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Paper Modelling: Tools

Author: Lutz Pietschker
Version: 2010-12-31

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The Tools for Paper Modelling

You need very few tools to start with the hobby. Alas, you can no longer take them with you everywhere because knives and scissors are banned from aircraft cabin luggage now, but you come close; a basic toolkit takes no more space that a pocket book, and even a quite elaborate one takes up much less space than, say, Webster's Dictionary.

The cardboard used for paper modelling is generally of a 150 to 250 (typically 170-190) grams per square meter quality and is about 0.2 mm thick. Sheets used for stiffening structures are about double that weight (and up to 1 mm thickness). For reference: Normal writing paper has about 80 grams per square meter.
By the way, I use the terms "paper" and "cardboard" interchangeably.

Here is an overview of the tools I use: Basic Tools, Other Tools, and Images of My Tools. Another page gives practical hints that may be useful, for example about basing models, and yet another gives an overview of useful algebra.

Basic Tools

These are the tools you absolutely need. Ok, maybe one or the other is not needed absolutely, but you will miss them if you do not have them. Except for larger scissors, rulers and the cutting mat, all this fits easily into a small toolbox of 20 x 15 x 4 cm. The rest goes into one A4 folder along with the model sheets and some spare cardboard

Other Tools

These tools make working more fun, and some are even needed to achieve certain results:

That's it. Really no big deal to take this along into your holidays to prepare for rainy days, is it? Ok, of course I was omitting the hard part: To take back the finished (or, worse, half-finished and instable) models back home. You may want to think about that before you travel.
And even when you get the models home safely, do not assume that whoever dusts the shelves at home will be pleased to dust off your models, even when you do it yourself. And they get damaged in the process although no one ever did it if you ask. So it is good to take some photos of the finished stuff as long as it looks fresh and good, and generally get into a frame of mind not to take the results too serious. Remember: The real fun is in making them!

And here are some images of the tools I use:

The very basic toolset. You can do most of the work with these, any you will need every one of them:

  1. Set square with removable handle
  2. Scissors (pointed, medium size)
  3. Glue
  4. Scoring knife
  5. Hardwood toothpicks
  6. Self-gripping tweezers
  7. Scalpel
  8. Small clamps or clothes pegs

And, unnumbered, the cutting mat on which the tools are assembled.

Tools for forming and rounding

  1. Self-made rolling tool, inspired by a description on a Polish expert web site: A knitting needle with a strip of thin cardboard attached with adhesive tape and then rolled round the needle tightly. To form small, round parts, just unroll the strip, insert the part, and roll the strip round the needle tightly again. Let the roll spring open, hold vertical and shake to get the part out.
  2. Bookbinder's folder
  3. Putty modelling tool for forming, pushing prodding etc.
  4. Hardwood toothpicks and knitting needle
  5. Bits of pipe and round material
  6. Neoprene strips to assist in rounding
  7. Thimble, also quite useful for some rounding tasks

Scoring tools and little helpers:

  1. Again, the hardwood toothpicks (so you won't ever forget them)
  2. Shashlik skewers and knitting needle
  3. Scalpel
  4. Martor cutting needle and blade protector cork
  5. Old kitchen knife
  6. Blunt pin

My Martor scalpel and scoring needle:

Again in detail (numbers are Martor ordering numbers): The haft (#510), haft with cutting needle (#810), spare cutting needle (#643, 2mm shaft), punching blade (#671, 2.4 mm shaft, these are expensive! The left-hand version is #670 I believe), fine blade (#680), standard blade (#677). The Rotring blade is a cutting blade for compasses with a 2.4 mm shaft.

Hint: The cutting needle, the compasses cutting blade and the #674 blade fit into standard fall-lead pencils (like the Faber TK9400). However, the pencil is not really built to withstand the forces applied when cutting or scoring, but it may serve as a workaround.

Scissors and hole punches:

  1. Set of hole punches (1, 1.5, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 mm)
  2. Silhouette scissors (these were a bit of a disappointment as they do not cut cleanly right up to the tip)
  3. Standard mid-size, pointed scissors (Wilkinson made them some years ago, though their current products are not up to their former standards)
  4. Larger scissors for straight cutting
  5. Nail scissors for concave curves

Gluing, holding and clamping:

  1. Tweezers
  2. Crossed (self-gripping/self-closing) tweezers
  3. Mini-clamps, one of them with a magnetic base that is useful to put the part safely away with no risk of it tumbling down, but hell when putting it into the toolbox because it assembles every bit of steel around it.
  4. Pins, rubber bands and the inevitable toothpicks (in this context: to apply glue)
  5. Paper clips and clothes pegs
  6. Rolling press tool, scrounged from a lino-printing set
  7. Three types of glue: UHU, cyanacrylat glue and PVA glue. The tube size indicates my preference.


  1. Set square (with handle removed)
  2. 15-cm aluminium ruler, a very handy tool- especially so since I fitted it with a brass handle.
  3. 30-cm aluminium ruler with a steel cutting edge, also with a self-fitted handle.
  4. Steel rules with cm/inch scales, and very good to use together with the magnetic clamps shown above.
  5. Universal parallel-lines-circles-angles-and-what-not drawing tool. More details on my hints page.

Colouring tools:

  1. Fall-lead-pencils (green: the 2.4-mm-lead TK9400 mentioned in the "Martor" section, above; black: 0.5-mm lead for finer work)
  2. Felt-tipped pen
  3. Set of aquarell colours
  4. Colour pencils
  5. Rubber
  6. Pencil sharpeners for standard pencils and for 2.4 mm leads

Thread and sewing tools:

  1. Thread, Nylon, different strengths and colours, preferably very smooth (a very thin and smooth thread is sold in hobby shops, originally for stringing glass beads). The silver thread makes good steel cables for ships, railings etc.
  2. Thimble
  3. Threader
  4. Sewing needle
  5. Some thicker string, somehow found its way into the box and stayed there
  6. Pliers, all-purpose tool for modelling, repairing hotel room electric equipment and-what-not.

The travel box:

You see, a lot of the tools described above fit into it (which ones do you recognise?), plus

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, last change 2011-03-12