Sitting down at my workbench the other day, I noticed that I’m not the neatest person around, and space was getting pretty limited. To top it off, when I’m doing PE work, even more tools come out and space gets even tighter. And, I’ll admit, sometimes when I just have one or two bends to do, I may not pull out my full size Hold & Fold and will ‘make do’ with tweezers, pliers, and a razor blade. Of course, then I’m not as happy with the results as I would have been if I used the proper tool.
Choosing the right Photo-etch bender can be a difficult task, but having the right one on hand makes working with this medium much more enjoyable.
The Bug, from The Small Shop
, arrives in a sturdy cardboard box, further packed in a plastic bag along with the two sided instruction sheet and a single edge razor blade. The workstation comes fully assembled, so the only thing necessary to begin using it is to slightly dull the ‘razor’ edge off the blade by giving it a few swipes along an emery board or some sandpaper. The instructions contain the company contact information, along with generic tips for using any of the Hold and Fold workstations and some simple line drawings to get you started.
The Bug has a natural finish 2” square tool head that sits on a 2” by 2.5” black base, both parts machined from aircraft grade aluminum and hard anodized. The head is spring loaded and has a single hold down knob. By loosening the knob so the head clears the alignment pins, the tool head can be rotated to whichever of the four sides you want to use. Four soft ‘feet’ are attached to the bottom of the base to prevent marring your work surface and to keep the tool from sliding around.
Using the Bug is easy, just loosen the knob slightly and slide the PE part under one of the fingers. The head of the Bug has a small amount of ‘play’ built in, which makes it easier to fine tune the alignment of the finger and bend line before tightening it down. I usually find it more accurate to press the head down with one hand and tighten the knob with the other. The machining of the base and head is excellent, so brute force isn’t needed to tighten the knob….just snug it down enough to hold the part firmly in place. The contrast between the black base, photo-etched material and aluminum head makes life very easy on the eyes.
Different strokes for different folks applies to the actual bend procedure. Some have better results using a sideways slicing motion while bending upwards, others slide the blade fully under and apply pressure in and up. This applies to most PE benders on the market, and the 'bend mechanics' are the same for all the Hold & Fold workstations. A little practice will determine what feels most comfortable and produces the best results.
The four work heads consist of:
● ‘Swiss Comb’ where all six fingers are the same width.
● ’Power Wedge’ with four heavy-duty fingers for bending ‘raw’ brass.
● Four finger widths
● One continuous length
The edges of the base, as well as most of the other surfaces, can be used as bend points also. Every area I used provided clean, crisp bends.
Switching from head to head takes a matter of seconds since nothing needs to be taken apart. Also incorporated into the head are what the Small Shop refers to as Micro-bending Beams, for fabricating small grab handles. I tried one of these out quickly to make a tarp loop, with practice they may come in handy.
I found the pint-sized Bug to come in handy for a variety of tasks other than folding PE. Clamp the part on one of the outer edges to sand the nub off that may have been left from cutting it off the fret. I had a few small pieces that needed a ‘twist’, which if I used tweezers to hold them, they most likely would have gone flying. Clamping them in the Bug gave a good secure hold, and further using it as a vise allowed me to glue and/or paint some very small parts with no fear of loss. The small size makes it comfortable to hold in one hand and bring the work to eye level.
The trade off for the small size is bending long parts, in my case the only thing the Bug will not handle is fenders. Otherwise, this little guy has been handling all my PE work and stays right in my work area.
Using the ‘Bug’ for awhile now, I found that it stays right within working range, as its small footprint is very unobtrusive. And I find myself reaching for it more and more often, not only as a PE bender but to hold small parts while gluing, painting, etc. It fits comfortably in the hand, stays within sight, and has fast become one of my most valuable tools. Very highly recommended
The 5 Speed Hold & Fold has also been reviewed Here