Tool Review
Grab Handles and PE Hinges
Workable Hinges and Handles Folding Tool
  • 000168

by: Andras [ SPONGYA ]

I never really had problems with substituting plastic grab handles with ones folded from metal wire (usually soldering wire), and since I am a modeler on a budget, I never really thought of spending big bucks on dedicated wire-benders. Also, since I have never been very good with PE, I always looked with awe to people who are able to work with this medium proficiently. Workable hinges were always something to behold for me. So when I saw Griffon Model’s set which does both things for a very low price, I thought I’d give it a try. (Since I needed something to fold, I purchased Griffon Model’s extensive set for the King Tiger as well.)

It’s a multifunctional tool, so there is always the possibility that it can’t perform either task adequately. Can an average modeler, like myself, achieve better results using this tool? The risk was low, since I wasn’t spending my life savings on it, so I gave it a try. The following article is a demonstration; therefore all the results are shown as they came out first –without retouching, or correcting, to show the end product made by your average Joe.
The set arrives in the usual Griffon Model packaging including a black cardboard backing with everything safely secured with tape. It consists of two folding platforms etched on one fret, and two small pieces of copper wire (so that you can start folding right away). The instructions are clear and easy to understand.

The quality of etching is excellent; the metal is thick and sturdy, so it will withstand average handling. There are two different areas on these platforms: the folded up sides, with holes in different diameter on them (these are used for the hinge-folding), and the flat part, which is used for making grab handles. Everything is cleanly and visibly marked: the diameter of the holes, the length of the handles, and a nice Griffon logo.
forming grab handles
The platforms have series of holes etched into them –this is where the wire goes. On two sides, opposite of the holes one can find recesses –this is where the other half of the handle will be folded into. The process is simple: measure the thickness and the length of the handle, choose an appropriate diameter wire, and choose the appropriate hole on the platform. Insert the wire into the hole, and firmly press it against the platform, so that it first bends into a right angle against it. Then simply press it once again, in a right angle against the edge of the platform so that it is forced into the recess. Remove and cut the wire to size, and you are done!

Is this method better than using a pair of forceps? It really isn’t. The main advantage of this set is that you can start mass-producing handles of uniform length, which is a much more tedious process using a forceps. You measure once, and that’s it –from then on, it’s relatively foolproof. (Boy, that’s a famous last sentence…) The holes cover a huge range of lengths: from the real tiny (1mm) to the really long (about 2cm). If you take a look at the photos, you’ll see that the handles are not perfectly symmetrical: it is easy not to make the first fold perfectly angled. A little practice and some adjustment can take care of this problem. There is one big drawback that I found so far: the hole sizes are uniform on the folding part of the set, and the 1mm wire, which I usually prefer for grabhandles in 1/35, are too thick to fit in. It works fine for thinner wires, so it’ll work for thinner handles, and smaller scales, but I’ll still have to use my forceps from time to time.
folding hinges
The other function of the set is to help fold the PE hinges found in some of the more advanced PE sets. Since I only had the Griffon King Tiger set, I do not know if all companies mark the thickness of the wire needed to make the hinge on the instructions. Griffon does –in this case they called for a 0.3 wire. If you take a look at the folded up sides, you’ll see that there is a series of holes in each of them, with increasing diameter. You just have to insert the 0.3 wire to the appropriate pair of holes (0.3 in this case), and fold it against the sides, so that it remains fixed.

Prepare the half of the hinge by slightly bending the “feet” that will form the hinge itself. Slide it under the wire, carefully positioning so that the wire is only covering the “feet”, and not the PE part where they protrude from. You will have to fold the feet over the wire one by one, so that each forms a loop which holds the wire. The end of the feet should touch the very base of the feet. Remove the wire, and remove the hinge from the rig. You can reinsert the wire to check if everything is aligned, but they should be with no problem. With the wire in place, you can retouch the hinges with a very fine forceps –and you are ready with the first half! Finish the second part in the same manner, fit them together, reinsert the wire, secure it, and you have a working hinge. (Demonstrating the process on one part I decided not to do the second part of the hinge, as this would lead to dangerous territories. I have about seven models in different stages of assembly, and the lure of jumping on the Tiger might be too big to resist. I put the hinge back in its bag, and sealed it with tape…)

Does this little tool make me the master of hinges? Certainly not. There are a couple of problems (two in fact; both are visible on the photos): first, the wire is usually not rigid enough, and it will bend, no matter how careful you try to work the feet of the hinges over it, making the results a bit, well, uneven. I’ll try to find some permanent solution with something that is more rigid. The second issue is about the wire as well: it is very hard to form a perfect, circular loop over a wiggling wire even with the utmost care. Annealing the PE might help; the rest has to be re-adjusted once finished. One thing is certain: the tool’s only task is to hold the wire secure while you fold the hinges, and it does it reasonably well. I suspect you can come up with other methods of fixing the wire, but again: for the price this is a very handy little device. I think it makes life a bit easier in dealing with PE, and with a bit of a practice the results are nice.
Highs: Cheap, easy to use, sturdy, and small. Helps to make uniform handles in big quantity in a short amount of time.
Lows: Thicker wires do not fit, requires some practice to achieve good results.
Verdict: A nice PE tool that helps make uniform grab handles in quantity, and fold workable hinges. Definitely recommended.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: gt001
  Suggested Retail: 3.29 USD
  PUBLISHED: Jan 25, 2009

About Andras (spongya)

I am a biologist by trade, and as a hobby I've been building scale models for the last twenty years. Recently I started to write reviews of the models I bought. These reviews are written from the point of view of an average model builder; hence the focus is on quality of the model, how easy it is to...

Copyright ©2021 text by Andras [ SPONGYA ]. All rights reserved.


Neat little tool. Now why didn't I think of that??
JAN 24, 2009 - 04:39 PM
Yes and no. It's not very sturdy, so if you are using thicker brass wire, the tool might end up bending. One edge has already broken off at a stress point on mine. But it's useful for getting a proper 90 degree bend.
JAN 25, 2009 - 04:06 AM
I got one of these about 9 months ago and I find it highly useful, and brilliant in it's simplicity. In my experience it does the same for 3 bucks as the $79.99 Grabhandler. I used to scratchbuild handles with pliers and would average 2 perfectly matching handles in 8 made. This little tool gives me identical handles every try. I use 20 and 24 gauge brass wire. I make the first 90 degree bend with needlenosed pliers, then insert the wire in the tool to complete the handle. I've made dozens of handles and get perfect results every time, and my set remains undamaged. It looks too simple to work, but it really does!
JAN 25, 2009 - 06:31 AM
The trick I use for getting a lot of matching handles, is to use a U-beam, metal of course, and than wrap the wire around it. Pull it of, snip and voila, rows of matching handles.
JAN 25, 2009 - 07:16 AM
Nice looking little tool and at $3.29 it's as cheap as a bottle of paint ! I am going to make my February pilgrimage to the local hobby shop and see if they will order it for me. If there is nothing "new" in the previously owned section I think I'll be coming home with Dragon's Puma.
JAN 31, 2009 - 01:17 AM

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