Here are the Top 10 Tools You Want When Building Miniatures (Part 1)

If you have built a dollhouse and built a dozen miniature furniture kits, how many different tools for building miniatures have you used? Certainly more than ten. There’s cutting, sanding, gluing, holding, squaring… so many types of tools. Here are the tools I use the most, including how I use them.

Magnetic Jig

A magnetic jig is one of the tools you want when building miniature furniture
a magnetic work surface is one of the tools you want when building miniature furniture

I’m not attempting to rank these tools by importance, but I must say that I use my gluing jig the most often of any tool in or on my bench. And not just for gluing! Cutting, sanding, painting, squaring, carving, so many uses.

The one you can buy off the shelf is great (like the gluing jig kit in the first image above), but I opted to make my own in a larger size. It covers the center of my workbench and gives me space to work on more than one job at a time. This is the outer skin of a metal cabinet door. I grabbed it during a demolition job at an old school building.

You can use any flat piece of metal that a magnet will stick to. Bare metal is great. Mine has a baked enamel paint, which works well, too. Use strong magnets and straight pieces of metal, wood, or plastic (old rulers are great) to hold thing square while waiting for glue to dry.

I use mine when painting and staining, too. It protects the bench or table and cleans up easily. The folded edges keep tools from rolling away, as well. See my article on Jigs and Clamps for more details.

Scale Ruler

This item I do not use that often, but it is very helpful when you do need it, and it is free, my favorite kind of tool. You can actually download this Hobbyists 1-inch Scale Ruler from this site full of printable rulers. Very cool.

The best part about a ruler made for 12th scale is the fact that each scale foot is broken into twelve divisions to the inch so that you don’t have to convert when figuring inches in scale. Great for drawing scale floor plans or for scaling down real furniture in your replica of grandma’s kitchen.

Ratchet F-Clamps

Ratcheting F-Clamps are one of the tools you want when building miniature furniture

I love my clamps. I have many kinds and wrote about them in my article on Jigs and Clamps awhile back. But these are the ones I use the most and couldn’t do without. They’ve hold even warped pieces when gluing. Small and powerful.

Admittedly, they aren’t for delicate work, but they are fast and easy to use, even one-handed. I have a bunch of them hanging right over my head at my bench. Definitely tools you want when building miniature furniture.

X-Acto Knives

A great X-Acto knife is one of the tools you want when building miniature furniture

X-Acto is a brand to which I have learned loyalty… by making the mistake of using other brands. Don’t do it. And don’t be afraid of the blades. They are excellent tools.

X-Acto once was a stable-mate of The House of Miniatures and even made the kit pictured above especially to help miniaturists. It was a great kit. These days I recommend their Retract-A-Blade No. 1 Knife (X3204) for both safety and comfort.

I’ve used various blades for cutting, carving, and scribing. Their blades always fit their handles and I’ve found the quality to always be outstanding. The nine stitches in my ring finger came from another brand of knife handle, which failed at a very bad moment.

Sanding Block

2x2 inch sanding block is one of the tools you want when building miniature furniture

Using a block of wood behind a piece of sandpaper is an old standard. For miniatures I go one step further and glue 220 and 400 grit paper to opposite sides of a small, very flat block, as seen above.

This gives me a small sanding block with the two grits I most often use on miniature furniture, which I can then leave right on my bench. This 2″ square by 1/4″ thick piece of hardwood keeps my surfaces flat and won’t knock off my edges, unless I mean to bevel a corner.

Five More to Come

Next week I’ll cover five more tools you want when building miniature furniture. Did I miss your favorite? Let me know what tool you can’t do without. Use the comments below or stop in to join the discussion on the Facebook Group.

Update: Here’s the link to Tools You Want When Building Miniature furniture, part 2.