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Beginners tools?

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Hi all,


I am sure there are a few threads about this but I couldn't find any that came up when I tried a few searches for "beginner tools" so I am starting my own.


I am doing as much reading and pre-set up prior to the Phantom showing up on my doorstep soon. I've printed out the parts list, instructions and the practicum to assist in the build. I have a folding table that I will be able to use as my work bench. The only thing left to do is start collecting the needed tools. I have looked through the Basic Hand Tools PDF on this site which is helpful but also pretty large. So with that all said, what do I buy?


I have looked at the Xacto hobby tool kits and was thinking that was the way I was going to go but before I drop the cash I figured I should check in with the pro's.


Thank you,


Mark Mott

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Thanks, I have looked through it and will reread some of the articles. My biggest question is more, what is needed off the bat. The basic tool list is long and while I can see why you would need it all, what do you need to get going? I figured the Xacto hobby tool set kind of had the "basics" but wasn't sure if that would be a good start or if the tools within it are of any value.


Something like this



Or this



They are similar but the first one is the "deluxe" version which has a few extras like a coping saw, pin vise and drill bits.

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The picture below shows pretty much all the tools I use for building plank on frame hulls.  The saw is a jewellers saw and the knives are surgical scalpels - generally better quality than hobby knives.


The list as shown in the photo is:-

Proportional dividers

Six inch steel rule


Six inch three cornered file

Jewellers barrette file

Jewellers three cornered file

No. 4 scalpel with No. 22 blade

No. 3 scalpel with No. 11 blade

Sanding stick

Jewellers saw with various blades depending on work being done


You don't need the proportional dividers at the top for your solid hull, but you may need a heavier file or rasp for the heavier cutting work.


I think the basic advice is - only buy tools as you need them - otherwise you'll end up spending a lot of money and having a drawer full of tools that you never use.





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Hello, mmott.  I think either set would be a good starting point.  For the Phantom, a good set of blades, the plane and a pin vice with a couple of bits would be useful along with an assortment of sand paper.  If you can find some forceps (locking tweezers) those would also be helpful when you get to the rigging.


For the most part, you will start to figure out what you need beyond the very basic tools John posted as you get further along with the model.  I am adding to my collection a little at a time - usually after I run into a challenge and look for a new way to overcome.  For example, a couple of pairs of small pliers when I started the rigging and needed to hold some small fiddly pieces of wire.

Edited by trippwj
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Mark---- Those sets seem kind of pricey--- a simple small exacto handle with a hefty supply of #11 blades should get you going--- available at Wally. In addition to the good stuff mentioned above, I'd suggest some good quality small needle nose pliers-- try Xuron-- a pair or two of tweezers-- stolen from the Admiral's make up drawer--- a cheap plastic architects scale which gives you the 1/96 you need, a box or two of single edged razor blades, a pack of wet-or-dry sandpaper in various grades, and a bunch of fingernail files, also from the Admiral's stash--- unless she has locked the drawer after the tweezer heist, and some basic rasps including round for solid hull shaping. Tools are a fetish, and most of us web junkies have a ton of useless stuff---- until that magic moment when a freak need arises and you can dig into your box and come up with a single purpose bit of arcana that does the job. I feel SO smart on those rare occasions....


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I agree with Jim when he wrote "I think the basic advice is - only buy tools as you need them - otherwise you'll end up spending a lot of money and having a drawer full of tools that you never use." I Love buying tools as much as I love working on model ships. I have bought many tools that I only use once in a while. The Tool I used the most is sand paper. Different grades attached to different sticks and different size dowels makes excellent cutting and finishing tools. Next a hobby size mitter box and saw is a good way to cut the small planks of wood that come in the kit. Try putting a small piece of wood on the inside with double edge tape or a pencil mark for repetitive cuts. A good knife with different blades is important. Good luck on your Phantom.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Just what I was about to ask too.


Sounds like half of my make up kit will double up as tools! lol. And the other half I can probably  'borrow' from work. :P


Like the technical name 'sanding stick' aka nailfile. Lol.


Dang - and here we thought we were sounding much more professional!  Yeah, it's a nail file/emery board.  My missus also donated some old makeup brushes (those really fine soft bristled ones) for use in dusting the builds. 


Ummm, don't say anything, to her, please.  I don't think she knows she donated them yet.......

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Nenad---- Yeah, some kind of motor tool would be close to the first tier of tool purchases. This is an area where much opinion exists as to the best bang for the $$--- my own favorite is the Proxxon 12 volt system, which I went to after buying a couple of dud Dremels. If $$ is not such an issue, Foredoms have set the standard for many years. For the Criminally Insane, the dental quality drills, i.e. Ram, are the best thing going, and allow one to do their own root canals as a sidelight. For years, it was the ship modelers dream to grab an old dentist's belt driven drill, but I doubt these are out there much anymore.

    There are some crazy-cheap models available, but I'd be a little leery of them----the quality is too inconsistent. Variable speed is good, single speed is not as good. Shop around for bargains on name brand sets, and check my dear Widget Supply for attachments. And, as always, check the opinion/review comments on Amazon which range from the eminently reasonable-- like mine, of course--- to the totally psychotic. Note that most of the poor reviews come from geeks who try to over tax these hobby tools on full size locomotives and bridge girders. Tinyellie!! You're right! A good makeup box will provide many fine tools, including the airbrush that you insist upon using to color yourself dayglow orange!! 


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I bought a cheap motor tool a long time ago for various jobs and It's been very useful, but, it's not the smallest of tools and the mains cable for it can get in the way sometimes as it's quite stiff. I'll be buying a low voltage version next week as it's on special offer:



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When I first started I bought one of the Deluxe Tool sets from Model Expo. I found pretty much everything in the set useful and I still use most of it today. The best items, though, are these tiny files that came in the set. I used them all the time:




I find a good set of tweezers especially useful, too. I actually have about three different styles that I use, but the curved ones seem to work best. I have two - one that I use for gluing and one that I keep clean for rigging.


I hope this helps.

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I have a question.  How do the hemostats come in handy?  Also, I need a third hand to help me tie my rigging on the plastic ships I have been working on.  Any suggestions?  I try to tie a knot, but it just comes loose when I go for the second tie on the knot.  I can't get them to tighten up.  Right now I am just doing one tie and then gluing it in place.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 year later...

Hemostats always come in handy finding away to hold small parts is always a challenge.   Exacto has several good items but you have to know what you are getting,  Their plane is garbage it is difficult to work with and I was not impressed.  When I was back in my apt. I packed a coupe of mini planes and brought them back with me.  My Lie Neilson 102 and what I thought was a small stanley with a bigger throat for larger cuts.  However I found out that I had grabbed the exacto instead.  No matter what I did I could not get a decent saving.  Now I have to find a decent stanley low angle block plane.  Any suggestions on what I can use without breaking the bank  I would go with a veritas or another Lie Neilson but I am on a limited budget at the moment.

David B 

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