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Upgrade your workbench on the cheap

These 8 inexpensive items are just what your building space needs
Jose Luiz Dalmiglio of Guarujá, São Paulo, Brazil, says that organization is the key to a well-functioning workspace. “I purchased the house my family is in now under one condition: that one of the three bedrooms could be my workspace and the place where I display all my models. I love this space and try to keep it organized.”
All modelers dream of having the perfect space in which to build. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to upgrade the space you’re working in now. By purchasing a few inexpensive, everyday items, you can make your workbench more functional and more comfortable to work at. 

Take a look at your workspace and see which of these eight items you’re missing and which ones would benefit you and your hobby.

• Fan — A small fan can both keep you comfortable when it’s warmer and blow unpleasant and bad-for-you fumes far away. Look for one that is quiet and easy to clean. 

• Lamp — Don’t let your eyes suffer. Buy a lamp that fits your space, whether it’s a standing or table version (if you’re in a truly small space, consider a headlamp). Be sure to buy bulbs that omit daylight-quality light; you don’t want bulbs that cast a yellow hue because it will interfere with your paint job. 

Dave Sorensen of Irvine, California, uses a desk lamp and lots of natural light to see what he’s working on. “My workbench is very basic, but, so far, it works for me. With each model, I learn something new and hope to keep gradually improving.”
• Contact paper — While organizers can corral smaller items, the bigger pieces will still slide around each time you open and close a drawer. Cushioned contact paper is a tacky material that can be cut to fit any cabinet, drawer, or counter and helps keep things in place. It also quiets the act of picking things up and putting them down — win-win!

• Cutting mat — Keep sharp, stabby items away from countertops if you want to protect both your blades and the surfaces. Look for a self-healing mat with measurements printed on.

Consider these cool 12 x 18-inch cutting mats with fun, detailed images printed on them.
• Recycle bin — Empty paint bottles, kit packaging, scratch paper — all of this and more can be recycled. Instead of putting it in the waste bin, only to rummage through and sort it later, purchase another basket or bin to hold all your modeling recyclables. Toss plastic, paper, and more inside and be done with it.

• Power strip — If you never seem to have enough outlets, a power strip or two can make all the difference. The best ones come with rotating outlets, making the placement of large and oddly shaped plugs easy. Remember to purchase only those with surge protectors. 

• Drawer organizers — Take a walk down any home improvement aisle and you’ll see quite the selection. Measure your space (drawer inserts do not necessarily have to sit in a drawer) and find small organizers that fit. Look for ones made of clear plastic that are easy to clean and keep small bits organized inside the compartments. In these you can store hobby knives, extra blades, files, sanding sticks and sandpaper, screwdrivers, pencils, and more. Bonus tip: Fishing tackle boxes also work for storing small bits. 

Steve Steransak of Kinnelon, New Jersey, uses plastic bits to keep his modeling tools organized. “In addition to the normal plastic, I also build large wooden ships. I’ve found that containers with several drawers work great for holding spare parts and extra tools.”
• Floor mat — Haven’t you heard? Standing is good for you! It’s healthy for the body and can increase your energy, if perhaps at the expense of your feet. Help those puppies out by standing on a thick cushion with a lot of give and bounce. Of course, you can buy a specialty mat, or you can make one for less by placing a rug over carpet padding. Voila! No more barking dogs (or at least they don’t bark as much).

What other inexpensive items could you not live without at your workbench?
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