Essential tools for prop builders? Or, What to gift a burgeoning prop builder


New Member
Hey all! I signed up just to make this post, so if I'm missing some community etiquette, I apologize in advance.

I've got a friend that loves prop building and costuming, especially bulky armor, huge weapons, robots, etc. His lack of access to better tools still floats him in the Novice level of experience, but he's incredibly talented, one of those people that's an absolute wizard with nothing but cardboard and duct tape.

He doesn't have much by way of supplies, especially useful tools and quality extras (think spirit gum [though I'm pretty sure he has that]). I'm hoping to put together a little tool kit for him for Christmas. Nothing ultra-fancy, just things that will kick his building skills up a notch, open up some new possibilities, and streamline the building process. For the record, he doesn't have access to a workshop, the largest workspace he has available is probably the size of a computer desk, and he's probably a few year off from working with anything like actual metal. Foam and stuff like Wonderflex are probably as complicated as it will get for a while yet.

Other than a reliable utility knife, what would y'all recommend as good tools and extras to gift him? Say to fill a tool box (which is my literal aim). To put it another way, what are your prop building essentials? Or, what would be/is in your ideal tool kit?

Additionally, if you can think of anywhere else to ask this question (like apt subreddits), I'd appreciate some input.

Thanks in advance!


Sr Member
A dremel or rotary tool of some sort. they come in quite handy very often..


I'll second the dremel suggestion. It's useful in many different prop/costume building mediums - including foam. It also falls within reasonable gift giving price range.

Dremel, good blade, heat gun, hot glue gun if he doesn't have that already.


New Member
Assorted files, sanding block, spray adhesive, saw/miter box, technical mechanical pencil, clamps, pliers, duct tape, ruler, compass...


Sr Member
how about a couple membership to the local makerspace.. with access to unlimited tooling? :)


New Member
Your question immediately made me think of this video with Adam Savage of Mythbusters (And RPF member). Although it's 40min long, they do well at covering this exact question, while addressing what sort of makers certain things are most useful for, as well as level of expense for certain items combined with options not limited to standard retail. (craigslist, garage sales, Harbor Freight (retail, although not standard due to hit/miss nature), etc...


Sr Member
Storage. Boxes to organize stuff. Headlamp.
Are they going to work with wood? Metal? Foam? Never have enough dremel tips!
Eye protection/Face SHield! Mask. Ear plugs. Good leather gloves. Hammer, screws, sandpaper.
Depends how much you want to spend. Drill press, band saw...


I'm new myself and completely agree with the dremel tool.
The last time I saw a similar thread to this one someone said a bluray player for high def screen captures.
I assume they are right I only have DVD and my screen caps leave much to be desired.
Does any one else concur with that?

Dread Fallout

New Member
As someone who builds a lot of stuff in my garage, tools are always a must have. Most frequently used small tools in my shop would be:
- Razor knife (utility, X-acto, etc.)
- Protective gear (respirator, safety glasses, ear plugs or muffs, rubber gloves for working with anything you don't want on your skin)
- Dremel (as previously mentioned above)
- Screwdrivers (standard and phillips) and other assorted tools (files, vice grips, etc)
- Heat gun (for working with EVA foam or Sintra)
- A good light source (seems dumb but working in dim lighting sucks)
- SQUEEZE CLAMPS (I can literally never have enough of these)
- Various grit sandpaper (starting at maybe 60 and going up to 200 or 300)

As for your other question, other places to look for advice:


New Member
I think the rotary tool has had the biggest impact on my speed and ability making replicas so that would make a great gift. Personally I think a good knife sharpener is an indispensable gift since it will allow your friend to keep nice clean cuts without changing their blades all the time and helps lower costs over time. As for clamps, you never have enough clamps. Never. These would be my main suggestions, but the Adam Savage list is pretty comprehensive.