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Proxxon Hotwire Cutter (Thermocut) – This is the workhorse of my shop. You can see me use it in countless videos. It is the best off the shelf hotwire table available. There are other options from other companies but they tend to be useless for a lot of the work I do as they lack the variable temperature control which is crucial for working with different thickness of foam. A must have for anyone wanting to get serious about the hobby.
Proxxon Thermocut 12/E – Handheld cutters are NOT a replacement for a tabletop cutter, but they do a lot of things that a table can not. They are a great way to expand your arsenal (but a tabletop cutter is more important to get first). This one by Proxxon is great because the wire can be bent to a variety of shapes to do interesting router cuts in foam. You do require a seperate power supply, but the good thing is that the power supply is the same for all handheld Proxxon tools so you only need one.
Poxxon Power Supply – The handheld Proxxon tools use a separate power supply. All their tools use and share the same psu so you only need to purchase one. There are two options, the smaller transformer and the “heavy duty” transformer. Both will work, but the advantage to the heavy duty one is that you can adjust the output. This adjustment allows you to control the temperature of handheld hotwire tools and the speed of handheld rotary tools which is very useful. The heavy duty psu also allows for multiple tools to be powered at the same time. It seems as though a third option exists in UK and Germany for a smaller psu (NG/2E) that also has an output adjustment. This is an ideal option where available.
Hotwire Foam Factory – I’m not a fan of all thier tools (avoid their scroll table at all costs) but a few of them are really great. The sculpting tool is a must have. It’s a handheld cutter, but functions much differently than the Proxxon. It has a very thin wire that can not be bent into shapes. This means you can’t change the shape of your cuts, but the thin straight wire is ideal for carving hills and rocks. The engraving tool also has some great uses for texturing foam.
Shifting Lands Accessories – The full potential of the Proxxon Hotwire Cutter is truly unlocked with the addition of the amazing accessories from shiftinglands.com. These can not be purchased from Amazon, and I have no affiliate program worked out with them. Shifting Lands is a small one man company from The Netherlands and I simply love his tools. There are quite a few great jigs and add-ons he sells but the most important are the Guider Pro and Circle Cutting jig. Other tools like the Multi Corner Cutter are great, but see far less use in my shop (but are amazing when needed). As they ship from The Netherlands it is best to get several items at once to save on shipping. I would recommend the Paint Racks and Cork Board if you also do a lot of miniature painting. Again, no referral link but feel free to let him know you found out about his products from Black Magic Craft!
Purchase from www.shiftinglands.com
CUTTING & SHAPING TOOLS
Olfa Utility Knife – A good utility knife is critical in this hobby. I used a utility knife daily for over a decade professionally as a renovation carpenter and without question this ratchet type by Olfa was the best. Ask any tradesperson and they’ll likely tell you the same. Using actual Olfa blades is worth the cost. They are far more rigid than most making them more effective getting straight cuts on foam.
X-Acto Knife – For more detailed cutting a large Olfa knife isn’t ideal, and you need to switch to a smaller blade with a finer point. My go to for this is a simple #2 X-Acto knife. I don’t bother with any of the fancy kits, just the plain metal blade holder and blades.
Fiskars Self Healing Cutting Mat – A self healing mat is not optional. Seriously, you need one if you want to save your work surface (and possibly your marriage). This hobby involves a lot of cutting, more than you can imagine, so you need something to protect your desk. A kitchen cutting board may be ok for a while, but will get old fast. A self healing mat is a much better option. The printed grid is also very handy. This one by Fiskars is what I use. It is two sided so you can flip once one side wears out. I’ve been using mine for over two years almost daily and despite all the abuse it’s still holding up. I haven’t even had to flip it to the other side yet. There are a few sizes available to best suit your space, go with the biggest you can fit.
Fiskars Paper Trimmer – You will find a lot of uses for this once you have one. Being able to cut long, straight, uniform strips of paper and cardstock is invaluable. If you are going to be working a lot with cardboard, or doing lots of builds inspired by Wyloch, you will need a lot of corrugation cladding and this simple tool is the only reasonable way to make strips of paper in bulk. This cutter is also a must have if you are doing paper minis.
