Blog How To Get Started With The Aircraft Modelling Tools

How To Get Started With The Aircraft Modelling Tools


A modeller’s workspace will consist of different environments for different people. Some may be lucky enough to have a desk, bench or even an entire room dedicated to their hobby – building model aircraft. Others will need to share space with other members of the household. Regardless, the workspace of all scale modellers should share some common attributes: a clear working space, proper lighting and adequate ventilation.

guest post by Roland Murano

Some of the glues, paints and thinners that you use may be toxic, so make sure that your workspace is close to a window with good airflow. If you are working in a common area of your house, you may choose to organize separate workspaces for different tasks. For example, you might prepare and assemble your kit indoors, but move to the garage when spraying Smelly or potentially toxic paints.

Try to set up your workspace under strong light or near a bright window. Ideally, artificial light should be daylight balanced to ensure that your paint job turns out the way you expect. Unbalanced fluorescent lighting can give you a misleading impression about colours. If there is insufficient light, you can purchase a lamp for your workspace.

Organizing your workbench is a very personal matter. The workspace on my desk is covered with a large white blotting pad. This protects the surface of the desk from glue, paint and accidental gouging. Most plastic parts are easy to see on the white paper too. When the paper is dirty, torn or obscured with paint, it is simply thrown away and a new piece is put in its place. Next to the blotting pad I have a self-healing vinyl cutting mat. A metric grid is printed on top of this green mat, making it a useful aid for measuring and aligning parts. This is mainly used as a base for cutting and slicing plastic parts. I keep a Small black Perspextile close at hand as a hard platform for cutting photo-etched and hard parts. To the other side of the blotting pad is a paper artist’s palette. I use this mainly for blending oil paints and testing mixed colors.

Your modelling desk will be populated with a variety of tools. There are literally hundreds of tools available for modellers, but some of the essentials are listed below.

This basic toolset will be enough to let you build a mainstream plastic model kit straight from the box.

  • A good quality hobby knife and plenty of spare blades. Many modellers use an X-Acto brand knife with a No.11 blade for cutting the parts of their model aircraft
  • A sprue cutter. A high quality cutter is a worthwhile investment, as you will be using this tool frequently.
  • A pair of tweezers for picking up small parts.
  • A pin vice (vise) for drilling small holes.
  • e Model cement. I would recommend a minimum of three glues – Revell Contacta with the hypodermic applicator, Tamiya Extra Thin Liquid Cement (or a similar liquid cement), and a tube of Superglue. Specialized and expensive superglues are available, but I usually buy an inexpensive generic brand at my local supermarket.
  • Putty. At a minimum, you will need tube putty such as Squadron White or Tamiya Putty. You will also need a trowel to apply the putty. My favourite putty trowel is actually a staple remover. The narrow curved end of the tool is ideal for packing putty into tricky recesses. A toothpick is another useful applicator for very small gaps and seams.
  • Sanding sticks and sandpaper. A disposable nail file is a good first option as a coarse sanding stick. You will also need some finer abrasive paper. I would suggest you start with 400 and 1000 grit. A nail-buffing file is another handy tool for polishing the surface of your model after Sanding.
  • Tape for masking and temporarily securing parts. I recommend Tamiya 10mm tape. This is a strong tape that does not leave a residue when removed. Self-adhesive Post-it Notes and Blue-Tac are also widely available and are convenient for tacking parts and masking.

If you want to add resin or photo-etched after-market accessories, or even custom build your own parts, you will need a more comprehensive toolbox. Some of the more advanced types of tools that you might consider are listed here:
Alternative fillers and sculpting media. Some examples of these are Milliput two-part epoxy putty, Mr Surfacer and even liquid Paper.

  • Advanced sanding options, Micro Mesh polishing cloths are an effective aid to achieving a perfectly smooth finish for your model. These cloths come in very fine grades, starting at 3600 and moving all the way down to 12000. Micro Mesh cloths may also be used to smooth and polish painted surfaces. Another option comprises Mastercasters’ Sponge Sanders, which are cushioned sanding sticks in various grades.
  • Holding tools. Clamps and stands are very useful for holding parts while the glue sets, and for freeing your up hands during complex assembly tasks. These are available in many different sizes and styles, Additional cutting tools. These include razor saws, steel saws and a compass cutter.
  • Tools for engraving surface features. The most obvious tool in this category is a scriber. A scriber may be something as simple as a sharpened pin mounted on a block of wood. However, it is worth investing in specialized tools if you will be doing a lot of this, Many types are available. Other tools for adding surface features include templates for circles, squares and rectangles, a selection of rulers, and Dymo tape as a guide for scribing panel lines on curved surfaces. Specialized chisels are also useful.
  • Scratch-building supplies. Plastic and metal sheet, block, tube, rod and various specialized profile shapes are readily available from hobby shops.
    These are essential if you want to fabricate your own parts for a model. Other scratch-building supplies may be found around the house. Fuse wire, the lead foil from the top of wine bottles, and leftover sprues from your model kits are some of the most common items used to fabricate detail for your Scale model.

Finally, there are a number of sometimes expensive ‘luxury items’ that will be of most use to advanced modellers for building their model aircraft:

  • Power tools. The most common power tool for modellers is a rotary motor tool. Dremel offers a wide selection of interchangeable attachments for its tool, including drills bits, grinding disks and polishing wheels. Sophisticated accessories such as a bench press, router table and flexible shafts are also available. A motor tool can Save a lot of time, but extreme care is required due to the high operating speed. Even the slowest speed can easily melt plastic.
  • Punch and die sets. These tools can punch shapes (such as circles or hexagons) in paper, plastic or even thin metal. Punch and die sets are available in various sizes, but the most useful options for modellers are the micro punch and die sets from WaldrOn and HistOreX.
  • Riveting tools. A wide selection of tools for adding rivets to plastic models has emerged in recent years, including wheels and punches. They should be used in conjunction with rulers or dymo tape as guides to ensure straight rivet lines.
  • Photo-etch tools. If you regularly use photoetched parts, some specialized tools will be useful. Mission Models Etch Mate comes in different sizes, from 2in. up to 8in. in length. This tool permits precise and repeatable folding of simple and complex photo-etched parts. Mission Models offers Other advanced modelling tools, such as the Multi Tool for forming round and conical parts from photo-etch, and the Grab Handler for bending metal rod.

Modelling Scale Aircraft
Painting and Finishing Techniques


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