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Essential Model Kit Tools

Article by Paul Nortness

They say a craftsman is only as good as his tools. This article will cover the essential tools every modeler should have. I will offer some low cost alternatives to help you stretch that hobby dollar as much as possible.

Model Kit Glues

One of the most important tools in a modeler's tool chest is glue. Without glue, the model doesn't get put together. There are several formulas of glue on the market, some good and some not. Testors offers several different types. It's best to stay clear of the "non toxic" glue, this is commonly referred to as "the blue tube" as it is offered in blue tubes. Stay away from it, it is very weak and typically will not hold parts together. Testors also offers their standard glue or "orange tube" (can you guess what color they sell that in?). The standard glue is decent, it gets the job done but it can be very messy and tends to "craze" clear parts.

model kit glues

In my opinion, the best glue available is solvent based glues like Tamiya Extra Thin, Ambroid Pro Weld or Tenax. These glues are very thin liquids that are applied with a brush. They seap into the joint and actually melt the plastic together, thereby welding the piece in place. Tamiya Extra Thin gets my vote if only for the very nice applicator brush inside the cap.

Model Kit Putty

Next up is putty. Putty is needed to help fill in any seams or gaps left by ill-fitting parts. Squadron offers excellent putty in both green and white. There is no difference in the putty besides the color. White is a little harder to see when building an aircraft that is molded in grey, whereas a modeler working on a tank that is molded in green may have issues seeing the green putty. So Squadron made it easy. You can get a 2.3 oz tube for about 4 or 5 bucks.

model kit putty

However, there is a better option. Walk into your local auto parts store and pick up a tube of Bondo Spot Glazing Putty for the same price as the Squadron. This putty is identical to the Squadron putty with the exception of the color (it's red). So how is Bondo better than Squadron when it is exactly the same thing? Simple. For the same amount of money, you get a tube that's twice as big!

Model Kit Tools

Now that we have covered the squishy sticky stuff, let's talk about actual tools. First off, we have sprue cutters. These handy little tools are used to cleanly remove the part from the sprue or runner. You can find these at your hobby shop for around 7 or 8 bucks. For those who are a little more frugal, nail clippers work really well too. Tweezers are excellent additions to your toolbox as well. They are essential for doing decals, and can be helpful for holding little parts together. I snagged my wife's old pair of tweezers when she replaced hers.

Hobby knives are very handy. Make sure you get the kind that you can replace the blade. This may seem obvious at first, but another reason I recommend this is because they make all sorts of different blades for different jobs. So not only can you replace a blade when it gets dull, you can use the same handle for multiple tasks. Another very handy tool is a pin vise. If you read my previous article about rescribing you will already know the value of this tool. Also, you can get little drill bits that are extremely handy for making guide holes for weapon pylons, etc. I would strongly recommend adding both a pin vise and a set of drill bits to your tool chest.

model kit tools

Finally, I want to tell you about a wonderful tool I found. I was really wanting to get a rotary tool like a Dremel. I couldn't afford one at the time, so I started looking around at alternatives. I ended up at Wal-Mart one day with my wife and she needed some nail care product of some sort. In the nail isle, I stumbled upon "The Ultimate Manicure System". It is a tiny battery powered rotary tool that came with 8 different grinding heads. The best part was I paid 7 dollars for it. It is a perfect tool for grinding down excess plastic from where the part was attached to the sprue, getting rid of flash, and getting into small cramped places. I have since got a Dremel, but I just can't retire this tool. It is the perfect speed for plastic, it doesn't tear things up if you don't have a steady hand. It's great.

Hopefully, this has given you some help selecting the right tools for your model building. Have fun and Happy Modeling!

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