Model Ship Workshop Set-Up & Safety

Setting Up Your Model Ship Workshop Is An Important Step in Completing Your Model Boat to the Best it Can Be. Learn More About Workshop Set Up & Safety Here.

Workshop Set-Up

To build a wooden model kit you will need a work area. The work area does not have to be grand and extensive. It simply has to meet your needs. The following factors need to be considered when choosing and setting up a work area.

Preferably the work area is where your partially completed model can be left undisturbed until you are ready to work on it again. An area that can be secured from little children’s inquisitive hands or exploring pet cats is always a help.

 The workbench needs to be large enough to accommodate a reasonably sized model plus have space around to hold tools and store equipment. The bench top needs to be at least a 12mm thick plywood sheet about 1.5m x 2.0m. The height of the bench would be approximately 80cm. An adjustable chair or stool is also an essential feature. Adjust the height of the chair/stool to suit your needs.

Good lighting is most important. The lighting above and around the work area needs to be very good. A couple of extension or swivel arm lights with the base mounted on the wall will allow you to move the lamp to illuminate particular area of the bench or model as required. Having the work bench adjacent to a window to allow natural light to fall on the work area is a bonus.

Good ventilation is also most important. When working with glues, paints, varnishes or other solvents the fumes can cause breathing difficulty and/or irritate the eyes. Always read the safety instructions on the container label before using and follow the instructions completely.

Having water available either on tap or in a container to dilute PVA glue is advisable. Having an area set aside to clean brushes after painting or varnishing is desirable. Always safely and environmentally dispose of the cleaning solvents as presented on the container label.

Shelving on the walls around the bench and storage draw units on either side of the bench area are ideal to store drills, knife blades and a whole range of other small items that are regularly used. A peg board with removable hooks also makes it easy to find that tool quickly.

Have an area on the wall either in front or at the side of the work bench to hang the plans of the model you are working on. This will allow you to refer to the plans easily and keeps them off the bench.


Safe Working Practices

General safe working practices are most important. Many accidents occur in the home and with a workshop there are increased potential hazards. Good workshop practices and good sense will avoid accidents and allow you to safely enjoy your hobby. The following factors need to be kept in mind and practiced.

The workshop should be kept tidy at all times. For general safety do not leave sharp edged tools lying on the bench. Keep the floor clean. Material left on the floor could be a trip hazard. Clean and tidy-up the workshop area and return tools to their storage place after each work session.

Always be conscious of safety. Familiarity with a tool or machine can lead to an accident. Be constantly vigilant. Many workshop injuries are caused hurrying to complete a job. Always take your time.

Store any paints, glues, varnishes and other solvents in a lockable cupboard or up on a high shelf away from the exploring hands of a child.

Wear eye and ear protection when using any machinery. Leather shoes with protective steel toecaps should be worn while in the workshop. Dropping a sharp tools or solder splashing can happen.

Sitting on your chair or stool at your workbench for too long could cause you aches and pains. Be conscious of your posture while sitting. Stand-up regularly and move around. Do some gentle stretches to loosen those stiff joints.

Have a First Aid kit located in the workshop. Ensure the kit is fully stocked.

Always let a family member at home know that you are in the workshop happily working on your model.

Power Tools

As you progress with your modelling you will start to acquire a number of electrically operated power tools. These tools may include a grinding wheel, lathe, electric drill, jig saw, circular saw, planer or electric plank bender. The location and safe operation of these tools is most important. The following points are relevant to the safe location and operation of these tools.

Ensure any power outlets in your work area are installed by a qualified and licenced electrician.

It is best to place all power tools on a separate table. Keep power tool leads untangled and away from any cutting blade, grinding wheel or source of heat. Always check the power leads for any nick or cut in the insulation, the power plug and power outlet for broken parts. If there is a problem have the item replaced by a licenced electrician.

Always keep the power table work area free of any wood off cuts, wood shavings, parts or other tools or materials.

Familiarise yourself with the operating procedures provided by the manufacturer of each machine in your workshop. Know where the OFF switch is on each machine.

Never leave any power tool in the ON position unattended.

When using power tools always wear eye and ear protection.

Always keep your hands clear of any cutting blades or rotating parts.

Do not wear any loose clothing while operating any machine that has rotating parts and ensure long hair is tied back away from the possibility of being entangled in a rotating machine.

Fire Hazards

A fire can be too easily started in a workshop from a flame, a hot soldering iron or electric plank bender, a machine overheating, excess wood shavings or saw dust around a machine catching alight, chemicals being mixed together and causing heat or an electrical circuit being overloaded. The following points are relevant to minimising the risk of a fire starting in the workshop.

If using a naked flame in the workshop ensure there are no flammable materials in the work area. Be particularly conscious of cleaning solvents, paper and cloth.

When using a soldering iron or electric plank bender ensure the heated head is always left clear of cleaning solvents, paper and cloth.

Always keep machines free of the build-up of wood shavings or saw dust. Allowing a build-up will reduce the heat dissipation from the machine and could cause it to overheat and burn-out.  

Mixing chemicals together is a cause of heat generation. Two part epoxy glues are a prime example. Be conscious of the containers in which they are mixed. Do not leave unattended until the chemical process is complete and the glue has hardened. Also ensure there is good ventilation while using chemicals.  

Also be conscious of the smell of burning plastic as the fumes are hazardous and can overwhelm you in a confined space.

If you use a magnifying lens of any kind ensure it is not left where sunlight can shine through it as there is the potential for the sunlight to be focused on a flammable material. 


The precautions presented in this chapter are meant as a reminder to all modellers that we are dealing with a variety of tools, equipment and chemicals—all of which need to be treated with respect.

Following the precautions presented here will ensure the safety of you and your family and make your hobby enjoyable.

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