Scissors – You should have a good set of full sized scissors designated for crafting as they well tend to end up covered in glues and gunk. I also find a pair of small “nail” scissors really handy. I actually find myself using the small scissors far more often than the large ones.
Small Metal Carpenter’s Square – This is one of the most useful layout tools you can own. Generally heftier and thicker than your average metal ruler, they are excellent for using as a guide with blades. The square is also crucial for laying out perfect 90d angles. You will see me use one of these fairly often during builds for layouts, cutting, and for setting the width of the fence on my Proxxon. I couldn’t live without one. A good metal ruler with a cork bottom is good to have for when a square is awkward to use.
Rotary Tool – These are incredibly handy for drilling, sanding, and sculpting various materials at a small scale. I use on by Proxxon (it works with the psu linked above) but a small battery powered one by a company like Dremel will be all you need for hobby purposes.
Pin Vise – If you don’t want to invest in a rotary tool you should at least get yourself a pin vise. It is used to drill very small holes in tiny objects like miniatures to pin them together. It’s also having one on hand even if you do have a rotary tool as sometimes items are too small and delicate to use a powered rotary tool on
Rotary Tool Accessories – Rotary tools are very versitile if you have a wide selection of bits on hand. I suggest getting a large kit with a variety of cutting blades, sanding drums, and drill bits.
Razor Saw – Another useful tool if you don’t get a rotary tool is a small jewelers saw. This will allow you to cut small delicate items with precision. Again, useful for items you don’t want to use a powered rotary tool on.
Mini Table Saw – This is NOT an “essential” piece of equipment, but it is a really handy item for those very seriously into the hobby. This tiny table saw allows you to safely rip small pieces of hard material like plywood, mdf, or formica with precision.
Scroll Saw– Again NOT an “essential” piece of equipment for most of the hobby, but handy if you wish to produce things like mdf bases for terrain. I wouldn’t invest in a high end one here, for our purposes the cheapest you can find will do.
Sander – When beveling things like mdf bases you need a powered sander. A small palm (orbital) sander is a really cheap option and will get the job done just fine (but your hands will get sore if doing a lot). If you want to invest a bit more you can get a bench top version that will be easier to work with and won’t cause so much strain on your hands and arms. Again, don’t go high end. Get the cheapest one you can find.
Heat Gun – This tool is very versatile. It be used to melt and shape foam, bend plastic miniatures, speed up drying, and more. A hosehold hairdryer does not get nearly hot enough to melt foam or shape plastic and is not an adequate substitution, but the good news is these heat guns are pretty cheap and you don’t need a fancy one.
Dust Mask – This isn’t a very “dangerous” hobby but there are some times when you need to take precautions for your health. Whenever you are creating dust from mdf or foam from sanding you should really be wearing a respirator. A paper dust mask will suffice, but a tight fitting respirator is even better. If you are working with a lot of fumes from things like aerosol paint or Super77 glue you will want cartridges properly rated for vapors.
Eye Protection – When working with things like rotary tools and saws it is important to wear proper eye protection. Take universal precautions and wear as often.
Wire Brush – This tool has many uses, the most important of which is quickly creating amazing wood grain texture in xps foam.
Sculpting Tools– A cheap set of various sculpting tools is invaluable. The have endless uses.
ADHESIVES, SEALERS, & PUTTIES
Hot Glue Guns – Hot glue is an infinitely useful tool in a hobbyists shop, and honestly a must have. I use two seperate glue guns a Mini and a Full Size. I have recently switched to Models by Surebonder as they offer some great features my previous ones did not. The most important feature for me is an On/Off switch so they can remain plugged in. The Surebonder models instead have a 30 minute auto Off feature which is even better as it avoids the risk of accidentally leaving a hot glue gun turned on when in bed or away from home. The two models I use also both feature a lo/hi temperature setting giving far more control over my previous one. Some models like the full size have different tips available that can be great for hot glue “sculpting”. In my experience these models also do not drip when sitting hot and idle which is a problem with many cheap glue guns.
