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The Small Shop "Hold and Fold"

Cookie Sewell

The Small Shop "Hold and Fold" with "Hold and Fold" Extra Reach Bar; prices, basic "Hold and Fold" $39.95, Extra Reach Bar $19.00 ($54.95 if purchased together) 

Advantages: great tool for folding etched metal or even plastic; precision milling makes for accurate work and good support

Disadvantages: Apparent high price (see text)

Rating: Highly Recommended

Recommendation: for all modelers who use etched metal parts to detail their models, or who make their own parts from etched metals

I make poor Mark Persichetti shudder every time I mention that I hate etched brass parts. Mark is probably the best manufacturer in the US of these parts for armor, and when I make such a blanket statement, he sees his  business dropping!

It's not that I don't appreciate etched brass and other etched metal parts. My problem has been that they are generally very ornery bits to work with, and as such I get tired of buying the frets and wasting parts through bad bending or lost segments of a multi-piece part.

For years, model railroaders have had their special needs answered by a company called NorthWest Short Lines, who created a line of specialized tools for them to use such as the Quarterer (for aligning driving wheels on steam locomotives), the Chopper and Chopper III cutting tools, the Duplicutter workboard and plate, and the True Sander for squaring the ends of wood and  plastic. Most people who are into either the higher levels of intermediate scale modeling or scratchbuilding have the latter three in their arsenal of   items to use when modeling.

Now, along comes The Small Shop with a set of tools for modelers who use etched metal parts. They currently have two tools on the market: the one reviewed here, the "Hold and Fold" clamping jig for bending and forming etched metal parts, and the "Rolling Set" which consists of a heavy plate and different sized hard metal rods for rolling etched metal parts into rounded shapes.

The "Hold and Fold" consists of a 4" x 3" milled aluminum plate with a spring-loaded toolhead that screws down onto two guide pins, and an industrial style sliding knife single edged razor blade for use as a bending tool. It also includes a useful sheet of instructions and suggested uses. The plate has felt feet, a countersunk screw hole for permanent mounting, and has a micro-grain milled surface similar to an old 33 rpm record which provides some "grip" for objects on the work surface. The toolhead, also milled, has a single wide face with a 45 degree beveled edge and a second face with insets leaving small "teeth" 1/16", 1/8", and 1/4" wide plus the ends. The "Extra Reach" toohead provides another set of options, with one 4" wide 45 degree beveled face, and a 3/16" and 1/4" "teeth" but with roughly 3/4" of depth behind them for larger surfaces to be worked. All of the parts, less the spring, guide pins, and knob on the tool itself, are milled from solid aluminum billets.

The milling is the reason this tool seems so expensive is because it is milled, not formed out of extruded parts as some other tools have been in the past. All parts are precision machined, and the angles and bevels are sharp and precise. This beastie has some heft as well, as these are not soda-can quality aluminum billets. (The bottom of the parts indicates it is called Kaiser ASTM-8-221 aluminum, but I am not a metallurgist and have no clue what that means in English!)

The tool head fits flush and can be screwed down tight to hold work in progress. Thanks to the wide number of options available, it can be used to bend just about any type of etched metal part one can imagine, and keeps tiny bits from flying off to their doom at the hands of a vacuum cleaner weeks from now. I recently did up an M3A3 which used tiny brackets for the skirts, which were obvious if the skirts were not installed. These were a royal pain to bend and not lose, and I for one wish I had known about this beastie BEFORE I did the M3A3!

I had a bit of trouble with the "Extended Reach" toolhead, but the problem was not one of manufacture but a really traumatic hit from the USPO in shipping. While the tools were well packed, somehow the Post Office managed to hit them together so hard that a ding was placed in the base of the tool and in the bottom of the "Extra Reach" toolhead. With a few file strokes to take off the resulting burr, the parts fit flush and fine.

Overall, this is a great little tool. I had been using a sort of "origami" tool from Airwaves to fold brass, but it was expensive (Five pounds for what looks like a glorified tweezer) and tended to slip and let the parts fold at an angle. This beastie solves the problem, and while to Mark's dismay I still may not become a true believer, I will definitely use more etched parts now that I can hold them and fold them right!

Thanks to Pete Forrest of The Small Shop for the review sample. The Small Shop can be reached at http://www./thesmallshop.com, e-mail smallshop@ipns.com. Their "snail" address is PO Box 2701, Battle Ground, Washington, 98604, telephone (360) 887-8367. They note that there is state sales tax in Washington only, and $5 for postage and handling. ((Note: the "Rolling Set" is $15, and an 8" long version of the "Hold and Fold" is $65.))

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