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Tools and Supplies for My "Shipyard"

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Hello, everyone!


I am currently preparing to build my first wooden ship model (the Amati/Victory Models Lady Nelson).  I have been reading up on the various techniques needed to construct the hull, and while I wait for the kit to arrive, I thought I'd go about gathering some basic tools to help me with the build.  I thought it might be a good idea to list the various tools that I have purchased (or will purchase) so that all the knowledgeable and experienced members of this forum can let me know if I'm forgetting something important.  Since this is my first build (and I'm on a budget), I am keeping it simple and sticking to basic hand tools -- you won't find any lathes or Dremels in this list!  I'm not going to be using any special plank-bending tools, as the "old school" method of soaking the planks, bending them over the bulkheads, clamping them, and allowing them to dry before attachment really appeals to me (and seems like a great way to get a really nice fit).  I should also mention that, for now, I'm focusing on the tools I will need to construct the hull (I don't want to get ahead of myself).  When it comes time to do the rigging, I will obtain a few extra tools, such as picks/hooks and perhaps a "helping hands" with a magnifier.  So, here's my list:


  • Deluxe Ship Modeler's Tool Set (I found a great deal on this set, and since I don't have any of the tools included with it, I thought it would be a good place to start; the set includes 3 hobby knives with 15 assorted blades, aluminum miter box with razor saw blade, pointed nose tweezers, flush cutter with spring-loaded handles , aluminum awl, 4 assorted gouges, 2 small needle files, pin vise with 3 micro drill bits, and a wooden sanding block with wedge)
  • Mantua Strip Clamp (doubles as a keel clamp for hull work and a plank vise with a metal edge to assist in planing planks when tapering)
  • Additional needle files (to supplement the contents of the kit)
  • Miniature wood plane (1" wide)
  • Analog calipers (I chose these over digital calipers for the savings, and the lack of batteries required)
  • Small square
  • Ruler
  • Metal compass and mechanical pencil
  • Emery boards
  • Sandpaper (assorted grits)
  • White wood glue
  • CA glue
  • Wood filler
  • Small folding clips (the black metal clips with silver metal arms; for clamping during hull planking)
  • T-pins
  • Q-Tips
  • Index cards
  • Self-healing cutting mat
  • Swing-arm lamp (with magnifier)


From what I can tell, this list seems to include the essentials that I'll need to do a good job, while not being too pricey.  Let me know what you think!  Thanks! 



Edited by daveward
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Obtain some material and learn how to use those items before using them on your model. One of the first things I learned from my first pocket knife was learn to think ahead about the order of doing things, rather than how to use the knife, that came later. Dad had shot a skunk and told me I could have that knife I was wanting, if I buried that skunk,  went right after it, and retrieved the skunk, then dug the hole, 'lesson', dig the hole first before retrieval. You are going to learn many things from those tools you cannot foresee, so be ready. Add sharpening stones to your list and learn how to use them, a skill you will need when working with cutting tools. Enjoy


Edited by jud
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I am sure others might have comments about the various tools but I have a dislike of the light with the magnifier built into it.  It's great for the jeweler or somebody working with small stuff on the bench surface as the magnifier can be set and left in place.  With a ship model that ranges from small pieces where the magnifier works to the hull and/or rigging where it just gets in the way it's a tool that is useful only part of the time.  I tried this light/magnifier combo years ago and got rid of it in a matter of a few days - luckilly I was able to trade a buddy for a tool he didn't use so we were both happy.


I much prefer to use a head band type magnifier such as the Optivisor.  I used one with plastic lenses but after being able to try out the glass lens version at a trade show I bought the glass lens version and couldn't be happier.  These are available on ebay whereas the plastic lens versions are carried at the art stores such as Hobby Lobby, Michael's, etc.    The link below is from a current ebay offer - I have both the #5 and the #10 lenses - using the #5 99% of the time as the drop down loupe is great for the extra magnification but the #10 is for when I am doing some extremely close work and you probably will never need the #10.  My advice would be to get the glass lens version rather than the plastic as there is no comparison - at least two club members went out and replaced their plastic lens versions with the glass after they tried mine on at a recent meeting.



