Essential Tools for Model Building

Model building is a hobby for both kids and adults. It has its advantages in developing children’s skills, a great way to spend your spare time, and even as an excellent hobby for collecting models.

However, before you start building your own model sets, you need to consider many factors. These factors include ensuring that you purchase quality models online, you have undivided commitment to try this new interest to maximize your money’s worth, and ensuring that you have the right and complete set of tools for model building.

A complete set of model building tools includes several materials and equipment that you need to invest in. After all, this investment will prove to be very useful and satisfying should your model-building hobby become long-term.

If you are a beginner in model building, you need to have the essential model-building tools.

  • Craft Knife
  • Abrasives
  • Tweezers
  • Flush cutter/side cutting pliers
  • Needle files/sanding sticks
  • Pin chuck and drills

What are the basics of model building?

Artist is correcting figurine's posture with his bare hands
Sculptor is giving stance, attitude to his figures made of metal wire in his workshop.

The basics of model building involve using some tools and equipment to combine different pieces to assemble a model kit into a finished product. This could be a fictional character or a replica of a real-world object. Depending on the model kit and the tools it comes with, you can also paint various components and apply stickers to make the project stand out.

In addition to that, you are going to need glues and adhesives along with other essential tools for cutting and applying the glue, etc. However, an important factor that needs consideration before you can start assembling a model kit is the size of the kit. You should find an area where you have a sufficient amount of space to carry out the assembling.

Finding the Perfect Model Kit

Partial view of young architect looking at self made building model
partial view of young architect looking at self made building model in office

When it comes to choosing a model kit, it is important that you keep in view your skill and expertise level. Some hobbyists tend to jump straight to the expert-level kits and end up damaging them while assembling. Therefore, it is important that you choose a model kit that interests you and matches your current skill set.

The reason is that at the beginning you need something simple to learn the basics. From the outside, model building might seem easy but it takes a lot of time and process. You have to focus and be patient while assembling the pieces as you might have to disassemble some parts several times until you find out where they actually belong.

What are the different types of model kits?


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There are several different types of model kits. You will come across boats, aircraft, cars, science-fiction, Gundam models, etc. The key is that you choose a kit that inspires you as a builder. Take your time to find out what triggers your interest. Once you have decided on the type, the next is considering the model materials.

Model kits are usually made from plastic, metal, resin, and wood. Each has its advantages and disadvantages but plastic models tend to be the most forgiving interms of assembly. Once you get a hang of model building, you can opt for wood, resin, and metal model kits that require more expertise.

Craft Knife

A sharp is one of the essential model-building tools to have. It is a versatile knife typically used for various functions, such as detaching parts from the sprue, tidying them up, and reshaping them. You may also use the knife to smoothen the filler.

The X-Acto type is the most common craft knife in the market.

Abrasives and Sanding Materials

Abrasive wheels on a white background
Abrasive wheels on a white background

In model building, you often need to smoothen surfaces and reshape other pieces to fit, tidy them up, or for your preference. For this, you need a set of sandpaper you can quickly get from a hardware store near you. However, models require a finer variety of sandpaper.

Note that sandpaper also differs in its coarseness, so you need to find the best-suited one for your models to avoid damage. For beginner model builders, it is recommended that you use the 400 and 800 grit.

The ‘Wet and Dry’ paper, typically called the ’emery’ paper or silicon carbide paper, is also recommended since it is of better quality than the other variety. It generates more consistency in results. Its results are longer in effectivity. It can also be used on metals and even on wet surfaces and to minimize airborne dust, which can be harmful when it accumulates inside your mode.


Eyebrow tweezers
Eyebrow tweezers. Isolation on a white background. Clipping path.

Model building can be very tricky and sometimes challenging since you often deal with small pieces. Tweezers come in very handy when you are working with small details in your model building. They make things a lot easier since they can reach through the tiniest nooks of your model pieces.

Tweezers are conveniently available in cosmetic and hardware stores. These are very cheap, as well. However, if you want to be particular with the type of tweezers you use, note that there are various types in the market. For model building, you can look for the modelers’ or engineers’ tweezers, which are more customized to your needs in model building. 

Other model builders collect different tweezers, mainly ranging in tip size to reach the smallest parts of model pieces.

These three, the craft knife, abrasives and sandpaper, and tweezers, are among the basic tools you need in elementary model building. However, as you progress, you may find more tools you need for specific purposes and more effective execution.

Here are some tools you can add to your model building toolkit for your convenience:

Flush Cutter

Although craft knives are used to detach small parts, this task can be quite a struggle and may often damage the parts when not done correctly. Flush cutters are often recommended for this specific task. It is a small pair of pliers for a more effective, easier, and faster removal of sprue parts.

When buying your flush cutter and other pliers, always opt for the quality ones as cheaper ones do not guarantee excellent results and can also get broken easily.

Needle Files/Sanding Sticks

Sterile endodontic
Macro picture of colored sterile endodontic files

Expect a lot of sanding and reshaping when model building. Of course, sandpaper can also do the job, but for smaller parts, needle files or sanding sticks are more efficient since they are smaller in size and can be used to sand the small corners of your model. These are useful in widening holes and shaping plastic.

Pin Chuck/Vise and Drills

You may also encounter the need to drill holes on your models as you build one, including the roofing. Pin chuck or pin vise does this job for you. It is a small hand-held drill that allows you to poke holes of different sizes on your models. However, it is only used in plastic.

Note that hand-held drills are preferred for plastic models instead of motor drills.

FAQs: Essential Tools for Model Building

Here is a look at some common questions asked about model building.

1. What tools do you need to build a model?

To build a model, you are going to need a working space and tools such as tweezers, adhesives, paints, sanding pads, blades, sprue nippers, etc. However, the application of these tools depends on the type of model kit you intend to build. Some manufacturers may prohibit using or application of certain materials. Therefore, make sure to go through the user’s manual.

2. Is Model Building a good hobby?

Yes, model building is a good hobby interms of skill development. Plus, it also helps an individual relax and spend time on something that inspires them. Infact, introverts find model building a great hobby as they get to spend some great time alone playing around with their creativity and skills to come up with something unique. 

3. Is Model building an expensive hobby?

Not necessarily. If you are just starting, you can purchase relatively less expensive model kits that will help you get over the basics. However, if you wish to opt for professional model kits, they can be slightly towards the pricey side.


There you go! Those are the standard tools you need in model building. As mentioned, you may need more tools as you advance to more complex models. To ensure that you complete your model-building toolkit, here is a checklist of the complete tools and equipment you need to secure.