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Tools, supplies and workstation......


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As stated in my New Members Intro "still deciding", I'm in the process of assessing this craft to see if its something I want to undertake; a decision I'm not taking lightly. While cost isn't a big concern, I wouldn't want to purchase something I really don't need or won't be comfortable. 

 

I have 2 questions for the experienced shipwrights on this site. The first about tools because as with anything from vehicles to RVs to boats, the right tools make the job easier. The second about workstations. It appears that this work is not something to be done at the kitchen table. 

 

1. Tools. I see there are various tool kits offered on the web and wondered if these are workable for the beginner. Do brands make a difference? Tools needed but not included in these kits? Tools / supplies you find indispensable? 

 

2. Workstation. Do you find a standard table and chair height comfortable or does a workbench with taller stool a better choice? Seeing this work demands time and patience I would think comfort is key. How much work space is required?  Lighting?

 

Dave

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Dave:

Welcome to MSW and I hope the start of a long time hobby.

Both of these topics have been discussed at length on the forum.  I suggest you do a search and after reviewing the various Q&A's post your follow up questions to those areas.  A search is easy to do - upper right area of the page - type in "basic tools" for one search and "workbench height" for another.  This should give you a start.  Members will be glad to offer advice.

Kurt

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Hi Dave, as Kurt suggests there are several discussion topics that can be read, including the 'stickies' and also have a look in the Database where there are some excellent topics to help you.

 

One of your first questions is what style of build you want to do as that will govern your needs.  Is it a basic klit (plank on bulkhead), solid hull, plank-on frame, or a scratch build.  Some modellers have produced excellent scratch built models using the most basic tools; this may be a bit slower but can be achieved.  Others (like me) are a bit of a tool aholic and have amassed a suite of power tools.  There is a topic devoted to basic tool needs and perhaps if you start with 'beginner' level quick build of a similar type of vessel (motor, sail, static, period?) you will be able to assess which tools need to be improved, added to or unnecessary?  

 

cheers

 

Pat

Edited by BANYAN
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7 hours ago, CPDDET said:

I have 2 questions for the experienced shipwrights on this site. The first about tools because as with anything from vehicles to RVs to boats, the right tools make the job easier. The second about workstations. It appears that this work is not something to be done at the kitchen table. 

 

Dave

    Says who?  Sure, if you are going to scratch build a fully framed ship you will need a lot of room and a lot of specialized equipment.  For many years I used a Dremel and Exacto knife...and a lot of clamps....and sandpaper....and glue.  Start small and add what you need when you need it.  Kitchen table or card table in the living room  has been a common building area (subject to the whims of The Admiral). 

 

    As Pat asked, what style of build do you want to do? 

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Agree with both however (in my opinion) some of the "STARTER" tool sets leave something to be desired. Like Pat I must admit to being a tool-aholick. When I see a beautiful plane from Lie Nielsen or Lee Valley I have a pavlovian reaction...I start sweating and shaking and my wife asks me if I'm feeling well. I do feel that a well made model may contain great wood, etc. but the finished product is more a reflection of the builder...Moab

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Agree with all the above comments and recommendations, but I will add this if I may: your build should govern your tool kit. Not the other way round. If you buy a multi tool set you may well find you don't use any on the particular project you are undertaking. A good hobby knife, a few hobby files, assorted grades of sandpaper, and a straight edge ruler should kick you off well in the right direction. Easy to add on from there as you deem necessary. As for workstations, I tend to think they are over hyped. Just my opinion. I would rather save the money on a workstation toward my next model. All my modelling is done on the coffee table in front of the tv in the lounge room. But then again I do live alone. Horses for courses I guess. Heaps of clamps, cradles, holding devices etc. can be self made. All my models live their building life ultra cheap Styrofoam cradles I glue together from packaging materials. Costs nothing, is beautifully soft on wood and associated paintwork, and gives a great non-slip cradle so the model wont slip when turned on its side.

 

Cheers

 

Chris

 

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Focusing on your comment that "I'm in the process of assessing this craft to see if its something I want to undertake; a decision I'm not taking lightly."

