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What Do I Need to Get Started in Paper Modeling?

The joy of building downloadable paper models is that it requires very few tools and materials to get started. A hobby knife, scissors, glue, paper and card boards, and internet access and email are all that’s needed. You don’t even need a color printer – see our article No Color Printer? No Computer? No Problem!

Here’s our list of must haves:

Naturally, as you advance and enjoy building with paper, adding a few more tools will help you create your models a little faster and with more precision. These tools are optional but helpful:

  • Tweezers
  • Metal edge ruler
  • Cutting mat
  • Color printer (again, see our article No Color Printer?)

While you can make perfect paper models with only the most basic of tools, if you do a lot of model building as we do, you may find some of these tools to be occasional time savers.

  • The Chopper by NorthWest Short Line. For making slender, small or repetitive cuts of mat board you can’t beat The Chopper. Although expensive in comparison to basic tools this can be a real time saver. An inexpensive alternative: a simple razor glass scraper from the hardware store. Some of the advantages at a tiny fraction of the cost.
  • A rotary paper cutter. We like the deluxe version from Fiskars but even an inexpensive model with assist you in making long straight paper cuts.
  • Mini scissors. I use a pair of expensive German-made sewing snips that excel at small cuts and trimming edges.
  • Metal ruler with cork backing. Okay, this item is less than $2.00 so should be a basic item. I find the cork backing prevents slipping while using it as a straight edge cutting with a knife.
  • Rotary punch. This doesn’t get used very often but is practically indispensable if you need to make small diameter circles in mat or poster board. We specified its use in making round industrial roof vents for instance. Hint: the 4mm punch is perfect for making N-scale barrels! 4 punches of mat board glued together and painted with a felt pen or paint makes a quick 24” diameter by 36” tall standard metal drum.