is really a must. I personally do not
have a bench vise, but my little
Panavise does everything I need.
Remember that the jaws of a vise can
mar softer materials.
gradations can be used to fit
contoured sections. This is the staple
of my construction and I always keep
Small tweezers: These are really
useful for picking up and positioning
anything that is smaller than the
distance between the tip of your index
finger and thumb when pressed
together. Here is another area where I
don’t skimp; a crappy set of tweezers
is more of a frustration than anything
else. I have had a set of tweezers from
Grobet for about a decade and they
continue to serve well.
Polystyrene sheet, 0.040”
thick: Use this for round shapes or
small pieces. Other thicknesses are
handy, as well, to make spacers and
cosmetic features and for areas where
stronger assemblies are required.
Wire cutters and strippers:
Wire cutters are a must for electrical
work and strippers are really, really
handy. Again, for precision hand
tools, I do not skimp. A word of
caution is in order though: do not use
wire cutters for cutting anything other
than soft materials. Steel music wire
will ruin them. My brand of choice is
Xcelite, although I do keep a cheap
pair or two around to custom shape
on a bench grinder.
Plastruct shapes, like “L”
beams and square sections: These
can be made to build mounts for
servos, as well as other structural
components. Use the thick-walled,
gray stuff. I personally like the 1/4”,
3/8”, and 1/2” square tubes best. I
use them to make structural shapes
that I attach other components to.
The thick-walled stuff is more robust
and you can actually use self-tapping
That is it for basic tools. While
there are many different tools here,
you can keep things to a minimum.
You don’t need to buy every metric,
fractional, letter, and decimal drill, for
instance, nor do you need to buy
every file shape you can imagine.
Don’t be lured into really cheap tools
and don’t feel compelled to buy one
of everything where there is a variety.
As far as materials are concerned,
consider the following:
Double-sided tape: Your local
hobby store should have some thin
rolls of servo tape available. This is
excellent for — well, you guessed it —
servos. It is also handy for mounting
subassemblies as well, provided that
you have a large surface area. I will
sometimes build a 1” x 1” flat area
onto a subassembly, like a sensor
platform that can be double-sided
taped to other parts of the robot with
similarly large areas. In this way, I can
experiment with a variety of sensors
without the hassle of fasteners.
Mechanical components that will
cause stress — like motors or servos
— may not lend themselves to this
Wire Cutter and Stripper
Evergreen scale models “
sidewalk”:This is basically a polystyrene
sheet that is pre-scribed in a ruled
pattern. This allows you to snap off
pre-measured square or rectangular
sections and provides an accurate
ruling to place other components.
I match this up with box sections
of Plastruct, using the evergreen as a
skin. I prefer to use the 1/4”, 3/8”,
and 1/2” sizes, though the finer