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May 05, 2015

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Airfield Models ( for Model Building

A sledge-hammer should be used only when diplomacy fails.These pages will discuss tools used for model building from a practical stand point.  Most tools on these pages can be used with any model but some tools are more specific to plastic or wood models.

I did not purchase all my tools when I started building models.  It has taken my lifetime to acquire them all.  I suggest you start with the basics and buy new tools as you need them.  This is good advice for two reasons:

First, if you do have the money to spend thousands of dollars getting your shop set up all at once then you still don't know what you'll need or use until you start building.

Second, if you decide you don't want to build models you will have saved money.  A lot of people start and quit this hobby.

Not having tools has never stopped me from building models.

  • Make or buy tools as you realize you need them.

  • Unless the tool is uncommon and you're pretty sure it will solve a problem you expect to have then avoid speculative purchases unless you think like a builder thinks and stop thinking like a collector thinks.

  • Please be safe in your shop


Learning to Use Your Tools

Pay attention to what your tools can and can't do.  Even a tool as simple as a screwdriver has idiosyncrasies.  A mistake I sometimes make is to buy a new tool and immediately inflict it on something that I don't actually want to screw up.

For example, I would never buy a new spray gun, load it up with paint and immediately spray a model I just spent 200 hours building.  I spray something expendable to learn about the gun's characteristics so I don't spend 40 more hours sanding off a bad paint job.

On the other hand I've been known to acquire a new razor plane and use it on a piece before checking the cut on a scrap.  The blade wasn't set right and created some deep gouges.

Putting material back is a lot harder than taking it away

The right thing to do in all cases is practice with a new tool until you're sure you can achieve the desired results with it.  The harder a mistake will be to undo the more this rule applies.


Essential Model-Building Tools

'Essential' means you will need some items from each category not everything.  There are a lot more tools available than there are listed here.  These are tools that I use.  I'm fairly well set up now and there aren't many more tools I can think of that I would actually use.  Most of the tools I'm still looking at are larger (full size drill press, table saw, etc.) or I'll have to make them myself because they aren't commercially available or don't do what I need them to.

In this series

Nice to have Tools

These tools are the extras.  They make difficult or tedious tasks easier, more efficient or more enjoyable.  In some cases they will allow you to do things that would be difficult if not impossible with the essential tools listed above.

Tools included here are not considered essential because they are more specialized toward specifics interests and are not required to build the average model.  For example, if you want to create an exact scale engine replica, you're probably going to need a lathe and probably a milling machine.

Actually, now that I think about it, these tools are not "extra" to me.  They're all pretty essential to the kind of work I do.  Most guys can get along without them if they're more interested in the flying part than the building part.

Also see



Construction Materials used for Model-Building
Model Building Tips for Flying Model Aircraft

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Copyright 2002-2007 Paul K. Johnson