I'll own up now - I love new tools! I'm a self-confessed collector of gadgets and gizmos, but if I'm really honest, looking back over a long "career" in modelling, there have been only a couple which I could call indispensable. It almost goes without saying that an airbrush set-up is one of them (I'd really struggle now to manage a decent overall brush-painted finish), but the other is perhaps less obvious - a punch and die set.
I got my first back around 1990 (and it's still going strong), and buying it just about coincided with my decision that aircraft modelling was destined to be a serious part of my life. It proved a revelation for me, opening up a wealth of possibilities for detailing and scratch-building.
For those who have never used a punch and die, it's basically a means of punching holes in a sheet of material such as styrene, paper, or thin metal. The beauty is that you can quickly punch out multiples of precisely matching holes, and you can look at it in two ways: the holes themselves, or resulting disks that are produced. Its uses are nigh on endless for modelling. Whether it's creating items like instrument panels, or using the miniature disks to represent buttons, knobs and bolts, if you're into superdetailing and scratchbuilding, a punch and die is an absolute "must have" part of a well-stocked tool set.
Traditionally, miniature punch and die sets have been quite costly, which is rather off-putting for many modellers, so it's great to see the ever resourceful Chad Bowser produce a top quality set for a very reasonable price. The set arrives in a neat clip-shut plastic case and is beautifully produced, offering a generous 12 precision punches in the following imperial sizes:
.040", .051", .058", .069", .080", .088", .101", .110", .119", .127", .140" and .150".
These equate from approximately 1mm to 3.8mm and so fall into a very useful "middle ground" in terms of the sizes of holes and disks produced. Depending on the scale you're working in, everything from instrument bezels to wheel hubs is feasible - and the larger sizes also offer a very neat way of making "filler disks" to repair the marks left by ejector pins in kits (thanks to Steffen Arndt for that handy suggestion in the course of one of his on-line builds). While even finer "sub-miniature" punches are available from other sources, they are often rather expensive and much easier to damage, so Chad's makes both a fine general purpose set, and an ideal one for anyone new to using a punch and die.
Each hardened steel punch has a very slightly angled tip to cut the material cleanly. The die is precision machined from stainless steel with a perspex top plate. The fit is perfect, with no slack or tendency to snag, and both the steel and perspex have chamfered lips to the holes to both guide the punches and make for easy extraction of the disks created. The size of the die allows for easy positioning of the sheet material you're working on, with ample room to move the piece around if, for instance, you're producing the fascia for an instrument panel.
The set is accompanied by a very detailed and clear sheet of instructions to ensure you don't damage the tool inadvertently. Chad recommends using a nylon-tipped hammer, so I bought one to try and I must say it does give a nice firm, but slightly cushioned, strike. The other vital point to remember is to support the die top plate with an off-cut of the same material you're working on to ensure the punch lines up precisely true to the hole. If you follow these simple precautions, the punch and die set will serve you well for an average modelling lifetime.
CB Model Products Punch & Die Set costs just $45 (plus $10 for worldwide shipping) and can be purchased directly from Chad Bowser at: [email protected]
This is a beautifully produced and affordable set of tools that will prove hugely useful to anyone looking to add detail to their models, more than repaying the modest investment in both accuracy and the ease with which you can produce multiple disks and holes that match precisely. Highly recommended.
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