This is a beginners hobby guide to some of the tools and accessories wargamers and figure painters may find useful. It is principally aimed at those into painting 1/72 and 1/32 scale plastic figures and terrain, Games Workshop products and historical wargames troops rather than military modellers / model figure painters although there may be some points of note for these folk too.
My interest is both personal and professional as I have been modelling and painting figures and scenery as a hobby for more than 15 years now and I also run the Drum & Flag eBay toy soldier shop as my business. I have previously uploaded a popular guide on Painting Toy Soldiers and this is intended as a partner guide to that taking in some of the necessary activity that goes on around the painting side of things.
First submitted: 28/11/09. Last updated 04/12/11
Note: Some of these items can be dangerous so always follow manufacturers guidelines, use sensibly and with care.
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.
Used both for measurement and for cutting. I bought one in a Rymans stationery store recently 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.
The set of five small modelling files I have came as a free gift with the DeAgostini Battle Games in Middle Earth partwork series. 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.
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.
I picked mine up from the local branch of Wickes 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 than the above mentioned pin vice and round file. Picking off unwanted old paint from figures is another use for this tool.
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...
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 mention the tweezers above but I also use mini-angle clamps, elastic bands, tape, string and clothes pegs depending on the job in hand.
There are many differnt 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 unbevelled sections of the jaws if you wish to avoid making a pattern you did not want!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
I use several different types of glue but mainly SuperGlue and PVA glue. The former is great for securely bonding plastic, metal etc...The latter is great 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, polystyrene cement for Airfix type kits 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.
Fillers and Puttys
For various different modelling projects I use Games Workshop's Greentuff, 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.
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.
Where to buy these things?
eBay / Games Workshop / Model Shops / DIY Stores / Stationers / Supermarkets etc...
Well that is just about all I can think of for now. No doubt I will return from time to time to update and edit. Hope it was of some use.