Friday, October 26, 2012

Budget building for busy people: affordable and durable tools

Welcome to part two! Affordable and Durable tools.

Even the world's best craftsman requires good tools to do a good job. In this series I'm going to share my picks for some great, affordable and long lasting tools that a beginner should have in their toolbox! My goal in this section is to provide a selection of tools that totals less than $25!

I try to avoid some of the flashy name branded products from Tamiya and Mr. Hobby that seem to be popular. In general I tend to find that you're paying more for the brand name than for quality of the product. Many of the items I'm going to list below can be found at your local hardware, office supply, fabric or hobby shop.

The List:



X-acto $6 @ Amazon, paper stores, office suppliers and hobby locations

A X-acto knife is a modeler's bread and butter. It's easy to control, and razor sharp. I will typically use one blade on a HG sized kit, two for a RG or MG and 5+ on a PG. It's a good idea to change blades often, because as the blade dulls it requires more pressure to remove a nub which stresses the plastic more and leaves ugly white stress points on your kit. It should go without saying that because these are extremely sharp you must be careful.A package of 100 replacement blades can be purchased on amazon for $22

Sliding Utility Knife $1.50 - $8 @ Amazon or hardware stores

Utility knives sometimes called box cutters come in a lot of different shapes an sizes. They offer a great alternative to a X-acto knife. The blades tend to be more durable, but they also tend to be larger and more difficult to maneuver. Replacement blades can be purchase in a 50 pack for $17 on Amazon.





Side Cutters:

Xuron flush cutters 'nippers' $ 9 @ Amazon or hardware stores

In the past I recommended a set of blue handled Xuron side cutters. However I recently found this new set uses a harder high carbon steel for the cutting edges instead of the cheaper and softer alloy steel used in the old model. This newer design should be able to hold a sharp edge much longer. I will typically purchase a new side cutter after 5-7 MGs however I haven't had a chance to truly test the longevity of this new model!. 




Spudger ( the unsung hero):

Spudger $1.5-2.5 @ Amazon or your local cell phone kiosk 

Okay now repeat the spudgerman's creed:
This is my spudger. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My spudger is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My supdger, without me, is useless. Without my spudger, I am useless.

Joking aside... the spudger is one of the greatest tools in your toolbox. It's a multipurpose tool that you can use to separate parts, clean panel lines, pinning down those annoying power pipes on Zeon kits during sanding, adjustings decals and movable parts. I'm still finding new ways to use the tool.

Spudgers come in a variety of shapes. I prefer the pen shaped models like the 3M version I linked to. They're usually made out of a soft plastic, so they should not damage your models when you use them. I have even used them (delicately) on painted surfaces without doing any harm. 

Sanding Material:

3M Automotive grade sanding paper $5.50 @ Amazon or automotive stores

While I'm still a big fan of the 3M Extra Fine Sanding sponges, I realize that out of the box they take a few kits before they break in enough for all purpose sanding. This sanding pack on the other hand gives you 4, 3 inch by 9 inch wet/dry sand paper sheets ranging from 1000 to 2500 grit. These are the perfect levels for lightly polishing the nub marks away. If you also have some popsicle sticks laying around you can wrap or glue the sand paper around/to them to create a rigid sanding surface! I will typically cut and use a 2 inch by 2 inch square of paper at a time I can typically get through at least one MG sized kit using just one square. 



Brushes: Assorted Brushes

I strongly recommend purchasing your brushes locally, at a hobby or craft store. I purchased a set of 5-7 brushes from my local craft store for around $5. For most detail work and for panel lining a prefer a nice round #0 brush. A round #0 will run around $3 at a hobby store, I usually keep a few around for different colors. For larger surfaces I prefer a larger chisel type brush, either a #2, #4 or #6. Although I haven't tried them yet the 0, 00 and 000 brushes used by nail artists, appear to be the right size for detailed hobby work. I also prefer synthetic fiber brushes, in general just make sure that whatever brush type you buy is okay to use with your paint!




Your Total up to this point:

If you're following along, at this point your total should be about $25 = $6 (knife) + $9 (nippers) + $1.5 (spudger) + $5.5(sand paper) + $3 (brush). With these tools on hand you'll be ready to build at least a half dozen kits before requiring any replacements (like knife blades). However if your budget is a bit bigger...

Other Purchases to Consider:

Cutting mat $17 on Amazon

This will protect the surface you're cutting on, and should prolong the life of your blades. 

Top coat $ 17.50 on Amazon

Spray your completed model with a coat a topcoat to remove the plastic shine and to protect your panel lines and decals. A can this large will last you several models.  

Tweezer Set $10 on Amazon

Tweezers are used mostly for decal work, but they can also be very useful for holding small parts while sanding.

Hopefully after reading this post you have realized that you can afford a variety of great modeling tools on a budget! In the next segment we're going to start putting these tools to good use as I show you how to build a basic HG kit! Stay tuned for a lot of great new content!

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