This article will give a list of ordinary items that are found around the home, often discarded, that can prove useful to the scale modeller.
Scale modelling was once a very cheap hobby generally pursued by young people who funded it with pocket money. Those times are long gone and the average modeller these days is mature and demands high quality. This has greatly pushed up the cost of scale models.
It is still possible to buy models that are relatively inexpensive, but that generally means keeping to simple small scale kits. Good quality kits generally cost anywhere between €40 to €400 and that is before adding any after-market accessories. Add to that the expensive equipment and tools like airbrushes and compressors, plus materials and paints and you can end up with an expensive hobby. It is just as well that many modellers take several months to complete each kit.
However, it is not all doom and gloom. There are a surprising number of cheap or free household objects that can be used for modelling that can help keep cost down and give a feel good feeling for using stuff that might otherwise be thrown away.
Useful Stuff 1 – Materials
This has to be the find of the century and is used by almost all modellers sooner or later. It is an acrylic floor varnish and as such provides a very hard wearing and durable gloss surface. It is sold in the US as ‘Future’ in Europe as ‘Klear’ and I believe goes under other names in different countries.
It is very useful as a general gloss varnish to protect models. Of course most models do not require a gloss finish, but even so it is often used to provide a protective layer after applying base coats before weathering a model. It is also used to turn a matt/flat surface to a gloss surface before applying waterslide decals and is used to coat aircraft cockpit canopies to impart a realistic high gloss shine.
It is cheap and you get a big bottle that will last for years. In fact the varnish will almost certainly become unusable before you get to the bottom of the bottle. The only word of caution is that when dry it is very difficult to remove (requireing amonia) so make sure you clean brushes and airbrush thoroughly immediately after use.
Kitchen Towel/Paper Towel
So many uses, you should always have some to hand. It is advisable to use a better quality towel that will not shed lots fibres.
Although not suitable for most modelling purposes, ordinary decorators’ filler can come in useful from time to time and you can get a big bag for not much money. The obvious use is for making groundwork on display bases and dioramas, but it can also be used for adding weight to the inside of models. Filler intended for very fine cracks can also be used in place of modelling filler for general gap filling.
Some modellers use this for making scale tarpaulin and flags, although there are probably better materials e.g. lead foil. However, kitchen aluminium foil is great for lining paint palettes. When you have finished painting, simply throw it away and you do not have to bother cleaning the palette.
Useful Stuff 2 – Objects and Tools
Rubber bands / Clothes pegs
These are all useful for holding parts in place whilst drying.
If you have any old DVDs or CDs that you do not want or have become unplayable then don’t throw them away. They are great for mixing epoxy glue on, or they can be used as a small paint palette. They also make a handy portable cutting mat.
Jar Lids / Bottle tops
Never throw these away. Larger lids are great for collecting small parts together on the work surface, or putting down paint stirrers. A jar lid with a blob of Blu Tak is also great as a small stand to hold parts of models when airbrushing. Smaller lids and bottle tops are useful for mixing paint or small amounts of filler.
Plastic resealable ‘zip lock’ bags
It is worth keeping an eye out for these. They are often used to hold small parts inside the boxes of new electrical goods and other household items. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are useful for keeping small items together when building a model. They are also great for organising the dreaded spares box.
This is another common household product with many uses. Paint stirrers, holding small objects when airbrushing (drill a small hole in the bottom of the object), plus mixing and applying small amounts of glue (particularly epoxy).