Setting up for modelling does not have to be an expensive exercise, just a few basic tools and a place to work will get you started. What I am showing here is my own work station, I have been purchasing tools and materials over a period of time and have now reached a stage where I can build a model quite comfortably without having to hunt down tools and equipment. Depending on the amount of free space you have available will determine how you set up your own work station. I bought a flat pack computer desk at less than $100, only took about half an hour to assemble it. It is ideal for my purpose as it is very sturdy, has draws and a good size top, I added a small 4 draw chest of draws to one end, gives me more bench space plus 4 more draws more storage. I am lucky enough to have a spare room in my home so I set up under a big window, ideal for natural light, but I also purchased a good quality fluro lamp on an adjustable stand, it also has a built in magnifier. I built a stand from inexpensive MDF to hold all my paints, mounted at the back of the desk it is out of the way but within arms reach when paints are needed. A good comfortable chair is important especially if you are going to spend hours at a time modelling, being on castors makes it very easy to move. A quality cutting mat of good size is a good asset, it prevents damage to your desk top plus an added bonus of a grid marked on the mat. Room to move is important to me, I don’t like clutter, I like to work on my model without having to spend time moving stuff out of the way just to clear a small spot to work.  

What I will try and demonstrate here are the basic and just a little bit above basic tools and materials you may need to build your model. The photo on the left shows model knives and a scalpel (extremely sharp), pin vice for holding the micro drill bits, tweezers of assorted sizes and types. A set of micro drill bits is important as there will be a lot of drilling required on WW1 aircraft. Try to keep your tools in good condition, they will perform better and last longer.

Next we have more essential tools, the hammer may look a little out of place but you will be surprised how handy it will be. Digital callipers are very useful when adding all that extra detail to your model, the needle files speak for themselves, and the cutter/trimmer will be invaluable. The compass has many uses in modelling, not used a lot but can be very useful.

A punch set is very handy when punching out instrument gauges, the small scissors are ideal for getting into tight spots and for trimming excess rigging lines. A selection of small pliers with different noses are very useful and the fingernail clippers are perfect for cutting small wire and fishing line. Some felt marking pens are good to have for a various reasons, the thick ones can be used for colouring the monofilament for rigging and the fine tipped pen for measuring marks.

This is a small selection of the products I have, you will need some of these to get started in modelling. Glue for plastic and super glue are most important, along with filler. Decal setting and decal softening solutions can make applying decals so much simpler but be careful, some decals react badly to these products. Masking tape, propelling pencil, clear coat, metallic paint plus enamel and acrylic paints are all important items to have.

Here are some more items that you might find useful. Micro masking tape, very narrow and very flexible, a great product. I purchased the small clamps on ebay for only a few dollars, they are super strong with moveable jaws and open to an inch wide, one of my better ebay finds. I use this particular brand and colour of monofilament, it makes great rigging for 1:32 scale. The invisible thread is used for inside the cockpit for frame bracing and also for control cables.

I have bagged and marked different size wire which I use for detailing, beside that is a selection of different size brass tube, I use a lot of brass tube so I always keep a good stock. The storage box in fron was made from MDF, it is very useful for keeping everything neat and tidy and easy to find. In the front row are a few empty jars, these are great for mixing and storing paint, they have a metal lid with a good seal.

Another storage container, this time it is a knife and fork holder out of a dishwasher. It hold a variety of bits and pieces. Along the front are tweezers and alligator clips, then oil paints, knives, pencils and brushes and a few more pliers. Beside it is a cup with more paint brushes, these I use for my fine detail painting.

And this is my actual working area, plenty of room, uncluttered and everything I have mentioned in this description is within arms reach. The only time I have to leave my bench when modelling is to use my airbrush. I have it set up in a special section of my garage along with my heat box and compressor, by spraying here it keeps the nasty fumes out of the house. I use a lot of enamel thinners and also lacquer thinners so a chemical respirator is critical, the lacquer thinners can be deadly.  

