What's in your toolbox? (literally and figuratively)

Part 1. I think the next semester of my education will have me building more models / doing more shop work. I’m starting to put together a small toolbox to leave in the studio and I’m curious what others who do shop work keep on hand.

So far I’ve got a small assortment of pliers, tin snips, an assortment of abrasives, some foam shaping tools, box of latex gloves and a filtration mask. What else should I consider?

Part 2. What shop processes should I have in my skill “toolbox”? ie: What should all designers know how to do? (I know that this is a bit of a loaded question, but I am interested in the responses.)

Ill let others chime in on the specifics, but my biggest piece of advise is to know maintenance of all the equipment you will use. Know how to keep your tools sharp and clean. More importantly than functioning better, they will be safer to use. I cant tell you how many times I saw someone shoving all their weight into a table saw because they needed to change the blade.

snap off knives and extra blades
good metal calipers

Buy and learn how to use this for foamcor modeling:

A good Dremel set.

A Leatherman tool.

I’ve got 30 years of collecting tools. My favorite is a 25-year-old Milwakee right angle grinder, great for metal work but somewhat irrelevant for model making. But if I had to prioritize a list:

  1. Cutting tools - #11 xacto, foamcore xacto mentioned above, a good scissors, needlework scissors, hack saw blades, maybe a tin snips

  2. Measuring tools/straight edges - 48" ruler, 24" ruler, 12" ruler, machinist rule, caliper, 45/45/90 triangles, 30/60/90 triangles, circle templates

  3. Shaping tools - sand paper, lots of sand paper, rasps, jeweler’s files, file set

  4. Basic hand tools - hammer, screw driver set, pliers, open-ended wrench, box wrench set, rachet set

  5. Small power tools - printer/copier, cordless drill (and bits), Dremel set, palm sander

  6. Large power tools - band saw, belt sander, drill press

That’s about the order I would do. YMMV

Can’t hurt to have a good multi-tool as well :slight_smile:

I loved my Dremel when it came to foam modeling but make sure to wear your mask and safety glasses because it kicks up a ton of dust, much more so than manual sanding. If you have access to power outlets at your workstation I would go for a corded Dremel over a cordless, that way you won’t have to wait for batteries to charge. Otherwise I’d suggest getting a second battery to have on hand.

Clamps of various sizes are incredibly handy. I have a set of some tiny QuikGrip clamps that I used all the time and a set of bigger ones for 1:1 scale furniture projects and stuff. There’s nothing more frustrating than going to glue two pieces of a model together then realizing you have no way of holding them together while the glue sets besides sitting there holding them together yourself.

No matter what you put in your toolbox, label EVERYTHING permanently with your name or some other distinguishing mark. My first Dremel got stolen in studio and I never got it back despite telling all the faculty and students to keep an eye out for it and searching my studio space, apartment and car for days. For other, smaller things like hand tools all your classmates will have very similar ones and unless you have yours marked they’ll likely get mixed up with everyone else’s.

No toolbox here. But I do haul a computer carrying case from time to time. Inside, lately an HP 8560w workstation (best CAD solution I could find) and all its accessories.

Knowing people who know how to make things I can’t make.

Find small custom fab shops in your city/town and make friends with them. Metal fab, plastic fab, even a cabinet shop. They all have a diverse skillset and like to talk shop. It’s amazing what you can learn from a guy who spent 20 years working a lathe.

I think a great skill to have is knowing how to make paper/cardboard /foamcore/ models (adding some clay on top helps too). It’s super cheap it’s really fast and you can have a 3D form sitting in front of you in an afternoon.

I also find I’m more expressive when working with softer materials, there’s more room to finesse designs. Working soft before going to wood or metal or plastics is important. To me it’s the equivalent of sketching before rendering.

Best tool? Always have a a few pencils Hb, B. 2b.

Besides the standard items, double sided taped is and has been a great tool for me