I get asked a lot what materials/tools I use for any given project. I have decided to maintain a running list of my currently shop “must have” items! These are the things currently in use in my shop. Updated as I have time. Items purchased through these links provide a small commission to me, at no extra cost to you! So please, support the shop, I’ll thank you for it!
Frequently Used Materials: These are the things I use most often to get the job done. If you can find a local provider of these you’ll be in good shape, but I have included some of the cheaper ways to purchase it online here.
- Set of 3 – 2’x4′ Sheets of 3MM Sintra/XPVC – This is my favorite material to work with(Read more HERE), I built Imperius out of it, I built all of my weapons out of it, it cuts easy with an Xacto, sands to a near perfect finish, can be heat shaped, drilled, sawed, flexed and takes all forms of paint. Truly it is a wondrous material. This providers prices seem to fluctuate wildly, but at the time of posting this was the best price around for an online purchase + shipping.
- Celtec Expanded PVC Sheet, Satin Smooth Finish, 1mm Thick, 24″ Length x 48″ Width, White – Single sheet of 2’x4′ 1mm PVC. This stuff is the same thickness as Worbla, and is as close in usability as sintra gets to it. It cuts like butter, sands very well, and can be used on its own as detail/armor or skinned ontop of foam to create a very rigid very clean piece of thicker armor. I often use this ontop of a layer of EVA to create thick lightweight pieces.
Power Tools: Big, loud, expensive, and by far and above the most important thing in the shop besides your hands. Power tools make a tedious task a joy, and piss off your HOA in the process. Perfect.
- 5-Inch Random-Orbit Sander – For when you love sanding as much as I do. This bad boy spins, vibrates, and does the lords work. Makes doing big flat surfaces a breeze, and makes leveling out an uneven area take a 10th of the time as by hand. I use this thing for EVERYTHING, it is my most important sanding tool (even more so then the belt sander! Heresy!).
- SKIL 3320-01 120-Volt 10-Inch Drill Press – Its a drill press! This baby takes that shaky, uneven hole drilling impliment the human arm and gives it a unyeilding steel body. You just crank it down on your piece, and wala perfect holes every time. Metal, wood, plastic, the machine dont care. The machine is gonna drill holes in what it wants. This is by far not the best one, but it works well and is cheap. with a 10″ work area its a bit bigger then the Harbor freight entry level one, so if that one doesn’t work for yah.. this one should!
- Dremel 4000-2/30 120-Volt Variable Speed Rotary Tool Kit – The illustrious dremel. This is a solid tool, the “omni tool” of shop implements, if you only have enough dosh for one tool to start, buy this dremel kit. Sanding drums, cutting wheels, drill bits, grinders, buffers, hell I’ve even seen it used as drill press. This tool is built to work, and work it does. I personally cannot live without the Dremel 225-01 Flex Shaft Attachment for it, as it makes this powerful tool into essentially a whirring, spinning, glorious handhend progress pen.
- 16in Variable Speed Scroll Saw – Scroll saws are baby bandsaws. This one is dirt cheap, but works well enough for me. The bed tilts to a 45 degree angle for bevel cuts, and with its deep 16″ work area you can cut out weird shapes till the cows come home. These things are for detailed scrollwork, and eat through thin foam/MDF like no ones business. Beware when using on PVC, as the back and forth motion of the blade tends to weld the piece back together as it cuts.
- SKIL 3376-01 4-Inch x 36-Inch Belt/Disc Sander – A mans sander. This thing sits on your desk and laughs at your materials. Its hunger to quickly grind away at whatever is placed on it is never satiated. Used to level planes, create bevels, straighten out your messed up lines and generally sand the ever loving shit out of everything, these are a staple in most shops. The added disk sander is nice, as it helps with pipe ends and doing bevels on small pieces (tilting bed!).
- SE – Table Saw – Miniature, 4in – Don’t buy this. Seriously. Its a miniature table saw. Its got a 4″ circular death dealer spinning unprotected on its 8″ wide table. Supposedly used for cutting small sections of plastic and circuit board, this terrifying tool was purchased while heavily inebriated, and exists as a reminder of the hubris of mankind (as far as I know). I put it here so you aren’t tempted to arrogance as I was. IT CANNOT BE CONTROLLED.
- SKIL 3317-01 10-Inch Compound Miter Saw – This spinning death-dealer, however, is awesome. It spins up a big ol’ blade and cuts stuff in a straight line. It can be tilted to cut at any angle up to 45 degrees, and is really great for cutting straight ends off of wood, pipe, and pretty much anything. When you’re tired of doing it by hand, this is your man.
- DEWALT DC970K-2 18-Volt Drill/Driver Kit – It’s like a corded drill, but without the cord! These things are badass, and the lack of cord enables a level of conveinance that permanently shelved by much more powerful corded drill. This thing will cover 95% of your drilling needs. Vroom vroom motha sucka!
- SKIL 3386-01 2.5-Amp 9-Inch Band Saw – Band saws are meant to cut through anything. It is a single circular blade, pulled taught between two spinning wheels. Those wheels only stop turning when the power is cut. Wood, PVC, steel, even frozen hooker meat; this thing cuts through it all! Use a variety of blades to get different cleanness of cuts, Fine tooth for most work, medium for thicker pieces, and scalloped blades for foam work. A fine tooth blade will serve almost all of your needs! This is a very heavily used tool in my shop, so much so.. I have 2!
- PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 3.5-Gallon 135 PSI Pancake Compressor – Do you make an unholy mess? I sure do. The rest of my shop can suck it, but I’ll be damned if dust stays on the props I’m working on. Enter this bad boy, in addition to the myriad of air powered tools this enables, it also just blows really hard. A solid PowerMate Vx 035-0009CT Air Blow Gun makes quick work of any dust or other topical annoyances on your work.. or yourself! You can also fill your tires with air and whatnot too. All around useful addition to the shop. Can’t help your dirty ass floors though.