Previous hot glue gun used in many episodes
PVA Glue – I don’t think you could build terrain without it. Brand doesn’t matter much, I do tend to buy Elmer’s Glue-All because it is the most readily available. Avoid the washable “school glue” as its much weaker. It’s more cost effective to buy in larger quantities.
Aleene’s Tacky Glue – For things like gluing individual bricks or shingles hot glue can be too thick and messy, while regular PVA glue can be too thin and slow drying causing pieces to move while working. The answer is Aleene’s tacky glue. It is a PVA glue, but contains a resin that makes it thicker and causes is to hold glued pieces in place far better before drying. It dries faster and stronger than normal pva glue.
“Super” Glue. Or “crazy glue” or “CA” glue is incredibly useful for building miniatures and attaching small pieces to terrain. It can also be mixed with sand for mini bases, or with baking soda to create an instant sort of plastic for bonding and filling. I go through a lot of regular liquid super glue so I keep many tubes on hand and buy the cheapest stuff I can find in smallest tubes to prevent drying out. I also use gel super glue once in a while and only find myself needing one tube of it.
“Insta-Set” Super Glue Accelerant. I lived far too long without this stuff. It is an absolute life changer once you start using it. I can not imagine working on models without it now. A quick spray of this will instantly cause super glue to cure making it far easier and more convenient to work with. When bonding two parts together you can spray the Insta-Set on one piece and apply glue to the other, as soon as you connect the pieces they will instantly react and bond. No more holding pieces for several minutes waiting for glue to maybe set up. Trust me. Get this.
5 Minute Epoxy – This cheap 2 part resin is a great way to do small water or liquid effects. It can mix with paint without failing to cure, and it cures in several minutes. Other liquid resins can have very long cure times and often fail when contaminated with other substances. When buying make sure it’s an epoxy that dries CLEAR.
Matte Mod Podge – I love this stuff, and I go through a TON of it. Pretty much every piece I build out of foam gets a coating of this before paint. I mix black paint right in and it acts as my black basecoat and has a sealer and hardener. It makes foam significantly harder, and it is thin enough that it seeps into all the little cracks and crevices of a piece cementing everything together. In my opinion Mod Podge is significantly better at coating styrofoam than watered down pva glue. Some believe that Mod Podge is just repackaged pva glue. This is not true. While it has a PVA base it is specifically formulated with an additional water based resin that allows it to dry harder, faster, and clearer and has a flow aid making it easier to apply thin coats.
Supper 77 – This spray adhesive provides an instant bond that will NOT cause any warping. Perfect for adhering flocking to trees or foam to MDF. This stuff is STRONG and works on pretty much every material.
GreenStuff – This 2 part epoxy putty is incredible for sculpting fine details. It use used to sculpt and modify custom miniatures, create sculpted bases, and fill joints in models.
Milliput – This 2 part epoxy putty is similar to Green Stuff but it is softer and a bit easier to work with. It blends well when using water and can be worked similar to traditional clay. It is usually cheaper than Green Stuff so a good option for larger gaps or sculpts.
DAS – This is a cost effective air dry clay that dries strong and hard. You can add PVA glue to the wet clay which will result in a cured piece that is hard as rock.
Joint Compound – Great for covering foam to create a very hard coating and fill in texture. It can be thinned with water and mixed with glue. You can use it to fill the cracks in Expanded Polystyrene or act as a mortar on foam brickwork.
Sculptamold – This is essentially casting plaster with paper pulp mixed in. This combination creates a fast drying, and incredibly strong, finished product that can be used for rough texture or smoothed with water before it fully cures. It can also be sculpted into things like rocks. A very versitile product that is great for covering more vulnerable basing materials like foam.
Krylon Crystal Clear Matte – This is my current go to clear coat for both miniatures and terrain. It is safe on foam (always test your own cans), dries completely matte, and wont yellow over time.
Minwax Satin Polyurethane – This was my previous go to for sealing foam projects. It is very safe on foam and dries very quickly. The downside is that it can slightly yellow over time. This is not an issue for most terrain pieces but it makes it not suitible for miniatures with vibrant colours. It does not dry completely flat which can have an nice effect on terrain. This product seems to be difficult to find in some regions.
