Tools & Supplies 

This is a very multifaceted hobby and there are a dazling array of supplies (e.g. tools and adhesives) that can be useful for assembly, conversion, terrain making, etc. I will try to sort them by categories. One online vendor of hobby supplies is: MicroMark. If you know of more, contact me via my questions/comments form. Also check out my Hobby Materials Page.

Table of Contents

Chopper, The

The Chopper is a very handy little cutting device. It mounts a single razor blade on a metal arm. The cutting motion ends up being somewhat Guillotine-like, allowing for clean cuts.

It is great for thin styrene material, especially if it is solid. Magnetic strips also cut reasonably well, provided they are placed in the chopper with the paper backing facing up.

There are two guides with the Chopper that facilitate reproducible cuts at 30, 45, 60, and 90 degrees.


Here are a variety of clamps that I find useful. The workhorse in my model work are the blue plastic X-acto bar clamps.

Top left - X-acto c-clamps (metal)
Top right - X-acto bar clamps (plastic)
Bottom left - metal vise
Bottom right - hemostats


Here are a variety of clamps that I find useful. The workhorse in my model work are the blue plastic X-acto bar clamps.

Cuticle clippers
- you can find these around the house
- sturdy and able to get into tight spaces

Xcelite 64CG 102 mm Cutters
Angled tip
(underside is hollowed)

Xuron Microshears
Better at flush cuts
- this is the best sprue cutter I have used
- to protect it, I do not use it for anything else

Cyanoacrylate Glue, a.k.a. Superglue, Krazy Glue, etc. ($1; everywhere)

BE CAREFUL! This is fast bonding adhesive. It does not fill gaps very well, but it bonds strongly and it bonds different materials well reasonably well. If you have large gaps between the pieces, you might consider epoxy resin putty.

Warning: Fingers bond fastest. Your fingers will stick together long before your parts do, if you feel tackiness, pull away fast or you will be in an awkward position.

Drills & Rotary Tools

Of all of the following tools, the portable Makita handheld power drill is the most indispensable. If I lost my pin vise and Dremel tomorrow, I could continue to use my Makita for all of the applications I have used drills for with miniatures

Dremel Tool - A reuptedly handy little hobby gadget, this is a high RPM rotary tool. It can be used as a drill, cutter, polishier, cleaner, sander, and a whole host of other functions. I have actually found it to be far less useful than I had hoped. Accessories I have found useful for miniatures applications are the Dremel Tool Drill Press (which also doubles as a convenient stand), Dremel Tool Flexshaft Attachement (this long snaky black attachment allows more precise drilling), more collets (I simply bought all four to be safe). Bit breakage is a significant problem with this tool. If I were to do it again, I would buy the variable speed version that can operate below 1,000 RPM or simply not buy it at all and use my Makita power drill.

Pin Vise ($5-$7) - Although I literally do use it as a pin vise now, the name is a little misleading and/or confusing to newcomers to the hobby. This is a small metal handle that is almost exclusively used as a manual drill in the miniatures hobby. Simply slip a fine drill bit into it and tighten down on the collet, just like a drill. It can also be used to hold pins, if you like, which is handy for marking a spot for drilling. This tool takes the most time to use, trading speed for control and feedback. Currently, I generally only use my pin vise to hold the tip of a stick pin for marking pilot spots on miniatures for drilling.

Note: the dismantled vise pictured at right shows that the collets are contained within the body of the vise and that there are four collet sizes to choose from.

Tip: check to make sure that the butt of the vise (the hexagonal knob) rotates freely before buying it. You should be able to brace that with the palm/butt of your hand while rotating the vise with your fingers.

Power Drill ($50+) - It has a variable speed trigger, so I can control the speed quite nicely by squeezing more or less on the trigger. The mass of the drill and its speed makes it a little more stable than a pin vise for pinning and the lower speeds make it a lot safer than a Dremel Multipro.


Drill Bits

Even if you have the set for the Dremel tool, you will want a good selection of pin drill bits. Specifically:

  • 0.030" - 0.032" for the pinning I describe with paper clips.

Helping Hands ($6; an electronics supply store, or a well-stocked hobby store)

These are cool and useful only occasionally, but when they are, you really want to have them. They consist of a reasonably heavy base on which a rod is mounted via a pivot. At each end of the rod are additional pivots with alligator clips. The base is not that fantastic of an anchor/ballast, but it's OK; it will work, but keep in mind that you can easily jar it during use.

Hot Wire Foam Cutters (Variable; Hot Wire Foam Factory, Micromark, Foamlinx)

Invaluable and nigh magical tools for cutting foam. :)

Seriously, your capabilities for shaping foam are tremendously different given hot wire tools of various types. There are simple scroll cutters, scroll tables, engravers, knifes, etc. Here's a picture of a scroll table, which is hands down one of the coolest tools (also in the picture is a set of stairs I created by trimming the corner edges of the blocks pictured in the back of the image.

