Whether you are looking for a Hobby Drill, Hand Drill or it’s correct moniker Pin Vise (I didn’t know this originally either). You’re likely looking for the same thing. a tool to drill holes into your models. Today we are looking at finding you the best Pin Vise for your Models & Miniatures.
It finally happened, my Pin Vise broke. For those of you who only know the pain of spilling a pot of Agrax Earthshade, you can’t understand the loss of a hand drill. It’s been a part of my kit for over 20 years, one of the oldest tools I owned and it’s dead. I’ve spent the last month looking for a new one. I ended up buying a few to test them out.
Best Pin Vise Hobby Drill for Miniatures – Summary
If you’re just looking for the list, see below if you want to see the reason behind each selection, click here.
|1||Tamiya Fine Pin Vise|
|2||Modelcraft Pin Vise|
|4||The Army Painter Drill|
|5||Generic Amazon/eBay Pin Vise|
|6||Spiral Pin Vise|
|8||Dremel / Rotary Tool|
Parts of a Pin Vise
A typical Pin Vise has several Components (Top Left to Bottom Right)
- Handle (the Spinny bit on the back)
- Body/Shaft/Chuck Sleeve
The handle is the part which rests in your palm and allows you to hold the PinVise steady as you spin the rest to drill a hole. not all hand drills come with this but I find it to be the most necessary component.
The body/shaft/chuck sleeve of a hobby drill or whatever you want to call it is the main body of the drill.
The Chuck is the part you tighten to grip your drill bits, You can get get a hand drill with a more traditional chuck like you see on normal drills which is entirely variable in size. More commonly, you will see a Hobby drill has reversible Collet(s)
Collets are like a traditional chuck except the are a fixed size. Usually, a Pin Vise comes with 2 two-sided collets. One collet is in the front of the drill as it is in use, the other is stored in the handle until you need it. Each has 2 fixed diameter holes for a total of 4 different sizes. Each hole will hold a small range of different sized drill bits. If you need to change to a much large or much smaller bit than the one that is currently fit, you need to use the other side of the collet or the other collet.
This can be annoying if you are often swapping between drill bits which require a different collet.
The Best Drill Bits for Models & Miniatures
I’ve had the same Hobby Drill for over 20 years, it’s never let me down (until it did). When I say mine broke. it’s because I spilt glue on it and it seized the handle. Less “it broke”, more “I broke it”. It’s the sort of tool that you will buy once. so if you are in the market for one, make it a good one. They aren’t expensive at all. But they can be “cheap” in every sense of the word (we’ll get to that in the list).
The most important part of the tool is your drillbits. I don’t mean the strength of them, bar the few occasions you are drilling metal, even the cheapest bits should be able to drill plastic just fine.
The most common thing we all drill (Space Marine Gun Barrels) it makes sense to drill the side holes with one diameter drill bit and the front of the barrels with a slightly larger drill bit. It’s a subtle change, but one that makes it appear just slightly more real.
The issue I have with Pin Vises and drill bits is that I love the low profile of a typical Hobby Drill that uses collets. The issue with collets is that the difference in drill bit size means changing around the collet configuration every time you swapped the drill bit. More annoyingly, I had to swap to the other collet so I had to unscrew both the chuck and the handle, every time. You know if you’re painting an army, this is just frustrating. A minor annoyance that after time really grates.
My search for a better Pin Vise started with better drill bits, or at least a way to change bits without fully reconfiguring the whole Hobby Drill.
That’s when I found PCB Drill Bits. These bits are for drilling Printed Circuit Boards in electronics and computing projects. They come in sizes from 0.1mm (insanely small) to 3.2mm (too big) in diameter, are cheap and are usually made from Tungsten Carbide. I’m not sure if you’ve ever played Rock-Paper-Scissors-Tungsten-Plastic. But Tungsten beats plastic, and pewter too. Perfect!
The best part of these, however, is that the shank (the bit your drill holds) is a standard size. so long as you get a Pin Vise which holds 3.2mm drill bits, which is the standard shank diameter for PCB Drill Bits.
Not all Pin Vises hold this diameter however so I will note the ones below which do.
The best way to drill Space Marine Gun Barrels
This is the most common thing that miniature hobbyists will drill (aside from holes for pinning or magnets) and it’s a good idea to know how to get your barre holes central. I’d like to tell you exactly what size drill bits to use, but it varies between the different types of weapons and the scale of models. The difference between bolters on Primaris Marines vs Squat-Marines is noticeable.
