Tools to Get Started

So you want to get started into wood working or toy making as the case may be but you're not sure which tools you will need to get started or if the tools in your shop will suffice. Well the tools you need somewhat depends on what you will be making, and these I have listed below are not all inclusive but will give you a good start in your carpentry adventures. I will try to help you understand when or why you might want to use these tools in various applications. Before going further let me please urge you to wear safety goggles, ear protection, and a respirator (air filter) anytime you use power tools. Accidents happen everyday, and no simple project is worth damaging the body God gave you. I also wear gloves when using something like the table saw or router in the event that my hands should ever get nicked by the blades. Remember, you are responsible for your own safety; please keep it as your top priority!

shop 1shop 2

shop 3

These are some pictures of the workshop I use (click to enlarge); it isn't very big, around 12' by 12'. In fact ripping an 8' piece of lumber is nearly impossible, but for the time being it works. Now I personally hate a dusty shop and will stop in the midst of a project just to sweep up the dust; it is my opinion that a wood shop should be used frequently but look as though not at all. There are health risks behind having a dusty shop, but we'll address that later. You can see the tools which I find to be the most useful, namely the table saw, compound saw, band saw, scroll saw, drill press, router table, and sanders.

Ok so first, you aren't going to get far in wood working without a scroll saw. This tool is perfect for cutting out any parts that are less than 1.5" thick. Be forewarned that any wood other than pine may limit you in the thickness you can cut. Since I use pine (1x4 & 2x4 lumber) almost exclusively I can cut anything up to 3/4" with a regular blade or up to 1.5" with a specialty blade which you can purchase online or at a local hardware store.

Scroll Saw

The scroll saw is a fairly safe tool that probably won't even break skin should your finger accidentally hit the blade (as I have done in the past). I started using this tool at 8 years old as it was one of the few safe enough for me at that age; over time the tools I used became more advanced as did the types and quality of models I produced. Regardless of what type of wood crafts you make, the scroll saw is a must in your work shop. I will also add that this Delta as pictured below has been a flawless tool for 18 years and still runs strong. I've gone through many blades and replaced the airline tubing, but it has been a reliable tool.

1" Belt Sander4" belt sander

The 1" and 4" belt sanders have become some of my favorite tools for modeling as they have taken the quality of the finish to a new level. These also are relatively safe tools (the 1" more than the 4") for younger people to use, though I would almost classify it as slightly more dangerous than the scroll saw. Sandpaper moving at very high speeds coming into contact with your skin is a burning experience which I don't recommend. However, working with small parts against the sandpaper will leave you in less than ideal situations at times. The sander can make fast work of carving a piece of wood in a fraction of the time that I used to carve by hand with a knife. -obviously the sander is safer than the knife and faster which adds to my recommendation of this tool. For about $35-$70 you can add these to your collection allowing you to quickly produce smooth models in short order.

Table SawSliding Compound Saw

The table saw is a fantastic way to rip 1x4 or 2x4 lumber into the thickness of pine you need for your models, but I only suggest this tool to those who know how to use caution in its use, certainly not for children. I think this tool is one of the most common culprits of carpenters losing fingers apart from routers, so be careful! I use the table saw primarily for cutting lumber down to thicknesses as thin as 1/8". Cutting down your own lumber is cheaper than buying thin pieces at the store, and you have more control over your dimensions. This works well for airplane wings, tails, etc.

The sliding compound saw is perfect for cutting lumber to certain lengths, but more practically for my purposes I can adjust the angle of the cut to make quick work of trimming a ship's bow or stern. Follow up the rough cut with the belt sander and you get a decent hull for a ship. Again I need to give warning that my use of this tool for the above stated purpose is not the traditional use of the tool which is already dangerous, so do not attempt this if you are not experienced with the use of a compound saw and please be sure to use all precautions!

Drill PressWood Lathe

The drill press is a very handy tool for any application in which you will be using dowel rods. Wood rods are excellent for masts, barrels, guns, turrets, etc. In some cases the drill press will be the best way to accurately put a holes into your model eliminating the possible errors by hand drilling the piece. This is a reasonable tool and quite useful beyond the realm of model making.

The wood lathe is more of an optional tool for modeling and can be the most expensive. I have not used this tool nearly as much as the others, and quite honestly could do without it for almost any of my models. Yet there is no doubt that it will be the ideal choice for creating airplane engines or any other cylindrical piece. If you have the extra money to spend I will say that this is one of the funnest tools to use in the work shop.

band sawrouter table

The band saw is an outstanding tool for cutting thick lumber! It cuts a 1.5" piece of lumber without issue, even a 2x4 on end doesn't stop this work horse! I find that I use this tool almost every time I am in the shop. The router table has also been a life saver in creating that special detail on wood parts; I could not do without either tool now that I have used them.

dust collectorcyclone

The dust collector is an important piece in every workshop. Now I had initially wanted it for the sole purpose of keeping a cleaner work shop, but as I found out later wood dust is extremely harmful to the lungs and can cause permanent damage resulting in cancer or other painful health problems. On the right you can see a homemade dust cyclone (built for about $7) which is very effective in trapping dust and shavings before it reaches the dust collector. The exhaust port of the dust collector is now ventilated out the window limiting as much dust as possible within the shop.


Note that even with a dust collector you are not safe from breathing in wood dust. The finest particles are the most dangerous, and the harder the wood (Oak, Walnut, etc.) the more dangerous it is to your health. For this reason it is a good idea to wear a respirator (left) no matter how uncomfortable any time you are creating dust in the shop. The dust remains in the air long after you have made a cut, so it is my habit to put on the respirator upon entering the shop and taking it off just before leaving.

And as I mentioned before, don't forget to wear eye and ear protection as well!




ear protectioneye gogglesStanley Box Knife


Lastly I could not end the tool list without mentioning the Stanley box knife. You have to have one of these if you plan to do modeling. This is also one of the most dangerous tools to use and certainly the one that has caused me the most injury (including a scar to my hand). In the use of a box knife might I suggest that the 1" belt sander is often a better and safer substitute, but when you need the knife just use caution.

So that's it! Well not really. There are many other small tools you will want to get for wood modeling, but these would be the primary tools to use if you intend to produce the kinds of projects that I have displayed. If you have any questions feel free to write on the Contact Us page. Also visit my other links on the Modeling Process as well as Tips and Blueprints. Thank you!