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Basic Tools Copyright (C) Cody Kwok


I have a lot of tools listed in my tools page, you don't need all those, but I think the bold fonted items below are minimum. If you have some spare cash visit my tools page and pick a few more items that are ranked 4 or 5. A Dremel in particular would be nice.

If you are absolutely sure you want to progress with the hobby, I recommend shelving out and get everything here, since you settle on your techniques faster. However most people are either strapped of cash, or not sure whether the hobby is for them. In particular some of the items such as airbrushes and compressors tends to be relatively expensive.
While an airbrush is not absolutely necessary, painting a level surface with a brush gets more difficult with larger surfaces, especially before you master the techniques. It can get frustrating and kill your initial zeal for the hobby. Also, time is more important than money, and while it is trivial and takes relatively little time to get a level surface with airbrush, it's more time consuming with a brush. The same is true for shading. Finally you may be able to sell the equipment should you decide not to continue on these auction sites.

  • For washing the kit, you need dish washing detergent and preferrably with Jiff or Soft Scrub, and a used toothbrush.
  • For surface preparation, you need (hardware stores usually have better prices)
    • an Xacto knife with #11 blade - they have one with rubber grip and hexagonal end. I love it, especially when it won't roll down the desk and stab your thighs.
    • sand paper (#220/#400/#600)
    • a pair of scissors
    • tweezers
    • pliers (those for cutting wires will do) or sprue cutter such as those by Xuron.
    • files (buy a regular set and a needle set)
    • a wire brush to clean the files
    • putty (automotive glazing putty or squadron green putty would do)
    • super glue (e.g. Zap-a-Gap)
    • epoxy glue (e.g. Z-poxy; don't buy the Devcon twin tube stuff, they never work)
    • aluminum wire (1/16" - some art stores sell them as armature wires)
    • pin vise + drill bits (1/16")
    • dust mask - those for filtering very fine dust, e.g. those manufactured by 3M.

  • For priming, you need a primer. Gray automotive primers work, see the priming section for more details.
  • For painting, you need
    • Paints - my paints section lists a few alternatives; I recommend you pick the nontoxic ones, and get the associated thinner.
    • respirators - a "gas mask" that would filter out organic vapor. The twin cartridges ones offers the best protection. If you work with non-toxic paint this is not absolutely necessary, but still recommended. Buy the ones that filters out organic vapor. Ketone.com has competitve prices.
    • Droppers - use them to transfer thinners. You can also use them for paints, but they'rerather difficult to clean. I use old paint brushes to transfer paint.
    • Paint brushes - a pointed brush of size 0,1 and flat of size 2 would usually do if you plan to own an airbrush. Otherwise you may need to get a few larger flat brushes (size 4/6)
    • paper towels
    • airbrush - you don't absolutely need this, but it's highly recommended if you want a decent finish with the least frustrations. For an explanation of different airbursh types and terms, see the article on Airbrush Talk first.
      I have worked with these:
      • the cheapo Aztek 1000 something (< $30) that comes with a can and it gets the job done and is probably sold in your local art/modeling shops, but I quickly grew out of it.
        • Pro: Cheap
        • Cons: Cheap - sprays are not fine, cans don't last long and are expensive

      • Paasche-H single action (~$30-40), which isn't that much more expensive and remained useful for a while. Its spray pattern however is not too fine due to the external mix. While the H is more sophiscated than the above and works very well for basecoating, the sprays are still not fine and single action can be limiting eventually.

    • The VL double action (~$40-50) is also a cheap alternative, but it's a bit hard to clean compared with the later ones I use.
    • I've heard good things about the Badger Athems and 150 is a very popular brush.
    • Finally, the Iwata Eclipse BCS (~$75) is a brush I've kept on using for a long time, until it's replaced by the superior Eclispe CS ($89).
    • I have used the Aztek 4709 which is the top of Testor's line, but don't like it at all and the double action feels very flaky, sold it.
    • Sotar 20/20 from Badger is a low-end detailer airbrush that can spray hairline patterns. It's quite temperamental, but it works in general (approx. $150).
    • The Iwata Custom Micron is a superb brush - besides allowing extremely fine spray, it has many superior design choices. It comes at a hefty price (>$250) though.
    Remember, the cheaper the airbrush the faster you'll outgrow it. See the airbrush section for more details.
    In general, I prefer gravity feed (easier cleaning) and double action (more control).
  • Compressor - If you get an airbrush you'll need an air source.
    • The compressed air cans doesn't last long and will cost a lot in the long run, but it doesn't hurt if you're just trying out. I used up my first can and never bought another one.
    • You can buy an air tank (~$20-30) and fill it with air in a nearby gas station too.
    • CO2 tanks are also great alternative as I used to use one. The gas supply is very quiet (i.e. no noise at all), moisture free and lasts a while (provided you build a few hours each week) Refills are cheap, about $6-$8, and you only need to do it every quarter of a year or so. You can buy them from beer brewers or fire supplies ranging from $40-80 depending on size, you'd also need a regular for about $30.
    • If you want to buy a real compressor, these are things to look out for, besides price:
      • automatic on/off - many cheaper compressors requires manually turning the supply of air on and off, such as with a foot switch. It bothers me, but they're cheaper. The auto ones tends to come with an airtank (which almost guarentees steady air flow below).
      • steady air flow - "pulsation" may occur in some piston compressor resulting in uneven spraying pressure. Avoid.
      • noise - if you don't own a basement you probably don't want the compressor to be too loud. Compressors are in general very loud equipments, but silent ones comes at a cost.
      • pressure deliverable - You don't need that much pressure for model kits, I don't remember every spraying above 30PSI. Or 20.
      • filters - you need some sort of air filter for your compressor to filter out the dirt and moisture (moisture trap) from air. Some compressors come with them built in, others you can attach external filters.
      Some alternatives:
      • Sears variants - real compressors sold in department stores for home improvements. They are rather cheap and featureful, their main drawback is the noise. They can be had around $100-130.
      • Hobby compressors - there's usually a trade off between features and the price you paid. The lower end ones are usually either noisy or lacks an automatic on/off switch. The lower end ones are around $100 to as much as $400.
      • Mystery compressors - "Automist 2000" and "Airmaster" are these compact compressors that are quite featureful. You can do a web search on them. I've heard people say good things about them. They're in the $100-150 range. I've tried Automist 2000 and it works, except I don't like the manual on/off. They have since then upgrade the model I think.
      • Gunze compressors - they're popular in Asia, and are pretty low cost. I haven't read their specs and thus don't know how they perform, but they're supposed to be quiet and is pulse-free, since they use a magnetic vibration mechanism to generate air flow.
      Dixie art offers competitve prices and wide variety of choice on airbrush equipment (I'm not affiliated with them) I own a Silentaire T-20A and is very happy with it so far.

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