Foamlinx is a little different as they provide CNC machines for foam cutting - basically, they can cut a computer-generated design out of foam automagically. Maybe a little high-end for a hobbyist, but hey, who knows? I have no direct experience with Foamlinx equipment, so I can not render an opinion on their functionality.

Knife - see the type of knife, e.g. Xacto knife.

Krazy Glue ($1) - see Cyanoacrylate Glue

Needle File

Small thin files that are essential to thorough cleanup of flash on models and minis. These are not all the same in size. Testors's Model Masters series needle files are quite fine and small. I would recommend buying a "normal" size set as well as the Model Masters set. They have their different uses.

Plastic Cement/Glue

A generic term that usually refers to a cement used to bond styrene surfaces. It is variously called Plastic Glue, Polystyrene Cement, Plastic Cement, etc. I currently use three bottles of plastic cement - Faller Expert Plastic Cement, Citadel Miniatures Plastic Cement, and Tenax Cement.

Tenax Cement ($3, 1 fluid ounce, hobby store) - a.k.a., "Tenax-7R Space Age Plastic Welder, Super Fast-Dry Formula." I primarily use Tenax Cement for quick flash removal. It is the thinnest and quickest drying of the plastic cements I own. It claims to be a strong and fast-drying glue, but I honestly have not taken advantage of it as a cement.

A picture of Tenax-7R Space Age Plastic Welder (I love saying that every time). Notice the cardboard square I superglued to the base. This is a safety measure to avoid tipping the bottle over, which can happen suprisingly easily and frequently when you get into some high speed flash removal. Also be aware that Tenax evaporates quite quickly. You should have a reasonably well ventilated workspace and you should buy a replacement bottle when your current one is about a quarter full. I personally move on to the next bottle when it is about 5-10% full as there is a slurry of flash and cement by that time.

Faller Expert Plastic Cement ($4.50, 1 fluid ounce, hobby store) - Faller Expert Plastic Cement is my favorite for plastic bonding. Currently, I only use my Faller Expert Plastic Cement for precision application of glue missed when I did the bulk of the glue application with Citadel cement. I am very happy with Faller and the precision applicator is not only great because of its precision but also because it does not clog.

Citadel - I bought the Citadel Minatures Polystyrene Cement when I first received my first Warhammer 40k army because I did not know the cement types very well and I felt most comfortable buying what was made by the company that made my plastic miniatures; I will probably just us it until it is empty and then use just Faller. Clogging is a problem with this cement. I have to keep a sewing pin in the tip to keep it clear for use. The opening is large enough that it is awkard to apply cement sometimes and more than once I ended up with a lot more cement than I wanted. Residue accumulates easily and heavily on the tip, which makes for some stray application that is unwanted.


Hack Saw

I keep a tiny little hack saw around for cutting materials too sturdy for my Hobby saw. It's not vital, but it is handy and not that expensive.

Hobby saw w/ mitre box

This is a very handy tool. It's not just good for cutting bass wood and balsa wood. It is also great for cutting styrene, especially large diameter tubes that would deform from typical styrene cutting methods.

Jeweler Saw

This is great for conversions. It allos fine precise cuts. The blade is delicate though, so be careful.

Seam Scraper ($10)

This is a cool little gadget made by Squadron Supplies. It is a double-ended tool made of metal that simply has curved scraper ends. This allows flash to be scraped off with smooth strokes and the angle of the scraper does not allow it to catch and gouge, because the edge pulled along the surface. The effect is a tool that very quickly, cleanly, and safely cleans flash off of smooth long surfaces. It can also be used to whittle/sculpt down a surface somewhat.

Stylus ($2)

This is a tool for sculpting that has a round ball shape at the end.

This is my double ball stylus. The smaller ball is 0.030" in diameter, the larger one is 0.045" in diameterOne ball is smaller than the other onea fine tip, the other is a little larger. I find it very useful.


Superglue ($1) - see Cyanoacrylate Glue

Florist Wire ($?; craft store)

This is a reasonably stiff wire that is still somewhat malleable. It can be used to help hold things in place and/or add structural integrity to something. Florists use it for constructing displays.

Xacto Knife ($2-$15, hobby or crafts store, general purpose shops)

You have to get at least one of these. This is the standard hobby knife. It is typically used with a triangular blade (#2 blade?). There are two primary blade choices. A sturdy thick triangular blade or a thinner, longer, finer triangular blade (#11 blade). The former is great for most work, while the later is nice for working in tight spaces or times when you want the blade to flex a little. If you are planning to put a lot of twisting force on the blade, you should probably use the heavier blade and wear some protective glasses so that if the tip snaps off, you won't damage your eyes. I personally have a few knives. I always keep one standard knife with a standard tip handy as well as a slimmer gripped fine tip knife. Changing the blades out gets annoying and the different grip sizes really are well suited to their use.

This is the Xacto I use most. It has a nice soft grip, a sharp #11 blade, and the back end has a hexagonal washer/cuff around it which prevents it from rolling around (safety first!).

And here is my uglier knife <grin> the one that keep around to assist in removing pieces from assembled models and heavy knife work.


Questions? Comments? Please let me know via my questions/comments form!