View Full Version : Tools needed to get started

John Kit
7th May 2013, 08:36 PM
Just getting started in model railroading. Have been watching a lot of You Tube on various how-to videos and reading posts. Any recommendations on what small tools to acquire first? I am not ready for any major projects but changing couplers, adding light kits and installing small parts seem like something I could handle. Also names of suppliers would be helpful.


7th May 2013, 09:01 PM
you need a small needle nose pliers, a set of good screw drivers - flat and phillips head. Tweezers fine point and a more hefty pair and one that lock when released - name escapes me. A pair of hemostats would be good to have.
As for suppliers I like Brooklyn Locomotive Works (BLW), Fifer Hobbies, Model Train Stuff listed in alphabetical order and all on line
Welcome to te Site
edit: a hobby knife with a #11 blade. also search this site for SERB Holder - single edge razor blade - homemade holder...
I'm sure others will give different opinions

7th May 2013, 09:39 PM
You might look at some of the tool sets available from X-acto,Zuron and others. You will need a scale rule in addition.

Jugtown Modeler
7th May 2013, 09:42 PM
I would add to Gene's list:
-A good steel straight edge / ruler
-Another hobby knife, bulk #11 blades....
-Perhaps a N scale "scale" ruler

Lots of directions to go with this hobby which would determine the next set of tools. Building a layout, structure kits or freight cars, designing your layout, customizing, adding DCC to locos, etc... Lots of specialized tools depending on your interests.... From a tool "collector", you can never have too much of the right tools for the right job.... but it really is what you can do with the tool that makes the modeler.

7th May 2013, 09:52 PM
Here is a great thread on this subject. http://www.nscale.net/forums/showthread.php?13150-Tools-you-cant-do-without&highlight=tools

7th May 2013, 10:03 PM
On my must-have list for N-scale especially, because everything is so small, is a pair of magnifying goggles. My quality of life as a modeler went up astronomically when I finally invested in a pair.

8th May 2013, 12:23 AM
The best supplier for this is Mike & Robin of Fifer Hobbies He is one of the best OLHS around. Here is a link, http://www.fiferhobby.com/

Check out some of his video's on you tube. I don't remember the name but he shows his work space and tools with recommendations for what to start out with.

See ya

8th May 2013, 01:11 PM
I second Chessack's recommendation on the optivisor. This and many of the items listed above can also be picked up at a Hobby Lobby or
Michael's if you have one locally.

8th May 2013, 01:30 PM
I have to agree that the Optivisor for magnifying your work is very important.

An NMRA standards gauge would be helpful for track and wheel sets on rolling stock.

Fifer Hobbies with the link above is one good online source. Model Train Stuff is another good supplier (previously mentioned in the post by epumph). Their link is;


8th May 2013, 02:07 PM
Instead of an optivisor I wear glasses made out of a frame for sunglasses but with reading lenses in them, it's lighter and less noticeable on my head.

One thing I would like to add here is don't go cheap on the knife and the tweezers, you will be using these so often it fully justifies getting very good ones.

ozzie Bill.
8th May 2013, 10:21 PM
I'm short sighted so don't need optivisors or any other magnifying thingies. I just take me bins off and get up close and personal! Cheers, Bill.

9th May 2013, 12:51 AM
Given the list of your first projects, two boxes of toothpicks, one box of round and a box of flat ones.

Most of the time, the simple projects really only need a good set of hands with fingers that are flexible. Also letting your nails grow a little bit longer will help pick up and hold small pieces.

When buying tools don't buy ones that are marketed to Model Railroaders. That often adds a 50-75% mark-up to their price. Check out the jewelery making section in Michael's and the tool section in Lowes and Home Depot. Also check out the Dollar Store and Big Lots!

I get my supply of Hemostats from the Tool Guy at shows. They sell various hobby tools at reasonable prices. Ten dollars will bring home a bunch of stuff.

23rd May 2013, 11:13 PM
For getting started you need tools for wire and tools for track...

for wires I really like the Klein wire strippers, there not the cheapest but they'll hold up and last a long time for cutting track I love the xuron track snipers, use them only for track, I labeled mine to make sure, also get a pair of xuron needle nose pliers, things like exacto knives and n scale rulers are great but I wouldn't put them in the category of things needed when first getting started...


30th May 2013, 09:24 PM
What do you use to strip 22# wire and smaller?

30th May 2013, 10:23 PM
Yet another thread that helps to guide me as a new member.

thanks for all the useful information

9th Jul 2013, 12:28 PM
What do you use to strip 22# wire and smaller?

I have a nice pair of Klein wire strippers, not the bigger mechanical stripper that Klein makes (I have and love that one too) but for 22 and finer the basic kleins and practice will help a lot, 22 gauge can very easily be cut instead of stripped with just a little bit of too much pressure...


9th Jul 2013, 06:58 PM
I really like my lefthanded metric adjustable wrench.

I get my small tools from the rock and gem shows. They is usually a lot of tools for placing and holding small parts.

9th Jul 2013, 10:16 PM
Not that I'm suggesting this, but it's got a good broad suggestion on tools. One of each would be a decent start.


8th Oct 2013, 07:45 AM
+ Xuron Rail nippers if it hasnt been said already, they have the cleanest cut of any tool of its type!! Also wood and Metal jewelers files!! small C Clamps and small welders magnets for squaring kits..


I believe there are smaller ones out there...

9th Oct 2013, 12:14 AM
Two tools that I can not under-emphasize how useful they are when starting out are a small vise and a "third hand" parts holder. You will save yourself a lot of frustration by investing in them early.

12th Oct 2013, 08:25 PM
Noone's mentioned a pin vise and small drill bit set yet? They're pretty necessary for a lot of coupler conversions, and I use them for all kinds of stuff. I wonder how I got along so long without them.

Micro-Trains sells handy sets with drills and taps for the screws you use to body mount couplers on locomotives.

21st Oct 2013, 07:33 PM
Just saw something at Costco that is a great deal for modelers of any type. Very nice knife tool kit for just under 20 bucks.


21st Oct 2013, 07:36 PM
I find teeth essential for stripping insulation off wire....


22nd Oct 2013, 04:35 PM
But the copper tastes horrible!

And I think aluminum is suppose to be bad for your brain.

22nd Oct 2013, 04:55 PM
Oh no http://www.nscale.net/forums/mysmiliesvb/mysmilie_332.gif there goes the rest of my brain!:surprised::eek:

24th Oct 2013, 10:51 PM
Are you the brain doctor?



25th Oct 2013, 01:03 AM

25th Oct 2013, 01:44 AM
At a local salvage store they had the "third hand" for only a couple of dollars. I bought several and mixed and matched the parts together.

I was able to create variations that are useful for different situations. First part to go was the useless magnifying glass.

I put together one that will hold not only a circuit board but multiple wires. This leaves my hands free to hold the solder and iron and make connections much faster.

Another makes use of the long rods to to give the clips a lot of movement.

25th Oct 2013, 12:48 PM
My Brain Hurts! :l:

30th Oct 2013, 12:28 AM
My Dremel tool has been very useful, 1-2-3 blocks have come in handy, small scissors of different variations. I have a curved nose pair that have been used almost every time I work on my board. Lots of yellow glue, and CA. Sandpaper of various grit. A maintenance board which you could build (not necessary but very handy) this helps when cleaning wheels or doing general maintenance to your engines, you don't have to do it on your layout. You'll also need a small nail pushing tool, and track erasers.

Here's a maintenance board I built.


Here's a nail driver


Curved nose scissors


Track Eraser


1-2-3 Blocks