Backstory: When my sister and I flew the nest - it left my mother wanting. So she and her husband became foster parents. They have been through a few now. The one they are on now has shown some model making potential.
Growing up I had a toolkit with working miniature power tools and had access to knives and glues and paints. It seems such things are not recommended for children these days. Meaning that that model making potential is going to waste. He is 11 years old and doesn't have his own drill!
Question: If you were to put together a "My First Model Making Toolkit", what would you include?
I still use the xacto knife kit I got when I was a teen (currently I'm 43). It included a razor saw and miter box and some probe thingies that served as my primary sculpting tools for greenstuff. So one of those.
Add a cutting mat, scissors, PVA and super glue, pin vice and maybe an actual sculpting tool and all the basics of model assembly and terrain making would be covered.
Power tools I use include a scroll saw, drill and dremel. Most of those are for cutting and shaping hardboard bases for my terrain and were acquired over many years.
I have to confess... I have never owned a cutting mat. Yet so far everyone has suggested one.
To be honest I usually cut things against my knee... (TerraGenesis in no way endorses this behaviour)
Are they really that useful? I have been seriously considering it now that I have so much space to work with. I have yet to find one under $20 though. Which is just ridiculous.
I have also never owned a cutting mat.
I have often advocated that the most important thing in model making is a good, sturdy desk.
Something that can get completely and utterly chopped into, burned, covered in paints and glue.
Those little x-acto miter box sets are good if consistent straight cuts is important.
I really find a long bladed snap blade style knife, like an olfa, to be really handy if it's sharp. Probably a better thing to have around then the ubiquitous craft knife.
I don't have a dedicated work space so a cutting mat has been how I avoid destroying furniture. But then I got it for free from a family friend who was moving and dumping a bunch of crafty stuff. Before that I used a spare hunk of MDF.
I have always used a piece of MDF board on top of my desk or an old and extremely thick acrylic cutting board (it has a distinctive feel when you cut into it with a knife which tells me when I have gone through whatever I'm cutting).
I started out with a box cutting knife and a can do attitude (which allowed me to cut deeply into my thumb and paint the house with blood when I was 15ish). I didn't really use any fancy tools initially, I just made do. Now, I'm older and jaded and have a lot of toys at my disposal.
If the official cutting mats are too expensive (wow, $20?) Buy a plastic Kitchen Chopping board.
I also still use what's left of a cutting board I made back in my junior high woodshop class as well as my hand me down mat.
One thing that unites us terrain makers is our propensity for scrounging. The fact that this is supposed to be a beginner's terrain making "kit" makes me think more store bought than jury-rigged.
I find a cutting mat essential, not so much to protect the work surface, as to get a clean cut in the material you are using. I see many of you forum members like to use paper and cardboard for your projects, and a mat will make your cuts cleaner, as well as safer. I have used many mats over the years, and I have settled on the Martha Stewart cutting mat as the best, having a firm, yet giving, surface that is a light easy-on-the-eye gray, and has a grid on the surface. They come in several sizes, and I have two of the 20"x26" mats. They normally run $25 each, but Michael's has a 50% off coupon nearly every week, so you can save some cash. While you're there, pick up one of the Martha Stewart exacto knives too. It is contoured for precise control, and changing blades is a snap.