Essential Tools to Build Models | Hobby Basics

In this beginner-friendly article, we break down the essential hobby tools you will need to get from a brand new box fresh from the game store, to fully built minis ready to hit the paint station!

We’ve all heard the saying: “Tools don’t make the man”.  Yet, to that I say: ” Skydive with a blanket instead of a parachute and then tell me tools are not that important.”

Now there is truth to both of these when it comes to the hobby.  You really don’t need a lot of tools, and the ones you do need are not that expensive.  But you do need them, and trying to compromise on these key essential tools is a mistake.

A lot of time, my approach to the hobby is to save money on generic things, like I talk about in this article about glue. Hobby tools, however, are not this straightforward, and some of them are worth buying from actual hobby brands.

And, I don’t go blindly in this claim. My take on this is always: “Does it do something unique or best suited for hobby tasks”

So, to use our previous example, glue:  Nothing specific about ‘hobby-brand’ glue? Buy generic.

Now a tool like clippers, there is a difference!

They go by different names: Cutters, clipper, knippers, but they’re all mostly the same.

Clippers are the best tool to remove pieces from the sprues with ease. You can do it with a hobby knife, but it’s really not meant for that. You end up dulling your blades and doing an overall worse job, for more effort.

The main difference between regular hardware store clippers are hobby oriented ones is this flat edge on the blade side, instead of the curved-in side of regular cutters. This means that when you cut close to your piece, there’s very little extra piece of sprue remaining.

The cutter range is probably the widest, going from 2 dollar nail clippers to 50 plus price point of gundam-specific knippers.

Let’s address the latter first, unless you are building gundam models, you most likely don’t need this super high grade ones. In fact, regular sprues will get the best of your fancy-shmancy clippers in a very short time.

Gundam sprues are built thinner than game kits and the models are often left on bare plastic, so having a close cut from the sprue is great.

There are plenty of models in the 8 to 15 dollar range that are great and will last you an eternity.

Next in line, a hobby knife!

You can use this to remove the sprue leftovers and clean mold lines.

This is by far the most useful tool to get, and lucky for us, they are dirt cheap. You can get just any basic hobby knife life this for a dollar or two, and you never need to upgrade it.

I would avoid going with the retractable blade ones like this, even the smaller versions. It’s not that big a deal, but the blades on them have a little wiggle that makes them undesirable. Plus they are not really cheaper.

Now, one thing we are all guilty of, myself included, is not changing blades enough. These blades are a dollar for 5, there is absolutely no reason to use a dull one, yet as I write this, I can hear myself saying” meh, it’s still good for a while”

Change your damn blades!

Now clippers and a hobby knife are the bread and butter of tools. If you are just starting out or are on a tight budget, get these two and you are good to go. I mean, still watch the full video and subscribe to the channel, but you really don’t NEED anything else.

You may not need them, but there are another few that you should know about and are probably the next in line to be added to your collection of tools, and it’s useful to know that these things exist.

Starting with the hand drill.

Now, if you are a 40K player like me, this is best used to drill out the barrels of your guns, to make them look 1000% better instantly. That’s just science.

The other, more traditional use of the drill is for pinning, which was a common technique when sculpts were of lesser quality than they are today and pieces would need extra support. Essentially, you drill a hole into both pieces, put a small rod in between and voila, super strong joint.

Drills are pretty generic, in fact what matters most is the size of the drill bit, or the size of the rod you want to use for your joints. As a super pro tip, the default size of drills is the proper size for regular paper clips, that you can buy practically a million for a dollar.

If you have a lot of models that require drilling, or if you are like me and just enjoy cool gadgets, you can get this Tamiya hand drill that is one of my favorite hobby purchases ever. It’s sold like a model kit, you get to build it yourself, and once you get it, it makes drilling a walk in the park.

Next up, files and sandpaper.

Files are on the rougher end and are used to remove mold lines on metal models, mostly. They excel at this task, because it will ruin a hobby knife in no time, but really, they are probably too rough for plastic and resin, where you will be better served with a hobby knife, or sandpaper.

Sandpaper is more commonly used for gundam models, to get a silky smooth finish on your plastic as they usually don’t get painted and stay on the plastic. You can get various grades to go from rough to smooth finish.

Sandpaper is also great if you use modelling putty to fill gaps in your pieces, as it does require some finishing and a hobby knife if a little rough.

The general rule here is the more you pay, the longer they last… which I usually think is a bold marketing lie, but in my experience, files and sandpaper are exactly like that.

Lastly. Modelling putty.

Modelling putty is used to fill gaps between pieces and leave a flawless finish once you start painting. It is essentially the same technique used on walls, but for your miniatures.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, the Tamiya Basic Putty is by far and large the best product to do this job. It’s easy to use, dries fast enough and you can sand it down. And, before you get illusions of grandeur, this is really just to fill holes and make pieces connections seamless, you won’t sculpt details or parts with this product, that will be the topic of its own video eventually.

To recap, if you are starting out, a pair of decent clippers and a hobby knife with extra blades is all you need to be well on your way.

I hope you found this article useful, and until next time,
No excuses, hobby like a champion

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