Art/craft stores or departments can be your go-to
Years of fabricating parts for racing things has forced me to look beyond obvious sources for useable tools and objects. I’ve taken to searching aisles of hobby, hardware and big box stores for items I might not have found in a hobby shop or online source. Similarly, look around and you’ll find useful hobby tools in other places that may present better solutions for your hobby needs.
I’ve been involved in various graphic art endeavors when not hobbying. That includes creating catalogs for an art supply store chain. Art supply stores (and some crafty stores) are a treasure trove of great hobby tools from brushes to paper to paint. One of the very best and most useful tools is a ruler. Yes, a stupid ruler.
Not a stupid ruler
The most precise and intricately measured ruler ever devised is sold by Schaedler. It is translucent, flexible and measured in both inches and metric. Inches are finely picked out in increments of 1/64″. Similarly, metric is picked out in 1/2 millimeter increments.
Over the years, I’ve worn out a few of these. No worries. Schaedler will send you a new one for a discounted price. You won’t need this service very often though. Maybe every 15 years or more.
Use this ruler for just a few days and you will wonder how you ever lived without it. So incredibly fine and accurate. A bargain at just under $27. This is a bargain for a ruler unmatched by anything else.
Tape that sticks– except when you want to remove it
Artist’s tape is designed to adhere to paper without tearing it upon removal. Available in multiple colors, it is useful for taping windscreens and other parts while waiting for glue to dry. Cut into small strips, it will not damage most anything while having very good sticktion. One roll will last you a very long time.
You can find artist’s tape at art stores, most craft stores and online. A 1″ wide roll will do you just fine. I prefer white.
Cut precisely without cutting your desk
Along with a good hobby knife and artist’s tape, a good cutting board is essential. Available in a few colors, they will provide you a stable, waterproof and self-healing surface that will last you literally forever. I have several sizes but I’ve found that the 8.5″x12″ size works for my 1/43 scale model building.
It’s almost impossible to hurt these mats. I especially like to use them while applying decals. The wet decals can sit on the mat after soaking until loosened from the backing paper. No harm will befall the mat or your work surface. Available from any art supply/craft store or online.
Cut straight and true
Cutting tape or decals precisely requires the right tools. A hobby knife, a supply of new blades and a straightedge is your tools of choice. I use a clear plastic 12″ 30º/60º/90º triangle as a straightedge with excellent results. You can look through the triangle so you can see exactly where you are cutting. Aluminum triangles are also available if you prefer. With a little practice you’ll be cutting the straightest lines evah in history. You can find a selection here.
Top quality paint brushes for every use
Let me put it this way: hobby shop paint brushes are generally junk. They’re crude and not made to last. Cheap in every sense of the word. Art store to the rescue! This is truly the one time you need to use an art store source above all else.
I’ve been using synthetic sable brushes for as long as I can remember. For no other reason than the fact that these are available in super incredibly fine varieties with sharp pointed tips. Perfect for small scale modeling as well as for larger model building. In my selection of brushes are sizes 2, 3/0 and 5/0 for large down to tiny areas to paint. Also one very large 1/2″ flat brush used ONLY for covering wide areas of older decal sheets with liquid decal film solution. I use a worn out 5/0 ONLY for Micro Krystal Clear. 5/0 brushes will wear out quicker than others because there’s only a tiny amount of brush there! By quicker I mean just a few years. I usually buy two at a time so that I have an extra for when the bristles become hairy or the point goes away. This is also a good time for a visit to an art store so you can cherry-pick the brushes for good points.
I’ve used these brushes with acrylic and solvent-based paints. Keep them very clean and cover the bristles with the little clear tube the brushes come with. I tend to use the brushes found here.
Maybe the best modeling tool of all
They only cost $2 or less but the all-natural wood toothpick (cocktail stick to you fancy folks) is a multi-use hobby tool. Mix epoxy and then apply tiny amounts to tiny spots. Position decals without ripping them. Hold parts in position while glue dries. Gently prod parts into place. Plus many more uses you’ll think up.
I found large boxes of 800 at Target stores in the USA. I’ll use up two of those boxes a year.
Funny thing though. I almost never put one in my mouth for anything.
Think of your model-building hobby as art. Then you’ll realize that obtaining hobby tools from other places than hobby shops is sometimes preferable.