Inside Pulse 12

Life During War Games 11-04-2011

While I have already covered paint, there a couple other tools and supplies a nascent hobbyist should have in their toolkit. I am going to focus on a couple of items I use pretty heavily but this is by no means a definitive list. As usual, this is based on my own personal experience and your mileage may vary.

My personal X-Acto knife is the classic X-Acto No. 1. I picked it up 13 years ago, when I was a freshman in college, and it has not failed me yet. I like the X-Acto No. 1 for a couple reasons. First off, the handle is a nice thickness and weight, light but sturdy. My No. 1 has been through at least a hundred blades of different makes and models, but it still holds them nice and tight and shows no obvious signs of wear. The X-Acto No. 1 is $4.49 on Amazon, so price is not an issue. Just make sure you don’t lose the cap and always put it back on. I have a pretty gruesome scar on my thumb from misusing my No. 1, but it was my own damn fault.

I also own a knock-off hobby knife I bought when I misplaced my X-Acto. Purchased at Wal-Mart, this knife is serviceable but does not hold a candle to the reliability and sturdiness of the X-Acto. It does not hold blades as well and is prone to loosening on its own. I often encourage cheapness, but the price difference is negligible. Make sure you pick up the X-Acto.

Pin vices are a slightly more obscure tool, but one that is indispensable. Like the hobby knives, I own two. Yes, it is because I lost the first one for a time. My first is a 10 year old Games Workshop pin vice that I picked up at my first hobby shop, the lamented Hobbytown USA in Lawrence, KS. Mechanically simple, the old GW pin vice, or Hobby Drill, as they call it now, is pretty bulletproof. I have drilled out metal, plastic, and resin gun barrels, made pin holes for pinning models, and made bullet damage with the same pin vice and bits for a over a decade now. Games Workshop have a new Hobby Drill. It is a good looking piece and it matches their other hobby tools well. I have never used one, but it looks like a nice tool.

The other pin vice I own is a different animal. Instead of a wheel or bulb at the end of the handle, it has a small removable cap. Unscrewing the cap reveals a storage space for the bits, which removes the danger of losing your fiddly little drill bits. The chuck is not as good as the GW, nor is the functionality. Without a wheel to hold in your hand, it is hard to get a decent grip on the thing while drilling. That said, it was under $5. If you are a perfectionist, spring for the pricier GW model, for sure. The price to quality ratio is even enough that it might be worth the splurge. It only takes one butchered miniature to make you rethink cheap tools.

Glue is a contentious subject, one which I almost made its own column. The thing is, I don’t consider it a controversy. I love one specific glue above all others and it is difficult for me to imagine using any other. Loctite Super Glue, in the Longneck bottle, is my glue of choice. I have tried Jet and Testors and just about every other glue on the market, but I keep coming back to Loctite. It is not the fastest glue, but it is fast enough. I think the number one reason I swear by it is the viscosity, which is thin but not so thin that it squirts everywhere when the pieces being glued are pressed together. Plus, I can get it at Wal-Mart at 3AM, if I need to.

These are just a few of my favorite tools, but there are many more. I always have a toothbrush in my tool kit, as well as a tartar scraper. Toothpicks, round and flat, come in quite handy. For tanks and vehicles, I employ a #2 pencil. I could go on, but I have to save something for next week.