Getting the Right Tools for the job

Discussion in 'Tutorials' started by dwesrist, Apr 16, 2008.

  1. dwesrist

    dwesrist Guest

    Since I knew nothing about papercrafting when I started my first model and really had no intention of doing papercrafting as a hobby, I never bothered to do more than pick up a metal straightedge, some PVA glue, and an Exacto knife and spare blades. The first model was Terry Pratchett's Unseen University, which was nearly 100 pages of card to cut and well over a thousand pieces. I loved it and learned a bit from working on it.

    I rapidly learned the necessity for a good workspace, good lighting, and routine blade changes. But I still stuck to cardboard as my cutting surface, since it was cheap, I had ready access to a lot of it, and money was tight.

    Now that I've been sucked into papercrafting as a hobby, I'd like to get the right tools for the job before starting my next projects. I've read the tutorials here and know to buy 100 count Excel #11 blades. I also read up on cutting, rolling, and folding techniques and have some practical experience from my first model. But I know enough to know what I have no clue about, so I figured I'd ask the experts.

    What would you recommend for a handle (I currently have a locking sleeve Exacto metal blade which I actually like)?

    What would you recommend for a light source / magnifier for a desktop surface?

    What would you recommend for a cutting surface?

    I've done some looking around on places like Widget Supply, but figured I'd get some practical advice before dropping the dime.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated, especially if you could explain why you are recommending a certain product. And don't be afraid to 'dumb things down.' I'm completely new to the hobby and am willing to learn whatever you all might be willing to offer!

  2. BARX2

    BARX2 Member

    Glad you're enjoying card modeling. It really is a fascinating, relaxing hobby. I use the Xacto X2000 knife with the rubber handle. You release the blade by unscrewing the two halves of the handle. I will say this connection is kind of temperamental and sometimes the knife needs to be screwed in again while working. But for all that I love the feel and heft of the knife in my hand so I'll continue using it - with Excel #11 blades. I use a Fiskars self-healing cutting pad and Tombow Mono-Aqua glue.

  3. greenelf1967

    greenelf1967 Member

    you most definatley need a self healing cutting board to work on, i picked up a A4 and A3 cutting boards off of ebay for a couple of pounds about 2 years ago and they still look brand new even though i've made about 100+models in that time with them. Also i personally use scapels (like the one a chiropodist would use on your feet),i have about 5-6 different blades for them i started using this because the nearest craft shop to me is about 40 miles away.
  4. greenelf1967

    greenelf1967 Member

    oh and by the way, i hate the xacto types of knifes, the blades seem to come loose and fall out where as a scapel the blade is solid and cannot move.
  5. Soaring

    Soaring Middle School Student

    Sigh, USE SCISSORS. Sorry :D Scissors will take you a long way...
  6. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    If you like the handle you have, stay with it. A self-healing cutting mat is a must, but there is no absolute "best" kind....just what works for you. I personally think any cutting surface greater than A-4 (or US letter) size is overkill. I find my big problem is trying to find where I left the darn thing, so "best" for me is ving two or three cheap cutting mats rather than one expensive one. Put your money into the lighting system. I prefer Ott lights (daylight type), but that might be snobbery on my part. Any decent desk lamp with a 100-watt equivalent daylight type fluorescent bulb should work. I'm not sure if the magnifying glass attachment isn't more hassle than they are worth....mine gets in the way more than anything else. You might consider flip-up type magnifying lens glasses. A transparent acrylic straight edge (about 12 inches long) helps a lot for making long, straight cuts. And, although hobby knives/scalpels have their place, I find myself using scissors more often. I recommend having a selection of them with different blade sizes, etc. One thing I won't give up is my set of Fiscars micro-tip scissors. The biggest problem with them is keeping them away from my wife....if you are married, bite the bullet and get a pair for her as well.
  7. Joao Angelo

    Joao Angelo New Member


    I'm very new at this, too.
    The only advice I can give you is in regard to magnifiers.
    I have to wear spectacles (glasses in the US?), but mine only focus from about 50cm to infinity.
    I can't afford neither another pair for close work nor one of those big lenses with ligths, so I got myself one of those headgear magnifiers.
    It's surprisingly low tech, all in plastic including the lenses, and cost only 5,60 euros, but without it I wouldn't be able to do anything.
    The only problem with it is it has a very narrow depth of field, about 2 cm, so if I move my head too much I can get a bit queasy.
    One trick I've picked up is to blink and reopen my eyes looking above the magnifier lenses (not too much trouble, because they're only about 2 cm high) if I want to look for tools or materials.