Craft brushes – For terrain you really don’t want to use good brushes. Your brushes will get wrecked quickly so you want to buy a variety of sizes in bulk and have many on hand. The good thing is that for a lot of terrain purposes it doesn’t matter if your cheap brushes are in really poor shape.
Detail brushes – It is worth buying a set of midrange quality detail brushes as well. You don’t need (or want) to use high end brushes that are used on miniatures for terrain, you just need something that will get the job done on the little details that you won’t be to upset if you accidentally ruin.
Miniature Brushes – If you plan on painting miniatures it is a good idea to invest in a set of higher end detail brushes that are reserved for minis only. Army Painter and Vallejo make good quality modestly priced brushes to learn with.
Brush Cleaner – Using a brush cleaner to clean and condition your brushes after each use will make them last significantly longer.
Craft Paints – For terrain the only thing you need are cheap acrylic craft paints, even for metallics. Brand does not matter, get whatever you can find cheapest. I use a mixture of FolkArt, Crafsmart, Americana, and Apple Barrel. The most important thing is making sure the paint is MATTE.
Miniature Paint – For miniatures using paint designed for miniatures will make painting a lot easier. Miniature paints have finer and stronger pigment meaning they can be diluted and still cover well. This is very important on the small details of miniatures. Using this paint will make the process a lot easier if you are just learning than if you use craft paint. Army Painter, Reaper, and Vallejo are all great and each have awesome starter sets available, although Vallejo seems to be the most widely viewed best for beginners and experienced painters alike. I would warn agains Citadel paints as they come in pots which are less convenient and dry out faster than the other brands in dropper bottles. Reaper makes a great little “learn to paint” set if you just want to dip your toes.
Vallejo Surface Primer – This is my preferred primer for miniatures. It works great on all sorts of plastics. It is an airbrush primer but you can brush it on as well. It is very thin so it does not obscure detail.
Stynylrez – This primer by Badger is another excellent option. I havn’t used it myself by it is recommended by seasoned painters just as much as the Vallejo primer. You can buy it in a convenient white, grey, and black set.
Aerosol Primer – Rattle can primer is a convenient option for a lot of applications. In a lot of cases any cheap flat spray primer will work fine, but if you plan on painting any soft plastic toys or models (like Reaper Bones) a lot of spray primers can have a chemical reaction with the plastic causing the item to get very tacky. Army Painter seems to be the best at not causing this. CAUTION: Many spray paints will melt foam, so use caution when spraying foam pieces.
Citadel Washes – I don’t like the Citadel paints much, but their washes are by far my favourite from any brand. These are, in my opinion, the best washes for miniatures. I wouldn’t use them on terrain as they are too precious and expensive. For terrain I make my own washes.
Home Made Wash Supplies – Terrain is much more forgiving with the quality of washes. You can make your own in large quantity for cheap that is similar to the Citadel washes. It’s not as good, but more than good enough for terrain. Aside from water you need three ingredients: Matte Medium, Flow Aid, and Acrylic Ink. Ink works far better than paint and is the real secret to making an effective wash. If you want to save some money you can use dishwasher rinse aid as a substitute for the flow aid. WATCH HOW TO MAKE VIDEO.
StaWet Palette – There are very few things you can buy that will magically improve your painting ability. But a wet palette is one of them. Seriously, for a very small investment (or zero cost if you make your own), you can instantly improve your miniature painting. I’m serious, these things are amazing. Not a requirement for terrain painting, but a MUST have for miniature painting. The hype is real! Check out this video where I discuss what they do, why you need one, and how to make one if you want to go that route. I recommend using parchment paper instead of the paper that comes with it.
Airbrush – If you want to step into the world of airbrushing, which is a great way to improve your efficiency and create effects impossible with a brush, I have good news and band news. You need two basic things, the airbrush and a compressor. The good news is that a cheap “off brand” compressor will work just fine. If you have a compressor already for air tools you can just use that. Although a quality compressor is likely to last longer than a cheap one. The bad news is that when it comes to airbrushes you really should purchase something of good quality. I started with a cheap airbrush and had nothing but problems until it broke. I switched to a quality Iwata HP-CS airbrush it it was night and day. I wish I had purchased it right from the beginning. This airbrush is easy to use, even for a beginner.