Micro drill bits are available in pre packed sets which usually range from 0.3mm up to 1.6mm, as with most things quality is determined by the price. I usually purchase my drill bits as bulk, the small cylinders hold 10 bits each, 0.2mm - 0.3mm - 0.4mm and 0.5mm are my most commonly used micro bits so I always keep a good supply handy.

Some more useful items. Wet and dry paper is available in a variety of grades from very coarse to ultra fine. The scalpel blades are excellent, extremely sharp and a box of 100 are not expensive. Cotton tips, or Q tips, depending on where you come from, are very handy little items, you will find a multitude of uses for them. The PE saw set is great, medium to fine blades are in the set and they fit into an xacto handle, another inexpensive but useful tool.

What I have explained here shows what I feel are necessary tools and products for modelling, you will, over time, find many tools that you will need to purchase, plus a lot of products, all designed to make modelling easier. By starting off with the basic equipment and then slowly building up your tool kit eases the initial burden, gives you more money to spend on models.

When buying tools, try to find items of good quality, they don’t have to be the ultimate, top of the range, gold plated diamond studded version, just a good quality middle of the road product, and with a little care and maintenance they will last for many years.

The way I have set up my work station suits me perfectly, it may not be to your liking as we all have our own individual tastes, but hopefully it has given you an insight to what is required when you take modelling seriously.   

As mentioned earlier, a very good quality mask with chemical filters is an essential piece of equipment when performing any type of spraying, especially when using enamels and more so lacquer. Lacquer thinner fumes can be fatal if inhaled, it attacks the nervous system and cause enormous amounts of damage inside the body which will ultimately lead to death. A good mask with top quality chemical filters is not cheap, but what price do you put on your health.

These fingernail files are very inexpensive but are very good for filing plastics. They are available from most beauty salons or chemist shops and are normally only a few dollars. The small metal file is a good quality very fine toothed file and is a great tool.

These protectors for hypodermic needles make an ideal source for small plastic tube which can be placed over small diameter wire and act as the rubber pipe connectors. CA holds them very well and paint will adhere to them perfectly. You can purchase the needles from your local vet clinic or if you know someone who works in the medical profession they could source them for you, they are very inexpensive.

Small Diameter Plastic Tube

This syringe is very useful for transferring paint from paint containers to your airbrush, or for dispensing thinners into the airbrush cup for mixing with the paint, also very handy for cleaning the airbrush, small amounts of thinners can be put into the airbrush cup and sprayed through for cleaning. You can purchase these syringes from any good Chemist (pharmacy, drug store) and are very inexpensive. Thinners will cause the rubber plunger to deteriorate pretty quickly but up to a dozen uses is possible.

A good compressor is essential if you are serious about air brushing. This particular compressor has a 1/6hp electric motor and runs an oil-less piston pump. The air is fed into a holding tank which eliminates the slight pulsating affect experienced from a direct pump compressor. This model is set to shut off at around 60psi and restart at around 40psi. The compressed air passes through a regulator which can be adjusted to suit your air brush needs, I spray at around 20 - 25psi, a water trap ensures nice dry air. This has a very quiet motor so does not interfere with anyone else. I purchased this compressor on ebay (Australia) and won the bid at $86.00, a good price for a brand new unused unit with warranty. There are many different brands, types and styles of compressor around, I find this to be very functional, light and quiet in operation, it suits my needs perfectly.

The airbrush I use is not an expensive item, I purchased this one off ebay for under $20 and it has performed beautifully, I have painted 19 models over a two year period so far using this brush and it has never faulted. It is a double action gravity feed and will go down to a fine pencil line width if need be, it is comfortable to hold and cleans very easy. All the work throughout this site has been painted using this air brush. There are a huge range of air brushes available today some demanding huge prices, but for the beginner or even a seasoned modeler this brush is perfect.

A good quality high performance compressor
Air Brush - there is no need to buy expensive
Modelling tools
Click any small picture for a larger image
Tools and equipment you may need to build your model aircraft