Setting Up Your Own Drydocks - Tools of the Trade

I've said it before, and you'll hear me say it again... building RC submarines is hard. Fortunately, you can make it slightly easier on yourself by ensuring that your building space is outfitted properly with the proper tools. The following is my recommendation for a basic setup and may help you in getting your very own drydock set up to churn out submarines for your fleet.

Your Workspace

This is, arguably, the most important aspect. Your workspace needs to be large enough to offer unrestricted access to the largest boat that you think you'll ever be interested in building. Ideally, your workbench will be in the middle of the room, which will allow you to walk around the model without having to constantly rotate and move it around. Now, of course, I understand that not everyone has the luxury of a dedicated room or area in the garage big enough to allow this, but again... this is ideal state we're talking about here.

Your workbench should have a durable and smooth surface. Again, it should be large enough to accommodate the largest model you see yourself building. Aside, perhaps, from a bench-mounted vice, this should be free of other equipment and tools, leaving the entire working surface free for working on your model.

Clutter is the death of productivity. All tools should be hung or stored in a dedicated space. A drawer full of hand tools will ensure you spend your valuable hobby time hunting for them when you should be building, inevitably not finding it soon enough and using the wrong tool for the job, botching it and wasting even more time fixing the issue you created for yourself. Trust me, take the time to organize your shop up front. Your brain will feel better for it, I guarantee it.

Hand Tools

Fortunately, building subs is not rocket science. A set of basic hand tools will take you far. Here is a short list of the ones that I can think of off the top of my head:

-A full set of standard screwdrivers (slot-head, philips)

-A full set of metric and SAE allan wrenches

-Standard pliers

-Needle-nosed pliers (you'll use these lots)

-Side cutters (wire cutters). I have a big, beefy pair for cutting brass rod and another small pair for precision snipping

-Stainless steel rulers (metric and SAE)


-Standard drill bits (1/16" through 1/2", and/or 1mm through 12mm)

-Contour gauge (I don't use this often, but when you do need it, it's awesome)

-Tons of small hand-files in various contours. Again, you'll use these constantly, so get a good set

-Hobby knife with lots of spare blades. Change these constantly. There is nothing worst than a dull knife


-Razor saw and hacksaw

-Lots of pencils, pens and fine-tipped permanent markers

-Utility knives

-Squares and level

Power Tools

-Rotary tool (IE: Dremel). In my mind, this is a necessity, not a luxury. You can get cordless or corded versions. For flexibility, I like the cordless version, but there is also nothing more aggravating than running out of juice in the middle of a work session. I use cutoff wheels and sanding drums constantly

-Cordless drill

-Bench sander - also an exceptionally useful tool for sanding, contouring and flattening faces of parts

-Drill press

-Band saw or jig saw for cutting raw plastic and fiberglass

-Heat gun

Materials / Consumables

-Sandpaper in various coarseness, rough through fine grit

-Plastic sheet. I like a product called Sintra board. I keep 1/8" and 1/4" thicknesses at all times.

-Various styrene sheets, rods and other extrusions

-Steel mesh for blocking ballast holes

-Cyanoacrelate glue - I like the Gorilla brand gel for the larger jobs, and medium and thin viscosity for the precision work

-Epoxy resin, minimum 2hr cure time

-Epoxy cloth for reinforcing joints

-Brass rods and tubing - all sizes from 1/16" through 3/16". You'll use these to fabricate linkages

-Plated wheel collars - exceptionally useful for linkages and making your own linkage horns!

-Fiberglass reinforced cut off wheels and sanding discs for your rotary tool

-RTV for sealing connections on your WTC. I use gray or blue gasket-maker from your local auto supply store

-Solvent and acetone

-Lots and lots of rags. Blue shop towels are very convenient, coming in a roll you can mount in an easy spot

-Closed cell styrofoam and self-adhesive ballast weights for trimming

-Various stainless steel bolts and nuts

Now, I'm in no way promoting this as a comprehensive list of everything that you'll need, and I've likely forgotten something important, but the above should definitely get you started in creating your own drydock workspace.

As a parting thought and piece of advice, KEEP YOUR WORK AREA CLEAN! Tidy it up after every work-session. This makes coming back to work on the model easy and less stressful. It will also keep dust out of the rest of your house and your significant other happy with your insanity.

I hope you enjoyed this article! Let me know what you think.


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