Tool Tips From My Experience
As A Model Railroader
Here are a bunch of tool tips I've picked up from friends, layout tours, club practices, and model railroad magazines and books.
These have worked for me over the years. I hope I can pass on a couple of useful ideas you hadn't thought of. In no particular order:
Clamps are invaluable when building structures. Use with metal plate and magnets from MicroMark to hold things square.
A cradle keeps models from being damaged.
The bell I knocked off my switcher is waiting reinstallation.
I keep the smaller sprue cutter in its plastic sleeve so it doesn't get used for cutting metal. The larger Xuron flush cutters are for cutting rail. The cutters at bottom center are for general purpose.
Ask your dentist for old, used dental picks. Great for rockwork when making scenery and a handy uncoupling tool.
I use wooden skewers for uncoupling and sometimes the Rix magnetic tool to reach between cars. The wooden dowel with a wire hook also works. The LED light is for reading car numbers.
Two drill bit cases. If you use a Dremel or hand drill holder, buy the adapter for very small drill numbers. I keep drill bits in used pill bottles and mark what they are used for. Tap sizes are marked on the back of the NMRA scale ruler (bottom).
Often it's not worth getting out the Dremel. These are the two hand drills I use most often. Years ago I learned to mark my tools with two odd colors so they could be distinguished from other members' tools at the club. We marked our rolling stock underneath too.
Wrap some masking tape around the handles of X-Acto knives to keep them from rolling on your workbench. Buy #11 X-Acto blades in bulk. You go through a lot of them. Single-edged razor blades are available at hardware stores.
Mark the files you'll use on plastic so they don't get mixed up with the ones you use for metal. Keep a file brush handy for cleaning metal shavings.
After you've cleaned your DVD player, clean the roofs of your buildings, rolling stock and your lakes and rivers with this dust remover. A soft camel's hair brush is also helpful so you don't break delicate parts.
Help your eyesight. I keep several magnifiers around the workbench. The reflection is from an adjustable circular neon lamp that also includes a magnifying glass.
I have lots of different boxes for small parts. Pick them up at dollar stores.
I keep some kit boxes for leftover parts I might need some day. Strip wood and long styrene or metal shapes are kept in mailing tubes.
I carry my favorite pliers with me everywhere. The one on the top left comes from Kadee for adjusting their coupler pins.
A pounce wheel is a handy gadget for making rivet detail.
The saws I use. The Zona jeweler's saw and blades are used to cut rail gaps in Fast Track
A set of small adjustable screwdrivers means you usually have the head you need when you need it. The other screwdrivers double as extra fingers to pick up small nuts and screws. I like the small tweezers best. You can also use old forceps that lock on a part.
You can tell I've owned these Morris taps for a long time. They see a lot of usage.
The wire strippers on the left are good for separating the insulation on bus wires so you can solder to the wire. The ones on the right are general purpose. I use the Xuron cutters backwards to strip smaller gauge 20-to 22 wire.
When doing that you need to apply pressure gently so as not to nick the wire.
I picked up this dust blower at Princess Auto. It's great for removing dust from rolling stock and building roofs.
You could also use a can of compressed air but this is cheaper in the long run.
More tool tips on other pages
Schramm Mfg, a Campbell kit,
sits behind the freight cars
on my Utopia Northern HO railroad.
I'll add more tool tips as I remember them. There are other specialized tools on the hand laid track page and in the scenery section of my website.
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