I see you are from WI.  Do you know about the 40th Anniversary model boat show/contest at the WI Maritime Museum in May?  There is info on their web site and here on MSW in the clubs, shows section towards the bottom of the mail MS page.


Take care,


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Good quality single edge razor blades.

Consider Yellow PVA glue rather than white.

A hand fret saw and a variety pack of blades if your kit requires you to free components from a printed sheet.

A piece of leather and a bar of rouge or gold stropping compound -  you can maintain a sharp edge for a long time before using a stone if you strop frequently and do not mar the edge by cutting something harder than it is.

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Great advice, Jud!  I'll definitely take the time to get used to my new tools before I start using them on the ship.  Thanks!


Kurt, I was on the fence about the magnifying light...  I do think that there will be situations where it just gets in the way.  I was originally thinking of doing just what you suggested and getting a magnifying visor.  I still need some sort of light source, though.  I'll be working on this ship mainly in the evenings, and the table at which I'll be working is in a corner of the room.  If I can find a bright, inexpensive desk lamp that will be tall enough to not interfere with the model, I'll go with that.  Anyway, I just moved to Wisconsin not long ago, so I was unaware of the model boat show/contest.  I'll have to check out the website!  Thanks!


Jaager, I'll add some of those items to my list.  Thanks!  May I ask why you recommend the yellow PVA glue over the white?

Edited by daveward
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More water resistant - especially Titebond II - I think the bond is stronger - For me, it dries hard and sands well.

I think it can be diluted if you need a thinner medium, but the limit is probably 1 part water to 9 parts PVA.


The open time is reasonable.  The bond is actually stronger than the wood it holds - if the surfaces to be jointed are close fitting. That is a skill be focus on.


A rule that I use is - the more force used in clamping - the stronger the bond.   The demonstrator in the Gerstner tool chest instructional video gave advise that I think is wrong about tight clamping squeezing out too much glue making the joint weaker.  If there is a mono layer of glue completely covering both surfaces to be joined - there is enough glue - You will crush the wood surface on the clamp side and ruin the surface before you could squeeze out too much glue.  If you are gap filling  - there will be no force to expel that glue either.


I totally concur about an Optivisor  vs  a swing arm lamp with a magnifying lens.  I have two - one oval fluorescent  and one incandescent - that I replaced with a spiral fluorescent.   I do do use the magnifying function for either.   I suggest a couple of swing arm lamps that are just lights - use the brightest LED bulbs you can fit-   The base can either clamp to the edge of the bench top - screw into it - or there are lamps that will mount on a vertical surface - like the wall behind the bench - which is probably more efficient for position and use of bench space - if the bench is is fixed location.

Low cost swing arm lamps tend to be frustrating because the pivot point locations tend not to hold their positions.  The lens tends to just add weight to the end of the lever arm and add to this problem.

  Edited by Jaager
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Take a trip to the local version of the Dollar Store:

  • Wooden clothes pins: regular size and small (<1 inch).  They work well as clamps and can be modified to whatever shape you need.
  • Metal bull clips
  • Elastic bands - for clamping
  • Small C-clamps
  • Dowels, other strips of wood.  Actually, pretty good quality.  If nothing else, they make good handles for custom tools.
  • Tooth picks
  • Wire and nails - not model quality, but good for making jigs, bending patterns, or as clamps
  • Paints - Not sure if I'd use them on a model, but I'm using the cheap acrylic to practice air-brushing
  • Paint brushes - good for cleaning up chips.  You may find some that are actually good for painting
  • Pins, needles, threaders, crochet hooks, tweezers (probably need to file the points)
  • Storage containers - all sorts for small parts and tools
  • Card board and foam board for making templates and light duty jigs
  • Alcohol, Q-tips and cotton swaps for wiping up 
  • School geometry set - for protractor and 45 and 30/60 triangles. ( A GOOD set of dividers are useful for transferring sizes form drawings to parts )  
  • Pliers/cutters - may work for you, but cheap enough that you can modify the ends if needed for other shapes.
  • Glues - may find a brand name you can trust to last for the long life of a model.  Other stuff ok for jigs, etc.
  • Tape