 

Begin with a quality kit that is designed for "beginners." This forum is full of evaluations on kits and you should review those. A "fore and aft" rigged vessel will be much less challenging than a square-rigged one. Bluejacket Shipcrafters offers a fine line of "Ensign" or beginner's level kits. http://www.bluejacketinc.com/kits/index.htm#ensign Model Shipways (MicroMark) has a British Admiralty longboat kit that is highly recommended for a serious beginner's project. This kit includes a basic tool kit and paints needed to complete the model for around $100. https://www.micromark.com/Model-Shipways-MS1457TL-Longboat-Ship-Kit-with-Tools-1-48 If you sign up for the MicroMark's catalog, you will get regular emails providing premium codes for significant discounts. (Presently, IIRC, MicroMark or a similar company, ModelExpo, are having a 20% off premium code sale.) This longboat model was designed by Chuck Passaro, a MSW forum moderator and his construction of the prototype model can be found at https://modelshipworld.com/index.php?/topic/629-18th-century-english-longboat-by-chuck-c1760/. It is incredibly well illustrated and contains full explanations of every process together with answers to the many questions asked by MSW members who are now building the kit.

 

An important point is that the "build logs" in this forum are very informative. (Some more than others, however, for whatever reason. I have no idea how the modelers who post the really fantastically photographed and instructively written logs have the time to build their model and photograph and write about it at the same time!) The detail and workmanship of some of the masters is breathtaking... and can easily scare off someone who lacks a lifetime of experience and a shop full of specialized power tools. Appreciate and learn from the masters, but realize that if you take care and don't rush your work, it is possible for anyone with patience, attention to detail, and perseverance to build a fine kit model which can deservedly be displayed with pride. It is easily possible to spend thousands of dollars on micro-scale machine tools, but it is also entirely possible to accomplish the same work with hand tools and a bit more time.

 

As for what tools are needed, follow this maxim: "Never buy a tool unless you need it and when you do, buy the best tool you can possibly afford." Properly cared for,  tools retain their value and, for those of us who appreciate them, are a joy to own.  Also, remember the corollary to the above maxim, as well: "A cheap tool will have to be bought twice."  I expect that every MSW member who's been building models for any length of time can give examples of the money we've wasted in our younger years buying seductively advertised "ship modeling tools" offered in the many catalogs that are available. I expect many bought the now-infamous "Loom-A-line" plastic frame that was touted as essential for tying ratlines to shrouds and is totally and completely useless for any purpose whatsoever! :D (Fortunately, it wasn't that expensive.) Many of the ship modeling tools sold in the popular catalogs, even when useful, are liable to be of poor quality, fit, and finish. Far higher quality hand tools can usually be purchased from professional jewelry-making and medical surgical instrument supply houses, and often for the same price, if not less, than the modeling tool catalogs. (This applies to edged tools especially.) You will probably find that you already have a lot, if not most, of the tools you will need when starting out lying around the house. 

 

The specific tools you might need to get started are little more than a hobby knife, some decent tweezers, a sharp fine pointed pair of scissors, a set of small files, and a selection of sandpaper. (And, some of the top retailers like ModelExpo and MicroMark often package those tools along with their "introductory kits" at a large discount to get you "hooked.") Beyond that, the model you build will instruct you in what you need as you go along. This section of the MSW forum on Modeling Tools and Workshop Equipment provides invaluable information. (The "search" thingy in the upper right hand corner of the page is your friend.) You will find experienced modelers commenting at length on the merits of just about every tool and material known to man or beast. If, perchance, you can't find information on a tool or material already discussed, just post your question and somebody will surely have a good answer for you. If you limit yourself to acquiring fine tools you need, that too can become a hobby in itself! Spending twenty-five bucks or so on a good tool now and then is not likely to be noticed by the purser of the household and is a healthy way to treat yourself when you deserve it!