- Shop-Vac 5986000 5-Gallon 4.5 Peak – Where the compressor falls short, this guy delivers. Its used to clean up your damn messes. You’re gonna make them, you probably already have. Double points if you use it as a blower to send a toxic cloud of dust into the neighborhood air. This thing speaks for itself, and I ain’t gonna talk shit.
Sanding Materials: The difference between good work and stellar work is often related to how much sanding happened. Buy in bulk, you’re gonna need it.
- Karebac Sand Paper Rolls 120 Grit 2-3/4-Inch x 27 yards – Over 80 feet of adhesive backed sandpaper in a glorious golden roll for $20. This will last you a very long time and is amazing for making custom sanding sticks, files, or using in a sanding block. Can be used for wet sanding. 120 Grit, great for taking down edges and leveling out work.
- Karebac Sand Paper Rools 220 Grit 2-3/4-Inch x 27 yards – Over 80 feet of adhesive backed sandpaper in a glorious golden roll for $20. This will last you a very long time and is amazing for making custom sanding sticks, files, or using in a sanding block. Can be used for wet sanding. 220 Grit, great for smoothing surfaces in prep for paint.
- Karebac Sand Paper Rools 400 Grit 2-3/4-Inch x 27 yards – Over 80 feet of adhesive backed sandpaper in a glorious golden roll for $20. This will last you a very long time and is amazing for making custom sanding sticks, files, or using in a sanding block. Can be used for wet sanding. 400 grit, great for sanding in between paint layers, wet sanding, and getting that nice smooth finish.
- 3M Rubber Sanding Block – For use with above products (or the many others), this provides a flat surface for you to attach sandpaper too, and improves the accuracy of your sanded lines noticeably. I keep a few around for various grits.
- Dustless Hook-and-Loop Sanding Disks, 10 Each of 5 Grits – This pack has 10x 80, 100, 120, 150 and 220 grit disks for the above sander. You can find these in any variety, but if you’re just starting out heres a good sampler of whats available. I primarily use 80, 120, and 220 grit.
Assorted Awesome: These are odds and ends that make shop life easier or more fun. I highly recommend everything in this section! Let the tool lust take you!
- Kinivo BTH240 Bluetooth Stereo Headphone – I’m no audiophile, but I do use audio while I file. If you’re like me, wires catching on your clothes, tools, hands, feet and everything else makes headphones more of a distraction then a help, these work wonders for that. Battery has never died on me, even after 2 days of full use with no charging, over the ear style blocks out a good deal of sound enabling use during sanding operations and power tools. Sounds pretty good, very good range. All around my favorite shop purchase of this year. You can answer calls with it too, if you feel so inclined.
- Robert Larson 800-2875 Plastic Center Finder – This is AMAZING, this lets you find the center of rounds, squares, or pretty much any object you can fit in its 8″x8″ area. Cheap as dirt.
- Craftsman 9-37309 Edge Utility Cutter – This thing and all the things like it are glorious. Its pretty much a pair of pliers you put any old razor blade into. Its like a pair of perfectly straight snips that cut through anything. I use this a lot to cut ends off stuff and do finish trim cuts. Surprisingly useful!
- X-ACTO X3000 Knife – This is my preferred Xacto – Its got a rubber coating on the handle and finger grip area, and a fair bit of heft. Feels solid, cuts solid, very comfortable. 10/10 will buy again. Had my current one for over 4 years and its just now starting to act up.
- Techni Edge #11 Hobby Blades – 100 Pack – 100 Xacto blades for $12. Thats cheap as dirt. These blades work really well, at least as good if not better then the Xacto brand. If I survive using 100 of these I’ll definitely be buying again.
Drill Bits: You’ll need about tree fiddy a day. This section is dedicated to putting holes in stuff.
- Ryobi A9FS8 8-Piece Forstner Bit Set – Buddy, let me tell you about Forstner bits. These big nasty hole punchers make the cleanest holes I’ve ever seen. The rest of my prop is often jealous of the smooth bore of the hole made by one of these bits, and while on the cheaper end, this sets design allows you to easily see the center of the bit when drill pressing or whatever, making it very easy to exactly center your hole on the mark. Seriously the holes these things make are so clean you’ll think it came out of a factory with that hole when you’re done. Cannot recommend higher. Buy some forstner bits.
Casting Materials: For when you want to make one thing really solid, or a ton of really solid things. These are the materials I use to do it.
- Model-Pro Casting’ Resin Gallon Kit Polyurethane System – Hold your horses, a Smoothcast 300 equivalent for half the price? Tell me more! This stuff is amazing, for $60 shipped to your door, its almost exactly half the cost of the smooth cast equivalent. This resin cures rock solid in 15 minutes, kicks in 2, and is hard as a goddamn rock. I’m incredibly happy with this stuff, and have found it often to be even harder then the smoothcast 3XX series of resins. 1:1 ratio, clearly labeled, nice bottles and cheap as dirt. Try this stuff.
- Model-Pro Casting’ Resin 2 Pints (32 oz) Polyurethane Resin – No seriously. Try this stuff. Here is the same as above but a 32oz version.
- Smooth-On Silicone Mold Making Rubber OOMOO 30 – “Babbys first silicone”. This stuff is so forgiving it might aswell be the Jesus of rubber. Mess up the complicated 1:1 mix ratio? Its cool. Ooomoo dont care. If it turned purple, its gonna set. This stuff is perfect for beginners and useful for everyone. Tear strength is a bit lower then other types, but overall 10/10 would oomoo again.