I’m often asked about the tools or materials I use. These are my go to items.
Full disclosure, if you purchase any of these items by clicking on the link below (or anything else during that browsing session), Amazon will give me a percentage of the sale. This is an excellent way to help the channel out, while buying something you need or want anyway. I want to make it very clear that these are the EXACT tools and supplies I myself use, love, and recommend to you. Everything on this list you would find on my desk.
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Listed here are the specific tools & supplies I use, but if you would like to support the channel financially, you can do any or your regular Amazon shopping through the following links and Black Magic Craft will receive the affiliate commission on any purchases. Cheers!
Proxxon Hotwire Cutter. This is by far the MOST important tool at my desk. If you are serious about crafting terrain using foam of any kind, this is a must have. It is the key to getting clean, consistent, and straight, cuts. It also allows for unusual angled cuts, and replication of the same piece over and over. This is the only entry level hotwire table worth purchasing, others like the Hotwire Foam Factory Scroll table CAN NOT handle the types of cuts needed on foam over 1/8″ thick. This Proxxon cutter will easily cut through foam several inches thick. Don’t think twice about which hotwire table to buy, if you want one, this is the one. Trust me.
Proxxon Thermocut 12/E. If you are looking to either expand upon your tool set that already includes a hotwire table, or are looking for an alternative, the handheld cutter by Proxxon is by FAR the best option. It has an incredible amount of features that others are missing. It is highly adjustable, has a variable temperature control, trigger, and a wire that can be bent in various shapes to use the cutter as a router. A handheld cutter cant fully replace a table cutter, but it can perform a lot of cool organic type cuts a lot better than the table type can. The only downside to this tool is that it requires a power transformer. The good news is that all of Proxxon’s handheld tools use the same transformer, so once you have one you can add any of their tools to your arsenal.
While I was never happy with Hotwire Foam Factory‘s Scroll table, their sculpting tool and engraver are a decent option for a low price. The sculpting tool is far more limited than the handheld by Proxxon (and has a much inferior build quality) however the lower price reflects this, and is a good choice for people just starting out or that don’t want a huge investment into the hobby.
18mm Ratchet-Lock Heavy-Duty Utility Knife. This is the best utility knife you can buy, at least in my opinion. In my day job (Carpenter/Master Renovator) I use a utility knife often. There is always one in my back pocket. Of the dozens of brands and styles I’ve tried, over my 10 years in the industry, I have found this particular one to be the most comfortable, ergonomic, and practical to use. The OLFA blades are also of a significantly higher quality the generic brands and are worth the price. I love this knife, and literally own dozens of them. You can find one in my pocket, in my tool pouch, at my work bench, in my truck, and randomly in just about every room of the house. Don’t waste your time with dollar store utility knives then get annoyed at your rough cuts in foam, this is a place where it pays to buy a better quality tool.
OLFA replacement blades. As stated above, if you want clean, consistent cuts using a knife, you need to use quality blades. Olfa blades are sharper and far more rigid than cheap no name ones. These are the correct ones to refill your OLFA knife.
#2 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. This one by Fiskars is what I use. It is two sided (darker and lighter options, I use the darker other side in all my vids). I’ve made tens of thousands of cuts on mine and it is barely starting to look rough. I recommend getting the largest one your desk allows.
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.
A Small Metal Carpenter’s Square 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.
CCbetter Mini Hot Glue Gun. This is the best (affordable) hot glue gun you will ever use. Don’t believe me? Go buy one and test it out, I’ll wait….See? It’s great isn’t it? It’s such a perfect little glue gun that DM Scotty even made a video praising it. I didn’t believe the hype at first either, but I tried it and was an instant fan. A glue gun is not a complicated tool, but after using this one, you will see just how crappy the one you bought from Walmart is. It’s the right size, high temp, doesn’t drip, has a fine metal tip you can use for sculpting glue, and best of all it has an on/off switch and LED indicator so you can keep it plugged in and the cord neatly routed. It can just sit on your desk, and be switched on and off as needed. I don’t know why all glue guns don’t have this crucial feature.
Aleene’s Tacky Glue. For many, many things (like gluing individual bricks or shingles) hot glue is way too thick and messy, and regular white (PVA) glue is way too thin and doesn’t hold the pieces in place fast enough causing them to constantly shift around while you try to work. The answer is Aleene’s tacky glue. This is my go to “white” glue and I will use it anytime I can. It is a PVA glue, but contains a special resin that makes it much thicker and causes is to hold glued pieces far better before drying. It also dries significantly faster and stronger than typical white/pva glue. I go through a lot of this stuff.
PVA (white) Glue. There are a million and one uses for PVA glue in terrain building. I’m not even going to start listing them here. I’m pretty sure you can’t build terrain without it, well you could, but really its such a cheap material and so useful you should just buy a big container of it. Brand doesn’t matter much, I do tend to buy Elmer’s though because it seems to be the most common. Don’t waste money buying small bottles of this stuff, you will go through a lot and it’s far more cost effective to buy it in larger quantities.
