By SXRguyinMA at 2011-05-02 11:26
Every modder has their tools. We wouldn’t be able to get our mods done without them. But what tools do we really need, and what ones can we live without? Read on and find out what 10 tools are the bare minimum to keep in your work area.
I've done the list in what I feel is in order from most to least essential, so let's get started!
This may not seem like it fits in, but it’s just about #1 as far as needed tools go for modding. You need it to layout designs for cutting, to prototype ideas and make notes. You can use it to write down measurements, cut out templates for window holes, or jot down angles and formulas for whatever you are working on. It’s simple, but oh-so-important!
A ruler. Not just a tape measure, as those can be flimsy and hard to work with at some times or in some situations. A nice metal (preferably aluminum) ruler is THE way to go. They come in varying sizes, and will hold up to lots of abuse. Uses include measuring and being used as a straightedge to mark lines.
The Rotary tool. Whether it be a Dremel, Craftsman, or other brand, they’ll all work with your standard Dremel-style accessories. Don’t skimp on quality with these just to save a few bucks either, as quality tools like this will last longer and run more reliably. The rotary tool has MANY uses in modding, but I’ll just cover a few basic ones here. These run from cutting window into cases to sanding and polishing acrylic to cutting out fan holes. Sure a hacksaw will work, but a rotary tool will make the job quicker and easier.
Drills. They’re pretty much indispensable for modding. Whether it be a hand-held corded or cordless drill, your standard run-of-the-mill drill press, or even both, it’s a must-have tool in your arsenal. Drills make cutting small perfectly circular holes quick and simple, and a drill press goes one step further in ease of use. A lot of modern drill presses are coming with laser sights to even further aid ease of use and accuracy.
You need something to put in that shiny new drill right? A good-quality set of drill bits is an absolute must for modders. Titanium Nitride (TiN) coated bits are the most popular and tend to last the longest. High-quality expensive ones will even have hex-shaped bases to eliminate the typical problems associated with round-base bits. An addition to this is a set of stepped drill bits. I picked up 2 sets of bits at Harbor Freight for $7 each, one set of 3 smaller ones and one set of 2 larger ones. These are perfect for starting off with small holes and progressively getting larger without the need for switching bits. Along with bits is a nice automatic center punch. This helps to give the bits a little dimple to grab onto to prevent them from walking when you start drilling. As always when drilling metal, used some kind of lube (WD-40 is inexpensive and works well) to keep the bits lubricated for the longest life.
Another must is the bench grinder. With these you can attach grinding wheels of various grits, wire brush wheels of various grits and even various styles of polishing wheels. This comes in handy to grind down bolts or metal stock, clean and strip surface rust, paint or powder coat, and polish anything from acrylic to steel. When searching for a bench grinder, you’re best to get one with at least 6” diameter wheels and at LEAST 3/4HP. Anything less power-wise won’t have the torque needed to really polish up that aluminum or brass in your next mod.
A quality screwdriver set is a must. Sure the cheap China ones are OK for a while, but they can be flimsy and the tips may not be properly sized, which can lead to stripping out screws instead of tightening or loosening them. You don’t need a super-expensive set of Snap-On drivers like I have, but any good-quality set will provide years of use. Craftsman hand tools carry a lifetime fault-free warranty, so if you break one, bend it, strip it, or if it sits outside and gets rusty, you can head on down to Sears and pick up a new one, no questions asked. The rusty part is especially useful for finding cheap Craftsman tools at yard sales and turning them into shiny new ones!
No, I'm not talking about your wife or girlfriend's hair dryer. A good heat gun will have at least 2 heat ranges, if not more. A heat gun will heat up a lot hotter than a typical hair dryer will. Heat guns have many uses, from doing heat shrink to removing decals (and even paint), heating acrylic for bending, and heating water-cooling tubing to stretch it over barbed fittings for a clean and leak-free setup. With these, a top-quality gun is not needed 99% of the time. The Harbor freight gun that I use (pictured above) cost me $10, and has a high and low heat range. This is the gun I used to bend the acrylic sides in my Rockin Case project.
A good set of various shapes and sizes of files is a good thing to keep around. They’re useful for de-burring edges left from cutting all sorts of materials like aluminum, steel and acrylic. Having a variety set like the one shown above is nice because you get lots of different size and shape files that you’ll find useful for getting into tight corners or making that rounded corner just right. Try filing a rounded corner down with a square file. Sure it can be done, but a rounded file will do it quicker and with less effort.
A scroll saw is like a combination of a band saw and a jigsaw. It has very thin blades and allows you to place the blade inside your workpiece and cut out an intricate design. The benefit to this is that the tool is stationary and you can move the piece at will as needed. These tool range from inexpensive Harbor Freight units to expensive name-brand units. I personally have the Harbor Freight one pictured above, and it works perfectly.
So there you have it, a nice roundup of the must-have tools for serious case modding. There are many more tools that are needed or can be useful for modding, but I chose the 10 that I thought would be the most important and useful for most of us. What other tools do you frequently use and enjoy that aren't on the list? Feel free to discuss it in the comments!