What You Get in the Bag
The Photo Etch Part Cut-Out Kit is packaged in a simple poly bag containing 3 black 3/32 inch-thick Plexiglas square tiles just shy of 4 inches on each edge, 1 clear 3/8 inch diameter Plexiglas rod 1 inch long, and 1 clear 3/32 inch thick Plexiglas tile measuring 1 by 1.5 inches. The rod has a slight chamfer (a 45 degree cut that softens the edge) on one end, and one long edge of the small clear tile is also chamfered. A one page instruction and description sheet is included. All of the parts were loose in the bag, but the black tile had protective paper to protect the finish.
How Does the Thing Work Anyway?
Now that the dry descriptive part of the review is out of the way, the operational part of this neat little tool is really quite delightful. The Small Shop makes an impressive variety of photo-etch tools, and the cut-out kit is intended to be used in conjunction with other tools offered in the same line. It is important to note that the kit will work just fine without any additional co-purchases.
Preparing the kit for use is very easy. The kit instructions are clear enough; peel the protective paper from the black tiles and glue the rod to the clear rectangular tile with cyanoacrylate or acrylic cement. Once glued, the clear parts form a hold-down press, with the rectangular piece being a hold-down foot, and the rod being a handle. Place the PE fret to be cut on a black tile, hold the fret down with the press such that the connecting "sprues" to the soon-to-be-removed PE part are exposed, and cut the piece free. Lift the fret, leaving the newly-cut part on the black tile. Slide the part to another black tile for easy viewing and storage. Using firm pressure with the hold-down, I was able to cut even the most delicate part without deforming or bending the part.
The Voice of Experience
These instructions are clear enough. But I did manage to create some usage problems that are easily avoided with a little forethought and planning. These problems were not due to any tool design flaws, but were from operator error.
- Assembling the hold-down press:
Make sure that the chamfered edge of the clear rectangular press piece is up. If you put that edge on the bottom of the press by gluing the rod to the opposite side from the chamfer, you lose a whole edge of the press. If the chamfer is on the bottom, it will keep you from cutting close to the press. Yes, cutting can be done, but not as effectively. Similarly, make sure the chamfered end of the rod is up when being glued to the press to form a handle. The end opposite from the chamfer has more gluing surface and will form a stronger joint with the foot. Lastly, take the time to make sure the handle is glued in the center of the foot. In my testing enthusiasm, I was able to break the handle off more easily if it wasn't centered on the foot. See the figure with this review.
- Cut-part storage effectiveness:
I am not completely sold on the effectiveness of the tiles as a storage site, but gluing a 1/4 inch plastic strip on 2 adjacent sides of a black tile might help. This will provide a bit of a boundary to the trimmed PE parts. A great advantage of the tiles is that it really is easy to slide cut pieces off somewhere, just so long as that somewhere is the intended location.
- Keeping one tile to cut and the others to store:
A shiny black surface is an excellent background for seeing PE parts, on or off the fret. I cut both fresh brass and primed brass without any difficulty (see the figure with the article). I didn't thoroughly beat up the tiles, but a few cut marks on the tile surface seemed to keep the cut parts from sliding around too much. It might be a good idea to reserve one black tile for cutting and keep the other two for holding cut parts.
The picture is a bench-eye view of the Photo Etch Part Cut-Out Kit. It was taken before assembly of hold-down and any significant cutting. Both primed and bare 1/350 PE frets are shown. The red marks on the clear parts are for centering the rod on the hold-down foot. See text for part dimensions.
This is a great tool and a very handy little asset to the workbench at a good price. Designed for PE, I am sure it will work very well in other cutting applications. Thank you to The Small Shop and IPMS/USA for providing a sample set to review! It was fun.