I’ve been wanting to summarise the Essential Hobby Tools for Miniatures & Wargames Models for quite some time. It’s rather obvious what many of them are, but I’ve had some difficulty defining the structure in a way which is suitable to the various types of hobbyist and myriad of skill levels out there. Below I’ve summarised the list based on the order you are likely to pick your equipment up. In regard to skill level, I’ve summarised the various options within the sections below.
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The items below are the absolute, necessary components you need in your kit. As a complete beginner, they are the items you “must” buy first before you can even get started. For anyone stepping up in skill level, these are the items you want to upgrade first.
There are literally 2 things you simply cannot paint without, Paints and Brushes. Click the image above to see our breakdown of the best brushes you can buy. Put Simply, as a beginner, your Games Workshop or Army Painter brushes will do the job. With their unique shapes made for specific tasks, they do a lot of the work for you.
An intermediate step up from this would be getting the equivalent brushes from Creature Caster
When you are stepping up in skill, you want to aim for a natural hair Sable Brush set. Rosemary & Co offer some incredible brushes with their Series 22/33, arguably on par with the more Popular Winsor & Newton Series 7 (at only a third the price).
The most Critically Acclaimed brushes, however, are Raphael’s 8404 series. Even though they are not as popular as Winsor & Newton or Rosemary & Co. I’m yet to see a bad word said about them.
Obviously, in order to paint miniatures, you need paint. you could leave them unpainted. But then how would you know which miniatures are on which players side? It’s arguable that with Games Workshop models, at least that you get your forces in different coloured plastic now. Yet Games Workshop
There are various brands. Games Workshop’s Citadel paint range is by part the most popular and great for the beginner, especially as Games Workshop provide a slew of Tutorial videos showing how to use these paints, you just need to get the paints and copy. Other ranges such as Army Painter and Privateer Press are also great considerations. The most lauded range is Vallejo who provide various series of Miniature paints or Airbrush Equivalents.
With the exception of the few push fit models available, almost all miniature components will need to be glued together before, during or after painting them.
For Plastic Miniatures, you need should really use plastic glue. Super Glue will work with any kind of miniature so if you have a mix of plastic, resin and metal, just get some Super Glue as your first glue as it will work with anything.
Specifically for plastic miniatures, plastic glue is applied to both parts which are to be stuck together. This will melt the plastic slightly which will cause them to essentially fuse themselves. You can spend the earth on Games Workshop’s plastic glue which has the strangest (in my humble opinion), yet a rather common applicator spout. Or you can pick up any other solvent based plastic glue you like.
The Tamiya Extra Thin Cement is a more favourable option as it has an equivalent price and comes with a thin brush in the lid for applying it. It does, however, dry out pretty fast as it’s so thin. Some say you should dry-fit your piece and run this down the seam.
Metal or resin Miniatures require a type of superglue, this comes in many forms but the general 2 are liquid and gel. With the liquid version being quite runny it is used for small components. the gel is thicker and is best used for larger pieces.
PVA and wood glues aren’t necessarily used for miniatures themselves. However, as soon as it comes to basing your miniatures these are the types you would use. With Wood Glue giving a marginally stronger bond. Both are water-based and can be easily thinned or washed off before they start to dry
There are numerous hobby knife sets you can pick up with blades of all different sizes and shapes.
A hobby knife is the most necessary of all your cutting instruments, In later sections you will also come across sprue clippers and mould line removers. At its simplist level, the hobby knife can achieve all of thise tasks.
You only need 1 handle (I’ve had the same one for over 20 years) and simply replace the blades when you need to. This is used for many things, such as trimming the excess sprue parts from your model pieces and cutting out water slide transfers. It can also be used for removing mould lines. However, unless you have a feathery touch, you can end up taking away more plastic than you expect them to. This is
The below tools are for when you want to transition from a complete beginner and each in turn will either improve your modelling or hobbying skill or just make your life a lot easier.
Whilst, like paint,
I’ve seen some mind-blowing painters who do not use primer at all. (these are for display only, not for use in wargames).
Most companies who produce Miniatures and Wargames Model Paints will also create Rattle-Can Spray Primers in various colours. Games Workshop’s Citadel range is well known and you can also pick up Primers from Army painter & Privateer Press.
You can opt (if you don’t want to pay for the Miniature brand name cans) to pick up any plastic primer from the likes of Rustoleum or Krylon for half the price or less. These also come in a range of colours.
My personal preference, however, is Airbrush primer. It does not adhere to the models as well as rattle-can primers but it does leave a much smoother finish and clogs less detail. This also comes in a variety of colours from brands such as Vallejo and Badger’s
Quite a necessary piece of equipment. You can always remove models from sprues by flexing, ripping and tearing but this will leave chunks of plastic on your models or even worse, snap the parts. You can buy Games Workshop’s own Citadel Fine Detail Cutters or just pick up any fine cutters from a hardware store at a third of the price or even less. You just want something small with the flat edge and a long nose.
There are some more professional options on the market such as the Xuron 2175ET (which I bought and don’t really have a very flush cutting edge) or the Tamiya Cutters which leave an incredibly straight cut (for a price).
You can pick up tweezers anywhere for next to nothing, however, these options are normally soft metals and you will find the nose bends, long before you can get a good grip.
If you want to pay more money just for the sake of it, you can get some wargames branded tools, but you really are paying for the name. There’s nothing wrong with wanting all of your tools to look cool and have a similar aesthetic.