Fo drill the holes on a barrel, it’s definitely worth doing all this before you prime the mini or you can ruin your paint job. This is really part of the model prep, just like removing mould lines
1. Drill the holes on the side of the barrel
Drilling the holes on the side of the nozzle is quite easy, measure up a drill bit, you want something just slightly smaller than the current diameter. the holes on the side will have a slight roundedness from the mould, you don’t want to remove this as it will leave a 90° edge. leave the natural curve but drill just inside this.
Drill slightly from one side of the barrel, then from the other, do not try to drill all the way through from one side. You are likely to come out the other side in a different place than you wanted. It’s 2 seconds extra work to just dill a bit from both sides and meet in the middle.
2. Mark the centre
There’s no tool I have found which will perfectly find the centre of a miniature gun barrel. If you know of one, please tell us in the comments?
The best thing to do is mark it up with a semi-permanent pen. At least then, if you make the mark wrong you can just re-draw it or rub it out and start again. you can skip this step but once you start making a hole in the plastic you cant go back. if you want it right, mark it up
3. Create a pilot hole
measure twice and good once is a sensible adage which prevents mistakes. This is the second measure. Using a Drawing Pin, your hobby knife (which will blunt or snap the end) or the best option, a Hobby Awl.
Make a pilot hole right in the centre of your marked hole. this will guide your drill and stop it slipping off centre on the next step.
4. Drill a hole
AS noted above if you have drilled the side barrels, I think it looks better to go with a slight larget drill bit for the main barrel hole itself. Even if it’s just .2mm larger. You don’t want it too large as it may be wider than the neck of the barrel which will cause it to come out of the back.
Line up your drill, it should sink into your pilot hole comfortably. give it a couple of reverse turns (counter-clockwise, unless you bought left-handed drill bits) and that should embed the drill into your pilot hole.
Then just drill by turning the shaft (yeah, haha) clockwise. Don’t push down on the drill, just apply enough pressure to marry it up to the part. as you turn the drill will do the work itself.
When you punch through, you’ll know as the drill tip will be visible through the side holes. drill just a touch beyond this. to show depth in the barrel beyond the side holes. Literally just a touch.
Don’t reverse turn the drill or you will be left with a spiral of plastic still attached inside the barrel. keep turning the drill clockwise as you apply a little force to pull the drill out. this should leave a clean cut. you may have some plastic burr left as you punched through to teh side holes. if this happens, switch back to that smaller drill bt and drill teh sides again to tidy up. You may think to just drill the side holes second, but then you can’t see how far you are drilling the front hole and the burr will be left the other way so you may need to re-drill the front.
Best Pin Vise Hand Drills for Miniatures & Models
And now onto the list, I normally do a top 10, but I am limited to options, these are also pretty cheap to buy, no matter what model you get. so the price doesn’t really come into it. The below options are all the ones we looked at specifically. If you think there is another option worth considering, let us know.
Let’s get this out of the wat straight off the bat, you can use a Dremel or any rotary tool. They are absolutely great for a myriad of tasks, but they are overkill for drilling holes in miniatures. Unless you are incredibly precise, you are likely to slip and worse drill a hole in your hand.
They will hold a 3.2mm drill bit (standard Dremel bit size), perfect for PCB Drill Bits.
7. Hobby Knife
This is a somewhat valid option, for a while. you can use a good sharp hobby knife in a twisting motion to carve out a hole. used gently it will work for gun barrels. The front hole at least. the side holes will likely just get mangled. It’s imprecise. and you will quickly snap the point of your knife making each new hole worse. But it can be done.
These don’t hold drill bits
You may find some of these online, the shaft is similar to that of the plunger on a child’s spinning top toy. As you push down the grip on the handle it will spin the drill. Like a Dremel, these are overkill for plastic miniatures. but they are still useful as you can just turn the handle like a normal Pin Vise.
Don’t go out of your way to get this, unless you are drilling deep holes into metal miniatures.
All of the ones of these I have seen don’t hold 3.2mm drill bits so you can’t use PCB Drill Bits
Search Pin Vise on Amazon or eBay and you’ll find these. They are a cheap option and come with a load of drill bits. They are generally fine and do the job. They don’t use collets and instead have a more typical drill chick which will hold any size up to 3.6 mm.
