Best low-speed hand drill for modellers

Drilling a Warhammer gun barrel figure with the Tamiya drillLooking for a quicker, easier, and safer way of drilling holes in plastic models, miniatures, and polymer clay? The Tamiya mini-drill is a hole-in-one for your model-making needs.

For most of my modelling, I use either a Dremel or pin vise for drilling small holes.

These work well a lot of the time but for small holes (sub 2mm) in very small plastic parts (magnet hols and gun nozzles on miniatures, cables for lighting wires in structures, etc.) neither is perfect.

I find the Dremel, even with the Flexible Shaft extension, can at times feel to bulky to hold when working on small delicate parts. It’s very fast. One slip with a drill spinning away at 5000RPM is disastrous for a small plastic or resin figure and given how chunky the Dremel is this easy to do.

The pin vice meanwhile, is great for making general holes in delicate pieces but can be problematic when precision is needed or if, like me, you struggle to grip the small handle. Ironically, the size of pin vises makes them ideal for close work but having to hold and turn it in my hand often results in the drill bit being skewed and not perpendicular to the surface being drilled. Not only does this ruin the look but it can result in drill bits breaking very easily.

Sadly, I’ve never found an alternative.

That was until last week.

While surfing the web looking for something completely unrelated I came across an old review for a Tamiya hand drill that was made model making.

Tamiya 74041 mini electric drill specification

Inside of the Tamiya mini drill once assembled

Making the Tamiya drill was rewarding and fun, it clips together and is straightforward to assemble.

The Tamiya drill is a small, lightweight, battery-powered (not included) single-speed drill with a rotation speed of 450RPM. With a gear ratio of 1:9, which makes it ideal for working on delicate plastics and resins. Compare this to the 3000 to 5000 RPM of Dremels and you can see why it’s more suited to working with soft plastics.

The chuck holds drill bits from 1mm to 3mm via two collets although with adapters it’s possible to hold smaller drills using an alternative collet nut.

I quickly handed over my cash to place an order and a day or so later it arrived.

First impressions 

Opening the package revealed the first surprise. You have to assemble the drill. A model company making a drill that you need to assemble!?! This is possibly one of the best ideas I’ve come across in 13-plus years of reviewing tools.

The kit is essentially the outside casing of the drill, a small DC motor with cogs to reduce the rotation speed, the shaft to hold the drill bits, and a leave mechanism to connect the trigger, battery, and motor. There weren’t any instructions in English but all the parts were marked on the sprues and the diagrams were easy enough to follow, anyone who makes models or builds model railway layouts should be able to follow them.

It took me approximately 15 minutes to match up the parts and clip them together, no glue was required, and I really enjoyed the process! The feeling of satisfaction having assembled the drill was wonderful and gives me a little kick every time I’ve subsequently used it.

Using the Tamiya 74041 mini-electric drill

Using the Tamiya mini drill for model making, here a building for an OO gauge model railway.

Using the Tamiya mini drill on delicate models is a lot safer than high-speed drills and easier than pin vises

I pressed the small button on the side, undid the chuck, fitted a 1mm drill bit (no drill bits are supplied) and gave the drill a trial run, drilling out the gun barrel of a Warhammer 40k mini figure.  Normally, I’d do this with a pin vise and the same drill bit. It’s fiddly work and as said, on several occasions, I held the pin vise at the wrong angle and the hole veered off to one side of the barrel, and in one case, even cut through through the sides of the barrel.

With the Tamiya drill, there were no such problems. The drill sliced through the center of the barrel and gave a hollowed-out middle in seconds.

For the next test, I wanted to use a larger drill bit – 3mm. This involved undoing the chuck until is came off, swapping the collet out and screwing the chuck back on. With the larger diameter collect fitted, I could then attach the bigger drill bit.

This was to cut the corner holes for a window in a plasticard model I’m constructing. The holes in the corner will allow a small handsaw blade – Tamiya’s model-making handsaw – to be inserted into each hole and from there I can saw across or vertically to the opposite hole to cut out a square for a window.

The Tamiya drill chewed through the 4mm plasticard (styrofoam card) without effort.

For the last test, I want to try the drill on something that needs more torque than plastic. As it happens, I was fitting magnets into the track of my model railway (for the automatic uncoupling of wagons). This involves drilling a hole through a 5mm gap between the sleepers and into the wooden baseboard underneath.

Cutting into wood requires a drill with a bit of power but the tiny hole size and close proximity to the sleepers and railways had put me off using the Dremel. A pin vice would be hard work while having a Dremel spinning away millimeters from the track rails didn’t bear thinking about.

It was an ideal opportunity to see how my new Tamiya drill tackled demanding drilling.


This is now in my tool rack and has been used several times already. It won’t replace the Dremel, it’s not designed to, but I’ll definitely be using it in favour of the pin vises for small detailed work particularly with miniatures, polymer clay and plasticard models.



Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.

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