Tips, Tools, and Tricks

I’ve had the idea for this post in the back of my mind for quite some time now.  I’ve mentioned many of these items in various construction threads but I’ve really never shown what I was talking about.  These are all things which are useful to have laying about the modeling bench and make modeling more efficient and enjoyable.

This is a rather simple but useful tool – UMM-USA’s scriber / scraper.  It does everything the name implies and does it well.  I have also found it quite useful for close cutting tasks such as opening up rectangular access panels in aircraft models – simply scribe your way through the panel and then square the opening with an Xacto knife.  UMM here:
In a spectacular “well, duh” moment I inserted a pin into a cheap pin vice.  The result is one of the more useful tools on my bench, I find myself reaching for it often.  It can be used to make rivet impressions, start pilot holes for drilling, open up clogged glue bottles, remove sanding dust from panel lines, or applying small drops of glue, among many other things.
I am old enough to have used mechanical drafting at work, I actually find it relaxing.  One of the tools which migrated from the drafting table to the modeling bench is this proportional divider.  It is just the right tool for measuring odd little distances on models to fabricate parts – one example which comes to mind is measuring lengths between struts for rigging biplanes.
Buying paint thinners and the “thin” glues from the hobby store is great if you are rich or don’t build quickly.  Otherwise consider getting these items at the hardware store and saving some money.  Most thin cements are composed mainly of Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK).  This 32 ounce can cost me $8.89 at the hardware store, or $0.28 per ounce.  Compare that to a bottle of your favorite thin glue at the hobby store.  I decant the MEK and paint thinners into smaller bottles for use on the workbench and spend the savings on kits.
Razor saws are a must-have item, this is another UMM-USA product.  The blades are replaceable but will last a long time if they are not twisted when cutting.  Each side has a different tooth course and makes and extremely fine cut.
This is a rather silly “tool” but it works, I have had this for years.  It is the lid from a Humbrol paint tin.  I find it is the perfect size for mixing small amounts of paint for detail work.
These scissors go by a number of names, often all at once.  They are Noyes spring iris surgical scissors or some variation of those terms.  They are really good at cutting thin plastic or even metals, and useful for cutting out small or tightly printed decals.
These little measuring spoons are intended for the kitchen but are just the thing for transferring paint to the airbrush.  It is easy to mix proportions if you are matching a formula, and the size allows them to dip into bottles with small openings.
A good punch and die set is not cheap but should last forever with the proper care.  They are surprisingly useful and come in handy in unexpected ways, far beyond producing the holes and disks which are the most common tasks.  You will need to locate a small hammer to use them, which I found to be not as easy as I expected.
BB’s make good ballast, so it’s always good to have several thousand laying about.  They are useful for preventing aircraft with tricycle landing gear from becoming tail-sitters or adding a bit of heft to your armor models.  I fix them in place with casting resin or epoxy glue.  Cheap when bought in quantity.