Modelling clay, soft clay that never hardens. I use it as a jig to hold parts together while the glue dries, stick a paint brush handle into it while the paint brush dries, make press molds with it to copy lost parts.
Small zipper bags, get them at craft stores. I use them to keep parts from getting lost. Sometimes when converting figures I label the bag and then gather the parts that will create a new figure and store them in the bag until I am ready to do the work.
Foam core board, the cheap stuff from dollar stores is often good enough. I use it for making bases, reflecting light while taking photos, I paste images onto it as backgrounds for photos or dioramas. It can even be cut into shapes to make hills or buildings. It is especially good if the project is temporary because it is so cheap.
Cardboard cereal boxes are great, cut off the front and back. I print photos then glue the photos to the cardboard to create a sturdy background for taking more photos. Perfect if you need a science fiction scene, a jungle, a cityscape and only want to snap a few photos. I glue the photo onto the cardboard with stick glue. It's cheap, and not messy, and easy to use.
This parts brush is probably thirty years old and is still soldiering on. I use the bristles as radio antennas. Unlike wire they are straight, but flexible so if you bump them they don't get bent out of shape. One brush will last a really long time.
Roco M38 Jeep with brush bristle antenna. If you intentionally bend it it will keep the bend. Or if you don't bend it the bristle will stay straight. Sometimes I like to bend it just a little bit so it looks like it is bent back by the motion of the vehicle.
The radio mount is from Roco, and these bristles fit perfectly! So no drilling required.
Craft shops often sell cutting mats in various sizes. I have a giant one to cover my desk but smaller ones are great too. I always build my projects on the cutting mat so a slip of the knife, or paint brush does not get on the desktop. Also it saves wear and tear on the expensive big mat by doing small cuts on the small mat.
I got a bunch of these trays at Dollar General Store. About 6x8 inches the small cutting mat fits inside of it. This is great for keeping a project together and moving it around. I usually work on a lot of projects at the same time. Sometimes I have to wait for parts, or glue, or paint, so the project gets shelved for a while. Having it all in a tray makes it easy to set aside and not have troops go AWOL on you. I have five of them on my desk right now with an additional six of them holding other projects in the queue.
More hobby tips coming soon.
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Mike Bunkermeister Creek