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Essential Tools for the Model Ship Builder

Nov 24, 2007
Before beginning to fashion the model, materials, tools and supplies must be collected. It is good practice to begin with only essential items, because these things have a habit of accumulating. The most useful items in the modeler's workshop are the Suppliers' Catalogs, lots of them. They reveal a wealth of information that is of untold value to the student.

Modeler's Tools and Their Uses

The tools listed are sufficient for the student modeler, with the exception of a mechanic's vice which is useful for holding small parts to be shaped. Some modelers prefer a carpenter's vice but I have never felt the need for one. The mechanic's vice provides more even pressure when gluing parts together, and for numerous other operations. Put a piece of cloth between the jaws to prevent injury to the finish of the object to be held.

Item 1. The fret saw is used to shape wood parts. Thick wood requires a coarser tooth blade, while fine tooth blades are more suitable for thin woods.

Item 2. The hand plane is an all purpose tool.

Item 3. The spokeshave is required to smooth down rough surfaces that are too rough for the plane.

Item 4. Snips are used for cutting wire and snipping the heads off pins and brads used for fastening parts to the hull.

Item 5. Two or more rules are needed; a large one for general use and a fine 1/32nd scale for deck houses and other small parts.

Item 6. Dividers, equipped with a marking pencil, have many uses. They can be set in position to gauge the waterline, or used to mark off circular or semi-circular items where required.

Item 7. The Collet Drill. This little tool is one of most useful in the whole kit. It is only four inches long and has a chuck at both ends to take drills from 1/32nd to 1/8th. It is operated with one hand, leaving the other free to hold the object. For reaming out holes in blocks and deadeyes; for drilling through the masts, and for pilot holes for pins and screws, it has no equal.

Item 8. The all purpose knife called a linoleum cutter. For model work in general it serves many purposes. It has spare blades in the handle which can be kept razor sharp with an oil stone. It is excellent for cutting thin woods by scoring on both sides and will leave a clean precision edge when broken off.

Item 9. Self locking tweezers are very useful for stropping blocks and deadeyes; for fishing rope ends in among the rigging and for tying knots in awkward places.

Item 10. Two sizes of screwdrivers are needed; a medium size for rough work like hull assembly, and a small one for such tiny screws as those that fasten the chain plates to the hull.

Item 11. A soldering iron is needed for metal bands on the yards and spars.

Item 12. A set of small files: round, half round, flat and square come in handy for fashioning smallwares.

Item 13. At least four small clamps with about two inch opening will be needed to hold small items together while the glue is drying.

Item 14. Chisels are handy tools about the hull; a one inch size and a one-quarter inch size will be sufficient.

Item 15. A pair of scissors with a fine point is needed to get in among the rigging to cut the ends off close; also for trimming ratlines.

Item 16. The Little Giant plane is a very important item. The subject of carving knives occupies many pages in the suppliers' catalog and elsewhere, but these little planes are more convenient than any of them for smoothing the contours of the hull. One of them has two separate radiuses to get into difficult places; the other is flat. Both use discarded razor blades.

Now you have the tools required, it is time to commence building a model ship!
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