There's a wide range of machine tools for anyone who is interested in model making. Some of these tools can be expensive. It's therefore wise to research what you need. Don't feel you have to buy new, either. There are plenty of high-quality used machine tools for model making. As with new ones, ask the vendor if you can try out the tool, or at least see it working, before you buy.
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A mini lathe is a good choice for model making. Popular brands include the Sieg SC2 7 x 12, and the Micro-Mark 7 x 16. The references here to 7 x 12 and 7 x 16 refer to the maximum diameters and lengths that the lathes can handle. A 7 x 12 lathe, for example, can take a piece of work that is up to seven inches in diameter and 12 inches long. Lathes can come with a lot of accessories. The most common include tool posts to hold cutters, divided plates to help cut wheels and pinions, universal runners for countersinking and drills, and gear cutters for cutting clock gear teeth. When planning a project, check a lathe accessory catalogue and ensure you have what you need.
A grinder is a simple machine that spins grinding discs at high speed. You can use the discs to smooth any rough edges on the model you're making. Buy a grinder that you can bolt securely into place on a bench. Ideally, you want four bolt holes in the grinder's base. Also look for a direct drive motor, which provides extra power. The maker's specs sheet will tell you whether a motor is direct drive or belt. Alternatively, the details are on the metal specs plate attached to the front of the grinder. If you opt for a belt-driven model, always buy a spare belt. Other useful features include a dust extractor to keep the air clean, and clear plastic safety shields mounted over each disc.
Drill presses allow you to make accurate drill holes in metal, wood and plastics. Make sure you get a clamp or a drill press vice to hold the material in place. Also buy a set of drill bits that are suitable for the materials you plan to work with. For wood, use twist, brad point or Forstners drill bits. For metal, buy carbide-tipped, solid carbide or high-speed steel drill bits. If you intend to work with plastic, use twist drill bits with sharp, tapered ends. For ceramic tiles and glass, purchase a set of special glass and tile drill bits. These have ends shaped like arrowheads.
A scroll saw can be used to make intricate wooden toys, boxes and models. The best scroll saws, such as the DeWalt DW788-BNDL, are quiet and almost vibration-free. Features such as variable speed, a dust blower and easy-change blades give the best results.
The benefit of a model-making air compressor is that it gives you the chance to paint models with an airbrush kit. The air compressor sends pressurised air into a paint gun. You then spray the paint through a nozzle in the gun's reservoir and onto your model. An air compressor that delivers air up to 50 psi (pounds per square inch) is usually suitable for most model-making work.
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