I thought I might tell the world about a few of the tools I have found jolly useful. I have many tools, most of which I hardly ever use.

Three useful tools

Here we see three useful tools, at about life-size. The top one I use all the time. It is a dental tool, which I managed to beg off a dentist. For some reason, dentists do not use their various picks and scrapers until they are worn out, but instead they replace them while they are still perfectly useful for model making. I have several of these dental tools, and this one I use over 99% of the time, and all the others less than 1%. On one end, it has a small scalpel, with flattish sides, and a square back, as well as a very nice point. The handle is round in cross section. The other end is a scraper. It is flat on the inside and sharp edged, and convex on the outside. The two ends and handle give me just about every type of surface I might need for sculpting in putty. It is made out of very high quality metal that never rusts, and it is easy to clean off congealed glues, paints, and putty.

In the middle is the best kind of scalpel I know of. It has a cheap plastic handle, which is good because it is cheap, and because it has a nice amount of flexibility in it. I have broken one or two of these, but I don't cry, because they are cheap. Metal handles are expensive and uncomfortably solid. The shape of the blade is better than a straight blade for almost every application. A curved blade such as this is better for scraping, for cutting, and for making straight lines. A straight blade wears out at its point quickly, because the point is the part that ends up doing all the work.

The bottom tool is a tungsten carbide spike, placed in a handy pen-like container. This spike is sharp and hard enough to put a dent in just about anything. It is perfect for starting drill holes in awkward places, or marking rivet holes on small models. It can also be used like a pen to score lines in all sorts of surfaces.

Nail clippers

These are nail clippers, as available from many ordinary shops. They are excellent for removing plastic kit parts from sprues. They are good too for cutting short curves in things, and clipping down white metal figures. I have been using these for a quarter of a century, and know of nothing better for most of what I use them for. Their design means that they are handy to hold, and give me tremendous leverage with just thumb and finger. The lever on them is also perfect for opening small tins of paint.

Hole punch

This is a hole punch. It is designed for putting holes in belts, and can be bought from leather-working shops. It is not the most often-used of my tools, but does on occasion save the day. It can punch holes of various sizes in plastic card, but more usefully, the cores of the holes it punches are nice sharp-edged discs of material, and prove useful again and again.

pin vice

This is a pin vice. I bought it from an ordinary tool shop, along with a packet of drill bits of very small sizes - the very smallest of which wouldn't fit in this tool without fitting an improvised shim of some sort. A pin vice is a tiny drill-bit holder that you can grip in you fingertips, and it allows you to drill deftly, feeling what you are doing. With very fine drill bits I can put holes in 25mm scale shields for adding arrows shot into them. It is excellent for drilling out the barrels of guns, such as those on 1/72nd scale tanks. My main use for it so far has been for drilling through the hands of 25mm scale lead and plastic figures, so that I could put spears securely into them.

mastic gun

This is a mastic gun. I bought it for one pound from a shop called Everything's a Pound, and the same shop sold me the tubes of mastic to go in it, for a price I'll leave you to guess. This has become one of my most used tools of late, mainly for making scenery. I leave the nozzle off entirely for squeezing out large amounts of the mastic, and leave it uncut, at its finest, for squeezing out precise lines of the useful goo. In Canada, I'm told, mastic is called "caulking", and in France they call it "silicone". It is sold for sealing around the edges of windows and baths, and comes in two main types: silicone, and acrylic. Get the acrylic stuff. It is easier for a modeller to work with, and has the massive advantage that it can be painted over. In my scenery making section, you'll see several uses it is put to: for roads, rivers, craters, strengthening Linka plaster buildings, texturing bases and walls, and the mastic is a very good quick-setting glue that will hold most absorbent materials together well.

Loctite all-plastics glue

Until this stuff came out, super-glue was no good at gluing plastic to plastic. This is the only brand of glue I know that it seriously effective at gluing polythene to polythene, which is the sort of plastic used to make the softer and bendy toy soldiers. You'll notice that it comes with a felt-tip pen. You draw on the two surfaces to be joined with the pen (which smells just like an ordinary marker pen, but the marks it leaves are clear), and then you use the super-glue. I can report that it is very effective indeed, giving you a quick-setting and very strong join. There are a few drawbacks, however. The first is that it is very difficult to find. In Britain just about the only chain of shops that stocks it is B&Q. The second is that it is very expensive (in 2009 it is £5 per tube). The third is that the tube of glue you get is the smallest I have ever seen - just two grams! I was quite careful with mine and managed to glue together five packets of 1/72nd scale figures with one tube, and these were complicated figures with many parts. I have experimented with the pen, and have found that it does improve the hold of ordinary super-glue on plastics, but the results were not as good as when using the specialist super-glue. The pen lasts much longer than the tube of glue. If this becomes more widely available, and a fair bit cheaper, it could make quite a difference to the way people make models.