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Power Tools


Micro Mark Disk Sander
There are a number of smaller power tools that can be very useful. The 10-inch disk sander I own is from Micro Mark. Unfortunately, it no longer seems to be available. One advantage to this sander is its slow speed. It turns about 400 rpm (speed is variable). Disk sanders made for full-size woodworking, such as the Delta, turn at about 5,000 rpm. The slower speed makes it a bit easier to avoid burning the wood and you can even sand plastic. I owned, at one time, a Delta combination 4-inch disk and upright belt sander. It was adequate as a disk sander (although a bit small) but the belt sander was pretty useless. The edges of the belt curl up so it doesn't really sand flat. And it just turns too fast. I'm much happier with the Micro Mark sander.

In addition to shaping wood, I also use the disk sander for shaping brass. I mount thin brass to scrap wood using double-sided tape. I shape the wood and the brass at the same time. Once finished, the brass can be removed by soaking in acetone or lacquer thinner.


MicroLux Drill Press
A drill press performs a lot of drilling operations that would be difficult to do as well or accurately by hand. My first ship modeling drill press was a Dremel tool mounted to a drill press stand. Not too bad a solution if you have a spare Dremel tool (but too difficult to get in and out of the stand if you need the tool for other uses). Changing drill bits can be a bit awkward but overall, it's workable.

I decided eventually to buy a Micro Mark drill press. This tool comes with a Jacobs chuck so it's much easier to change bits. The speed can be adjusted by removing the top of the housing and moving the belt to different pulleys. It's a bit of trouble to do and I've found I never bother but just leave it on the highest speed all the time. Micro Mark has recently come out with a new variable speed model that looks pretty nice for not a lot more money. Probably would be my choice now.

I also own a full-size drill press that I use from time to time. It's particularly useful for tapering spars (although I've done that with a hand-held drill as well). A large drill press is not a tool I'd go buy just for ship modeling, but since I own it, I make use of it. I also sometimes use the MicroLux drill press as a makeshift lathe. I can chuck small dowels into the drill press and shape them with files pretty effectively.


Proxxon Planer
The Proxxon Planer, shown here,was received as a gift. It's quite an expensive tool, so although it was way down on my list of nice-to-have tools, I was very happy to get it. It is very useful indeed. The Preac thickness sander is great for small stuff, but can be awfully slow on wider stock. The planer is quite powerful and can really take out saw marks from the bandsaw in a hurry as well as thicknessing wood. The minimum thickness it can plane is 3/32" and I've discovered that on soft wood (like basswood) the planer can leave indentations from the roller that pulls the stock through the planer. So it won't completely replace the thickness sander. But if you were thicknessing a lot of frame blanks, I can imagine you'd really appreciate having this planer.

Other Tools

I own a terrific, 10-inch Ryobi table saw (BT3000SX) that is very useful for cutting large stock into modeling size lumber. One advantage a bandsaw has over a table saw for this purpose is that the bandsaw blade is thinner, which means less stock becoming sawdust. But the table saw is often more accurate and faster and, with a good blade, won't require running the stock thru the thickness sander or planer. For making square cuts (such as for baseboards) or cutting very long boards into workable sizes, the table saw is a better choice. Of course, a table saw takes up a lot of room and makes a lot of sawdust. If you have the room and need for one, it's a nice-to-have tool. It appears that Ryobi no longer makes this saw.

I own a great serving machine my brother built for me. It's driven by a sewing machine motor and makes serving line downright pleasant. I also have a motor-driven rope-making machine that I made myself. Perhaps one wouldn't consider these to be tools in the same sense as a band saw or drill press, but they sure help with ship modeling!

I also own a very nice 14-inch scroll saw. I have to confess, although I only tried it a few times, I didn't like using it at all. I found the up-and-down action of the blade was too difficult to deal with. I like the bandsaw much better for the kind of things I do and much easier to control (the blade always moves the stock down onto the table). This expensive saw (about $500) sits in its original packing case in my storage locker. One of these days I'll drag it out and try to get rid of it.

In October, 2006, I bought a new mini-lathe made by Rikon (available through Woodcraft). As I move more and more into scratch building, there are a lot of things I'd like to make on a lathe. In the past, I've used a drill press or just a Dremel tool held in my hand. They work for really small things (like spokes on a ships wheel) but are far from ideal. I used the new lathe to make the running lights and the gas tank (beer keg) on my crab scrape.

I finally decided the Rikon lathe was just too large for my needs, so in 2015, I bought a Sherline lathe instead. I've only used it a few times, but I really like it so far. Some years back, I bought a Proxxon milling machine. I didn't use it a lot, but it could do some things that are otherwise difficult. In June of 2015, I decided to replace the Proxxon with a Sherline mill. The Sherline is larger and more accurate and has many more accessories available for it as well as a digital readout. It is proving to be far more useful than the Proxxon although, of course, it's a pure luxury to have it.

Sherline Mill