 

With something like the Model Shipways longboat kit, you will risk little money in finding out whether building model ships is something you enjoy doing and you won't end up being one of those people who spent a thousand bucks or more on a spectacular Seventeenth or Eighteenth Century warship model kit which might well be so intimidating that it is never started, let alone finished.

 

So before getting off into buying a lot of tools, I'd urge you to pick put a model that strikes your fancy, keeping the first one simple. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Then look it up in the "Kit Build Logs" index (at the top of the "Build Logs" section of the forum.) There is a build log, and often several, for just about every model kit worth building in that section. Those logs written by modelers, some building their first model, will give you an excellent idea of what is involved in building any given kit. That will give you the confidence to proceed with the particular model that interests you... or at least determine "if its something I want to undertake."

 

Lastly, stay away from eBay and only buy a kit from a retailer who will supply missing parts and plans if that comes to pass and never, ever, buy Chinese or Russian "knock off" counterfeit kits pirated from legitimate manufacturers. Not only do they rip off legitimate kit designers and manufacturers, but, simply put, they are not worth even the cut rate prices they charge for them.

Edited by Bob Cleek
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But I digressed, didn't I?  Sorry about that.

 

To get right to the point with my two cents worth (Usual disclaimers apply. Your mileage may vary.)

 

1. Tools. I see there are various tool kits offered on the web and wondered if these are workable for the beginner. Do brands make a difference? Tools needed but not included in these kits? Tools / supplies you find indispensable? 

 

I wouldn't advise paying much money for the so-advertised "ship modeling tool kits" because 1) they usually contain a number of unnecessary, if not useless, tools and 2) are almost always Chinese-made knock-offs of higher quality American-made tools. For example, most will look like they contain hobby knives made by X-Acto, but aren't. A couple of real X-Acto handles and a selection of blades will probably cost half of what a knock-off kit costs and you don't need the extraneous tools in the cheaper kit anyway. The X-Acto blades will be of far higher quality than the Asian knock-offs and the handles will be made of better metal and plastic and will hold the blades firmly, unlike the cheapo copies. Of course, if a retailer is throwing in a "tool kit" in an introductory kit, it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick... or X-Acto knife, as the case may be.

 

Yes, brands do make a difference. The "level" of the tool makes a difference, too. There is a reason even X-Acto knives are called "hobby knives" instead of "surgical scalpels." (They were invented to be surgical scalpels, but weren't accepted by the medical profession because they couldn't be sterilized easily.) For light, delicate, work, a surgical scalpel and blades will do a better job and probably at a lower price point. Buy the professional grade tool whenever possible. You will see selections of Asian pliers sold in the hobby catalogs. For very little more money, you can buy pliers made for orthodontists in dental catalogs of much higher quality.

 

2. Workstation. Do you find a standard table and chair height comfortable or does a workbench with taller stool a better choice? Seeing this work demands time and patience I would think comfort is key. How much work space is required?  Lighting?

 

It's a matter of personal preference. Myself, a standard table and chair often puts the work a bit too high and definitely so when working on rigging that may be a foot or more above the table top. I generally work on a bench and sit on a drafting stool which has an adjustable seat and footrest so I can raise myself to whatever height is most comfortable and can easily hop on and off to get things from the shop as needed. (These are a pretty common Craigslist or garage sale item available at low cost.)

 

