The subject of this review is the etched metal bending tool “Fender Bender” which uses a completely different approach and technique from any of the other hobby bending tools on the market such as the Etch Mate and various Hold & Fold tools (2", 5.5", 8").
The Fender Bender is quite hefty being made of steel and has two “body” parts joined with large pivot screws that are not designed to be tampered with plus a removable bending "'pressure plate" which has three tensioning screws to hold the etched parts in place for bending. There are three small lift springs under each tensioning screw but these only offer a minute lift as you loosen the screws and you also have to be careful not to loose these when removing the screws to rotate the pressure plate as there is nothing holding them in place when the screws are removed.
The tool is quite long at 7” (178mm) with the pressure plate having one long continuous side and the other with 11 bending fingers ranging in width from 1” (25.4mm) to 1/16” (1.5mm) and 3/4 ” (19mm) deep which should cater for most bending jobs.
You should firstly read the accompanying instruction sheet for a few safety facts that advise the maximum thickness of metal to bend is 020” (.5mm) and the thinnest at .001” (.03mm) which again should cater for most metal thicknesses encountered for normal modelling conditions. The three tensioning screws should only be tightened with finger pressure as using pliers or other tools will damage the Fender Bender and Ausfwerks are so confident of the robust construction they offer a 5 year replacement warranty provided the tool is used in accordance with the parameters given in the instructions.
The tool is designed to bend etched parts by securing the part with the pressure plate to one half of the body aligning the etched part bend line along the pivot point between the two head halves. To bend the part you simply bend one half of the bed anywhere between 0 and 120 degrees and then flatten out the body halves to reveal the bent part and simply repeat if not bent to the right angle, it all sounds too easy and it is.
And so to the job of bending etched parts:
For this exercise I have used the full length Panzer IV Aust.C fenders from ABER set #35 189 and the smaller Panzer IV Ausf.E rear fender section from the Voyager set #PE35080 as this has multiple bends in opposite directions as well as bends on all four sides of the part which should test the tools capabilities.
The ABER fenders require the two side brackets be bent at right angles and with the pressure plate set with the long edge along the bending line slip the etched part between the body and the plate carefully aligning the etched part bend line level with the edge of the pressure plate and tighten the three screws.
Next with light pressure raise the body to right angles and the bend is made, it’s all too simple without any chance of accidents with wayward razor blades because there isn’t any.
Lower the body flat and the bent part will be revealed, if not quite at the right angle simple raise the body again to the get the correct amount of angle.
Next loosen the screws and reverse the direction of the etched part lining up the opposite bend line and repeat the process for the second bend.
This process was quick and easy and providing you align the bending lines correctly there is little chance of error, it’s all that easy.
I also bent one of the very small fender support brackets from the ABER set as this has embossed bolt heads meaning the pressure plate finger can’t sit flat along the bend line to hold the part firmly in place but after rotating the pressure plate and slipping the part under the appropriate sized finger the part was bent perfectly as there is less chance of distortion when the whole head is rotated than if you use the razor as with other bend tools.
To bend the Voyager part you first have to visualise the bending order so you don’t bend yourself into a corner with the normal rule being to bend the outermost angle first and work yourself to the inner bend, this usually means you won’t be trying to bend over a section already bent. Using the appropriate sized finger work your way around the part until you have the perfectly bent part and again I have never bent a complex part such as this with as much easy as with the Fender Bender, it really did make the job very straightforward.
I did have to resort to the H&F 2” bug to finish off the final small dogleg bend at the corner of the fender as I got the sequence wrong along that side which highlights the careful planning needed before starting the bending sequence.
Updated May 15, 2006
When using the smaller fingers it is only necessary to fully tighten the one or two tensioning screws closest to the finger being used and if using a finger right in front of a screw only that screw needs to be fully tightened, this reduces a bit of finger work. I found keeping all the screws tightened so only a few turns were needed to fully tighten helps keep the head level at all times while still allowing room to slip the etched part into place.
There is one thing that is a little disconcerting with the Fender
Bender that will take a bit of getting used to and that
is when handling the unit, the normal tendency is to grab it either side
of the tool but this only folds it up and if you have an etched part
under the pressure plate you may bend when not ready and damage the part.
So when handling the unit only grab hold of the sides of one body section so it doesn’t inadvertently rotate, this does take a bit of getting used to but should became second nature after using the tool for a while.
Updated May 15, 2006
One thing that intrigued me was would the design of the head allow you to bend a part without actually fully tightening the tensioning screws as no actual lateral pressure it applied to the part when bending unlike using the razor on conventional bending tools. I took a piece of spare brass sheet and scribed a fine line, just enough to provide an indication of where to line the part up and inserted this under the pressure plate but left the tensioning screws slightly loose so you could move the part about with your fingers.
When the tool head was rotated to 90 degrees the brass sheet was bent perfectly along the scribed line without any hint of trying to move from where it was lined up. Of course under most circumstances you would fully tighten the tensioning screws but only ‘normal’ finger pressure is needed making releasing the part after bending that much easier as well.
I have to say the design of this tool is excellent and allows long straight bends and smaller complex bends to be done without any effort at all and so long as you line up the bending line correctly no damage will result. The other plus is its ability to sharply bend any metal without engraved bending lines which will be a bonus for scratch builders.
The only drawback is the tool is not really suited for very small and fine bends where there is only about 1-2mm of etched metal to get hold of under the bending head but for any other job up to the limits outlined the Fender Bender does the job so easily you really do think something is missing from the process.
At US$80.00 the Fender Bender is not cheap but as the saying goes “you get what you pay for” and what you get is a tool that is robust, does the job really effortlessly and will last for years if used correctly and with a 5 year replacement warranty you can’t go wrong.
This tool almost renders all other average sized bending tools obsolete but there will be occasions where the mid sized H&Fs (4”, 5.5”) with their longer bending fingers will come in handy and the small H&F 2” for those really fine bending jobs.
This tool is highly recommended for its totally different approach that works really well.
Thanks to Ted from Ausfwerks for the review Set.
For another view of this tool check out Saul Garcia's review on Track Link.
Page Created May 13, 2006
Updated May 15, 2006 (blue text)