Cheap Useful Tools for Builders

last updated: Tuesday, Dec 11, 2012, 12:48 pm, PST

Cheap, useful tools and supplies to help hobbyists.

These are tools that I have found helpful in modeling. My goodies are born of necessity and low cost. The best deal is to find the pieces yourself and buy them, but if you can't get hold of them elsewhere, e-mail me and we'll work out some sort of deal. Be aware, however, that the shipping pretty much doubles the cost. The way to beat that unfortunate reality is to buy a bunch. Hey! Go all out! Spend ten bucks!

glass mixing rods

Glass Paint Mixing Rods.

The last paint stirrer you'll ever want. The smooth annealed glass cleans off with a single wipe from a solvent-moistened paper towel. Lasts forever. The rods in the bag (3mm diameter x 125mm long) are perfect for hobby paints, 2 oz jars, and so on. The larger rod (5mm x 200mm) is perfect for quart cans. Purchase at scientific or laboratory supply houses. US$2.50 / 3 rods.

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disposable pipettes

Disposable Polyethylene Pipettes.

For transferring paints, thinners, etc. Sure, they're called disposable, but I clean 'em and reuse them until they are too weird to use any more. Impervious to all solvents. They can be used for approximate measurement, as well — two pinches of part A and two pinches of part B, for example — certainly good enough for two-part primers. Purchase at scientific or laboratory supply houses. US$1.50 / 5 pcs.

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decanting with pipette

Pipettes can be used for decanting spray paint.

Check out the page I dedicated to Decanting Spray paint.

With the Tamiya synthetic lacquers, the easiest and cleanest way to decant spray paints for airbrush use is to fit a tube to the protruding tip of the spray nozzle and spray into a new container. The decanted lacquer boils at room temperature so be careful handling it; open only in an area where it's OK to spill paint everywhere! Including all over yourself!

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paint mixing cups

Paint Mixing Cups.

Perfect for mixing small paint batches. Not for lacquer; these disposable styrene cups will dissolve. The hexagonal shape makes for drip-free pouring into your airbrush paint cup. Purchase at scientific or laboratory supply houses. US$0.50 / 10 cups. The shipping is more expensive than the cups so bulk up your order!

These little styrene cups also make excellent paint test swatches. They are uniform in material and texture and are easy to stack/store.

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small parts jig

Small Parts Jig.

If you are like me, you always have a bunch of tiny parts to assemble or paint. I never seem to have enough fixtures for holding these little pieces. Here is a very handy and simple jig that costs pennies to make. The screw is a 6-32 x 2" brass FHMS and the washer is the biggest brass washer in the bins at my local hardware store. Not for sale — make your own.

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using small parts jig

Small Parts Jig, in use.

Here is the mini jig holding Ford GT40 front suspension components getting the Alclad II treatment.

I was going to solder the pieces of the jig together, but I couldn't dig out my kazillion watt American Beauty iron so I used Zap-A-Gap CA, which seems to do the job just fine. The alligator clip was crimped around the screw threads, then thin CA was flowed in.

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liquid dispensers

Solvent Squeeze Dispensers.

Misery is needing some solvent and having all your bottles tightly capped or, even worse, in one of those human-proof containers that require 3 hands and a note from your mother to open. Here you can see (l - r) lacquer thinner, acrylic paint cleaner, and drugstore rubbing alcohol. The acrylic paint cleaner is 70% water with a drop or two of dishwashingdetergent and 30% Windex. These handy bottles make color changes in the airbrush a doddle. Having different shaped bottles makes it almost impossible to grab the wrong solvent by mistake.

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pipette rack
pipette rack back pipette rack monolith

Pipette Rack.

Depending on the angle, it looks like the missile bay in a nuclear submarine or the monolith from 2001, A Space Odyssey. This handy rack was assembled from styrene sheet and tubing. The length of the rack was designed to be the exact width of a standard American paper towel, which you can see folded and in place in the drip slot. Not for sale — make your own.

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UHU tac
UHU tac in use

UHU tac.

Get this stuff at your local stationary store. I tracked this stuff down after reading the praises for Blu Tac in Tamiya Model Magazine Intl. It holds tiny parts for painting; it can be used for odd masking shores. Reusable even after covered in paint by kneading until tacky again. Doesn't appear to leave any residue. Highly recommended.

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