This page provides a description of the basic tools and equipment to have in a model making tool kit.

What do I need to make a model?

Investing in good quality basic tools will hold in you in good stead throughout your studies. The following list of Essential Tools should be considered mandatory for all design students. A list of Advanced Tools, many available for loan from the FabLab are provided for those seeking to expand their capabilities.

Essential Tools

Self healing cutting mat

A cutting mat provides a stable, durable work surface for making models. They are useful not only as a cutting surface, but as a general means to protect your desk or table, particularly when working at home. For this reason it is recommended to purchase the largest mat you can, but A3 equivalent should be considered a minimum size to suit most architectural model projects.

Scalpel blade craft knife

Scalpel blade craft knives should be used for most cutting tasks. Their pen-like shaft and extremely sharp blade enables great control and accuracy. In addition to cutting straight lines, scalpels can be used for cutting curves. A variety of interchangeable blade shapes are available, and it is important to change blades regularly for best results.

Retractable blade utility knife

Retractable blade utility knives, also known as box cutters or Stanley knives is useful for making straight cuts in thicker materials. While they offer less dexterity than scalpels, they remain very accurate when used appropriately.

Using sharp knives is a key OH&S risk for design students

Use proper technique when cutting, being mindful to keep hands away from direction of knife blade. Blades should be stowed when not in use.

Straight edge

A straight edge or steel ruler is essential for producing accurate straight cuts. Rulers made of plastic and wood are not suitable for cutting, as they are too soft to resist sharp blades and will become deformed with use. Some straight edges come with cork backing to secure underlying materials. It can be useful to have a number of sizes to suit the scale of components you are producing.

Scale ruler

Scale rulers are useful for making accurate measurements of components due to their very fine markings. Triangular section rulers are particularly useful as they secure underlying materials in place with little force.

Set square

Set squares enable you to mark accurate right angles, a crucial skill for making accurate models. Small wood working set squares are also useful for aligning components during assembly.

Mechanical pencil

A mechanical pencil will allow you to accurately mark components for cutting or joining. Remember to measure twice, and cut once.


Tweezers are very useful for placing different components together, particularly working with small pieces or when using strong or fast-setting adhesives such as super glue.

Advanced Tools

Drills & drivers

Drills & drivers are powered hand tools used for drilling holes and driving fixings such as screws. Screws and bolts can be used to attach larger elements. It is always recommended to pre-drill screw holes prior to driving to achieve more accurate results and prevent splitting.

Drills & drivers may be borrowed form the FabLab Guru desk. These tools can only be used in the FabLab.

Rotary tools

Rotary tools also known by the product name Dremel are powered hand tools that can perform a variety of craft and modelling tasks; from cutting and sanding to engraving and polishing. Rotary tools use a wide range of interchangeable accessories to perform different tasks. They use variable speed, low torque motors that enable them to be adapted to different materials and temperatures.

Rotary tools are available for use in the Machine Workshop.


Callipers are a type of sliding ruler used to make very accurate internal and external measurements. They are useful for obtaining dimensions from materials, in particular thicknesses of sheet materials and diameters of wires or pipes.


Syringes can be used for more accurate application of adhesives and paints. While there are significant benefits to using syringes, they must generally be discarded after use.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Most analogue model making tasks can be performed safely without PPE. However, basic precautions can be taken such as wearing latex gloves when using strong adhesives. Wearing eye and ear protection is recommended when using powered hand tools.

Purchasing Tools

Quality model-making tools are available from art supply stores, and heavier hand tools are available from hardware stores. Familiarising yourself with the tools and products available can make the model-making process much easier. Below is a list of popular local retailers:

Deans Art Supplies

Eckersley's Art & Craft

Melbourne Artists' Supplies


Understanding and maintaining your tools is an important part of design practice. While some basic tools are available for loan at the FabLab, it is highly recommended that students acquire and look after their own set of good quality model-making tools.

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