This paper reviews the laboratory models used to teach fundamental surgical skills in our general surgery residency. The laboratory modules allow supervision and self-instruction, practice, and videotape monitoring of the following techniques: skin incision, suturing, knot tying, hemostasis, vascular anastomosis, and intestinal anastomosis. Pigs' feet simulate human skin for exercises in skin incision, lesion excision, suturing, and basic plastic surgical techniques. Latex tubing and penrose drains allow experience in suturing, knot tying, and hemostasis. Polytetrafluoroethylene vascular prostheses permit quantification of the precision of needle passage and suturing by measurement of leakage of water through a vascular anastomosis. Reconstituted, lyophilized, irradiated bovine arteries and ileum provide models of biologic tissue for creating handsewn vascular anastomoses and sutured or stapled gastrointestinal anastomoses. A headlamp videocamera allows unobstructive recording of the resident's technical performance and provides subsequent visual feedback for self-improvement when compared to reference instructional videotapes. We feel that these innovations may enhance surgical dexterity of residents without the need for animal sacrifice. Our goal is to foreshorten the learning curve for basic surgical skills and improve performance in the clinical operating room.