Ausfwerks Design Fender Bender First-Look
|Date of First Look||April 2007||Manufacturer||Ausfwerks Design|
|Subject||Fender Bender||Item Number||16-04|
|Pros||Simplifies problem of bending metal or plastic for modelers; simple design makes operation a snap||Cons||Expensive; requires some care in handling to prevent unwanted bending; no degree scale for precise angle bends|
There are days when somebody pokes you in the eye with a sharp stick and brings back things from 45 years ago. I recall being in metal shop in 7th Grade and being introduced to a bending brake, but did not think about it much as I only used it once on a graded project.
Fast forward about 30 years. The advent of etched brass detailing parts for models caused a lot of problems for most people, as they were difficult to bend to shape, sharp and nasty if handled wrong, and difficult to attach to a model. As designed progressed, the last item became less problematic due to better planning, but the first two were still a hassle.
The advent of the "Hold and Fold" – a small aluminum block with a spring-loaded screw clamp, solved most of these problems overnight. From that tool came later and more flexible "Hold and Fold" tools, the competing "Etch Mate" product line, and even uncopyrighted knock-offs of those two products.
In 2006 Ausfwerks Designs debuted their "Fender Bender" at AMPS 2006, and they were once again here at AMPS 2007 to show their wares. The "Fender Bender" is something of "Gen One and a Half" tool for dealing with etched metal and plastic, and they use the correct (and largely forgotten term) of "Finger Brake" to describe it.
Brake tools generally involve clamping the metal being worked in place and then having a solid sheet of steel with a lever attached to bend it to the proper angle. Unlike the "Generation One" Hold and Fold and Etch Mate, which rely on an external object like an industrial razor blade from a box cutter or other heavy knife to carry out bending of the metal, the Fender Bender articulates right at the point of bending like the old metal shop bending brakes. The tool itself is formed from heavy machined aluminum seven inches wide and approximately three inches deep, articulating right in the center of the depth. It has a large double-sided clamp – one side, the "Finger" part of the finger brake, has 11 different size "teeth" or fingers in 1/16" increments from 1/16" to ½" and then 5/8", 3/4", and 1" sizes. The other side is a continuous machined bevel surface 7" long.
To operate the Fender Bender, one simply opens the three screws (which are not spring loaded like the others, but instead have high tensile steel washers - "lift springs" - to open the clamp when the screws are backed off) and inserts the material. The directions highlight only using finger pressure; the screws are brass and if tightened with pliers or a wrench will strip out the threads holding them in place.
With the material in place, all the user needs to do is lift the opposite side to make the bend. The brake will provide a bend angle of from 0 to 120 degrees, which is amazing for the size of the tool. This has the advantage of placing even pressure on the item across its width as well as providing for greater control once mastered. (It has the one drawback that, since the tool folds in the middle, grabbing it the wrong way may cause a premature or unwanted bend in the material.)
I fooled around with it and found that it does exactly as claimed, and with large objects (e.g. fender stowage bins, fender edges, and some shields or ammo racks) it is much easier to use that the "Generation One" tools. The one thing I wish it did have, however, is a protractor scale on one end to get accurate bends without having to use the Mark 1 or Mark 1A eyeball to get it right. (Case in point: most Soviet tanks have a 68 degree glacis which needs either a 112, 68 or 22 degree bend to fit some parts.) It wouldn't be hard to fit, as the machined parts permit the installation of such an item and it has a natural surface on the right side where it could be mounted.
The directions indicate it should only be used for metals from 0.001 to 0.020 inches in thickness, but it should also work for plastic if care is taken. I have used the Hold and Fold with plastic, and with care sharp bends can be made without cracking the plastic parts.
The tool does seem expensive but since all of other large tools are $80 or more right now its price is not that far out of line with the others.
Overall the idea is a sound one and as more and more parts are available in etched brass or metal for modeling (such as the incredible Lion Roar etched body for the M2 halftrack) tools like this should find a greater audience.
Thanks to Ausfwerks for the review sample.