A Review; or, How I learned to love The Bomb and completely revamp my workspace!
I should preface this review with a caveat that this is an honest review of a product I personally purchased and use, and in no way was any remuneration accepted from the manufacturer. I worked with Wojciech Kotlicki to figure out what I wanted to accomplish my goals… so let’s go!
I’ve been a modeler since age 6, when a neighbor gave me my first plastic kit of an antique jalopy that I proceeded to paint in a myriad of different bright colors. As a juvenile I built whatever struck my fancy – space, ships, aircraft, tanks until I settled on my adult focus of British armor, figures and aircraft (with the odd sci-fi and steam punk kit thrown in). Over the years that have been spanned by building avocation, I have amassed a sizeable inventory of tools, accessories, oddments, paints…well at 53 years old now, you can well imagine! I find that many modelers have a certain perspective on the world of disposable and reusable items – always calculating how or what an item (like milk bottle caps, for instance) can be used for! Mini paint palettes, brush holders, the list goes ever on.
My closest friends know I have been on a kind of hiatus from building lately, but not buying kits, naturally. For the last couple of years I have seen the adverts for Hobby Zone workbench organizing components, and I scoffed. I built my own system (um, yeah, how’s that been working for you John?). I knew I needed a kick in the pants to start building again, so I picked up some components at a local show here in New England.
These items are kits in their own right, for those who haven’t seen photos or articles previously. Here is what comes in a typical box and what you need to build them
The kits are made from MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) with an easy-clean up white outer skin. Rare earth magnets accompany each unit to hold multiple units together. All that is needed for assembly is a flat surface, a few clamps and strong wood glue – I used Gorilla brand wood glue.
Once built, these components are quite resilient and sturdy – this had been one of my concerns that caused me to delay the leap. I built the 10-12 units I had purchased at the show – a few shelves, and a few drawer units, and assembled a test set-up. I like them so far!
Now all I had to do was calculate what I needed to rebuild my bench. no mean feat as you can see from these photos, viewed from left to right around my converted office corner cube
I know what you are thinking…”well how the hell do you expect to build a model with all that crap on the workbench!? Precisely my quandary. I’d accumulated so much “stuff” – much of it things for mixing paints onto or into, sanding sticks, brushes, recycled containers – a lot of junk – that I ran out of an organized way to store it all.
What you don’t see beneath the bench are plastic drawer units on wheels.. So first order of business was to hoe out. I threw out (well recycled again, actually) a whole ton of plastic caps, bottles, containers, - just stuff I hadn’t used in years. The five multi-drawer rolling units dwindled to three! I replaced an oak table for my spray booth with a three-drawer office file and moved painting supplies there.
Then I took the biggest leap. I ordered another 40 units from Hobby Zone directly. I think in total I have 53 units – 5 extras I didn’t use at the moment, and here is what happened to my bench space
Most importantly, notice the lack of clutter on the work surface! You can see the paint booth, remaining plastic drawer units, but most noticeable is the top of the bench. Everything has a place!
So besides the obvious reason of reducing clutter and being better organized, the Hobby Zone components make a place for everything and really helps in locating parts, tools, etc… saving time (and money – oops did I really buy 7 of this thingamajig?). I have drastically reduced the chance of knocking over thinners, paint or a model.
Let’s take a closer look at components, again from right to left on the bench.
I wanted my units to wrap around the perimeter of my bench. You will notice the small corner drawer units as we go left to right. They take advantage of potential lost storage by placing easy to access drawers at the end of a run. There is even a top shelf cap for them, handy for sticking clamps. The drawers are smallish, but large enough to hold spare magnets, scalpel and x-acto blades, pen nibs, glue tips, single edge razor blades with room to spare. On the back of this stack I placed a magnetic strip which is solidly adhered to the rare earth magnets and gives me a place to stick a few rulers and hemostats.
Next I have a stack of right angle units capped with a sized paint bottle module (for small bottles – ie Andrea, Vallejo, etc), followed by a 5 drawer unit which is great for tubes of putty and spools of wire, clamps, etc.. Then by an open shelf unit that I have a variety of model parts, bottles and oversized things stashed in, and I repeated this sequence again two more levels down – see the close up photo.
This stack is followed by stack made up of a 6 drawer unit, a three drawer unit, a double level display /storage unit and another shelf unit – this time open for random sized containers – but be aware that there is no prefab hole here to keep a bottle falling off of a shelf. I really like the storage units – I finally have a visual place to put half finished (or half started) projects where I can glean inspiration and have it right in front of me to remind me to work on it! These come in double and single level units as you will see. Next more paint, a six drawer and double over a three drawer unit.
On to the center section
This center view really demonstrates the superior storage capabilities of the Hobby Zone “system” as I like to call it. Notice the paper towel unit with serrated flap. Its measured for European rolls, so actually using it for paper towel is more of a challenge – Wal-Mart sells a mini roll - but I have three such units for spools of sanding tape, wire masking tape – a terrific solution! Here you can also see the double display next to a single display (to its right), followed by another right angle corner unit.
Finally the last leg
Really more of the same but this “wing” utilizes the large bottle tops which accommodate larger Vallejo and Life Colour paint tubs. I use the small display units for tools and solvents or glues too. Here I placed that magnetic strip at the end as I ran out of space to stack another set of corner drawers. You will notice that above this wing is one of the old shelves from the original configuration, cut down and adding a power strip and lights and room for larger bottles, rattle cans, etc.
So this then, is the set-up. So what makes this a review, and why do I heartily recommend this system? These units can build you a simple or a complex bend set-up. It’s totally customizable to meet any modeler’s needs. It took me a couple weekends of shop time to build everything – the Gorilla Glue sets and dries pretty quickly which helped move it along. Inserting the magnets was no big deal – I did a stack at a time next to the previous stack to make sure they were oriented the correct way round to clip to the stack before.
I can’t say that I will keep this set up the way it currently is – my plan is to use it for a while and see what I want closer to hand. For example, one three drawer unit has all my sanding sticks, flexi-files, etc… Another has all my tubing, antenna wires, and three drawers are filled with Humbrol tins – the three drawer units are perfect for these tinlets. I have decals in one too. The six drawer units hold scratch building materials, and a whole six drawer unit is filled with Grandt Line and MV Lenses!
I think the most remarkable and helpful characteristic of these units is that materials that once were in a drawer underneath, or in a closet, are now visible and easily accessible – saving time, money (from over buying) and frustration. I have a label maker that prints white labels and black letters, and I may even label drawers. Another really nice aspect here is that I can swap similar drawers without moving the parent units, too. I suspect that users may even have some insight toward new or additional units over time.
Hobby Zone products have really changed my attitude and primed my enthusiasm toward modeling. I can’t recommend these units strongly enough to fellow modelers. What you see here is really only a sampling. Hobby Zone makes wall hang-able paint racks, free standing work stations (you will notice I had made my own of oak some time ago – D’oh!), and offers third party extra hands. They are customer service oriented folks that want to improve your model building experience. Give them a go!!!