Set Up for success!
This article was originally published in RC Driver’s August 2016 issue.
Custom projects are so much fun because you get to create something that no one else has. Whether you’re working on a custom chassis, a one-off body or other fabricated job, you are truly the creator of your project. Since you’re not working with an off-theshelf project, you’re going to need the right tools to save you time and headaches down the road. These are some of the top tools we recommend for anyone who is going to be working on custom projects.
Often you’re going to be working on what seems like a bazillion little pieces all at the same time. With that, you’re going to drop something at some time and, once it bounces off your bench and into the luxurious shag carpeting, you can pretty much kiss it goodbye. A good pit mat will not only help keep your workbench top looking neat and clean but it will also help capture any part that just happens to fall at the worst possible time.
Custom projects and hobby knives seem to go hand-in-hand and using your knife safely will make your project look better and prevent accidents. Self-healing mats provide a great surface to cut on, again protecting your workbench (or kitchen table). Many selfhealing mats have either rulers or reference lines for you to use to help you cut straight lines or lines of the proper length.
MAGNETIC PARTS TRAY
You don’t need to be into custom projects to appreciate these gems; I’ve had one on my pit bench for over 20 years! Much like a pit mat can help keep things from rolling off your bench and onto the floor, a magnetic parts tray will help you keep track of nuts, screws, E-clips, set screws or any of the countless number of small parts you’ll be working with.
Raise your hand if you’ve sent an E-clip zinging across your shop. That’s what I thought, me too. Whether I am putting them on a car or truck or taking them off, they seem to have minds of their own and never, ever want to go on easily. Much like the magnetic parts tray, I’ve had the Tamiya E-clip tools in my pit box for what seems like forever and they have definitely saved me from having to crawl on the floor with a cell phone flashlight to find that one blasted E-clip.
If you’re working on a custom setup, I’ll guarantee you’re cutting, grinding, sanding or filing something and a rotary tool like a Dremel will make your life so much easier. Not only will you not have to do that sort of fabrication by hand any longer but you’ll also have a finer level of precision and control. I hate messing with cords so I’d highly recommend spending the extra few dollars and investing in a rechargeable unit.
Any time you need to cut a wheel well, you’ll be thankful that you invested in one of these little babies. Circle cutters work similarly to a compass from your geometry class, but instead of a pencil on one end there’s a sharp cutting bit. This will give you perfect wheel wells every time and give you a cleaner look than is possible with Lexan scissors.
In the event that you don’t own a circle cutter and need to even out wheel wells or you just need to give your cut edges a cleaner look, PROTOform has two tools you need. The Better Edge Sanding Drum and Sanding Block are both designed to take out the jagged edges; one is perfect for wheel wells and the other is perfect for straight lines. Even if you’re not into custom projects, you should have these in your pit box.
Anytime you’re making something unique, there be a need to glue or tack pieces together. Having a variety of thick and thin CA glues, along with Shoe Goo and other adhesives, can make life a lot easier. Each thickness of glue can be used in different situations depending on what you are gluing. In addition to adhesives and glues, having debonder on hand will help in situations when you glue yourself to, well, yourself.
TWEEZERS, HEMOSTATS AND HELPING HANDS
There will be times when you need to maneuver in tight spaces or hold pieces in place, and having your sausage fingers in the way isn’t a good thing. Tweezers or a locking hemostat can make getting into tight spaces so much easier. Additionally, a helping hand, especially one with an integrated magnifying lens, makes it easier for you to hold pieces and components while applying intricate details or paint to parts.
These are just a few of the tools we have on our tool benches when working on custom projects. There are many more tools and supplies we use and we’d love to hear what you find most useful on your custom projects. Let us know what tools and supplies you find most helpful by visiting us on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/RCDriver!