There are also many things you can make:

  • Bench hook - could double as a shooting board (for plane or sanding block)
  • Rigging tools (hooks, pushers, etc)
  • V Block bench extension  (for scroll saw work)

Since you WILL want more tools ( just admit it now, we understand), make a wish list and buy them when they come up on sale.  MicroMark and Model Shipways frequently have deep sales.  


For further items:

  • Soldering iron - for making metal fittings and for bending planks (it's heat that allows wood to bend easier, not moisture)
  • Small bench vice - preferably with a rotating head.  (like Pana-vice, but there are much less expensive versions available)
  • Third-hand with magnifier
  • Dental picks 
  • Looping pliers
  • Jeweler's saw

Lastly, a comfortable chair!

Edited by lehmann
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A boxed modeler's tool set may not be that great of an investment (I know this from personal experience). I never use the heavy-duty knife handle that came with the set, or most of the specialty blades. Instead, I use a regular el cheapo craft knife handle and buy #11 blades in 100-packs (much, much cheaper that way). The included gouges are next to worthless; at some point you will probably want to pick up a quality set of gouges, and these are truly one of the 'you get what you pay for' tools of the hobby.


Now, as to a few things the boxed set lacks ...


1. Wire-sized drill bits. These break all the time. Buy them in bulk, in a variety of sizes.

2. Round-nose pliers. Very useful for forming all kinds of stuff out of wire, such as eyebolts.

3. Several gauges of blackened, annealed wire, for forming stuff with your round-nosed pliers.

4. Forceps, straight and curved tips.

5. A variety of tweezers.


And here's another up-vote for headband magnifiers. Indispensable, IMO, especially for older eyes. Like mine.


These are tools I use often. For tools that are used less frequently, it is handy to live next door to a modeler with a fully-equipped shop, so that you can dash over and borrow things. :rolleyes: 

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Very interesting thread. The thing I used the most throughout the build was a good set of digital calipers and a steel cork bottomed ruler that reads both metric and inches. Secondly, as my model (Charles W Morgan) progressed I found needs for a good versatile small vise and at least a very good tight tolerance drill press or mill. A miniature wood lathe and accessories were used once the planking was done. PM me when you think you might need some power tools and I'll make you a good price. Great ship model choice, one I've dreamed about building but have no room. Enjoy



PS, sorry, I'm a Proxxon Dealer, click on my link if interested

Edited by texxn5
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I would agree with all the suggestions on here but keep in mind that most of these model ships take a long time to build and there are many things that do not need to bepurchased at once. Spread it out as the stages of construction demand so its a bit easier on the wallet.


Also I would suggest to pick out a couple different measuring devices. Both a rigid ruler and a flexible measuring tape such as one a taylor would use is advisable. Make sure they have both standard and metric units as depending on where you kit was made you may have to do a lot of converting back and forth.


As to the light, for years I only had the bench light with magnifer but lately I have been looking into the head band magnifyer for working with tiny details. I do not think I will give up my bench light as I need the extra light but I admit that I do not use the magnifyer much as it is akward and does get in the way more often than not.

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If you get the Optivisor, I use the "Quasar" LED Lightattachent:





Or other sources have it;


It has 6 LED'S around the edges so gives uniform shadowless light on your work.


I'm just getting started in model building but have used it for years for clock repair.


Don't get the single light Xenon bulb attachment - bulky, sticks out so it bumps things if you are working close & can throw shadows.



