A Guide to a Beginners Toolbox
Greetings one and all. We have exciting times ahead of us with 9th edition just around the corner. New rules and models make it a great time to start getting into Warhammer 40K, or to return to the game if you have been away. But whether you’re returning or just getting started, it’s important to have the right tools for the job.
For some time I’ve been seeing people wanting to know what are some good tools for modeling, and so I asked my twitter followers if they’d like me to write a hobby setup guide to give some people a little advice. They wanted to see it, so here we are.
As a side note, this is simply my honest opinion and I have not been sponsored by any of the companies whose tools I recommend.
What is a toolbox?
The old saying “a craftsman is only as good as his tools” holds true here. It’s best to have a range of tools to hand when building and painting your models. Clippers, files, scalpels, glues, a pin drill with drill bits, brushes and paints are all tools that should form the core of your toolbox, and with all of these together it should mean there’s no model you can’t handle. Sure there are other tools that are nice to have, such as a mould line remover, sculpting tools, painting handles, tape, saws and the like, but I’m not going to be covering them today as i don’t feel these are essential items in a beginners toolbox.
If you're reading this and thinking “that's a lot of stuff” and “that sounds expensive” then rest assured, there are loads of good value and good quality tools out there that won’t break the bank.
So, let's start building a toolbox together.
The first tool I pick up when I’m going to be building models is a pair of clippers. Over the years I’ve used a range of clippers from a range of different companies, and while some have been impressive, others have broken far too quickly or left my hand covered in blisters due to poor ergonomically designed handles. I now use a simple pair of Modelcraft Side Cutters. At only £7 these are cheap, well designed, comfortable to use, and even after 7 years of heavy use they’ve maintained their sharpness and springness.
Depending on what i’m building this is usually either the second or third tool I pick up. After you’ve clipped your model parts out you’ll find that you might have some mould lines or little bits that just need to be filed down to make it flush with the rest of the model. This is where files come into the picture. I suggest a set of needle files like the Tooltime 10 piece Needle File Set. This set contains a number of different file shapes so you’re always guaranteed to have a file for the job you need, and at £6 you are getting your money's worth.
Ok, so, I might have lied a little; this is normally the first tool I reach for when preparing to build models. You’ve got to cut the cellophane wrapping with something right?
An essential tool, scalpels can be used to cut off bits of flash or scape away mould lines, along with adding battle damage and a 1000 other tasks. They really are the MVP of your toolbox (I guess they should really be called the MVT, but I digress). There are loads of scalpel designs out there with different handles, ways to insert the blades, and dozens of different blade types. I'm going to recommend two scalpels here based on how you insert the blade.
My preferred scalpel is a Modelcraft PKN9210 (rolls of the tongue, right?) which costs around £7 and comes with 5 blades. I find this one easy to use, comfortable to hold and has a wide range of blades, and in my opinion the 10A is perfect for model making. The blades of this scalpel clip on to the end of the handle and although I find it easy to do, people with shaky hands might find it harder.
With that in mind I would also recommend the Wedo 78 722 Hobby Knife as the insert point for the blades is more of a slot which you can then tighten to secure the blade. This style might be more appropriate for people out there that are less sure about the clip in style of scalpel. It also offers a rounded shaped handle and an anti-slip grip zone making it extremely comfortable to use. It’s cheap too at only £6 and it also comes with a couple of replacement blades.
Unless you're using the push and play models, you’ll want glue. What glue you need though depends on what you're gluing. Personally, for gluing plastic models I tend to stick to Citadel Plastic Glue (no that pun wasn’t on purpose). The needle applicator makes gluing specific parts of models easier. But If you’re not gluing just plastic, you’ll want super glue.
There are soooo many brands of super glue and they all mostly do the same job in the same way. I would suggest something like Loctite Super Glue and a pack of Loctite Super Glue Gel, which give you a couple of seconds of wingle room when applied to get the join exactly how you want it.
A small handheld drill and bits are one of the most useful tools you can own. Not only can you use it to add battle damage to your models, but it will also allow you to undertake pinning on models if necessary. I can’t praise the Precision Pin Vise Hobby Drill enough. It's a great set and
one I've bought every time I make a toolbox for a friend. This is slightly more expensive at £9, but with one pin drill and 49 drills bits you’ll have a bit for nearly any size task.
Once the building is done it’s time to paint, and for that you need brushes. I covered a set of brushes a few weeks ago and I’m going to recommend them again here. The 8 Brushes: Model and Miniature Painting set is perfect for beginners as they are cheap, good quality set that come in a range of sizes.
However, if you want a more comprehensive set then I can heartily recommend the Miniature Painting Kit which comes with 13 brushes of different sizes and shapes, and comes in a handy carry-case to store them in. These are the ones I bought my partner and she’s been more than impressed by them. (Humm, I should review those too.)
Right, the last part and the most tricky. There are loads of companies that sell paints and I simply cannot give a list of paint you should or should not buy as that will depend on the colour scheme you’ve chosen for your models. I would in this case suggest doing some research on the paints you’ll need for your project.
I can however suggest my top three companies to buy paints from, which are:
Citadel Games Workshop own brand - These might be easier for new starters as official guides always use these paints, making it easier to get a colour match. Also with the new range of contrast paints they are very forgiving to new painters.
Vallejo - This company has a massive range of paint colours and types. With an extensive collection of technical paints they really are great if you’re looking to bring your painting to the next level. (Or if you want dropper bottles).
Army painter - Having not had a huge amount of experience with these paints I’m hesitant to put these on this list, but with the many people I’ve spoken to who seem to enjoy using them, I do know that they have a massive range of colours and tend to be on the slightly cheaper side compared to some other companies. (Though in fairness, most of these paints cost roughly the same.)
Now you have a well-equipped toolbox you need a box to store it in. A simple cardboard box will do to contain all of your tools and paints, but if you want to be organised then I find that a fishing tackle box is great for this. But any basic toolbox, art box or tackle box will do the job and they can be found quite easily online, or in hardware stores or model shops for example.
Now that you have all the tools and paints you need, all that’s left is to grab an old glass or mug for water and an old plate or a kitchen tile to mix and water your paints down. You could even go the extra mile and get yourself a wet pallet which will keep your paints usable longer, and there are guides on how to easily make one at home available online.
And so, this has been my guide for a beginner toolbox. Overall this would set you back roughly £40, however, it is important to bear in mind that many of these tools can be found cheaper elsewhere, and that any toolbox is an investment. After all, there isn’t much point in buying a pack of models if you don’t have the tools to build and paint them with.
I hope this helps everyone out there. Next week I’ll see about getting that brush review up.