Most tools in the modeler's toolbox are designed for smaller projects. When it comes to benchwork, its time to up the scale. You can build a sturdy layout with nothing more than a hammer and handsaw. For those who like a little more power, there are lots of handy tools that will help build a railroad without breaking the bank.
Yes, the basic hammer. It's a fixture in every toolbox for a reason. Even with more modelers using screws and a cordless drill for construction, there should always be a hammer around.
Levels come in many shapes and sizes. The traditional two-foot beam level will work well for most applications. A longer three or four-foot level is usefull for setting grades. Smaller pocket or "torpedo" levels are handy for cross-checking and superelevation. A simple plumb line is also important when building legs, backdrops, and the like.
Laser levels are becoming increasingly affordable and diverse as well. Wall-mounted levels make building an around-the-walls layout easy. A free-standing 360degree level can put a level line all the way around the room.
Keep several different levels on hand for any job.
Cordless Drill / Screwdriver
One of the most useful tools for benchwork is a cordless drill / screwdriver. These battery-powered drills can go anywhere and perform a variety of functions. Screws hold more securely than nails. A good drill can make short work of driving in drywall or wood screws to build wood benchwork.
Drills with at least a 14 volt power supply or greater work well for most applications. Variable speed and torque options are useful. A second battery is useful for prolonged work sessions. One can charge while the other is being used.
For cutting lumber to length when building legs, L-girders and other benchwork components, a circular saw offers a convenient portable solution. For those needing to <a href="http://modeltrains.about.com/od/Benchwork/qt/Ripping-Plywood-Without-A-Table-Saw.htm">rip long stips</a> of lumber or plywood, a circular saw with a guide is an affordable and compact alternative to a table saw. Battery-powered cordless versions are available, but tend to loose a charge quickly.
Clamps come in a variety of forms, each useful for different projects. Each of these styles is available in multiple sizes. No matter how many clamps you have on hand, you'll always be able to use at least one more.
- Spring Clamps are useful for thin pieces.
- C-Clamps work for a variety of medium sized projects.
- Bar Clamps hold large pieces together.
Whether you are using a hammer or a nail gun, a coping saw or a circular saw, safety must always be your top priority. No shop should be without the following:
- Safety glasses / goggles
- Ear protection
- Work gloves
- Breathing protection (for dust or harmful paint or adhesive fumes)
- First Aid Kit
- Fire Extinguisher and smoke alarm
Read the instructions and safety guidelines that come with your tools. A binder for manuals will keep them together in a safe place. Clean, oil and maintain your tools. A clean tool is a safe tool. The same is true for the work area itself. Do not remove safety shields or other protective devices from power tools.