Mission Models Etch Mate 3C
Reviewed by Richard Bardsley
This is a relatively new product which is an update of Mission Model’s previous Etch Mate bending tool, the main difference being the material used. The original product, in common with most etch bending tools, was made from aluminium, which gives a precise and strong tool, but at a price, with not much change from one hundred pounds. The 3C is made from a high tech composite material which makes it light and cheaper to manufacture – I got mine via mail order for £43 in the UK though you can find them much cheaper (even allowing for postage) in the US (where the product originates from) though import duties are likely to add quite a bit.
Loosening the three screws on top allows an etch to be slotted underneath; removing the screws completely allows the shaping piece to be reversed, giving either a 6 inch straight run, or a selection of forming shapes. There is a channel just in front of the forming shape – insert the etch for bending so that the etched bend lines align with the channel, then tighten the screws to hold it firm. Included with the 3C are three plastic wedge shapes – these slot under the etch and by carefully pushing it forward, the etch starts to fold up. Once the wedge reaches the channel, it dips into the channel and you can fold upwards to ninety degrees. It’s the channel that makes the 3C design different from other bending tools.
I found the 3C to be easy to use and had a long and delicate etch folded up in no time. At 6 inches, it should be wide enough for anything you want to do in N Gauge. The four rubber feet underneath stop is sliding around, and unlike aluminium, the finish is deliberately matt to avoid unwanted reflections. The edge of the etch does seem to cut into the plastic wedges as they are pushed under, so these may not last for ever (I’ve seen spare ones for sale). An alternative may be to use a Stanley knife type blade, though I’d urge caution to avoid cutting the 3C itself.
Some users of the 3C have reported fragility in terms of the shaping tool cracking or snapping, as it is made from a composite material and not metal. It seems that this is likely to be due to rough handling such as over tightening the screws or applying too much force on thicker etches that may be better done in a vice. For the relatively lightweight components in N Gauge, I think the 3C is more than man enough for the job.
I purchased my 3C from a military modelling shop, and most of the internet traffic on the product seems to revolve around military modelling. It just goes to show that you should always look outside the confines of your chosen modelling arena, because there’s some really useful stuff out there. The crossover of Johnson’s Kleer from aeroplane modelling to model railways is a classic example. So if you’re one of the many modellers who is put off by the prospect of building etched brass kits, the Etch Mate 3C is a modest but worthwhile investment that will build your confidence with etch brass and broaden your modelling horizons.
Etchmate 3C and Tools as Supplied.
Plastic former under Brass tabs preparing to bend upward.
Richard bending the brass tabs upward with the tool supplied.
Tabs nicely bent.
Edited by Craig Taylor