Workspace is also a matter of personal preference and availability. Some find card tables enough.  I built my first wooden ship model on our desk in a one bedroom apartment when my wife and I were in graduate school.  I prefer a stable bench, particularly because you really can't mount even a small jeweler's vise on a card table and expect to get much done without it jiggling around. These days, I enjoy the luxury of a fully equipped workshop in an outbuilding that houses the spoils of a lifetime of used tool collecting. (Cleek's Law: "Tools expand to fill the space allotted." I call it a collection. My wife calls it an addiction. ) I have a separate "surgically clean" room for my drafting table, plans storage, modeling library and a couple of "clean" benches, one a very sturdy metal machinists bench for working on rigging and small bits. The rest of the shop outside of this is the "dirty shop" that houses a battery of standard-sized stationary machine tools for full-sized boatbuilding as well as a collection of Byrnes modeling machines, a Unimat micro-lathe/mill and scroll saws, and my "woodpile. (I also work on full-sized classic wooden boats.) This is where I do anything dusty, greasy, or otherwise messy, like airbrushing and spray painting.  Between that and the kitchen table, desk or card table upon which most of us started out lies the spectrum of what somebody would "need" and somebody would "want" for building models.  What I have at my disposal is admittedly luxuriously excessive. It's well beyond what's required to build the finest ship models, but, then again, at this point I can mill my own wood and build my own display cases and it costs me next to nothing. (Other people's discarded furniture is sometimes a great source of modeling hardwood!)  I must be the first to admit that it's very easy to wake up one morning and realize you have more tools than skills to get the most out of them.

 

Joking about "the Admiral" aside, one does have to consider the others we live with. It's a royal pain to have to "set up" and "take down" your modeling workspace each time you want to work on your model and others often complain about paint fumes and sawdust in "their space." (We won't even begin to talk about what happens when your wife catches you melting a pot of lead on her kitchen stove! :D ) If one can find so much as a government surplus metal office desk to keep in a space they can call their own, so much the better. Again here, your mileage may vary. The famous naval architect, L. Francis Herreshoff, who never married and lived alone all his life, enjoyed the luxury of keeping his metal lathe in the dining room of his home. We should all be so lucky! 

 

As for lighting, the more the better. I have a collection (garage sales again) of articulated drafting lamps ("Luxo lamps") and fluorescent ring tube articulated magnifying lamps that clamp on bench tops. These provide strong light directly on the working area and can be moved around to direct the light right where you want it. Some prefer various magnifying lenses worn like eyeglasses. Others, as myself, prefer to work beneath an articulated magnifying fluorescent lamp or use the traditional jeweler's swing-down magnifying lens that clips to the temple of our eyeglasses for fine work.

Edited by Bob Cleek
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"....... but I will add this if I may: your build should govern your tool kit. Not the other way round." Chris

 

I appreciate everyone's advice and comments, thank you all for taking time out of your day to post a reply.

 

After reading the advice from Chris (quoted at the top of this post) it suddenly struck me; what's the hurry? I realized I was getting ahead of myself with some of these inquiries. And if I'm not careful I'll get ahead of myself with the build.

 

Time to slow down. I think it best to purchase tools as I need them and, as others here have advised, buy quality tools. After all, "haste makes waste". And if it takes a few days to obtain a needed tool it will make little difference in the overall time of the build.

 

How ever I will ask about the brands of quality tools for this work. I have my doubt that Snap-On, SK or Klein would have the type of tools needed.

 

Dave

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Hi again Dave, again that is a very broad question as there are usually several very good makers/suppliers of the same tool, so brand does not usually help too much.  Also, some cheap tools suffice quite well - BUT from my experience, the best advice I can give, is to, wherever possible and within your budget, buy QUALITY.   One example of brands is a small plane - again what sort of job do you intend to do will probably steer you right but good planes can be supplied/made by many excellent makers such as Lee Valley, Veritas, Ibex, et etc.

 

As advised in other posts/threads do not get locked into woodworking or general tool companies, or even specialist hobby suppliers, but look outside the box.  Some very good quality and useful tools can be found through Jewellers suppliers, beading shops, medical/dental/vet suppliers, luthier suppliers, and for threads etc try crocheting or sewing suppliers.  Sometimes the specialist hobby suppliers are not looking at quality but keeping the price down and the tools reflect - "you gets whats yous pays for"  :)

 

Not sure where you live but also try to buy local as shipping costs are getting to the point it costs more than the tools.  I recently tried to order a $8.50 part from the US and the shipping was US$56 - can you believe that?  i have had to stop buying via the US for this reason and now get any internationally sourced stuff I need from the UK and/or Europe, with the UK  still quite reasonable with shipping costs.

 

I hope that helps a bit?

