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You don't need power tools to become an accomplished ship modeler, but they can sure make life easier and make possible some things you couldn't otherwise do. If your goal in modeling is to build only kits, pretty much as they come out of the box, then you probably don't really need any power tools (except maybe a Dremel). If you decide to kit bash or build from scratch, and particularly if you want to mill your own lumber, then you're likely going to want as many power tools as you can afford.
Preac Table SawFor me, the most useful of all my tools is my miniature table saw. I own a Preac. There's a new saw on the market made by Jim Byrnes (commonly called the Jim Saw). I've heard good reports of that saw and both brands are priced similarly. One essential accessory I bought with my Preac was the sliding table. I use this for almost all cross cuts and highly recommend it. In fact, it would be a mistake to buy the saw without a sliding table.
The Preac saw has a maximum depth of cut of 1/4" although you can do 1/2" if you can flip the stock over and cut the opposite side. The blade does not tilt. The blade is raised and lowered by loosening a set screw and manually moving the blade to the desired height. Another available accessory is a precision blade elevating screw, which I also recommend. It allows you to raise and lower the blade more accurately. The blades are called slitting saws (used typically on milling machines for cutting metal). The teeth have no set and they cut very smoothly. Blades are available in sizes from 0.010 in.to 0.057 in. I typically keep a 0.025 in. blade in the saw for general work. The various widths can be useful in making gratings.
Among the other accessories I don't particularly recommend are the tapering attachment, the auxiliary tilting table, and the fence adjustment screw. I just don't think they are useful enough or work well enough to be worth the cost.
The Preac thickness sander is another highly useful tool. Even if you're not milling your own lumber, it's not uncommon to find that you need a piece that's thinner than what you have on hand. The sander is also useful for making sure that several pieces of stock are all exactly the same thickness. Jim Byrnes also makes a thickness sander. The Byrnes sander looks like it would be easier to adjust and it has a stronger motor. The Preac can be a bit under-powered with wider stock. Both are priced about the same.
I own two bandsaws - a little 9-inch Delta and a larger, 14-inch Jet. The small bandsaw is surprisingly useful. The very first thing I did when I got the 9-inch saw was to buy a decent, 1/8 in. Timberwolf blade (available from Suffolk Machinery). The blade makes a great difference in the performance of the saw. Since the Delta came out, Ryobi has released a 9-inch saw as well. After taking a look at it, I'd likely buy that saw instead of the Delta. It has more features, includes a rip fence, and costs even less (about $87 at Home Depot).
I use the little saw for making curved cuts of all kinds. It will also resaw boards up to about 3/4-inch thick. I work a lot with poplar that I buy at places like Home Depot or Lowes. It's a great modeling wood and fairly inexpensive. I can easily cut thin planks from wide boards with the bandsaw. A few passes through the thickness sander removes the saw marks, then they can be cut to final size on the Preac table saw.
Jet 14-inch BandsawThe larger bandsaw is very useful for resawing from wider stock. I bought the 14-inch saw before I bought the 9-inch saw and, of course, used it then for everything. That often required me to change blades depending on the type cut I needed to make. Now that I have the 9-inch saw, I can leave a wider, resaw blade in the large saw and use the little 9-inch with an 1/8-inch blade for curved cuts.
I'm very happy with the Jet saw and I'm of the opinion that bigger is almost always better in a bandsaw. You can cut small stuff with a big saw, but you can't cut big stuff on a small one. Still, the 14-inch is maybe a bit large and expensive (about $600) for most modelers. Ryobi has recently released a very nice 10-inch saw for around $200 that looks very impressive. I imagine it would handle most tasks for ship modeling. With either saw, I always recommend replacing the stock blade with a Timberwolf blade.
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Last Updated: January 22, 2005