As I was looking at my workbench today, I saw the perfect example of two of my favorite tools — microscope slides and wooden clothespins. I don’t remember when these two objects entered my “must have” list, but I use both on a daily basis.

Wooden clothespins (about $5 bucks for a bag of 50) make great clamps for when you need something held in place, but don’t need a lot of pressure — like gluing paper and lightweight wood, something I do pretty frequently. In the picture below, you can see where I’m converting a frozen dinner box into a smaller box (cereal boxes are also a good source of thin usable cardboard).

Which tells you more than I meant to about my diet.

The other featured tool of the day — microscope slides (about $5 for a box of 75) which serve as glue and paint palettes. I have three four basic surfaces I work on: the wooden top of my work bench, a 9″x12″ tile that’s good for when I’m doing a lot of painting or gluing, a cutting mat, and the newest addition, a needle felting foam pad.

Sometimes when I’m working on a surface other than the tile, I still need a spot of glue or paint — rather than switch out work surfaces, I grab a microscope slide which protects my non-glue/paint work surface.

And as you can see from the picture, I’ve had my cutting mat since before I came up with the idea of microscope slides. ;)


I’m a tool freak. If someone mentions a tool in passing, I have to buy it — even if I don’t currently have a purpose for it.

But if I have to be honest about it, there are only two tools that are absolutely, positively required for me to do 1/144 scale.

Magnifying VisorTool: Magnifying Visor

Uses: Sometimes (okay, often) working in 1/144 seems like trying to detail a spec of dust. Without magnification this is a seemingly impossible task.

I use a “magnifying visor” and I admit that when I started wearing one, it gave me a headache. The focal point is small and switching back and forth between “up close” and “reaching for something” (such as a paint brush) was wearisome.

But after a few days, I was 100% comfortable with the visor and now I don’t do ANY small work (even larger scales) without it (and no more headaches).

Just be aware that one day you will flip up the lens, forget you are wearing it, and answer the front door with this contraption on your head. And you’ll wonder why the mail delivery person is giving you an odd look as she backs away from you.

Cost: $17 – $35 (dependent on brand)

Source: I picked mine up at a local hobby store and there are a number of online vendors that sell them.

tweezersTool: Tweezers

Uses: Picking up and holding teeny tiny stuff. I have both really cheap tweezers and expensive tweezers — and I use them all with frequency. If I’m holding a piece that is to be painted or glued, I use the cheap tweezers. In the first picture to the left, the cheap tweezers are on top — notice how blunt and clunky the tips look in comparison to the expensive tweezers.

But if I need to pick up and place a 1/2mm no-hole bead, it’s the expensive tweezers all the way. In the second picture, I’m chasing a 1/2mm no-hold bead around a plate, I tried VERY hard to pick it up, to no avail. But in the third picture, I easily pick up an even smaller no-hole bead on the first try — with the expensive tweezers.

Cost: the cheapies cost anywhere from under $1.00 to $5.00 or $6.00. The expensive ones start around $20.

Source: The inexpensive tweezers can be found in just about any pharmacy or grocery store. The finer tweezers (for delicate work) are harder to track down. I purchased mine from a jeweler’s supply store.

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When it comes to cutting the perfect 45°, I can’t. Not free-hand, anyway.

So, first I ordered the “Chopper II” — a clever bit of machinery that cost me $39.95. It was a quality piece of equipment, but I didn’t find it satisfactory for the tiny bits of wood in 1/144.

Okay, so then I bought the “Easy Cutter” — another clever bit of machinery that cost me $26.99. It, also, was a quality piece of equipment that didn’t do the job to my satisfaction.

The problem with both of these expensive cutting tools is that while they were well-suited for cutting an accurate angle, I could make a much cleaner, neater cut with a plain old craft knife.

Faced with a project that required no fewer than 26 perfect 45° mitre, I came up with the Paper Mitre. Priceless.

The “paper mitre” isn’t a cutting tool and it doesn’t cost a penny. It’s a graphic like the one to the left. While going nuts on the aforementioned project, it suddenly occurred to me that I could draw the angle better than I could cut it… and if I could draw it, print the drawing, and line up my wood with the drawing…


Okay, so it may not seem like all that big of a discovery, but the Paper Mitre has saved me seemingly endless grief. I’ve put the graphic in a PDF file (which requires the free Adobe Acrobat Program to read) so that you can use it, too.

For those who wonder how this magical little graphic works, see the directions below.

1. Paper Mitre (click to download)
2. wood
3. Craft Knife (x-acto)

Step 1: Line up the first cut

Align wood with the top of the rectangle. Make sure the left-most portion of the “X” crosses your wood where you want to make the cut.

Step 2: Make first cut

Line up craft knife on wood. Make cut.

Step 3: Line up for the second cut

Slide wood to right side of “X” (keep aligned with the top of the rectangle). Make sure the right-most portion of the “X” crosses your wood where you want to make the cut.

Step 4: Make second cut

Line up craft knife on wood. Make cut. Repeat steps 1-4 for additional pieces of wood, as needed.


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