Mission Models' Etchmate 3C First-Look
|Date of First Look||January 2007||Manufacturer||Mission Models|
|Subject||Etchmate 3C||Item Number||MI021|
|Pros||New lower retail price||Cons||Not as rugged nor has the 'square' edges of the metal tool|
|MSRP (USD)||Out of Production|
Mission Models has an interesting tool line that turns out specialized items for the modeler. The Etchmate 3C is their latest creation. What does the Etchmate 3C have in common with modern fighter aircraft? They're all made of composite materials. We had previously examined their all-metal Etchmate here. According to their online catalog, the orignal all-metal Etchmate has now been replaced with this one.
Like the metal Etchmate, this tool is 6.5 inches wide and has six different widths of finger vices to allow for the easy bending or folding of photo-etched parts into their intended shapes. For those long parts like tank fenders, you can reverse the upper portion of the vice to get one long edge.
The Etchmate 3C is made of a composite material that is lighter than the metal Etchmate, but every bit as rugged. The knob on the Etchmate 3C loosens or tightens the upper vice, which is spring-loaded to make insertion and removal of your parts painless. One detail on this tool that I haven't seen before is a thin raised line running the width of the tool and against the edges of the vice fingers. Like a metal brake, when you tighten the part into the vice, the ridge will start the bend ever so slightly, making the job of getting a blade under the part to complete the fold much easier.
The Etchmate 3C sits on four rubber feet to keep the tool from sliding around on your work surface and generally making it easier to handle.
The one downside to this version of the tool is that the composite material doesn't mold into sharp corners like the metal version which could cause more 'rounded' bends in your photo-etch. Since this material isn't as rugged as the metal tool, even the squarer edges will wear down a bit with use.
Another new innovation with this Etchmate version is the orange 'razor blade'. The tool comes with two razor blade-sized and one larger hand tool. This orange hand tool does the same job as the razor blade, it has a fine enough edge to slip under a clamped photo-etched part. Unlike a razor blade though, this new hand tool is not sharp enough to cut yourself, and the opposite edge is rounded to make it easier to pick up even if you're having an arthritis day.
You can see in the second image that I've clamped a photo-etched part in the middle finger. Within a few seconds, I had three good folds on this part and it is ready for installation (third image).
I've seen a number of these photo-etched tools at hobby shows and contests, but this is my favorite. That machined raised line is a perfect innovation to make the job of aligning and getting that initial bend in your parts far easier.
If you've never used a photo-etched folding tool before, you've either been doing it the hard way or haven't had the knowledge about how to accomplish photo-etched origami. The tool provides those perfectly sharp bends that you'd find on a scale box, seat, or other detail that you'd have trouble achieving using tweezers or other improvised folding methods.
The Etchmate 3C is a nice less-expensive option for the first-time photo-etched metal bender, but those of us who don't think anything of buying two-to-four photo-etch detail sets for a $30 model would prefer the metal tool for is more solid feel and squarer folds. The Mission Models' original Etchmate replaced all other photo-etch tools on my bench. I hope they'll return it back to production.
My sincere thanks to Mission Models for this review sample!