If you want a good result on your models kits, you will inevitably have to invest in tools. Of course, one could build a kit with a cheap sprue cutter, some sandpaper and cement. But as your become more experience and prolific in your work you will want to have the right tool at the right time to perform the way you wish to. A good set of tools will not only safe you time doing repetitive task such as sanding it will show in the overall look of the model. That is why at Scalemodelling wiki we recommend you buy the best tools you can buy for your money; it will pay off quick and you won’t regret it.
Let’s have a look of those basic tools that every modeler should have on their bench:
Sprue cutters(nippers): A sprue cutter is mainly used to cut or remove plastic parts from the sprue. There are different types and therefore have different use and results. Prices can vary greatly depending on the quality and function, you can find some as cheap as £3 to £250. As always do your research and buy the best one for your money. This is one of those tools that really needs to work for you as it can greatly reduce your sanding time or, on the other hand, can even ruin your kit.
Modelers tend to have two or three cutters on the bench. One for general cutting from the main sprue, another for more refine cleanup of undesired plastic on a piece and even photo etched metal pliers.
If you are unsure what sprue cutter you should buy is always a good idea to start with a side sprue cutter. They are widely available and relatively cheap. As you progress on your technique an investment on a forged sprue cutter might be the way forward but be prepare that prices go up depending on the model and it requires maintenance to keep it in optimal working order.
Sanders: This is another basic tool that a modeler cannot go without it. Yes, you could but sandpapers with different grits, but a good set of sanders will make your life as a modeler a lot easier. We use sanders to smooth the surface of a newly detached part from the sprue. This is done with the sprue cutter, but even expensive nippers have its limitations on how near the sprue it can cut off the piece.
Sanders comes in different grits or grades, the higher the grit/grade, the smoother the sander is. This is important if we want to preserve the details of the part that we have detached from the sprue: a sander with a low grit will be very hard against the plastic, resulting in scratches that will need to be taken care of later on by higher grit sanders. It is always advisable to have at least sanders on the range of 240 to 1200 and if possible, complement them with a polishing super high grit sander to optimal result. At the end of the day we want to represent an object in scale and to avoid damaging the surfaces in the process; a good set of sanders are your best friend.
Small pliers: Yes, you need those. Due to the size of some parts, you won’t be able to hold tiny bits with your finger and sand/paint/glue them at the same time.
Nowadays they are cheap (depending on the quality) and comes in a wide range of sizes and purpose. I would recommend, like the sanders, to get a pack of them which includes various models.
Clamps: they are necessary to hold together two pieces against each other.
They are extremely useful when we need to glue together two large pieces that requires a constant pressure while the cement cures. A good example can be to use them when gluing the fuselage of an airplane, its wing or the gun of a tank. They too come in different sizes and functionality. They are usually cheap to buy and they can come in a bundle making them a must.
Hand drill: This is a tool that gets usually overlooked. Since they are cheap to buy and very useful it fits into this list as a must.
Whether cockpit details, pilons under the wings to aerials they all need tiny holes to be drilled. Drills bits come in different sizes and thickness therefore it is wise to invest on a set from the start.
Saw/scalpels: Saws are usually used to cut big or thick pieces. Either plastic or resin, saws can be very effective at leaving a clean cut.
Although powerful in what they do, they required maintenance and often needs to be replace/change in order to keep their sharp capability. Scalpels in the other hand are usually smaller and thinner but just as sharp. They are mainly use for tackling those pesky seam lines, but small plastic parts and cut masking tapes to the desired size and shape.
In the next articles we will look at more advance tools and materials to work with.
Always remember: Invest in your tools. It will improve your work and save you time.