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I appreciate the suggestions, everyone!  I am sure I'll be adding some of the tools you guys mentioned to my collection as I progress through the build.  I ended up getting a standard swing-arm lamp, and I put a 850-lumen 5000K natural daylight LED bulb in it.  I think it will provide plenty of light for my work.  I have also purchased everything on my list, as well as a dressmaker's tape measure, a small 3-inch vise, some extra tiny drill bits, some map pins, some 3/4" spring clamps, rubber bands, toothpicks, and a bottle of rubbing alcohol.  The sandpaper grits I selected were 100, 150, 220, and 400.  I ended up going with Zap-A-Gap glue (with some Z-Ends), and the wood glue I selected was Titebond III.  I am also probably going to pick up an Optivisor and a helping hands with a magnifier.  For now, it's just a matter of waiting for the kit.  Since this will be my first model, I went ahead and spent the money on the Lauck Street Shipyard Lady Nelson DVD set.  While it was expensive, I think it will be beneficial to watch a step-by-step build of the exact same kit I will be constructing.  I'm sure I'll learn a lot, and the skills I develop can be used on future builds, as well.  Between the DVDs and the wealth of information here on the forum, I think I stand a good chance of producing an aesthetically pleasing model that I can display in my home once I'm done.  Thanks again for your comments and suggestions!  Happy modeling!  

Edited by daveward
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Dave my 2 cents


I found like mentioned before the capped PVC for soaking, I use 3 different diameters of cans, clamp to a table. insert a candle or sterno can gets super hot (I touched got burned and touched again to make sure and got burned again).  :o  It is super quick and you can bend any type of angle or twist and bend several in a matter of minutes.  Listen to these good folks most tools I bought several years ago are know dust collectors.


For what it's worth good luck.



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All these tools will get you off to a great start but the most important tool we can use, And it takes a bit to master and that is Patience! Take your time. It's not a hobby if things are rushed. I'm sure you will do just fine :) All the best with your first new build.

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Be careful with the swing lamp!  I have a swing lamp with a magnifier, and it has been great - I love being able to position the light and magnification just where I need it.  But...


This weekend, on the next-to-last day of my build, I was focused on a last little piece of rigging and swung the lamp down to get a better look.  The arm caught the main top mast and snapped it right at the mast cap.  Had to step away for a few minutes before I was ready to assess the damage.  Fortunately the rigging held, and I was able to glue it back in place.  If that didn't work, it was either going to be a serious rebuild of the mast and rigging, or a scrapped project.


I've already been checking out the Optivisor for my next build, because after a certain point you don't want to be swinging a lamp (or anything) around your ship.


One item that is now on my 'must have' list is dental applicators.  I ran across some small brushes for applying glue in a hobby store and fell in love with them,  but they run around $0.20 each.  After some searching, it turns out they are the exact same thing as 'dental applicators', which you can buy in bulk.  I get them from Amazon in qty 400, works out to about $0.03 each.  (They come in a variety of tip sizes.)  I grab one, brush on a small, controlled amount of glue, use it until the brush gets chunky, then toss it and move on.  Since I started using these I'm never over-gluing, and I no longer have to worry about cleaning glue applicator tips.  I went through less than 100 of these on my build, so the pack of 400 should last for a while...



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It seems most things have been covered.  Here's my little bits of advice:


1.  A workbench - essential equipment!  Here's a thread that I posted before which might be good if you're cramped for space:




2, Zona 37-434 square and zona 37-433 triangle    http://www.hobbylinc.com/htm/zon/zon37-434.htm


3. plastic toothpicks, one end pointed and other 'feathered' -  excellent for applying glue


4. A workboard/box for the model that can be put away on a shelf if necessary.


5.  A very fine tooth Japanese saw .  Harbor Freight sold a very good one japanese-made Topman brand before, but now it's just a low-grade chinese knock-off.   I like this:  



Edited by Bob Blarney
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I use the bench magnifier as well as the optivisor, both have their place IMHO

And the previous warning is a good one, both can suffer from catching and ripping off something on the model if care is not taken.