 

cheers

 

Pat

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3 hours ago, CPDDET said:

"....... but I will add this if I may: your build should govern your tool kit. Not the other way round." Chris

 

How ever I will ask about the brands of quality tools for this work. I have my doubt that Snap-On, SK or Klein would have the type of tools needed.

 

Dave

Again, ask as the need arises.  In my experience, there is no universal "best brand", although there are some brands that cover a wide variety of equipment.  If you ask about miniature table saws, you will get 2 or 3 or 4 answers.  Ask about thickness sanders you will get alot as well, although not necessarily the same companies. 

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I might add how deep are your pockets, money no object tools not a problem.

I might add if your pockets have run aground and your temporally stranded in the shallows there are a lot of comparable tools that run the gambit of pricing.

Since I stay stranded in the shallows I spend a lot of time at Harbor Freight for saws, sanders, scroll saws etc. E-bay and garage sales, amazon, craigslist, and have a nice collection of cheap but adequate tools. 

One day someone will espy my upside down flag and render assistance and my pockets will get deeper.

 

Enough of my drivel, 

 

 

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As someone also new to the hobby, this is all great advice.

Even though I recently downsized and got rid of all the big tools, I've found the basic hand tools I did keep, are a good start for building.  I've also managed to pick up some useful tools quite cheaply from a veterinary supply house that listed on eBay. Such things as hemostats, tweezers pliers and scissors.

Still waiting a chance to get the plans copied before I get started on the first build. The fallout from the downsizing is still happening.

 

Regards

Geoff

Edited by geoffs
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For the lighting, technology is on our side.

 

LED lights are performing at the top. As an example, at a garage  sale, I bought a nice draftman lamp for $5. For the bulb, I paid  around $30, some kinds of LED in a bulb. 

 

At $35, this lamp is performing much more than almost every other lamps I tried.

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I would ask myself two fundamental questions:

 

1. Am I interested in ships/boats or in the 'craft'

 

2. Do I have the patience to embark on a multi-annual venture with as many downs as ups ?

 

Ad 1 - Sounds like a strange question to ask on a forum like this, but it can be crucial. If you are interested in ships/boats as such, you may be able to find a subject and material that is suited to your means and circumstances (i.e. plastic vs. wood, the latter requiring substantial more tools and room). Of course, as your experience grows, you may want to move onto more demanding subjects. If you are mainly interested in the 'craft', you may want to look for objects that can be tackled with less tools and that require less space etc.

 

Ad 2 - patience is one of the most important tools in our trade, it can compensate for a lot of other tools. Our ancestors had a lot less tools and still were able to turn out superbe models, it just may take a little longer to do and a little longer to acquire the dexterity with the tools required.

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Don't splurge out until you have decided whether you even enjoy the hobby (unless you have seriously deep pockets).

 

My first kits (a Caldercraft Snake then a Caldercraft Diana - with the second not being a small kit) were built in a tiny outhouse on a 4 ft wide dressing table that just fit in the space. For those I mainly squirrelled away little dremel tools and various tweezers/knifes/files and the odd chisel. I then built the triton cross section (you can sign up here! it is free!!) and for this added a Byrnes table saw/disc sander and a scroll saw. This was pushing space in a bad way now but after an extension and a new 'executive log cabin' (shed) in the garden I increased ship building space and now have made my own work bench (8ft long and very sturdy) and have space for all my current machine tools plus have added a Byrnes thicknesser, industrial thicknesser , loads of air filters and a specialist vac for fine dust, drill press, sherline longbed lathe and sherline milling machine. Plus a lot more tweezers, spanners, etc etc. Ran out of space (again) now (which is a shame as a standing Band saw would be a lovely addition) but have enough to scratch build as long as spend a little more for pre-thinned stock. My main problem is my wife attempting to deposit garden chairs/cushions into my room so they are easy to access. 

 

Here is my cabin just after being built (the quarter at the far end is a standard garden shed)

 

1255698965_WP_20150129_0031.thumb.jpg.c907a5c7e009662e5314353efce738eb.jpg

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