R/C scale models are, by default, built from light-weight materials. The tools required to shape those materials are generally small and cheap tools. In the following, I have listed the tools that I use the most. If you buy wisely, the outlay is really manageable.
You MUST have a number 11 scalpel. This is the tool I used all the time when cutting balsa. For plywood, a Stanley-knife (XActo knife) works well.
A box-joint cutter and a small wire-cutter are both excellent for cutting wires and small metal pieces.
Apart from the box-joint cutter, a pair of nose-pliers come in real handy when dealing with
A small hack-saw is a good investment. If you buy plywood in larger sheets, you will need a slightly larger saw, like a cross-cut saw. Strictly speaking a crosscut saw is meant for cutting perpendicular to the wood-grain, and a rip-saw for cutting parallel to the grain of the wood, but for our purposes either will work.
One of the most important things you can do to get a smooth surface is sanding. It is also one of the most boring jobs around. When sanding, start with rough sandpaper (grit 80 maybe) and work your way down to a grit 200 or 400. Get a good quality sandpaper, and do not use force. Let the sandpaper do its job by itself. To avoid uneven pressure and a result looking like a starved horse, wrap the sandpaper around some sanding blocks. These blocks can simply be blocks of scrap wood that you have laying around.
Wood files are sometimes required, when making notches in ply-formers. A couple of square and a round is enough for most uses.
When building an R/C scale model, most modellers build directly on top of the plans. To hold the wood in place while the glue dries, get a box of quality pins. There are special ‘T’ shaped pins for modelling. Those with plastic heads are also very popular. The pins used for making clothes works, but are not recommended, because the heads are so small and you get painful fingers.
In Europe, where I live, Phillips head and slotted screw heads are on their way out and Torx screws are the preferred screw head. No matter what, you will need a good set of screw-drivers of normal sizes, and a set of watch-makers screwdrivers. Again, you get what you pay for here.
For adjusting motors, etc. two set of Allen keys are required. One in metric and one in inches. You may have to shop around for whichever type is NOT the common type in your country.
A ruler is not just a ruler. If you go to the shops and get 2 – 3 different brands of rulers and hold them up against each other, you will find that a meter on one is not identical to a meter on the other. Generally the more expensive are the most accurate. I normally bring my “golden” trusted to the shop as a reference. You should get a metal ruler if possible, around 50 cm long. A one meter long straight-edge is also really nice to have.
Other hand tools
There are loads of other types of hand tools. Some of them are for very specific purposes. You will acquire them as you get more experiences.