These are some important tools to have on hand when working with smaller trains, particularly Z scale. Here I list what they are, why they're important, and examples of what I used them for.
The almighty toothpick:
More than likely you already know what a toothpick is and its basic uses. Well this is probably the most important and used tool I have. I must have gone through about 1,000 of them by now.
I used a toothpick for just about every situation. I use them to hold pieces while I paint them, to make minor adjustments to scenery before the glue dries, and the biggest is using them to apply caulk to the layout and then to clean up excess caulk once I place an item. They do an amazing job at cleaning up the caulk and their small size means they can get into hard-to -reach spaces.
Where to get them: You could get them just about anywhere with a large box under $1.00
Over the head magnifier:
Want to be the coolest person on your block? Then you need one of the. This over-the-head magnifier will give you that sexy ~~Wayne Szalinski look you've been dying for. It will also be an enormous help when working with the small pieces model railroading comes with by allowing you to keep your hands free. In addition, it allows you to keep the magnifier with you as you turn your head so you're not forced to work with a stationary magnifying glass.
WARNING: Mine came with two decent LED lights that can drain batteries in as little as an hour.
What did I use this for? Painting people, creating the fiber optic police car, detailing the fire engine, building the playground equipment, building buildings, and many, many other things.
Where to get one: I got mine on eBay. I've seen them there for under $30. A good investment.
My biggest discovery through all of this is by far the usefulness of caulk for placing item.
I already knew it was great at holding the cork roadbed down and holding the flex track,
but I had no idea how great it was everywhere else!
Here are some of the things I used it for:
Securing figures, automobiles, trees, bushes, making bushes with ground foam, holding down houses, filling small gaps, attaching retaining walls, holding down sewer grates and manholes, and a whole lot more.
Where to get it: Any hardware store for under $5.00. Get the squeeze tube as seen above. I primarily used clear.
I use Woodland Scenics foam putty a lot and I use these putty knives to mix it with water and to apply it to the site I'm working on. They are great for applying it, shaping it, and cleaning it up. I prefer plastic to metal as it's less likely to damage the layout since it's flexible.
Where to get them: Michael's, Jo-Ann Fabrics, or other art & craft supply store. $5.00
A good paintbrush is key to getting a good finish when painting anything. If you cheap out on your paintbrush then you could wind up with a streaky, uneven finish or worse. The cheapo paint brushes are simply a lower quality and can easily loose bristles that will wind up in your finished product. I use a wide array of paint brushes starting from a medium size down to a teeny tiny size like the top paintbrush in the picture. I also have paint brushes that are the same size, but may have softer or firmer bristles. I use soft when I want to coat the surface of a figure and then something firmer when I'm trying to target specific areas like eyes, nose, mouth, or even handcuffs. You don't need the top of the line gold plated limited edition special ops paintbrushes Hollywood makeup artists use. Just something in the middle.
Where to get them: Hobby stores, arts & craft stores, and other locations. Prices range greatly depending on the size of the brush and quality. Mine ranged between $3.00 - $8.00 each.
The ever useful tweezers:
Tweezers are a versatile tool that enable us to hold and work with items that our fat fingers can't get a good grip of. We can use them to place a figure in a crowded area without disrupting the items around it. They come in a of shapes and sizes and it's up to
you to decide what's best based on what you're trying to do. I prefer the bent tweezers shown above because they allow me to easily grab figures or bushes and have complete control over the placement. Trying to use pointed tweezers to attach a figure is difficult because there's isn't much contact between the pointed tip and the figure so when I go to place them they would move around. With the flat edge of the bent tweezers above I have the figure in a good strong grasp and can move it anyway I want.
Where to get them: Drug stores like CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, big box shops like Target. They're available everywhere basically. Cost ranges on them, but they're generally cheap. You could pick them up for $0.50 or $1.50 like mine were.