Tools & Accessories

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Basic Mechanical Tools:

Screwdrivers, hex drivers, nut drivers, torx drivers, drills

Get a GOOD set of screwdrivers, and nut drivers. The Chinese screws are poor quality metal, poorly made and strip easily. Getting a driver that fits well is really important.

I'm sold on Wiha tools, they have black handles and a red end that turns. Lots of knockoffs made so look for the brand name. It's really critical when you have hex head screws or hex sockets. I bought mine from

They have hardened tool steel blades, and are of high quality. Some of my steam locos come with very small/weird sized hex head bolts.

I bought the hex driver set #26390 - .7, .89, 1.3, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0 mm drivers.
Also the metric nut driver set #26592 - 1.5, 1.8, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 mm drivers

With all the weird and non standard hardware, a wide variety of drills helps. I have a single drill case that holds letter drills A-Z, fractional drills by 1/64 to 1/2", and what I use the most, number drills from 1 to 80. I found a good place to order individual drills, Bisco Tool Supply,

More basic tools:

Vernier calipers:

You have to have a set of these. The more you pay, the better they work and are more repeatable (meaning you get the same measurement every time). If you can, invest in a good pair like Mitutoyo. if you can't yet, then get a cheapo set from Harbor Freight, and just measure twice to be sure of the reading.





Have had one for years, all kinds of different bases, vises, and accessories.

I move mine around, so I use the weighted base, the low profile mount, and Teflon jaws.

Some thing I just found recently that is huge:

This bolts to the Panavise base. Got mine from Adafruit:

They have a lot of electronics parts also.




These holders are made by many different models available


Cleaning brushes

fiberglas  scratch brush, excellent for cleaning contacts, removing corrosion. (Great for battery contacts corroded by bad batteries), #267A brush refill, #267 scratch brush

Electronics tools


You HAVE to have one. They are so cheap there is no excuse. Continuity testers blow stuff up.

Here is one from Harbor Freight  that cost $2 on sale!


Oscilloscope DIY kit 1380K, be sure not to get counterfeit one.

Dremel rotary tools

Everyone needs one. I suppose the generic name is "motor tool" but it's become generic like Kleenex, Xerox, Thermos, etc.

The newer Lithium ion powered ones are much better. I have the 10.2v model 8000, the smaller ones don't have enough power, and the 12v one is too large in diameter, the 8000 has that longer, thinner nose. I do have a corded Dremel as a backup for long jobs at home. If you use it a lot, a second battery is a good idea. A good accessory to have is the flex shaft, #225-01. It fits almost every model of Dremel, and the big advantage is the very thin handle. If you are cutting track, you want to keep the shaft parallel to the track, which cannot be done with any of the regular tools.

Even then, you need the larger diameter cutoff wheels with the quick detachable heads, called EZ-Lock. See below. For even nicer cutting than the carbide cutoff wheels, but for finer, lighter duty, is the large diameter diamond wheel, Treat it nice and it will last a long time, nothing better for cutting track.

dremel "numbers"; I use

562 1/8" tile cutting bit

569 1/16" carbide grout removal bit (1/8" shank)

570 1/8" carbide grout removal bit

TC1 roto zip 1/8" carbide tile cutting bit ($5 cheaper than the dremel)

EZ495 - a wrench that stows on the top of the tool, but will loosen the collet nut,

Work Cradle

You should have something like this. You can make a simple one, this one has an adjustable angle and a storage tray underneath.

See the links at the bottom of this page for an entire page on different cradles and who makes them

Rollers (rolling road)

A set of rollers is essential. You should get ball bearing ones for the locos, they are less trouble, large drivered locos, or running at high speed, the loco may "walk" out of the rollers and take off across your workbench.

Several companies make them, but I'm happy with the Bachmann ones, since they make 2 styles: ball bearing ones (set of 4, #92423) and fixed ones that still conduct electricity (set of 4 #92424). The fixed ones are about half the price of the ball bearing ones, so you put the rolling ones under the loco drivers, and the fixed ones under pilots and the tender. This saves you $$ and allows you to use the tender pickups.

42901 rollers

For testing 2 rollers per "drive block" is usually fine, i.e. the front and rear driver of a steam loco, and the front and rear driver of each diesel truck. Of course there are exceptions, like the 3 axle trucks on USAT diesels.

