Photo-Etch & Brass

Bending, cutting, and making grabhandles

Working with Photo-Etch

It's hard to get thin, high-level detail in just styrene. This is why a lot of models have brass photo-etched kits that add detail and recreate the correct thickness of parts. PE frets look just like styrene sprues, with parts arranged and attached in various places. Now, I would NOT recommend using regular styrene nippers on photo-etch or brass, unless you want to dull them. Instead, buy Xuron's High-Precision Scissors or preferably their Professional Photo-Etch Scissors. Either one works well with photo-etch parts, but you may occasionally need to file down rough edges with a metal file.

You'll also need something to bend the photo-etch parts. Tsunoda makes 2 versions on Photo-etch pliers that are amazing. But really, any flat-nosed pliers work fine.

If you work with a lot of photo-etch pieces, you may want to invest in a photo-etch workstation.

  • The Mini Hold and Fold is great for boxes and all kinds of small parts under 2 inches or so.
  • Use a razor blade to bend parts into place.
  • For larger parts, like tank fender, you will need a larger workstation.

To attach brass parts and photo-etch, you must either use CA glue or solder them together. Soldering creates a stronger bond but requires more tools and patience to get the right bond.

Working with Brass Rods

Now, the most common type of brass I work with are brass rods. These come in many sizes, and I like having rods from .3mm to 1 mm. Rods have many uses, form railings to grab-handles to piping. They also are great for attaching styrene parts together with more support...or for making rotating parts.

Most bends can be made with various pliers, like the Xuron Tweezer Nose Pliers, which have teeth to hold rods in place.

  • Usually, I'll cut off more than I need and make an initial bend.
  • Other bends I have to measure and mark.
  • Excess rod can be cut off, but you need a little to go into the model for support.

To make grab-handles on tanks and other vehicles, you should invest in a Grabhandler or similar tool.

  • The Grabhandler allows you replicate handle sizes quickly and efficiently.
  • Slide a rod into the device, clamp it down, and bend it with you fingers.
  • For a sharper grab-handle bend, use pliers.
  • This will also work with brass strips.

See the AT-TE Cargo Walker Build Log for some good examples of using brass rods.

Working with Brass Tubing

There may also be times you want to use brass tubing to create gun barrels or support for internal structures. This can be tricky because of how easy it is to mess up cutting brass tube when you are cutting freely with just a saw. This is why it's important to have a few tools designed specifically for cutting tubes.

  • Duplicating Jig
    • This is great for any sized tubing
    • Also works great for large styrene parts.
    • Use a large Zona saw to slide into the slotted area and cut the tube.
    • Also has a moving stop to duplicate cuts.
  • Tube Cutters (like the KS Tube Cutter)
    • Use a circular blade and a vice-grip
    • Insert the tube, tighten slightly, and rotate. Continue to tighten a little and rotate until the tube pops in half.
    • It's only good for 1/8 inch to 5/8 inch tubing.
  • Du-bro Tube Bender
    • Useful for bending 1/8" tubing without crimping the tube (other sizes are available)
    • See my Kylo Ren's Shuttle build log for more info and use

Tips for smaller tubes (gun barrels)

  • These bend if you use pliers or saws to cut them
  • Try holding an X-Acto blade against the tube and roll the tube across a mat. The blade will slowly score and slice the tube.
  • You could also slide brass rod into them and then saw through them without the tube deforming.

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