We all have our favorite little hobby hacks and tools that get the job done. There are people who swear by hobby clippers that were forged by gnomes in Narnia, while others will only use a particular glue made from Unicorn hooves. Regardless of what brand you purchase or where it comes from, there are several tools that I highly recommend everyone have at their home workspace- whether you are diehard converter or simply trying to get stuff table top ready ASAP. Note, we are not covering paint or paint brushes here because A) I suck at painting and B) everyone is ridiculously opinionatied about the subject.
Tweezers. Get the fancy kind…but not too fancy. You are going to want to get a quality pair that has both a narrow and wide tips with grippy edges. Don’t spend too much money because they are going to get covered glue and crud over time. These are great for moving smaller bits around, setting decals, and a host of other little tasks that suddenly crop up.
A “precision” or “craft” knife is going to be used every time you sit down to work on assembling a model. I have three knives, each with a specific purpose. These are something you do want to splurge on, as a crappy knife just has blades that break or get dull and cheaper knives may not have replaceable blades. The X-acto brand has always been reliable and is generally averaged price. My daily go-to knife is used for cutting models from sprue or trimming bits to clean them up. This knife is also used for poking and prodding fidgety pieces in to position that my stubby fingers can’t easily manage. I also use this same knife for the random hobby chores that occur spontaneously, like opening a new box, cleaning out the dry paint from a pot of paint, or hacking aways at models that are being converted. There are a bunch of replacement blades I keep for this knife. My second knife is used anytime I am working with Green Stuff or dealing with a messy situation like cleaning up excess glue or texture paint. The blade on this one is dull and that is perfectly fine because this is used more as a molding tool rather than a cutting tool. The third and most expensive knife I have is used purely for trimming decals from their sheets. This knife has a very sharp blade and a wider handle that is easier to hold allowing me to have as much precision as possible when cutting out those tiny shoulder pad decals. A super sharp blade is game changing when cutting out decals and has made the process way more efficient.
Everyone should have a Citadel Moldline Remover tool. Yes…That overpriced little metal thing that seems totally unnecessary when you have an hobby knife or three (see above). I was a non-believer for the longest time despite a local GW shop manager constantly singing the praising of this supposedly necessary tool. Each time I would see the price, I simply shook my head “no”. But the thing is, it IS worth every penny. It does its namesake perfectly. And unlike knives it does not split your thumb open if it skips off the model or cuts too deeply into the plastic as was often the case for me.
A “self-healing” cutting mat will become the ONLY surface you will ever use during the assembly process once you see how freaking useful they are. Not only do they provide a smooth surface to cut on, but the measurements and guidelines printed on the mats allow for precise cuts and making consistent angles. Trimming decals becomes far more simple when using a mat as the blade of your knife can glide easily through the mat. Plus the color of the mat contrasts perfectly with the common gray plastic of most models. And almost every mat has a reverse side that can be used with an alternative color to offer a various contrast with different colors. Plus, the reverse side extends the life of your mat, giving you a “new” side as you are bound leave glue stains or spatter paint on the first side you start using.
Fine detail cutters or clippers are a basic staple that everyone gets along with their first paint brush. But there are some things to know that make a legit difference in a good pair vs an amazing pair. You want a pair of clippers with handles that are large enough for your hand. Many of the hobby/paint starter sets come with Citadel brand name clippers, but they are in fact not the same as the ones sold individually. The “beginner” clippers that come in the box sets can have small handles and lead to hand cramps and can be a pain in the ass to use. Clippers should also be super sharp for obvious reasons, and have a narrow cutting head to get into every spruce easily and allow for the closest cut. An nice rubber handle that is ergonomic is a big plus too. Head to a hobby store and just compare what you have been using for years now to what is on the shelves there. You might not have realized just how inadequate the tool that you have been using for such a long time is!
Get a hack saw. First of all of this is just one of the more badass looking things to have among the dainty tweezers and delicate clippers. These things are great for cutting through thicker parts of plastic and absolutely necessary when dealing with a giant chunk of Forgeworld resin. The real value comes when having to cut a perfectly straight edge that is consistent for the length of a model. Nothing does this better then a good, long-bladed hack saw. To cut the torsos of my Cadian-Catachan guard kitbashes and have a totally flat and level seam where the Cadian torso met the Catachan legs, I used the saw following the guidelines of a cutting mat. I could not have done this particular cut without a hack saw.
Glue, glue, and more glue. We need it. Each glue type has a purpose where substitute really is not effective. Games Workshop plastic glue is amazing for 90% of what you are going to do. But for glueing resin or anything that is not plastic, then super glue comes into play. From very thin brush-on super glue, to thick gel super glue, there is a crazy spectrum to choose from. I have had the most success with the gel super glues because they don’t run or drip down a model and potentially ruin details, they can be pin-point accurate when applying, and they instantly provide a bit of stick to hold a piece in place. Loctite Ultragel is my favorite of the pick. I also have on hand a thin, runny, super glue for other jobs where I do want the glue to seep into place rather than sit on top like with the gel. EVA glue, school, glue, Elmers glue, or whatever you want to call it has its place too for glueing things that do not need a super strong bond, where you might want to avoid any potential fogging that can form when superglue drys, or when applying grit and flock to a base. Several other glues are out there but they are not as necessary as the far more commonly used plastic and super glue.
There are still a bunch of tools ands things that I have and you likely should have in your kit too, but the above are the ones I use the most of. The next article will cover the more niche items that definitely should be considered if you are attempting one of the processes that they specialize in. Stay tuned!
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