  8. akremedy

    akremedy New Member

    What would you recommend for a handle (I currently have a locking sleeve Exacto metal blade which I actually like)?

    My favorite is the Helix retractable knife #28927. For some reason, the chisel-shaped blade seems to track better against my straight edge, it still cuts curves just fine, and truly seems sharper than any Xacto blades that I've tried. The replacement blades are (for me) impossible to find retail, but Helix USA is happy to sell direct...I recently ordered 100 for only a few dollars.

    What would you recommend for a light source / magnifier for a desktop surface?

    Ott-lite is great - worth every penny. That said, I rarely use mine as I build where/whenever I get a few minutes and don't generally have a lot of time to setup or move my workspace. I'd love to have their T8337R Ott-lite magnifier.

    What would you recommend for a cutting surface?

    I use an 8 1/2" x 12" Helix self-healing cutting mat. As far as I can tell, they're all about the same, and they're invaluable to making precision cuts and saving blades.

    Other items - invest in a decent pair of very fine scissors, a couple of good quality tweezers, and something that can be used for scoring and burnishing. Also, a Japanese screw punch is a real luxury. One last item - a set of good pencils for coloring edges is good to have.

  9. sakrison

    sakrison Member

    Dwesrist asks:
    What would you recommend for a handle

    Whatever feels most comfortable in your hand. I have an assortment of really old Exacto handles that work for me.

    What would you recommend for a light source / magnifier for a desktop surface?
    I have a fluorescent shop light over my workbench with "natural sunlight" tube. When I'm at a show, I use a a little clip-on, gooseneck halogen work lamp.

    What would you recommend for a cutting surface?
    Self-healing cutting mats seem to be the universal choice. I also have a 1x2-ft sheet of 3/16" glass on my work bench for use as a surface plate. Most of the time it's under my cutting mat.

    You didn't ask about:

    Scissors--again whatever fits your hand most comfortably. Buy quality scissors ($8-$10/pair at Hobby Lobby, less with HL's coupons) and replace them once or twice a year. It's cheaper than having them sharpened. I have several pair, some straight, some curved. I find that short scissors (about 3") work best for me. They are easier to control than 6" shears, and less expensive.

    Clamps -- Whatever works: hobby clamps, clothespins, hemostats (with the teeth ground smooth), lead weights, and, of course, fat fingers and paitience.

    Glue holder -- I use a shot glass turned upside down. (50 cents at a yard sale) It has a concave bottom to hold a small squirt of glue, and it's heavy enough to be stable. When I finish a model, I turn it over and fill it with . . .

    Single malt whisky -- kind of off topic; e-mail me if you want recommendations in this department

    Glue Syringes -- I've begun playing with glue syringes of various sizes. I have paper modeling friends who use nothing else, but I'm undecided. Useful in some situations.

    Polish-English Pocket Dictionary -- Found it at a yard sale. Comes in handy now and then for deciphering Polish instructions. It would be more useful if the Poles didn't have so darn many irregular verbs.

    A list of useful expletives -- Every kit should come with one, especially those with instructions in Polish. Unfortunately my Polish-English pocket dictionary doesn't include "*&^%$#@!"
    I have a solution for this: a) Attend Polish-Fest in Milwaukee. b) Find a guy who looks the right age to be a World War II veteran. c) Buy him a few beers. d) Ask him how he feels about Germans and Russians. e) Take notes.

    I hope that helps.
    No worries,
  10. logicman

    logicman Greybeard


    Thanks for these linguistics research tips. I could have done with them 50 years ago.:thumb:

  11. Harlique

    Harlique New Member

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