Tools Required For Successful Modelling.
Not many tools are required. I can fit the majority of the tools I use in a plastic box three inches wide by seven inches long and two inches deep. Always buy quality tools and look after them - you are unlikely to regret paying more for quality tools. The following is a description of the likely tools, consumables and environment required for building kits and detailing, modifying, painting and weathering kits and ready-to-run items.
Tool Number One
The first and by far the most important is a surgical scalpel with a sturdy metal handle. I suggest buying a standard Swann Morton number 3 handle and about a dozen number 10A blades as I find this combination the easiest to find and the most useful, but many blade shapes are available and you can buy a larger handle for the same blades if you prefer. Yes - I know what you're probably thinking, and no - you absolutely cannot do fine work with even a sharp modelling knife and certainly not a razor blade, Stanley knife or pen knife - buy the right tool at the start. You may want to use an additional small modelling knife for heavier work like removing buffers for replacement ones to be fitted, or modifying chassis as scalpel blades break very easily when used for this type of work. Yes, you will probably cut yourself from time to time, whether you use a modelling knife or scalpel, so always cut away from any part of yourself when using any kind of cutting tool. Keep first aid equipment nearby just in case, at the very least a few plasters, so you do not paint the town red by accident.
The main other tools required are a razor saw, which is very thin with fine teeth and can be used for cutting jobs where a knife is insufficient, fine pliers whose jaws meet at the ends, wire cutters and strippers, assorted fine jewellers' or needle files, assorted full size and jewellers' screw drivers, ultra fine sand paper and a few quality paintbrushes that end in a fine point from approximately size 'OOO' to '5'. If you want to do some weathering using the dry-brushing technique, an old and / or fluffy roughly number 5 brush is useful. Also likely to be needed is a 12 inch steel ruler, used for measuring and for cutting against when cutting Plastikard sheet. If you plan to do any electrical jobs, like fitting extra electrical pickups or lights to a locomotive, or plan to assemble white metal or etched brass kits, you will need a soldering iron, appropriate solder for the job and a soldering iron stand. These items are available from electronics shops, such as Radio Spares (RS) if you have a VAT number or Maplin. Yes - it is worth buying a decent soldering iron stand. I have seen all sorts of items and people over the years with burn marks as a result of saving the money for a soldering iron stand.
Paint will be required, including the specific paints for your project, available as special 'railway' colours from the likes of Howes of Oxford and Precision Paints and also more commonly used paints such as Humbrol matt black and white, although I prefer to use satin finishes as they seem more consistent and do not dry up in the pot as quickly. Do not mix types of paint as they sometimes react with each other. I usually use enamels only and have found Howes', Precision and Humbrol all work well together. I also use an airbrush occasionally and find spraycans very useful for both painting and weathering, but do not use recent Humbrol enamel sprays as they tend to take off any paint already applied.
I use Humbrol 'Liquid Poly' liquid polystyrene solvent glue for glueing most plastic parts, but sometimes use Slaters' Mek Pak if a more powerful solvent glue is required for harder plastic items, such as locomotive bodies and chassis, which are often unaffected by the normal glues. I do not use 'aeroplane glue' polystyrene cement from a tube as once it starts coming out of the tube it is hard to stop, it does not seem to give as good a bond and it tends to cause plastic to warp. When glueing metal or non-polystyrene plastics I use thick modellers' super glue - which ever brand I can find in a small bottle as it goes solid quickly in the container.
I use Squadron Green Putty for smaller filling jobs as it very conveniently comes ready mixed in a tube and dries fairly quickly, but it does shrink a little, so I always try to overfill an item then carve and sand it back when dry. For larger filling jobs I use Silver-Grey Milliput as it is far stronger and does not shrink much or at all, but you do have to mix it very thoroughly in the fingers in equal parts from two sticks. Another handy use of Milliput is in copying parts. Press the part into Plasticine, freeze the Plasticine solid in a freezer, then press freshly mixed Milliput into the Plasticine and leave to set. When the Milliput has set, scalpel off the Plasticine and you have a duplicate part.
Various sizes and types of wire, various plastic sections as supplied by Plastruct and different thicknesses of Slaters' Plastikard sheet and sizes of Plastikard strip and rod are also likely to be required. I usually keep supplies of 10, 20, 30, 40 and 60 thousands of an inch (thou) Plastikard sheet.
I cut the required pieces of Plastikard from the sheets by first marking out with a 0.5mm propelling pencil, then scoring with a scalpel against a steel ruler until the piece can be gently snapped free. Final shaping is then done with the scalpel. Some modellers like to run solvent glue into the scoring to make the part easier to snap out, especially if it is thick Plastikard over about 40 thousandths of an inch, but this then makes sticky finger prints a likelihood, so I do not use this method.
You may want to purchase proprietary detailing parts, a detailing kit or a conversion kit from the likes of Craftsman or A1 Models, for example, that is designed for the project you are working on or just supplies generic details like brake pipes for any project. Conversion and detailing kits usually have instructions explaining the work they recommend.
Also important for successful modelling is a suitable modelling area. Ideally you need a well-ventilated space as some of the solvents used are poisonous. For comfort, the best place to work is probably a bench or desk where you can sit comfortably with your legs underneath. You may want to use a cutting mat to protect the surface. Do not work on a bed or on your knees as you will not be able to hold items being worked on as steadily and, as my brother found out to his cost recently, scalpels cut into legs very easily and despite the wound being neat and clean, a deep one can take weeks to heal properly. You might also want to consider a 'fallout' zone. Tiny plastic parts have an infuriating way of hiding in carpet pile and scampering off in unexpected directions, so you might want to consider a floor covering around the modelling area that makes them easy to find - yes you will drop some - believe me.
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