my workbench for holding delicate items. Another item that I use quite often, a 3 inch bench grinder. You can use that on metal, wood, & plastic. Fine wheel on 1 end & course wheel on the other.
Since I can't get my workbench pic on the photo contest, it will be on the next post.

The picture on the left is the bench rolled under the train table & the one on the right is the bench rolled out in front of the table. The bench is mounted on steel wheels. All of my small tools are stored in cigar boxes that I get from a local retiree. The light is a round fluorescent w/a strong magnifier lens in the middle. My dad built that workbench in High School in about 1932.
I store all my small parts in plastic cabinets w/clear drawers.
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Whoa!!! Thanks, fellas. :D The good news is that I already have some of those things. The bad news is that I don't even know what some of the things you mentioned ARE!

I can see I'll learn a lot and have some fun with the information you've given me so far. Please be prepared for questions as I review this further. ;)

(Don't panic, though. I once created indexes for several editions of the contractor's catalog for a major home improvement store. I really do know what a lot of this stuff is, so I shouldn't be too much of a nuisance.)
Hi Claudia, scratch or kitbash building can be one of the most rewarding aspects of the hobby. Other than the locos I haven't done much in the line of building, so all I've needed so far were the mandatory dremmel tools with attachments, rotary files ect for them. I have one with a flexible cable attached for hard to get at places. The usual hobby knife sets (you can never have too many of them), riffler files.
Now for wood, some kind of saw is mandatory. When I was building model boats I used a 10" table saw to make the lumber (a bit of an overkill but I had it and it works). There was one fellow who had a set-up using his sabre saw for the same thing, so ingenuity can save a lot of $$$. I have cut veneer strips on my table saw so model lumber is no problem. Probably one of the best investments you can make will be "Clamps" to hold the pieces in place and to apply pressure while the glue dries. I have many sizes and types of these from tiny spring loaded scissors clamps to larger screw clamps. A must will be a combination or tri square so to ensure your corners are 90deg, a very fine tooth saw and a mitre box. An electric drill with lots of small drill bits. A G scale measuring device would also come in quite handy. Last but not least, a lot of products (especially fruit ) come in containers made of very thin wood that is easy to cut and a good source of easy to work with model lumber. I guess when it comes to scratch building " Necessity is the mother of invention" take it a step at a time and you'll do alright. :D Soon as I post this I'll think of dozens of other things you can probably get along without.
Cheers Willis
Claudia -

Here's a few more suggestions to get you into DEEP trouble. I occasionally use most of the tools in the woodshop to prep modeling supplies: the band saw, table saw, surface planer, drum sander, lathe, scroll saw, drill press, etc. BUT, those are tools I already have for woodworking. I wouldn't buy any of them just for modeling. But then if you're into tools……..

Anyway, I agree with Willis, especially on the Rifflers. Get two sets, one coarse and one fine.

And here are some of the less usual tools in my kit:

An ACA Applicator (looks like a miniature two-tined fork).

A set of tubing benders (they look like springs and come in several sizes). They keep the tubing from kinking when you bend it.

A "helping hand"* - a set of locking tweezers mounted on a base.

A digital caliper*. Even an inexpensive one at $20 - $30 is accurate enough for modeling; mine is accurate to 0.0005 inch, slight overkill. (PS: there is no such thing as a digital vernier caliper.)

A surface gauge*. This tool consists of a heavy base, a vertical pole 9" - 12" tall, and an arm with a scribe. It is used to mark/align/determine/etc. uniform heights around an object. Once you've got one, you'll think of a hundred uses for it.

A set of 1-2-3 blocks*. These are highly accurate steel blocks that measure 1.0000" x 2.0000" x 3.0000". They are great for making sure wall joints are truly square. And they are heavy, so the keep parts in place while the adhesive sets.

None of these are particularly expensive, most costing $10 to $15. You can get the tools with a (*) from Kitts Industrial Tools, 1-800-521-6579 (they don't have a web site). Just call and ask for a catalog. But beware, having their catalog is DANGEROUS :D, especially for a tool addict. You'll see all sorts of strange tools and think, "Oh, I could do THIS :rolleyes: …"

Aha! Now I know what some of that stuff is that we inherited after my stepdad died. Your descriptions are excellent.

Thanks again, fellas.
Now that I've read a few of you guys's posts, I've thought of a few more tools I have and occasionally use :D
  • Dremel
  • 90* Vise / Clamp
  • Scroll Saw
  • Router
  • Air Nailer / Stapler
  • Roto-Zip
  • Jig Saw
  • Arbor Press / Hydraulic Press
As Kevin said, none of these tools, and most of the tools in my first post, are really 'must-haves' (with the exception of the Dremel), but since I have access to them, why not take advantage :D

Red Oak & Western said:
...beware, having their catalog is DANGEROUS , especially for a tool addict. You'll see all sorts of strange tools and think, "Oh, I could do THIS …"
I'll second that! While I'm not familiar with the paticular company, I do get lots of magazines...