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Setting up Model Building Shop Storage

May 05, 2015

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Airfield Models ( Storage

Unless you have a big shop and can keep your tools set up at all times, you will need somewhere to store things when they are not being used to free up your work space for actually building something.

Storage can be difficult.  Model builders end up with a lot of stuff.  We have a dozen kinds of tape, a half dozen knives, fifty styles of blades, countless jars of paint, etc.

When I was in Germany, I was building in a spare bedroom that was also being used for general storage.  It was an attic apartment, so the ceiling was sloped too (nothing sucks like hitting your head on the ceiling three times a day... but I digress).

Needless to say, the space was a lot cramped.  I decided to get my act together and do something about it.  By that I mean I wasn't getting my act together by not acquiring stuff which is the real answer.  Instead, I was buying things to cram other things I was buying into neatly compacted spaces.

Unfortunately it is difficult to find things to store this stuff efficiently because it is small, comes in odd sizes and there is a lot of it to segregate.  It is up to us to find things that will store our stuff in as little space as possible while still being accessible.


Shelving and Peg Boards

These are fairly basic shop items.  Shelves should either be secured or heavy enough that they will not tip over.  It is also a good idea to have some type of enclosed shelving to help keep the dust out.

Lightly colored walls reflect more light into the room.  If you mount a pegboard on the wall, buy the white kind.  Be sure to purchase plenty of pegs for the board when you buy it.  You will also need some 1" x 2" lumber to space the board from the wall so you can put the pegs in.  Just ask someone at the lumber store how to do it if you've never hung a pegboard before.

I use a rotary tool holder that is basically a Lazy Susan type of thing I purchased through Micro-Mark.  I mainly use it to hold the tools I use most frequently while building plastic models.

Although it is not as "professional" I have found heavy mugs to be great for the same types of items.  In fact, I have acquired so many mugs over the years, that I have them all over my home.  I put them on my desk as a pencil holder, in my bathroom as a toothbrush and razor holder and in my bedroom to toss spare change into.  Usually I use my favorite mugs so at least I am slumming with a little style.  Because mugs are heavy, they do not tip over easily.

RubberMaid Cabinets used to store a variety of modeling supplies. Small Rubbermaid cabinets make excellent storage.  Mine contain small bottles of paint, paint brushes, a postal scale, extra supplies such as tapes, toothpicks you name it.

The blue drawer cabinet to the right contains all the small hand tools used on any given model (jeweler's screwdrivers, propeller wrenches, etc.).  I take this one to the field with me.

On the bottom shelf is a cabinet containing propellers, a transmitter case, a socket set, a cordless drill and soldering equipment.

Heavy Cardboard Tubes are great for storing long, thin sticks and similar objects. Heavy cardboard tubes used for rolls of printing paper are used to store sticks, music wire, NyRods, and anything else long and skinny.

I went to a local blueprinter who gave me all I wanted.  I just mounted a couple 1 x 2's to lay them on top of.

The top shelf is where I put my table saw and disk sander when they are not in use.

On the bottom shelf are heavy cardboard boxes containing wheels and engine accessories.  The large Rubbermaid container on top has small kits in it.  The one on the bottom has the remains of my Thunder Tiger Raptor 30 helicopter.

Note the power strip mounted to a leg on the workbench.  This one was reworked to handle higher loads.  It has since been replaced with a heavy-duty power supply because rigged electricity frightens me, frankly particularly because I don't know what I'm doing in that regard.

Store wood laying flat to reduce warpage and bowing. The other end of my workbench has 1/4" Masonite shelves to hold my balsa wood and plywood supplies.

When you buy a kit having a good quality box, be sure to save it.  They are hard to come by.

Loew Cornell MultiBin I picked this tool bin up in an art store for just a few dollars.  It comes unassembled.  It kept falling apart whenever I picked it up which was aggravating and it was a little too tall for my needle files making it hard to retrieve them.

I cut a portion of the supports away and used Goo to glue it all together.

The dental picks stab me when I'm not being careful.  This probably isn't the best way to store them but it's the most convenient method I have.

Spin-O-Tray Rotary Tray Tool Holder This is a rotary tray that I purchased from MicroMark.  When I'm building plastic models this tray has a lot more stuff in it.  The tools have slowly migrated away from the tray over the past few years but will return when I'm back to the plastic models.
Parts bins help keep the shop organized.