I do however suggest that if you are paying more for tools like tweezers you check out companies like Knippex or C.K Tools for some professional long-lasting kit used in Electronics. These items will last for years if not for your entire modelling career.
There are multiple types of tweezers you can pick up. There’s your grip type. You can get the more common ones that you hold closed. A much better option in most cases is the reverse of this where they are closed and you press to open them. These ones will keep a hold of the item until you press to let go. Much better for modelling.
Then you need to look at the tip, most commonly you will want some long needle-nose or point-top tweezers for precision and a set of slant-tip tweezers (like the Citadel ones) for holding things like transfer paper.
Finally, don’t underestimate the use of forceps, especially useful if you start to pin components for airbrushing. As you can clamp the pin to hold the item with enough distance to spray.
An activity which marks the difference between a
Get a Pin Vice, to drill out those barrels in the very least and actually show the depth within them. Don’t believe me? Just post a picture somewhere online, of any model without the barrels drilled out and at least one person will hunt down that picture and shout “DRILL YOUR BARRELS!”.
Another good use of a Pin Vice is drilling holes for pinning your components. Whether this is to securely attach weighty metal components and make sure the super glue holds, or just to put pins in to mount them to cork as you paint.
There aren’t (as far as I’m aware) any highly recommended Pin Vice’s out there. Although I’ve seen a few with quick change drill bits. They look quite cool.
Ok, so as I said, you can use hobby knife for removing mould lines. you just need to be careful as they are sharp enough to easily shave down a curved surface to a flat edge.
A better option, specifically for this task is a mould line remover.
Instead of a surgically sharp blade, a mould line remover, like Games Workshop’s Citadel Mould Line remover has a metal 90-degree edge which is just right for scraping the lines off. Taking off these lines will give a much better final look to your painted mini. You can always just search online for Mould Line remover for a cheaper alternative to Games Workshop’s product.
A step up from this is a Seam Scraper. MicroMark is the most lauded brand. Although, this is only available in the US. A search for seam scraper online will find you some alternatives in other countries. A seam scraper is the best of both worlds between Hobby Knife and Mould Line remover. It tapers to a fine point to get into those hard to reach places unlike a mould line remover and it is not a surgically sharp blade like a hobby knife. Meaning it can remove those pesky lines without as much risk of flattening an edge.
Sanding, even with sandpaper is really useful when working with miniatures.
If you want to take your mould line removal to the next level or even clean up some of the edges where parts have been glued together and get a perfectly smooth join. There’s nothing better than sanding and polishing sticks.
One of the more popular brands is Squadron. Which are great sanding sticks but the size of them makes them more useful for scale models than miniatures.
The better option (IMHO) is the flory mini sanding and polishing mini sticks from the UK (pictured above), which are exactly the size you need for miniatures.
When working with resin or metal miniatures, sanding won’t get you very far. A better option for removing those nasty bumps and lines are modelling files.
Honestly, you can pick up a full set of hobby files for next to nothing and these are perfect for the beginner.
At an intermediate or advanced level, there are some specialist brands who do higher quality sets. But for the highest level, you want to be looking for a jewellers quality set. With good care and attention,
Good lighting really is a key requirement for painting, but it’s lower down on this list because no matter how many people tell you this it will always be one of the last things a hobbyist buys. You can start with natural daylight then a simple set-up with a couple (that’s right, a couple) of lamps.
For a proper setup, you want to upgrade and to get some bright daylight bulbs.
You can make your own light arch over your hobby space.
Finally, there are dedicated hobby lamps which offer the perfect lighting set-up
Advanced tools are optional and only necessary for the true enthusiast hobbyists.
When you are finally ready for painting some of the finest lines, magnification helps, it’s not necessary, but it helps.
There are multiple options here. you can buy a simple magnification stand which will hold your parts and have a magnifying glass, however, this is normally only one level of magnification.
Another option is a magnifying lamp which can both illuminate the mini and magnify it. Again, these are typically only one level of magnification, but some are adjustable.
The best option is the head-mounted magnifier with various levels of magnification
Using an airbrush is not an advanced technique, but it is certainly more of an advanced tool requiring maintenance a lot of peripheral items to go along with it
An airbrush set up is not difficult to get started with. Check out our guide for the best beginner airbrush where we show you the simplest kit you can buy to get you started. You just need a basic compressor with a tank, which you can get of Amazon or eBay. And that will come with a free basic airbrush.
Sculpting is not really for everyone, and, for this reason, it goes into its own specialist category. I know many incredible painters who are terrible at sculpting and never do it. I know many incredible sculptors who are terrible at painting. Some are incredible at both (I am so jealous of those people).
You can start your journey with a simple metal sculpting toolset. Games Workshop does their own Citadel range of 3 basic tools.
You can extend this range with various metal sculpting
Beyond that, a variety of brands make numerous different silicon sculpting toolsets featuring various shapes and sizes for smoothing out and shaping your creations.
You can also pick up a set of Sculpting Styluses too for your poking and prodding needs.
Essential Hobby Tools for Miniatures & Wargames Model – Final Thoughts
And that’s the list. What did you think, did I miss anything? Next we’ll take a look at the essential consumables. As You expect there will be some crossover with this article but it’s worth knowing the essential kit you’ll need to have alongside your tools.
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