Flocking – Obviously good for creating ground cover on terrain, it has many other uses like decorating trees, bushes, and even creating moss. I personally use Woodland Scenics but there are many companies making comparable products and availability changes by country. I recommend having coarse and fine turf in shades of green grass and burnt grass (olive). You can add other shades as you progress in the hobby.
Clump Foliage – Essentially the same stuff as the fine turf, but blended much more coarsely, making it great for little bushes, shrubs, and for making the foliage on trees. Available in a variety of shades.
Static Grass Tufts – An affordable way to increase the look of your miniatures and terrain. Using these is about as easy as it gets so the effort and costs vs reward couldn’t be much better. Watch my VIDEO REVIEW. They come in a wide variety of colours and length, and you can even get ones with rocks, wood debris, and flowers. Below are links to a few of my favourites as well as the full list available from WWS.
Citadel Skulls – I can’t stress how awesome and useful these are. You get hundreds of high detail skulls of various shapes and sizes for a really good price. Great for adding details to terrain or miniature bases.
Mantic Terrain Crate – The sets are fabulous. They provide hundreds of unique, high detail, miniature bits. Some are large enough to be used as standalone terrain like horses and carts and some is teeny tiny bits like skulls, rats, candles, and books that can be used to decorate miniatures and terrain. Worth every penny.
Medium Weight Chipboard – This is a very dense and rigid type of non corrugated cardboard. It is the material used for product packaging (cereal boxes) but this is a much thicker and more rigid version. Its a an easy to use alternative to mdf for basing. It’s not as thick or strong, but you can easily cut it with a knife requiring no carpentry tools.
XPS (Insulation Foam) – Extruded Polystyrene is the proper name for this foam and is often abbreviated as XPS. It is most commonly sold as insulation for homes and buildings. Many different brands make this product and the brand names will change depending on country. DOW and Foamular by Owen Cornings are the most prevalent in North America and Styrodur is a popular brand from Germany. But there are many more. The colour is irrelevant and is typically just used as an identifier for each brand. You can find it in pink, blue, green, yellow and probably more. The biggest difference between varieties is density. The denser the foam, the better it takes impressions. Generally each brand makes a variety of densities, but you may only be able to find one or two options for purchase at the consumer level.
As this foam is sold for insulating houses you will find it sold at building material stores. In places like North America this will be Home Depot, Lowes, and similar. Usually stores will stock just one brand.
Whatever country you are in try your local building material supply store. Ask for it correctly “I’m looking for extruded polystyrene insulation foam”. If they don’t know what you mean try “insulation board”. In Canada a nickname for the stuff is “SM”, but there could be other contractor nicknames in different places.
This product may be harder to find in more temperate climates that don’t need to insulate for extreme cold or heat, and may be regulated in some areas and harder to find (example California). In some regions where it is not common as wall insulation you may find it sold as an underlay for flooring.
It is made and sold in a variety of thicknesses, commonly from 1/4″ to 4″, but again this availability will vary by region. It’s quite common in colder places like Canada and northern USA to find multiple thicknesses available at Home Depot but in other regions you may be limited to just 1″.
In some regions it is shipped with a think plastic film to protect it during storage. If yours has this, you will want to peel it off before working with it.
PLAY THE GAME
Books – If you want to play 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons you need the players handbook. If you want to RUN D&D then you should add some of the other resources to your collection like the Monster Manual, Volo’s Guid to Monsters, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, etc.
Kobold Press Books – My two favourite third party books for 5th Edition are Tome of Beasts and Creature Codex by Kobold Press. Must haves!
Battle Mats – These are a great way to supplement your terrain and to layout things that are too difficult to do with 3d dungeon tiles.
Dice – Buy your polyhedral dice in BULK, especially if you are just starting out. Any player is going to want at least 3 full sets and a GM is going to want several full sets.