It’s an ancient cliché that all quarter-inch scale modelers are master machinists with a shop full of specialized and exotic tools. In some cases that was true but certainly not for everyone.

The quarter-inch scale of the past often demanded more effort from a modeler. Ready-to-run items were rare and details on the models that were available were often crude or non-existent, requiring the modeler to bring their skill and attention to the work. That largely isn’t the case anymore, yet the stereotype mentioned above still prevails in the mind of many.

Power tools are a blessing and a curse. They are a blessing that provides increased efficiency and accuracy over handwork alone, yet they can also lull you into a false sense of mastery where you make mistakes and waste material more quickly. A shop full of tools will never be a substitute for your own skill and imagination.

I received the gift of a miniature table saw last Christmas. It’s a tool I’ve looked at for nearly ten years, yet always felt the money should be spent elsewhere in my craft. Thanks to my generous and supportive wife, the model shop is more complete now.

Next to the main workbench, I’ve built a dedicated work station for the saw and my drill press. The multi-drawer parts cabinet holds accessories for both tools. The task light has built-in magnification for close-up work. I mainly use it to ensure a drill bit is lined up where I want it to be.
The mitered joint of these slope sheets was simple to make on the table saw. It could be done with hand tools but the results wouldn’t be as predictable or consistent. The assembly jig was made from scraps in about forty-five minutes.
A table saw is a foundational tool in any shop. Like its full-sized counterpart, mine is a full-featured machine with a tilting arbor and variable blade speed that goes through 0.080” or thicker styrene sheet with ease. Playing around with it in recent weeks has been an enjoyable process of discovering the saw’s potential. A machine like this immediately increases my efficiency and makes it easier to precisely cut thick styrene sheets compared to using a straightedge and X-acto knife. Unlike a single purpose machine, the saw will find a use across a wide range of projects, making this tool a wise purchase.

I can be a tool geek as much as the next guy but I have to exercise restraint. It helps that I know where I want to go with the craft and the skills I want to master. This table saw alone won’t make me a better modeler; however, it will let me push farther in developing the skills and mindset that will. I’m grateful for the time spent developing my hand skills, however, I now have more options for doing advanced modeling with stronger and cleaner workmanship over what I did before. That’s satisfying in ways I can’t adequately express. This sense of satisfaction helps me to slow down and consider the work more carefully. Seeing positive results eases the self-imposed internal pressure I often inflict on the work.

A craft like this can pull you in a hundred directions with screaming voices for each claiming their way is the best. Until you find your own voice through experience and wisdom, it’s easy to feel pulled in many conflicting directions.

What I want is an engagement that naturally pulls me toward the bench. Scratchbuilding does that by challenging me to push deeper and discover what I’m really capable of doing. It provides a home for the many interests I have by integrating them around a common goal.

This isn’t for every taste and I wouldn’t suggest otherwise. Each person reading this has widely different goals and needs from the work. Trying to convince people who are closed to new ideas or simply not interested is a waste of everyone’s time.

What I share in these posts are the choices that form a highly personal approach around what I truly enjoy. On the surface this is a post about a new tool but it’s also about the value we get from the craft, along with the ways we define and provide it for ourselves. Your mileage will obviously be different.



  1. Craig Townsend

    I recently upgraded my 17+ year old Micro Lux table saw for a Byrnes table saw for the exact reasons you state above. When I first got the Micro Lux saw, it changed how I built things, but as I got better, the more I demanded a higher quality tool.

    With a fine tooth blade installed backwards its possible to cut .010 styrene with a little practice.

    I’ve been advocating modelers to try a mini table saw years and get puzzled looks, but when they see how it transforms the process,
    it’s a game changer.


  2. mike

    Hi Craig,

    The saw is already changing how I model. I look at the work more closely at the initial setup and I’m reconsidering the types of projects there are open to me now. A lot of people might snub their nose at the MicroLux brand but this is a well built tool that will serve me nicely for years. I can see myself taking a similar path that you did in terms of looking for greater precision and the Byrnes line looks excellent for the money. As I’ve suggested before tools like this are an investment in your journey as a modeler.


  3. Craig Townsend

    I should have clarified, I was referring to the smaller MicroLux saw (~$100 version with a fixed blade), not the one your wife gifted you. I think you will enjoy the one you got as it is a higher quality.

    Now you will find yourself wanting to cut your own custom strips of styrene. Your stock of strip stock will be replaced by a stock of 4×4 sheets from a plastic supplier.