For a first model you shouldn't need to consider bench power tools.

However a dremel or similar is often invaluable.

Drilling, sanding, grinding, turning - all possible.



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I would second Nick's suggestion on the Dremel as a used one can be bought for next to nothing on E-Bay.  When I built my first model I had practically nothing in tools and tried to get by without small drill bits and other items and my first kit illustrates this.  You are heading in the right direction and there is some excellent advice in the replies to this thread.  I have a load of junk that I have never used because it looked like a good idea at the time but have never been sorry for the quality tools I bought that I found I needed after beginning the construction.


Good luck!!

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Totally agreeing on the Dremel being a great first power tool. I use it more than all my other power tools combined. Another thing, if you haven't already bought it a digital caliper is very helpful for us because you can immediately convert between metric and imperial with it. Much easier to read too.

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Since I've decided to cut my own spiled planks out of sheetwood for this project, the scroll saw is looking really nice...  Otherwise, I'm going to be cutting each plank with an X-Acto blade!  My problem would be trying to find a place to store the saw...  As for the Dremel, I know without a doubt that it's a good idea.  I'm trying to find that balance between getting the tools I need and not worrying my wife by buying a ton of tools right off the bat before the kit even arrives!  For some reason, I like the analog calipers.  Taking vernier scale measurements just feels right for this project!  :)

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Just out of curiosity, if I were to get a scroll saw, what type of blade would be best for cutting out spiled planks?  Since the thickness of the sheetwood I'd be cutting would be very thin, I'm assuming I'd need a blade with as many teeth-per-inch as possible, right?  What would be the TPI range I'd want to use for cutting veneer in the 1/32" - 1/16" thickness range?

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For now, I'm holding off on the scroll saw.  I want to see how easily I can cut out my spiled planks by hand before I make that decision.  Given how thin my sheetwood will be, I should be able to cut out the rough shape of each plank with an X-acto, filing and sanding it into its final shape.  In the meantime, however, I am adding a few more tools to my collection.  Here they are:


  • Dremel 3000, with attachments
  • 1" Spring clamps
  • Small trigger clamps 
  • Larger sanding sticks 
  • Sanding sponges 
  • Extra X-Acto blades 


I've been putting off getting a Dremel for WAY too long.  There have been so many time when one would have come in handy.  Between modeling, household repairs, and gunsmithing, I'll always have a use for this thing!  I'm primarily going to use the trigger clamps for holding the end of my plywood bulwarks in position around the front of the bow while my glue dries.  I can put one of the jaws in a hatch opening in the false deck and the other up against the outer face of the bullwark and hold it down nicely.  As for the sanding sticks, I currently have regular thin cardboard-style emery boards.  I want to get some of the foam-type nail files, which should work better.  I think I'm going to go with sanding sponges over an angled sanding block for sanding the hull.  I had originally wanted to find a Mini Sander from ADC, but I think the sanding sponges will work just as well for sanding the various curves I'll encounter.  I'll probably get them in 100-150 grit, and maybe 220 grit or finer if I can find them.  As for the X-acto blades, I think for now I'll stick with #11, #18, and #22.  These are the blades I feel I'll be using most often.  


My kit arrives tomorrow, so I'm getting excited!  All of my preparation thus far has been based on the research I've done and the tools I see builders use most often (as well as the helpful advice from all of you!).  I have tried to walk through the steps of the first portion of the build (hull construction and planking) in my mind, making a note of which tools I'd probably need.  My goal was to first acquire the tools that I was certain I'd need beforehand in order to do a good job, adding additional pieces when they became necessary.  So far, I think I have laid a good foundation.  I can't wait to get started!  Thanks again, everyone!   

Edited by daveward
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