Tools for building terrain?

Raven Morpheus

Gang Hero
Nov 19, 2017
Hey all

So, I know we have some terrain builders here...

I'm starting to feel like I need some to acquire some proper tools, besides my usual craft knife, ruler, pin vice, plastic set squares, hot glue gun, pva/mod podge etc.

The reason I'm starting to feel I need proper tools is that I'm building stuff (or will be) out of XPS foam (used to be pink foam/blue foam, now grey foam) and balsa wood/coffee stirrers (possibly also styrene sheet) and I need to do things like cut large areas at an angle, accurately (and also quickly).

So, does anyone here have any recommendations for dirt cheap tools, available in the UK, that I could acquire for doing such things?

Thanks in advance.
Last edited:
If you're planning to build a lot of xps foam terrain, I'd recommend looking into a hot wire table. The "industry standard" seems to be the Proxxon, which is a very good tool but it is not cheap. I purchased one years ago and have used it to make quite a bit of xps terrain, and if I could do it over again I would probably look for some cheaper option with a bigger table surface. One nice thing about the Proxxon is that it has a pretty decent miter gauge built into its fence, so you can do angle cuts with it (and you can adjust the angle of the hot wire, to make angle cuts from a different axis). Many of the cheaper options would either not be able to do the angle cuts, or would need a jig. All in all, the Proxxon is a good tool, but there are other options that are (if memory serves) like less than half or even less than one-third the cost.

For making cuts on bigger pieces of xps foam, I've been using a framing square (the large ones used in roof construction that are 24" long). Other than that, a cheap utility knife (the kind with the extendable, snap-off blades) and a metal ruler are pretty much all you really need to get by. Oh, and angle cuts are really easy to mess up, but there's generally a phase in xps foam modeling where you apply filler, so any gaps you have are pretty easy to hide!

I would also try to see if construction adhesive is available where you are; for instance Gorilla Glue or Liquid Nails. These glues work far better than PVA or hot glue on the xps foam I've worked with. PVA on larger surfaces of xps sometimes will not dry due to the fact that xps foam is designed to act as a moisture barrier as well as insulation. Hot glue works ok, but doesn't make a very strong bond compared to construction adhesives.