After my good friend Darren Baker reviewed this trio of new photo etch benders from RP Toolz
he kindly sent the RP 02 – 13cm bender over to me to get another opinion on these very affordable work stations. Darren's review can be found here:
RP Toolz PE Benders
I'll preface this review by saying that I am very picky about the tools I use, both at work and for this hobby, and will go out of my way to find faults. Since Darren covered the basic information very well in his review, I'll skip that and get right into using this new bender.
the 13cm bender
The bender comes with a single edge razor blade, so the first thing to do is take that razor edge off a bit. A couple of swipes on a sanding stick will take that extreme edge off to prevent damage to the aluminum base of the bender, and to prevent any cutting into of your PE parts. These blades are easily obtained at most hardware stores, although it's a rare occasion that it will need to be replaced any time soon. For bending long pieces such as fenders you'll need either a longer blade or another single edge razor to use in tandem.
Jumping right in, I threw a piece of PE on the bed, tightened down the finger plate and made a 90⁰ bend. My initial findings:
• The bed had a bit of drag to it when positioning the PE part (a personal preference, I like the part to slide easily).
• The PE part was held very well without any slipping.
• The part was stuck to the finger plate after loosening the threaded rod nuts.
Time to take this puppy apart and see what makes it tick. Removing the nuts completely was a bit of a chore as I believe the studs are longer than they need to be. This just makes it more of a nuisance to switch from the multi-finger to the long single edge side of the top plate and does not affect bending performance in the least.
Getting rid of the "bed drag" was easy, and something that I do with all my PE workstations...gave it a coat of paint sealant/wax that I use on the cars. This is a personal preference of mine as I like the part to glide around effortlessly, some may like the slight drag getting it aligned for the bend.
Inspecting the finger plate I found that it is slightly bowed up at the ends, a nice design as it will really add pressure to the center section when the nuts are tightened down. Flipping it over I saw why the part was stuck to the top, there were slight raised edges around the perimeter where the finger plate was laser cut. These edges "cut" into the PE part causing it to stick to the top. After talking with Darren I believe this was a one-off fault as his were taken care of at the factory...an understandable oversight on mine as these were review samples and probably rushed out. Still, I'd check first. This was another easy fix...I lapped it on a sheet of very fine sandpaper, very gently.
Back together again for another try. The part slid around and positioned easily, a crisp & sharp bend and easy release...very nice! After using this tool for awhile, I did find a couple more areas that could be improved. One is that all the fingers are quite tall, so bending "U" shaped pieces require some freehand shaping to finish. Adding a couple of low profile fingers would help solve this. The other is the aluminum for the base is a bit soft and scratches easily, a harder alloy would keep the base blemish free for a longer period. Only time will tell if this will affect performance and lifespan.
Even with the minor quibbles that I found with this tool, it is a real gem for the money. At a little over 5" long it should handle most of the PE bending that comes your way. The bends were extremely crisp, exactly what these tools should produce. The RP Toolz bender held the parts very secure at all areas. At the price, this comes very highly recommended even for the casual PE user. For 23 bucks this belongs on everyone's bench, your PE will thank you!