Loading trains on the track:

Get one of these, a loader / railer from Split Jaw. They come in 2 lengths, get the longer one.


Husky mobile pro organizer... stacking boxes with either 3 drawers that have multi compartments, or 3 shelves of 18 independent bins.

Track Pliers:

I got these from a company called RailRoadTools, but their web site is gone. He was at one of the train shows. A great way to clamp and form rail joiners around the rail, helps conductivity. I use them now to align rails when putting clamps on, sometimes rails are somewhat twisted on curved sections.

Wire Strippers:

It's really annoying when a wire in a loco breaks. What most people don't realize is that most of the time, they helped this happen by using a type of wire stripper that can nick the copper conductor, or actually cut a few strands off flexible wire.

I have a pair of Telvac strippers that I used since 1974. Best stripper I have. They have set of spring blades, and each blade has a small hook on it. The springy blades conform to the wire shape and give just enough pressure to the hooks to dig into the insulation but not touch the copper wire. 

Recently, I was looking to see if they were still available. I think the model numbers were Telvac T-54 and T-56. There were 2 different sets of blades available, finer ones for smaller wire, and coarser ones for larger wire. I bought both sets of blades, but use the finer ones all the time.

I am still researching, but found something that looks very similar, the HAZET 1861VDE-11

Looks like that is no longer available, but now a company called VBW (still in Germany)

look at:

They carry 3 models: A "coarse" one, 11 blades,  542-105, and a fine one, 542-205, like what I am using, with 18 blades (much better on most smaller wire)

(There's also one insulated to 1000v instead of 100v)

Sure looks like the same product, and just like my Telvac except with nicer handles.

Buy a pair, you will love them.


Oscilloscope DIY kit 1380K, be sure not to get counterfeit one.


To pull wheels off axles, you don't want to wedge screwdrivers between the wheel and the motor block, get a wheel puller.

Ted Doskaris found that this Craftsman battery terminal puller worked great. The jaws are spring loaded which helps keep them on the wheel.

Here's a great idea from John Jablonski (JJ) for adjusting wheels:

Take an ordinary "C" clamp and mill a notch in the "foot"


Place it in a vise to hold it steady:


Use it this way to move wheels closer:


Use it this way to open the wheels up:



You absolutely need one of these. Buy from Harbor Freight. This press allows you to press wheels on and off axles, and more importantly, re-gauge your wheels, which are hardly ever in correct gauge.

If you look at the base, you see a rotating plate that will let you put a wheelset in, so that the back of the wheel rests on the plate, and the cutout lets the axle and the other wheel hang through. Thus pressing down will press that wheel closer to the axle end, thus opening up the gauge of the wheelset.


To close up the gauge, you turn the plate so it's not open below the axle and then put one axle tip in the hole in the ram (see the hole in the end in this picture?) Thus pressing down will allow the axle tip to be free inside the hole, the rest of the ram pressed down on the wheel, and thus closes the gauge.


Tools for cutting track:

So far, I have a steady hand, so using a Dremel tool with a carbide cutoff blade works great. Recently, Dremel came out with a new larger diameter carbide wheel that is not as fragile, and a quick change mandrel. Highly recommended.

Since I have stainless steel rail, a normal saw does not work very well. You will fare better on brass and aluminum.

I also bought a small cutoff saw from Harbor Freight, as soon as I locate carbide wheels for it, I'll report back, it was inexpensive and seems just the tool.


Steve Siedensticker in San Diego uses glue to hold his track to wood and brick. He has had good success with E6000, an industrial strength adhesive. Interestingly R.J. DeBerg swears by "Amazing Goop". Turns out that both are manufactured by Eclectic Products !!

Also, the clear adhesive Lexel, a rubber-based adhesive, supposedly stronger and more durable than silicon. by  Sashco Sealants, very sticky, will adhere to polyurethane and most anything. 

Rulers / Measuring Devices:

Get a pair of vernier calipers with a digital readout. You can get them really cheap at Harbor Freight

A scale ruler is great:

Cleaners and Solvents as tools?

I never thought of it this way, but JJ (J. Jablonski) of MLS fame, started a thread on this and it's really true.

I'm working on filling this in and refining it...  but a couple things, when you want to "clean" something, I found the best success is starting with the mildest solvent and working your way up if there is any plastic or paint involved.

