Scratch-building: Tools

Specialty tools, The Chopper, Miter sander, punch sets, Olfa circle cutter

Specialty Tools

One of the biggest problems with scratch-building is finding the right tools for the jobs you have. Unfortunately, there aren't many "catch-all" tools. Rather, there are several specialized tools that each have specific uses. So I think it would be helpful to list the tools I use and any tips/tricks I've found that might be useful.

  • Modified Chopper
    • Cuts styrene strips to make duplicates.
    • Thicker pieces/tubes will make the arm bow outward
    • For thicker pieces, cut slightly into the piece, rotate, and repeat until you cut through.
  • Miter Sander
    • From Fourmost Products, this sands styrene pieces at almost any angle you need
    • Perfect for getting the "exact" angle you want
    • Also great for shortening pieces that are a tad too long
    • When the sandpaper wears down, peel it off and use wood glue to adhere any sandpaper to the block
    • Use big black paperclips to create guides
  • Miter Saw
    • From Fourmost Products, this allows you to saw larger styrene pieces at nearly any angle
    • Comes with its own saw, but will fit any Zona saw
    • Great for anything The Chopper cannot cut
    • Use big black paperclips to create guides
  • Miter Cut
    • From Fourmost Products, allows cutting styrene at nearly any angle
    • Similar to The Chopper, but with more angles available
    • Uses standard razor blades
    • Use big black paperclips to create guides (see picture)
  • Paper cutters
    • Extremely useful for slicing the super-thin .13mm styrene sheets that you cannot score and snap. I only use the .13 mm for making raised-panel greeblies, as the thickness is perfect for smaller scales.
    • Some paper cutters work on thin brass sheets as well.
  • Also, check out my Brass & Photo-Etch page, where I talk about a few other tools you might find interesting.

Making Circles

Now, at some point during scratch-building, you may need to make dials or circles for your models. This is where you have to have specialty tools to form the shape perfectly. I have 2 tools in my inventory to accomplish this. However, there are several out there that work just as well.

  • RP Toolz Big Punch set
    • punches go from 2mm to 4.5 mm
    • can make dials, rivets, bolt-heads, etc.
    • clear top allows you to center styrene sheets
  • Olfa compass circle cutter
    • cuts from 1/4 inch to 6 inches
    • use calipers to measure the length from needle tip to blade (this gives you the radius of the circle)
    • comes with a black rubber pivot point so the needle won't mar the surface
    • comes with extra blades

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