Wargaming Tradecraft: Pin Vice / Manual Drills


Pin Vice / Manual Drills

Drills can often come in handy when you're modding, basing or just assembling your minis. While a powered drill will always get the job done faster, it's usually not the best choice. Consider that you're working with small bits you can't clamp or vice and have to hold in your hand. Because of this, a manual drill is preferred. It's unwise to use an electric drill that close to your fingers and it's very easy to tear through plastic or pewter (or flesh) before you can stop yourself from ruining something.


 The first thing to look for is the Chuck size. That's the center part that actually holds the drill bit.

The first style you'll see is the generic one. (See on the left) This tends to fit all drill bits since it closes all the way. This includes the tiniest of hobby bits.

The second style is pictured on the right. It's got a hole down the center and therefor won't hold smaller bits. What it will do is hold larger bits better than the generic style.

A feature you might find is that the drill can open up and be a convenient place to store all the extra bits, so you don't lose them.

Another feature you may find is the back of the drill may spin. This can be a little easier on your fingers because you place one on the end and use the others to spin the drill.

Your local gaming store should carry these. Generic hobby stores may also carry them.

How To

First there's the body, and the chuck fits into that.

The front of the drill covers the chuck and screws down onto the body. As you tighten the front cover, it pushes the chuck further into the body, tightening and closing it up.

You place the drill bit in the chuck as you screw down the front, causing the chuck to hold the bit in place.

If you tighten it too much, the chuck may get stuck in the body or the bit will get stuck in the chuck. Be careful removing a stuck bit so you don't cut yourself on it. You can use pliers, but it may damage the bit - grip the bit near the chuck rather than the bit's tip.

If you don't tighten it enough, the bit with get stuck in whatever you're drilling while the drill just spins around it.

Using the drill is simple.
  • Use a knife or pin, etc to create a small indent where you want to drill. This creates a point you can place the very tip of the drill bit in so it won't slide around.
  • Put the drill in place, then turn it with your fingers until the hole's the desired depth.
  • While drilling, from time to time:
    • Take the drill out to remove any junk that's building up on the bit.
    • Check the depth so you don't drill to far and end up punching out the other side. Optionally, place some tape on the drill bit at the point where you don't want to drill past.
  • Plastic is relatively easy to drill, while pewter may take some patience to create a hole deep enough for most uses.
    Example Uses

    One of the most common uses for drilling out figures is pinning. This is when you drill out a hole on either side of parts you want to attach, cut a piece of heavy wire to size, and glue it in place. (The wire can be found at most hardware stores)
    A pinned joint will be very strong and prevent your larger monstrous creatures / walkers from falling apart - especially if they're made out of pewter.
    Alternately, you can use pinning instead of magnets to create WYSIWYG models with interchangeable parts. Keep in mind that if you don't glue a pinned joint, the part will spin on a single pin. For this reason, you'll want to use two smaller pins in these cases - which can be very tricky considering the size of the parts we work with.

    In the below example, I've added gun barrels to a storm bolter. You can just see the two little indents I created in the second pic, so the bit doesn't slide around as I try to start drilling. The third one is after drilling it out.

    Drilling holes in a model's base or feet allows you to glue heavy wire in it and anchor the model without having to worry about it breaking off it's stand.

    Drills are useful it many other areas. You can create bullet holes and other forms of battle damage when modding or even drill out glued joints to disassemble used models a little more gracefully.


    1. Man, that's very serious fine detail work. I'm not sure I'm that talented... yet.

    2. But thank you so VERY much for the tutorial and pictures. It sure makes the ideas you presented via comments much clearer.

    3. thanks for the post!
      One great source for "pins" is using a paper clip!

      Also, I you have a lot of very small bits, (or just want a few dedicated drills) you can use an old xacto handle as a drill as well.

    4. While a paperclip can work, and is probably readily available, you can get like 50 feet of wire from a hardware store for about $10. I don't think you could get that much wire out of $10 worth of paperclips.


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