So the listing will go from mild to wild, mostly by how these attack plastic.

  • plain old isopropyl alcohol - usually safe on most plastics, but can cloud some clear ones and hurt some soft ones
  • goo gone - usually mild but can eat some plastics, try first in a safe spot
  • tape head cleaner - (isopropyl alcohol and trichlorotriflouroethane) - almost always safe
  • pure freon liquid - great degreaser, but kills the ozone layer and you can't get it anymore
  • liftoff - (#2 most common, but get the complete kit of 0, 1, 2, 3) - Great stuff, use the #2 all the time for lables. It was made to penetrate stickers, and then release the adhesive so stickers just "lift off". Medium mild, will attack some plastics, test first. Be sure to get a can.
  • rubber cleaner - usually safe on everything, good for cleaning rubber before gluing or putting armorall on
  • kerosene - good all around mild solvent, what WD-40 is mostly made of. Does not evaporate completely, leaves oily residue.
  • tar and bug remover - sometimes works wonders, medium solvent, watch on plastics
  • Kroil - (early 50's magic lube and cleaner) - mild solvent that works better than kerosene
  • Metafin - much like Kroil
  • paint thinner - medium solvent, can attack plastic
  • CRC-32 - really a lube and corrosion inhibitor, but has some solvent. Can clean some stuff and lube. The solvent can attack some some plastics, no matter what Lewis says.
  • WD40 - I have a can. It's like spray kerosene. It usually leaves a sticky residue, requiring more WD-40. Not good as a lube.
  • Boeshield t-9 (also corrosion protection, similar to but better than crc-32)
  • goof off
  • silicon spray - (there is a solvent in it) - can clean some stuff, but attacks many plastics. If it does not attack your plastic, cleans and lubes.
  • brake cleaner - very good degreaser - safe on some plastics
  • carb cleaner - degreaser and cleaner, but can leave funny residue on some metals, eats most plastics. Has it's uses. Hurts your skin.
  • acetone - melts or dissolves almost all plastics. Good degreaser, but keep off your hands.
  • lacquer thinner - about as strong as acetone, seems to eat an even larger variety of plastics. Strong fumes!
  • M.E.K - dissolves almost everything made of plastic, makes a good plastic solvent welder. 

Lathes / Mills

This will be here unti/if I get more into the use of them. I just purchased a used EMCO Unimat 3. Still getting to learn about it and what I can do with it. It will be great to make small aluminum and plastic parts.

The milling head takes ER16 collets. I need to find a good source.

A good site for info and parts:

traverse tool supply.... production tool supply detroit

places to buy milling bits: McMaster Carr,

Sherline  sells a set of 6 end mills - 1/8, 5/32, 3/16, 1/4, 5/16, and 3/8.  All are 3/8 shank double-ended and center-cutting.  The sets are available in 2 flute (Sherline P/N 7400 and 4 flute (P/N 7401).  Each set if $50.00.  They are also available separately for $9.00 each.
MSC Direct -    (formerly Rutland Tool) also sells all kinds of end mills.  I've used both suppliers and both are good outfits with excellent service.If you are using HSS use a good brand. like Weldon, Fastcut, Nachi, etc For Carbide Imco, Garr, etc  Chinese tooling is not a good buy.

1/8 cutter diameter on 1018 steel, should be run around 150 to 175 rpm



ABS and High Impact Styrene (Polystyrene).:MEK is the best. For a thicker body use SCIGrip Weld-On 16 . The Weld-On 16 contains MEK along with other solvents along with Acrylic Monomer to thicken it. Also SCIgrip Weld-on 2354 for ABS and Styrene. can be used, it is mostly MEK.

For the expanded PVC (Sintra, Komatex or Celtec) and other PVC sheets use Weld-On 2007.It is a solvent only formula with no thickeners added so it flows really well.

For Acrylic Plastic use Weld-On #4, #3 and the TAP Acrylic Cement.   #4 is a little slower in evaporation and thus has more time to melt the acrylic and make a strong bond. Used mostly on thicker sheets. The TAP brand and the #3 are the same product.

Jon Radder posted this link.." " and in general it is correct. I would never use MEK or Acetone to glue Acrylic... I've mixed up bottles in the past in our shop and I can tell you accidentally using MEK on acrylic doesn't work. The joints fail quite easily...


Table Saw Accessories




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