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Hobby Tools & Accessories for Gamers & Figure Painters.

RUPERT MITCHELL Hobby Tips

This hobby guide looks at some of the tools & accessories wargamers and toy soldier figure painters may find useful. It is principally aimed at those into painting and converting 1/72 and 1/32 scale plastic figures and terrain although hopefully those into other scales & materials and aspects of the hobby may also pick up the odd  tip. I have previously uploaded a popular guide on Painting Toy Soldiers and this is intended as a sort of partner guide to that taking in some of the necessary activity that goes on around the painting side of things.                                            
Please excuse the rather worn look of some of the equipment I have shown in the pictures. They are all my own and get well used! Some of these items can be dangerous so always follow manufacturers guidelines, use sensibly and with care. The guide is aimed at adult hobbyists not children. I first wrote a version of this guide around 2007 and uploaded it to ebay. This version has been updated and was uploaded in 2018.

 

Clippers

These are ideal for removing plastic figures from their sprues and for trimming up metal castings. You can also use a craft knife as well or instead. I use two pairs of clippers - one for plastic and one for metal. The latter tend to get worn down and notched much more quickly and thus become less good for clipping plastic hence keeping two separate pairs.

Craft Knife & Cutting Mat

There are many types of craft knife available ranging in style, quality and price accordingly. I generally mostly use a standard Stanley knife. Ideal for cutting paper card and plastic building card for modelling and for triming figures. It is important to make sure the blade is always sharp as your knife will become less effective and more likely to cause an accident if it becomes blunt or damaged. The self-healing cutting mat provides an ideal safe surface upon which to cut, make sure it rests upon a flat, stable and solid surface.

 

Steel Rule

Used both for measurement and for cutting & scribing. I bought one in a stationery store that had sloping sides and a grooved centre enabling a safe and secure grip to be achieved whilst cutting.  The more common flat ones can be bought in DIY stores in a variety of lengths and measurement styles.

Files

The set of five small modelling files I have came as a free gift with the DeAgostini Battle Games in Middle Earth partwork series released a while back now. I use them mainly for filing metal figures. The five different sorts are broad flat file / rounded tapering file / round file / square file and triangular file. All shaped for helping you access different types of surface.

Pin Vice

This is essentially a small handheld drill. Ideal for making holes in figure for inserting brass rod flagpoles for example. They usually come with a small selection of different size drill bits enabling you to adjust the size of the hole you make as desired. Make sure you explore the vice as spare drill bits and other sized chucks can be stored in the handle.

Carpenter's Awl

I picked mine up from the local DIY store and mainly use it as a scribe for scoring plastic card (I find scoring and bending to break better than knife work). But it can also be used as a less sophisticated way of making or enlarging holes and openings, including figure ring-hands, than the above mentioned pin vice and round file. Picking off unwanted old paint from figures is another use for this tool.

Tweezers

Generally I use two different sorts of tweezers. One is the more traditional sort when you apply pressure to close the ends together. The other sort does the reverse with pressure applied to open the ends. The latter are great for holding things steady while you work or for securing odd shaped pieces or figures whilst they dry if painted etc...

 

 

Clamps

When having a think about this guide I realised that I actually use quite a few different tools and accessories to secure various different things together whilst the glue sets. I already mentioned the tweezers above but I also use mini-angle clamps, elastic bands, tape, string and clothes pegs depending on the job in hand. The crocodile clip stuck into a heavy metal cube to the right of the photo was originally a place card holder at a function I attended. They make good figure holders whilst paint is drying etc...

Pliers

There are many different types of pliers. I use two or three mainly longer nose styles for two main purposes. Bending pieces to shape and for cutting brass rod. Take care to use the un-bevelled sections of the jaws if you wish to avoid making a pattern you did not want!

Scissors

Mainly used for cutting thread and paper to size on things like flags and banners. But larger pairs can be used to cut thin plastic card. 

Compasses

Obviously ideal if you need to draw out circles. The point can also be useful to make or enlarge holes and as a marking scribe if you don't have some of the other tools mentioned earlier.

Screwdrivers

Come in all shapes and sizes. I use a smallish one with a flat end (I think the other sort with a crossed end are called Phillips but don't know what the single edge term is) mainly for making or enlarging holes in plastic card. These holes generally tend to be for securing the lugs of cavalry or monster figures onto their plastic card bases. Your craft knife or clippers make a good job of tidying up any unwanted frayed edges to the hole the screwdriver made.

