Rusty Hopper's Modeler's Corner

The Well-equipped Home Shop

Content Tools

Hello again. I recently was talking with someone who wants to start making models, which got me thinking about what somebody needs in the way of tools to equip a shop for making models and scales. Some of the items I came up with you might not agree with, while others should be on every model builder's list of 'must-haves.'

First and foremost is safety. It's important to know your limits and your skills - expand upon them wisely. Just because it is your home shop does not mean you should not be careful. Safety glasses are a must and earplugs are not a bad idea, either.

Basic tools include items such as measuring instruments, calipers, micrometers, flat rules and squares. Hand tools are also important: flat, round and bastard files, alien wrenches (it is easier to locate small bolts with these types of heads), hand wrenches and screwdrivers.

You'll also want different grits of sheet sandpaper, along with an air or electric grinder, a hacksaw or some type of cut-off saw.

A welder is a great item in a shop, as is a set of torches for brazing. Solder often works fine and holds well, but remember to clean all surfaces thoroughly before soldering.

A drill press is important, and it can sometimes be used for light milling work. It is harder to hold tight tolerances with a drill press versus a vertical milling machine, but it can be done.

That said, a vertical milling machine is an ideal tool for your home shop. They come in many different sizes and price ranges, and used ones can be found. Likewise, used horizontal milling machines can sometimes be purchased at a reasonable cost, and these can be very useful. A shaper is also very handy, and they can also be found used.

However, the one thing you need and will use the most is a metal lathe. The size of what you can build is limited only by the size of lathe you have. Some model builders I know have a small chuck they insert into the chuck of a big lathe when they're building model parts.

Once you've purchased any of these items, you'll need to learn how to use them properly. Lindsay Publications (815-935-5353) or Village Press (800-447-7367) have books on the care and use of milling machines, shapers and lathes. Along these same lines are sources for videos, such as Campbell Tool Co. (937-882-6716) or Bay-Corn (888-452-6942).

I recommend starting with something easy to build until you have a feel for your tools before progressing to more time-consuming models.

This month's tip for model and scale parts sources:

Tom Stuart sells a 1/6-scale 25 HP Fairbanks Type N. Call (503) 362-7107.

Otto Gas Engine Works supplies piston rings and small model parts. Call (410) 398-7340.

These tips are for your thoughts only, and your fuel lines may vary. - Rusty Hopper

Have a tip you think other model makers should know? Send it to Rusty Hopper in care of Gas Engine Magazine, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265, or e-mail: