As a miniaturist, I've developed a highly unusual collection of 'tools' to use in the creation of my miniatures. One of the special talents a miniature must develop is looking at items with new eyes. 'What else can this be?' is an important question, and having the right tools, or items repurposed as tools, can make a world of difference. This list is designed to give you an idea of what you'll need for general mini-making, as well as tips to make the job easier.

The Basics

  • Scissors. Lots. Reserve some for paper, some for fabric, and some for items that you really shouldn't use scissors for but are going to anyway. In particular, have a regular pair with sharp tips (I love Fiskar's Easy Action microtips) and a tiny pair that's sharp for snipping those delicate strands. If you can find a pair of buttonhole scissors, snatch 'em up.
  • Rulers. Also lots, from 6" rulers to 18" or higher. I prefer my metal ruler with the corked back. Inches or centimeters, or if you can find one with both, go with it!
  • Glue. This is harder to figure out. There are lots of preferences. I lean on Aleene's All Purpose Tacky Craft glue, but for some projects I don't feel like it's the right product. Feel free to explore.
  • Needles. There are lots of different sewing needles. Some are super thin, some are thick, some are curved, some are really long. I go for thin and sharp for sewing. Needles can also be used for sculpting clay. I took a standard needle and a thick needle, made handles out of polymer clay, and got myself a pair of excellent sculpting tools. a 6" doll needle is also great for curling doll hair.
  • X-Acto knives. Get whatever fits comfortably in your hand. I have a set, some bigger than others. Be prepared and willing to buy lots and lots of blades. They dull quickly, and a sharp knife is better than a dull one in many ways.
  • Cutting Mat. These are great for protecting your work space, and also for the measurement grid that most of them have. Some will have angles and curves on it. My absolute favorite is actually a quilting board. It's padded on one side for light ironing, or pinning down to hold items in place, and a good cutting surface on the other side. It also has a handle at the top, which can keep your glue bottle from rolling around. It's PERFECT for when you don't actually have a workspace and just need something to sit on your lap.
  • Sculpting tools. I like the set of three with various tips, plus a rolling pin. They're plastic, but I've got my eye out for a metal set. I also made my own (see needles). Make sure there's no seams in the plastic.
  • Mitre box. You won't regret it.
  • Sponge brushes. use 'em once then throw them out. Wait for a good sale, you can get them really cheap.
  • Light. Get yourself a GOOD light. Trust me, it will be worth it. Even better, if you can situate your workspace in front of a sunny window, you will save yourself lots of money.
  • Paintbrush tub. I admit I abuse my paintbrushes, and I am ashamed. I finally found a little tub that made cleaning my brushes quick and easy which will hopefully save me some money.
  • Tools you thought belonged in your bathroom

  • Cotton balls. They're just useful EVERYWHERE.
  • Q-Tips. I know, you aren't supposed to stick em in your ears anymore, but they're useful for so many other things! Painting, gluing, cleaning small items. I like to buy the ones with the plastic handle. Pull off the cotton and you've got a lot of mini uses for it!
  • Acetone. It cleans off glue, paint and all kinds of messes. Get the cheap stuff - Dollar stores usually carry them.
  • Hairspray. Again, get the cheap stuff. No need for maximum hold, groovy scents, or nourishing hair supplements. Use it to create and hold drapes in fabric.
  • Nail files. Remember, it's sandpaper! Good for getting into small spaces. Get the cheap ones, or get fancier ones with different grades for detail work.
  • Nail care kit. I don't even know what to call the little things that come in some of these, but they're great for sculpting, or even turning tiny clothes inside out.
  • Dental wax. Got a kid with braces, or remember wearing them yourself? Dental wax saved your cheeks from being torn up by the metal. It also works for holding tiny mini items in place, or even on the wall.
  • Nail polish. I admit it. One day I came across metallic gold and silver nail polish, and bought them on a whim. They're great for getting that smooth cold metal look. Keep your eyes open!
  • Tweezers. You'll be working with lots and lots of tiny things.
  • Wipes. Good for cleaning up messes, especially when working with clay. You need clean hands!
  • Dental picks. I'm sure they have a technical name, but also good for sculpting. See if you can get your dentist to give you some.
  • Tools you can steal from your kitchen

  • Waxed Paper. You'll always make a mess.
  • Cling wrap. sometimes your messes will be sticky.
  • Parchment paper. I like to use it when cooking polymer clay
  • Toothpicks. You'll use them for everything. I particularly like them for spreading glue.
  • Snack and sandwich bags. Good for storing and sorting through tiny items. Cheapie sandwich bags are great for covering up the rest of a doll when you're trying to make a wig.
  • Toaster oven. If you're going to work with a lot of polymer clay, it's good to have a tiny oven dedicated to the task. They claim it's food safe, but you never know. They make ovens for polymer clay, but sometimes it's cheaper to go with a regular one. Just make sure it's heat accurate, the simpler the better.
  • food containers. Big or small. Little things like pizza dipping cups are great for holding glue and paint. Pringles cans can hold pencils, rulers, strips of wood, scissors, etc.
  • Other

  • Credit cards. For a while, Discover seemed to think that I wanted their credit card services. So much so, that every other week, it seemed, they were sending me an ad in the mail. Enclosed was a little plastic sample of the card you would get. I LOVE these little cards. They're excellent for spreading glue over large surfaces. I'm still mad at Discover.
  • Storage cart. My personal favorite is the Sterilite 7 drawer cart. It has 3 big drawers, great for holding furniture, fabric, and paint, and 4 little drawers, perfect for accessories, paper, tools and supplies and etc. I currently have three of them. Walmart generally has them for a great price, often in late summer with the college stuff.