 

Hammer (!)

It may not be easy to tell from the photo but this little chap is only about 15cm long. Sometimes a touch of "persuasion" can be required on a hobby project and this hammer allows for just that.

Magnifying Glass

Some painters and modellers never use them and others swear by them. Available in a range of styles including handheld, freestanding and ones built into craft lamps.

Cocktail Sticks

As well as being great multi-use materials for all sorts of modelling projects these are ideal for carefully applying small amounts of glue or paint.

Old Plastic Tubs etc...

I have a collection of stackable old butter tubs with lids that are ideal for storing materials such as flock, sand, kitty litter rocks and static. They safely hold these materials when not in use and are great for dipping figures into when basing them. Ice cream tubs likewise. Old jam jars make good water pots for brushes.

Kitchen Roll

Can be used as a modelling material to make model canvass for tents for example when coated with PVA but I mainly find myself using it to mop up paint, glue and coffee spills on my work station! It's ability to absorb liquid also comes in handy if I have applied too watery an application of paint and I need to carefully remove it. Can be done quite precisely if you roll a piece into a point.

Glues

I use several different types of glue but mainly Revell Contacta, SuperGlue and PVA glue. The former is great for securely bonding harder model kit type plastic, Super glue does metal and some plastic well whilst the latter is ideal for applying flock, static grass, lichen, sand, gravel etc to figure bases and terrain. It also has uses to stiffen paper banners and other paper forms such as the tenting example mention under the Kitchen Roll section above. Other useful glues include Balsa cement and Bostick all purpose adhesive. Care is needed with glue for several reasons including the fumes some emit and the damage it can do if it gets where it shouldn't. Some projects can also be derailed by side effects some glues have that you did not expect. I moved onto SuperGlue for sticking my figures onto wargames bases after the previous sort warped the bases when it dried much to my chagrin. It can however leave a white residue so use it too with care.

Hot Glue Gun

I recently invested in one of these and found it very useful for the mass basing of my 1/32 scale plastic Roman armies. It also did a good job sticking on their shields. Care is needed to choose the correct type of glue (ie for plastic to plastic) and to get the correct temperature whilst not burning yourself.

Fillers and Puttys

For various different modelling projects I use Games Workshop's Greenstuff, Milliput, DIY Filler and Humbrol Model Filler. Greenstuff and Milliput are good for sculpting and converting your figures whilst the others do their intended job of filling any gaps as well as adding texture where needed. Plastercine is very versatile and easy to use and is a favourite material of mine even though it does not set hard. This can be remedied to some extent by coating it in PVA or Superglue which at least seals the surface. Making moulds for your own figures is a whole different world in it's own right but I'll just add here that some of these materials have applications for this as well.


Brass Rod

Available from Model shops and some DIY stores this comes in various lengths and thicknesses. I use it mainly for flagpoles and weapons like arrows and spears. Can be cut to size using clippers.

String & Cotton

As with many things useful for several purposes ranging from holding things tight whilst gluing to making bow strings and banners.

Polystyrene Hot Wire Cutter

Using polystyrene insulation board tiles can be a great way to add both depth and height as well as impressive landscape features to your wargames table top. The battery powered cutters can ease the process of making these whilst creating less mess than a knife. Take care with the hot wire and ventilate the fumes properly etc...

Soldering Iron

Here's another item that care with heat and fumes is required. Can come in handy when needing to apply heat to bond or mark plastic etc...

Bases

Bespoke bases in the exact size you want can be expensive and/or hard to find - particularly for 1/32 scale gamers. Never fear as there are plenty of good products that can be put to your purposes. For example plastic building card, coins, washers, cds and coasters. Like plastic building card MDF board also has many uses for basing and modelling.

Where to buy these things I have covered above?

eBay / Games Workshop / Model Shops / DIY Stores / Stationers / Supermarkets / Pound Shops etc...

Well that is just about all I can think of for now. When I branched out into 1/32 scale gaming my tool kit widened as more robust "surgery" was at times required when converting these larger figures. So if you are just into 1/72 scale or 28mm figures and wonder what on earth some things above could be used for 1/32 scale is probably your answer.

There are some tools that I know other folk use such as hobby saws and small Dremmel type power tools but I have no personal experience of these so have left them out. 

No doubt I will return to this guide from time to time to update and edit. Hope it was of some use.



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