by Mike Hanson
I've been using
photoetched parts in my model building for a long time. I've
tried a number of different ways to manipulate it, fold it,
bend it, twist it, make curves, etc. I've used pliers, home-made
clamps, knives, you name it. As the technology has improved,
the complexity of photoetched parts have increased, to the point
where you can buy whole kits made of nothing but PE brass, nickel,
I was aware of specialized
tools for working with PE. I'd seen the Hold and Fold and the
Etchmate online and in magazines, but never up-close and in
person. While in Atlanta for the 2005 IPMS National Convention,
was able to see and hold the tools and actually get a feel for
how they work.
At the end of the
day, I walked away with the Hold and Fold PE Workstation from
The Small Shop, a set of tools for working with photoetched
parts (www.thesmallshop.com). It comes with an anodized aluminum
tool, a kind of mini metal break with cutouts and "fingers"
that allow you to do an amazing variety of bends and folds.
There are a number of different sizes of this particular tool
to choose from, all depending on how large your
projects are, from a very small 2 inches, a medium 4 inches
(the one I purchased) and a very large 8 inches. The basic construction
is the same on all of them, a black anodized base late with
a clear anodized aluminum tool head that has cutouts and fingers
to aid in bending and folding PE parts. The main tool head has
three levels (1/16, 1/8, 1/4) to allow
channel folding and two sides are beveled for sharp folds up
to 135 degrees. The tool head is spring-loaded and can rotate
to so you can leverage use of either side of the tool, and it
has a thumbscrew to tighten it down onto the part. It comes
with a razor blade that is slid under the part and used as a
lever for folding. The larger tools come with a 4
inch or 8 inch blade to facilitate larger folds.
The Hold and Fold
tool is available by itself from The Small Shop, or as part
of a "PE Workstation." The workstation comes with
a couple additional tools that are helpful when working with
There's a PE Rolling
Set, used to create curves or to bend parts into a circular
shape. It's a 3" x 4" anodized aluminum base with
semi-circular cutouts and a set of rods and dowels sized to
fit into the cutouts. The PE part is pushed into the base and
the rod or dowel is used to roll the part into the required
The other tool is
very simple, so simple as to make me wonder why I didn't think
of it myself. It's the Parts Cutting Set, used to aid in the
removal of PE parts from the fret. If you've ever worked with
PE, you know that it can be a challenge clipping them off, as
there's always a danger of warping or twisting the part or,
even worse, the dreaded springboard effect where the part leaps
off the table and into thin air, never to be found again.
The Cutting Set
comes with double-sided black Plexiglas bases, with just enough
"give" to help facilitate cutting. The plastic doesn't
let the blade skip or break, yet it is firm enough not to deform
the parts or deteriorate. But the real innovation is the clear
"press" - a small piece of clear Plexiglas with a
beveled edge, that's placed on top of the PE,
holding it against the black base. Use a sharp blade or scalpel
to nip the fret apart and the press keeps the part from flying
The Rolling set
and the Cutting set are also available separately.
Why the Hold and
Fold over the Etch-Mate? I think the H&F is not only a better
value, but has better features. The spring-loaded, rotating
tool head is very effective, and the tool bed is flat and smooth.
PE Workstation set retails for $77.50 for the 4 inch model,
around $10 more than the Etch-Mate alone. If you choose to go
with the H&F tool by itself, the 4 inch tool retails for
$50, a full $15 less than the Etch-Mate.
This is not to say
that the tools are not similar, and both can be an effective
aid when working with photoetched parts. In fact, I firmly believe
once you use one of these tools, you'll wonder why you ever
tried to get by using anything else!
There are photos
of all of the tools reviewed above at www.thesmallshop.com.
There is also a great demonstration page that shows how the
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