Rusty Hopper’s Modeler’s Corner
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
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
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
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
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
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
I recommend starting with something easy to build until you have
a feel for your tools before progressing to more time-consuming
This month’s tip for model and scale parts sources:
Tom Stuart sells a 1/6-scale 25 HP Fairbanks Type N. Call (503)
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: email@example.com
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