Scalpel: A very fine and very sharp knife used for cutting and trimming components. A scalpel can be used to cut items from sprues, trim away excess flash, trim off sprue runner feed points, scrape excess dried glue from a join or to open up holes. The blades are replaceable and come in a variety of shapes; with a selection of straight, curved and hooked blades you can deal with most things. A number of manufacturers make scalpels but the most common brand to be found in shops is the Swann-Morton.
Craft Knife: A sturdier general purpose knife that can tackle heavy duty jobs. Like the scalpel, craft knives can have a selection of replaceable blades. One of the more popular varieties is the Stanley knife.
Clippers: Used mainly for basic preparation work. Basic or electricians clippers are far better than knives for removing plastic components from sprues as they don't put any stress on the components. There are a variety of clippers available for a number of different jobs.
Tweezers: Tweezers are very useful for handling and placing small parts and transfers. Self-closing and normal are the two basic types available and they come in various shapes and sizes. Self-closing tweezers hold themselves closed and only open when pressure is applied to the handles.
Abrasive Paper: Abrasive paper is good for achieving a very smooth finish to a surface. There are many different types and grades available and it's good to have a variety for different tasks. Stockists include hardware stores and car repair shops.
Files: Fine metal working files and needle files are ideal for modelmaking. They are used to clean up components and remove excess material. Rough pattern files tend to leave marks in plastic, so it's best to use the finest grade you can get away with.
Cutting Mat: Available in various sizes from model, craft and art shops, cutting mats provide a surface to work on that is smooth and stable and enables the modeller to use knives safely without ruining the surface beneath. Most varieties are 'self-healing' which means they don't leave evidence of where a cut has been made.
Model Compound: There are lots of different types of modelling compound available from a number of manufacturers, with the most common being straight-from-the-tube form or two-part.
One of the best known putties is Milliput which, like epoxy adhesive, comes in two parts, one of which is a hardener and which has to be mixed well, in equal quantities. It is of a consistency similar to Plasticine, and while it can be carved and sculpted in the same way, it also sets rock hard at the end. When fully hardened, it can be painted, sanded, filed, drilled, tapped, screwed, etc. It is very popular with modellers who make their own figures, as are other compounds such as Kneadatite and Fimo.
Fillers such as Revell Plasto, Humbrol Model Filler and again Milliput, can be used to repair surfaces that may be damaged or defective.
Adhesive What type of adhesive to use depends upon what type of kit you are building. For example, polystyrene cement is normally used on injection moulded kits, super glue or two-part epoxy adhesive is used on resin and white metal kits and vac formed kits often use a combination of polystyrene cement, super glue and two-part epoxy adhesive.
Polystyrene Cement works by melting the plastic it touches, mixing with it to form a secure bond when dry.
One problem with polystyrene cement is that it can be quite thick, oozing out of joins and spoiling the surface detail of the model. Excess cement can also melt a component too much, resulting in distortion. Sometimes the adhesive can be 'stringy', in other words, leaving a fine string of glue as the applicator moves away from where the cement was being applied. This can break at any moment across your model, again damaging the detail. Even so, used with care it is still an extremely useful adhesive.
Its thickness can actually be an advantage, as it has a degree of gap-filling potential. Cement that oozes out from a join line can also be advantageous because it can be cut off when dry with a scalpel to leave a neat, strong join.
Liquid Poly is a polystyrene cement but it is very thin. Applied by brush, it can be used on plastic kits but tends not to give a reliable join. However, it proves very useful on plastic card when building vac formed kits or scratchbuilds and conversions.
Cyanoacrylate super glue actually started off as a development for the space programme! There are two varieties of super glue: One has a thin consistency and tends to run, the other is thicker and stays where you put it. Both provide almost immediate strong bonding between most materials, human skin included, so please exercise great care when using it. It's particularly good when used on resin and white metal kits.
Two-part Epoxy comes in two separate tubes, one being the adhesive and the other being the hardener. The two have to be mixed in equal quantities to form a very powerful adhesive paste. Some brands take a while to dry whilst others can set within minutes. The problem with a long drying time is keeping parts together in the desired position while the adhesive sets.
Clear Glue is a general-purpose adhesive that's useful for bonding cards and papers. There are plenty of manufacturers out there producing this type of adhesive, such as Bostik and UHU.
PVA Wood Glue is a white glue that can be diluted in water. It has the advantage of drying clear. It's great for scenic work such as fixing scatter, sands, gravel and foliage. Drying can take a while but once set it is very strong.