A Drawer Cabinet.  These are excellent for storing small hardware.  Note the film canisters that prevent the hardware from sliding under the dividers or getting mixed together if the cabinet tips over.

However, I purchased this cabinet in Germany.  All the cabinets that I have purchased in the U.S. had drawers that are too narrow for the film canisters.  I suggest you take a film canister with you when you go shopping for this type of cabinet to make sure it will fit.

The white pegboard in the background makes the shop feel larger and reflects light back into the room.

The best general purpose storage I have found are cabinets with clear plastic drawers.  I use one for small hardware.  A second one holds miscellaneous electronics fittings and spare air compressor parts.  No, they have no relation to one another.  That is just how things fit some times.

Unfortunately, these cabinets have their little annoyances as well.  The dividers in the drawers do not stay in place that well and sometimes they allow small items to slide between compartments.  They also lift slightly and get caught when trying to remove the drawer.

Sometimes the drawer comes loose with a little tug immediately followed up with all the parts sailing through the shop.  Sometimes I will use plastic cement to glue a particularly annoying divider in place but I try not to do that any more than possible.

In a move while I was in the service all the hardware in one of these drawer sets was mixed up.  Imagine trying to separate literally thousands of small nuts, bolts and washers.  It wasn't fun.

I found that 35 mm film canisters fit perfectly in the drawers.  I asked a local drug store to save film canisters for about a month and I kept all the clear ones (Fuji film, if you are interested) so I can see what is inside them.

Washers do not slide under the dividers in a drawer any more and tipping it over is no longer a catastrophe.  I can also just tip over the drawer and drop out the film canister I want rather than trying to fish a small part out of a compartment with a tweezers.

Tackle boxes make excellent tool and storage chests.  They are made specifically to hold small lures and other tackle used by fishermen and they work just as well for model builders.  If you have a related set of items such as airbrush equipment, it is not a bad idea to take it all to the store with you and find the box that gives the best fit while allowing room for you to add more later.

Containers can be found in a variety of places - fabric stores, tackle shops, etc. I used to store my airbrushes in a polypropylene container I found in a craft store.  The airbrushes are normally placed in baggies to prevent them from clanking together.

In the upper left compartment are color cups.  To the right of that are miscellaneous tools and an airbrush hanger that mounts to a bench.   The donut-shaped item in the top middle is a roll of Teflon tape used to seal all fittings on the air compressor and air hoses.

The clear plastic items in the area directly above the airbrushes are called "Pipettes."  They can be found for pennies a piece at art stores.  They are excellent for dispensing small quantities of paint and thinner.

In the same compartment are small squeeze bottles with stainless steel tubes.  These can be found at art stores as well and are excellent for use with oils.

In the lower left hand corner are tip assemblies for my Aztec and Badger airbrushes.

Compartmentalized containers help keeps small tools and parts organized and safe from damage. The upper compartment lifts out to reveal a lower compartment where I store extra jars and hoses.  Unfortunately my braided airbrush hose does not fit anywhere in the container.
Multi-Compartment bait box for storing airbrushes. I didn't like having the airbrushes clanking around in the box shown above and found this when perusing the sporting goods department in my local Walmart.

The bait box was relatively inexpensive and has four individual compartmented polypropylene containers.

The upper container has my airbrushes, nozzles, color cups and miscellaneous parts.

The second container has siphon caps and miscellaneous tools.

The third container has empty bottles.

The fourth container is empty.

Again, the airbrush hoses don't fit anywhere but I've yet to find anything that has compartment sizes that are right for everything.

I could use a hot knife to remove the dividers in the unused container but every time I've done that I've been sorry.  For now I just keep hoses in a different container along with bottles that are too large to fit in these containers.

Multi-Compartment bait box for storing airbrushes. I like this set up a lot better.
This container is far less cluttered than the shoe box it replaces. My R/C equipment fits in a thin container I purchased from a home improvement store in Germany.  It has a clear plastic, hinged lid.  I have seen these exact same containers recently in Home Depot and Lowes.  It would be really nice if my chargers fit in the container, but that exemplifies our storage problems.

Anything that will hold the chargers generally has compartments that are too large for the rest of the equipment.  It is times like this I wish I had a real wood shop and a lot more time so I could custom make storage for all my gear.

In any case, this is far better than the shoe box I was using.



Setting up Your Model Building Shop
Model-Building Tools used for Cleaning

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