Tools You Need to Create Tiny Things

Have you ever stopped in front of a shop window that was featuring a doll house that could fit into the palm of your hand, or paused scrolling through your Instagram feed because you saw a charcouterie board with crackers almost too small to see? If the answer is yes, then you belong to a large percentage of the population that is captivated with the world of miniatures.

To explore where the appeal comes from and what goes on behind the scenes of crafting tiny things, we interviewed experienced modelmaker Damien Webb (@damienjameswebb), whose fascination with miniatures has turned into a lifelong career. 

“I’ve always had an attraction to miniatures growing up. Some of my first memories were of a little toy tea set and tiny grocery store items when I was only 3 years old. I think that what draws people to miniature things is the respect they evoke for the craftsmanship and the delicacy of their construction. Indeed, creating miniature things isn’t an easy process: it requires the right tools, proper equipment and a steady hand!

When it comes to the tools, my go-to has always been my OLFA L-1 Utility Knife (I affectionally named it Steven, and it even has its own Instagram account). I've had it since high school – which you can tell from the battle scars it has – but he's still my #1 choice for most projects. From cutting cardboard, Styrofoam, wood, plastic, and paper, I’ve used the OLFA L-1 to cut nearly every piece I’ve ever built. I love the feeling of its pistol grip handle and I enjoy the ratchet knob style of locking the blade in place over the slide lock. The other tool that’s always in my belt is the OLFA PC-L Cutter. It's been great for scoring and snapping acrylic sheets, but I've actually been using it to cut detail lines in soft styrene sheets. It cuts like butter, and allows for a wonderful opportunity to freehand brick walls or wooden floors. Depending on the task at hand, however, I also use OLFA craft knives, scissors and scrapers

And what makes the crafting process easier and faster is choosing a sharp blade and changing it often. Paper dulls a knife blade faster than you'd think, so OLFA snap blades are my favorite option: you can easily snap a bit off and have a fresh blade in seconds. Also, the sharper the blade the easier the cut, and the easier the cut the less likely you'll be to use too much force, slip, and injure yourself. For this, I like to use the OLFA Black Speed Blades: they keep their sharpness longer than the standard blades, and cut through paper materials like butter”.

When we asked him to talk about his favorite project so far, Damien had a hard time choosing one (he’s loved every one of them), but his latest series of Tiny Pines trailers and campgrounds might be the winner: “There has been something whimsical about that world. The bases are carved Styrofoam, the trees are put together using a printed pattern, and the little trailers themselves are usually cut from foam or cardboard as well. There's both additive and subtractive sculpting happening with them and they show off a wide variety of skills from foam carving to paper craft.

To create something so small and delicate, choosing the right tools becomes essential. I've been obsessed with OLFA blades and tools throughout my life. Not only are the handles robust and comfortable, but the blades are always sharp and strong. There truly couldn't be a better combination!”


Damien Webb Bio:

Damien is a self-taught professional modelmaker based in Canada. He has designed and built things for both public display and private consumption all over the world. He also works as a prop fabricator, stage carpenter, production designer, and maker of all things big and/or tiny.