5 Minute Epoxy. 5 minute epoxy is a very strong glue, way stronger than you need for most terrain building applications, but that is not what I use it for. This cheap 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. I use this type of resin in multiple tutorials (Acid Tiles, Disolving Pools)
Starter brushes. When you are first starting out building terrain you may be tempted to go out and buy some expensive brushes, especially if you have some knowledge or history in mini painting or model building. When you have this thought, stop your self and say “nope!”. You do NOT need expensive brushes for the vast %95 of terrain building, and more importantly building terrain will destroy your brushes over time so you want to be using cheap ones. Seriously, how mad will you be when pva glue and sand gets into an expensive brushes bristles, or when the tips are all hooked from stippling? Just buy one of these cheap variety packs of craft brushes. A bunch of them are useless, but about a 1/3 of them are perfect for terrain building, and for a few bucks you are good to go for most builds. Check out my video on these brush packs.
Detail brushes. The cheap variety pack I show above is more than enough to get you started, but once you’ve completed a good amount of builds your abilities and detail levels are sure to increase. At that point you will find that odd time when you need some finer brushes than the cheap packs give you. It is worth getting a set of “detial” brushes. Again you don’t need the really high end ones the miniature model paint manufacturers sell. An affordable set like this is a good cheap investment into your hobby, and if you take care of them, they will last you years.
Craft paint. First, check out my BASICS: PAINT video. For terrain building, cheap acrylic craft paint is the way to go. Brand doesn’t matter much, just buy what you can find for a good price. I personally gravitate to Craftsmart, but Folk Art, Americana, Apple Barrel, and Deco Art are all totally fine too. I’d love to link to a great starter set here, but could not find anything with a colour selection I’d choose. While not the best advice to give on my Amazon Affiliate store, this is something probably best purchased locally….but incase you want a link to ensure you get the right stuff, follow below for Craftsmart’s basic black, the most important one to buy.
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.
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 both 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. It flows much better, and dries much harder. Some people believe that Mod Podge is just repackaged pva glue, but this is not true. While it has a PVA base it is specifically formulated with an additional water based resin which is what makes it dry so much harder and clearer. Get this stuff and start using it. It can be intimidating at first to coat something in it for the first time, thinking it might ruin the piece, but trust me, once you try it you will do it every time.
Minwax Polyurethane. If you’ve been paying attention to my videos you know how much I love this stuff, and how often I use it (I even made a video dedicated to it). Every piece I build gets a coat of this as a final step. It gives great protection to the paint, and makes your foam even harder than it already was with the Mod Podge coating. The thing that makes this stuff so special though is that it does not melt foam. You apply it to even raw uncoated foam safely. Just keep in mind that you need to follow proper aerosol application methods and spray from about 12″ away, and you always need to test new cans just incase they suddenly change the formula. Don’t bother with other brands, I’ve tried many, and they all melt foam. This is the one that doesn’t!
BUY: (USA) http://amzn.to/2mmXg25 (Canada) Amazon.ca has poor pricing, buy in store
All purpose joint compound is my go to product for when I want foam to have a very hard and durable surface. I also use it to add texture to all sorts of things, big and small. I use it to coat large rocks and create texture, and even on stuff as small as mini bases to create realistic ground cover like mud and dirt. It’s excellent for filling gaps, blending seams, and doing repairs in foam projects. It’s a very versitile and incredibly cheap product that you should always have on hand…it is even the magic material I used to make my water board that you see in my longboat video.
Woodland Scenics Fine Turf is what I use for pretty much of of my ground cover when I am going for vegetation or grass. It is what I use when doing bases that have grass, what I used in my Jungle Tiles video, and what I used on my big grass boards you probably see in a lot of my photos. A lot of people will say that you can just make your own flocking out of stuff like sponge through a blender, or sawdust, or pencil shavings. This is true, and I’m all for saving a buck, but honestly I don’t think this an item worth trying to make yourself. Making flocking is time consuming, and requires sourcing material to use as a base which could require a lot of leg work, getting large quantities of clean sawdust isn’t the easiest thing to do, and blending sponge means you need a blender that you won’t be using for food. So I just buy premade stuff, it’s really not very expensive (one shaker of each colour is all you’ll probably ever need) and it’s really good consistent quality. I pretty much use two colours exclusively Green Grass and Burnt Grass. Get a shaker of each and you’ll be set to do a lot of terrain.
Woodland Scenics Clump Foliage is 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. Same arguments about buying vs making as fine turf. Getting some medium green and light green should have you covered.
Static Grass Tufts are a super 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.
Other Tools & Supplies
Wire Brushes like these are the fasted and easiest way to get realistic wood grain in xps foam. This set is nice because it has different bristle types that may have slightly different results depending on the foam you are using or the look you are trying to achieve.
Acetone will melt XPS foam fast and in very interesting ways. It is the best way to dissolve big pits into a foam tile as well as create cool texture. This is a better method than the nailpolish I use in my Water Effects video, and what I use instead to make my Acid Damaged Tiles. Use this product with caution.
DAS Modeling Clay is a very cost effective air dry clay that dries incredibly strong and hard. It is far easier to work with than dollar store natural air dry clays and is far more resistant to shrinking and breaking. You can add PVA glue to the wet clay which will result in a cured piece that is hard as rock.
Medium Weight Chipboard 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. I don’t use it often, but when I do there can be no alternative for it.
XPS/Rigid Foam/Insulation Foam
XPS (Insulation Foam) This is not something you should be purchasing through Amazon.The best place to buy it is at local building supply or hardware stores. This is such an important material in my projects, and an item that causes so much confusion, that I have created a dedicated resource page for it as well as a BASICS video.
Checkout out the XPS BUYING GUIDE for more information