This head, however, is larger than most Pin Vise heads and does get in the way a bit of you are drilling areas where other parts of the model it in the way. The other annoyance (and it is just an annoyance) is that the handle wobbles a bit squeaks like hell.
This holds up to 3.6mm drill bits making it perfect for 3.2mm PCB Drill Bits.
The first of our known hobby branded options is The Army Painter Pin Vise. this one is great and well built. It does use collets however these are only 1 sided and there’s one for each of the different sized drill bits you get with it. The drill feels a bit short in my opinion but is still comfortable to hold and it has a smooth mechanism. The handle is fastened in with a rubber ring and just pulls off to access the internal storage.
It only supports up to 1.8mm drill bits with one each of 1.0, 1.4 & 1.8 mm bits included in the box. But this means you won’t be able to use this with 3.2mm PCB Drill Bits.
The Citadel Drill is one of the most well-known hand drills in this community. It’s generally pretty good. It’s well built with a smooth turning motion. I don’t find the triangular-shaped handle the most comfortable, but that’s likely just a personal view as I’m used to a different type of handle.
The hexagonal grip that you turn isn’t the best either IMHO. With only 6 flat sides there isn’t really a grip. It does, however, have the best look of any of the hand drills and will be great sat next to a set of Citadel tools. The strangest thing is that this comes with only one two-sided collet, even though the handle unscrews from the body to house a second. (I suppose you could store your extra drill bits here instead)
It comes with 6 drill bits and Games Workshop even indicates which size is for what weapon type.
- 2 x 1.0mm for Lasguns
- 2 x 1.5mm for Boltgund
- 2 x 2mm for heavy bolters
Unfortunately, 2.0mm is the maximum size (you could maybe squeeze in a 2.1mm or 2.2mm). but you cannot use the standard 3.2mm PCB Drill Bits with these.
This is my baby, I had this model for over 20 years and they still make them now. It is generally everything you want from a typical pin vice. Solid build, decent size and weight. smooth spinning motion. It comes with 2 two-sided collets. one is stored in the handle one is stored in the front.
- One collet holds 0-1.2mm and 1.3-2.4mm
- The other collet holds 0.8-2.0mm and 1.8-2.9mm
It’s long-lasting and inexpensive. It typically comes with 5 assorted drill bits, but it never indicated on the packaging what size these are. I can’t find it online either. but they were always plenty enough to drill my gun barrels on space marines.
The only drawback is that the maximum drill bit diameter is 3.0mm, you can wedge in a 3.2mm PCB Drill Bit. But it is a wedge and you have to drag them out. If you are happy to swap out the collets all the time for changing drill bits, it’s a great choice.
IMHO, this is the perfect Pin Vise. It has a standard build style and is nice and thin. Really sturdy construction and the bearing rotation between the body and handle is firm (no wobbles) and smooth. The body on the D-R is rubberised with a ridged grip making this the most comfortable model available (seriously, check the pics below, the D-R is the exact same vise but it has rubber around it). If you’re drilling a lot of mini’s, this does make a difference. It will likely wear down with time but there’s always the Tamiya Fine Pin Vise D (74050) which is a full metal version.
It has 2 collets. one is stored in under the handle whilst the other is in use. It is one of the slightly more expensive options alongside the Citadel Drill. But it is a purchase that offers you the most convenience and with a half-decent level of care, you will only need to make once in your whole hobby career.
It houses up to 3.2mm drill bits with a perfectly snug fit for PCB Drill Bits
The Best Pin Vise Hand Drill for Miniatures & Models – Final Thoughts
A Pin Vise is a relatively inexpensive piece of your hobby kit, but there are certainly some benefits to splashing out that extra cash. If you are a Warhammer collector and want all the tools to match. there’s nothing wrong with their set. If you are looking at a more budget-friendly option I’d suggest either The Army Painter or Modelcraft versions which come with drill bits. The cheapest option is a generic Amazon or eBay model and these are absolutely fine for doing the job. I just found some annoyance with them like how squeaky the handle was as it spins.
As I’ve said above, the best option, at a comparable price to the Citadel Pin Vise is the Tamiya Extra Fine which comes in a fully metal version or rubberised handle version. As the most important part of any drill is the bits you use. the convenience of being able to add standard drill bits with a 3.2mm shank just makes things so convenient by not having to keep changing collets to swap drill bit sizes. So anything which houses a 3.2mm shank is worth an investment.
When it comes to a Pin Vise, if you buy right the first time, you should never need to make another purchase again.
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