Multi-Tool is a new product of Mission Models, makers of Etch Mate and Grabhandler
tools. The new tool was designed to help in forming cylindrical and conical shapes in photoetched parts. It can also be used as dry transfer burnishing tool. Multi-tool is available in two sizes, large (MM-008) and small (MM-007).
Multi-tools are made of machined aluminum and steel and were designed using CAD system and manufactured with CNC tools (Computer Numerically Controlled) what should assure high precision and high quality of finish. Each size of the tool is available separately and each comes packed in a clear plastic tube with red covers on both ends. Once you manage to remove one of red covers - not easy task, as they sit very tightly on tubular containers - inside each tube you will find the tool and a small instruction sheet.
The tool is self contained - no additional blades or anything like that is provided. It is made of machined aluminum cylindrical rod of diameter changing in steps on one side and a cone on the other. For durability the last thinnest section of the cylindrical part is made of hard tool steel. Each section of the tool is laser marked with sizing index in metric (mm) and imperial units (inches). The conical part has hash marks on it. The larger tool is machined in following diameters: .500"/12.70mm, .350"/8.89mm, .300"/7.62mm, .250"/6.35mm, .200"/5.08mm, .125"/3.18mm, .063"/1.60mm. For the smaller tool dimensions are: .375"/9.53mm, .325"/8.26mm, .275"/6.99mm, .225"/5.72mm, .175"/4.45mm, .100"/2.54mm, .047"/1.20mm. As you can see dimensions of one tool alternate with dimensions of the other, so both tools together provide a range of 14 diameters from .047" to .500". Primary dimensions are in inches, so corresponding metric sizes are quite odd. But with both tools it should always be possible to match one of the tool sizes to required photoetched part size.
The most important information for successful use of the tool is given at the beginning of instructions: you need to anneal each photo-etch part you want to form before you try to use Multi-Tool. Photoetched metal parts are too hard and too springy to form them without annealing. If you try to do it, they will always partially return to previous shape, which means that you would need to bend them much more than needed to leave room for their springy reaction. Also in case of small parts, which need to be bent to small radius, it can be simply impossible to do with not annealed part. Of course the need to anneal PE parts is not a new discovery - every modeler who tried to form some more complex shapes from brass parts, should already be familiar with this technique. So unfortunately Multi-Tool will not work wonders here and proper preparation of photoetched parts is still necessary.
One just needs to remember that annealing can be a dangerous process for the person who does it - you need to keep the metal part in open flame until it starts glowing red and then let it cool slowly in the air (important - do not dip parts in the water!). Both the photoetched part and the tip of the tool (e.g. tweezers or pliers) you hold the part in, get VERY hot, so extreme caution is needed to avoid serious burns. You also need to be careful not to overheat parts. Particularly tiny PE parts can simply melt if you keep them in the flame for too long. Just wait until part gets red and then remove it from the flame. As the area around the tool you use to hold the part does not get hot as quickly as the rest of the part, you may need to put the part in flame again, but this time hold it by the other end to let the area previously not heated enough to anneal. Don't try to make the whole part hot red in one go, including the area under the holding tool, as you can easily overheat the part edges this way. You may also damage your tool in the process.
Pictures below illustrate how the tool works. As I mentioned earlier you do not need any blades, dowels or pins to work with Multi-Tool. The only additional tools needed to form most parts are your fingers. Annealed brass parts are soft enough to easily accept the new shape, so you just hold one end of the part on the tool and roll the part around one of cylindrical sections of the tool with your fingers. You can use the edge of the neighboring larger or smaller cylinder to line up the PE part, to make sure you roll it properly. It is important to make sure that both ends of formed part are properly shaped - you may use your fingernails to press edges to the tool.
Click on pictures to enlarge them.
In similar fashion you can use conical end of the tool. The hash marks are applied on it to help to achieve consistently repeated parts. You do not have the same flexibility as with cylindrical part of the tool, as you only get one size of cone on each Multi-Tool, so you just get two sizes if you get both Multi-Tools. If angles of those cones are not what you need, then you are out of luck...
While instructions provided by Mission Models do not mention it, sometimes it is necessary to use additional tool, e.g. pliers to form some parts. Particularly when you work with the steel tip of the Multi-tool and have long narrow brass part to form. Also sometimes you may find photoetched parts, which are made of steel, not brass. Tamiya uses this metal and I think AFV Club as well. Steel is much harder and even after annealing, it is not willing to cooperate easily. But carefully using flat tip pliers I was able to form even such parts.
Below you can see some examples of what can be made using the tool. Only for two long parts on the right side of the picture I had to use pliers. The lower of those two is a steel part (piece of PE parts fret from Tamiya T-72M model). I made all the parts with ease and it always took only a few seconds.
Click on picture to enlarge it.
One very practical additional use of Multi-Tool is to burnish dry transfers to model surface. To do it you can use rounded tip of conical side of each of the tools. It actually works quite well for this purpose.
Now, what are the disadvantages of the new Mission product? Well there is not much, as the tool is rather simple. But one thing that I see as potential problem is the length of each cylindrical section of the tool. Each section is just 19mm in length, meaning that it is not suitable for forming longer parts. This unfortunately can quite seriously limit the usefulness of this tool for large scale modelers, as I expect many PE parts for e.g. 1/32 plane kit can be longer than that. Actually even for 1/35 armor models scale there are PE parts, which would be hard to form on this tool. One such example is mesh shield on exhaust pipe on Marines version of Humvee. This part is about 30mm long. You can try to partially form the part from one end, then swap ends and form the other end, then repeat those steps several times until you gradually get desired shape. But I'm afraid it could not work well. In such case using a piece of longer round styrene rod or some metal tubing instead of Multi-Tool can be a solution. And here comes the question: is this tool needed at all? After all one can just buy various sizes of metal or styrene tubing and rods and us them instead. Styrene has the disadvantage of being soft and can easily be damaged, so would not be useful for forming small radius shapes, but it is cheap to replace. Using brass tubes and rods however could actually give the same results as Multi-Tool. The whole usefulness of Multi-Tool is in the fact that it is a complete compact tool (two tools actually) with several working diameters, extra cone shape and burnishing tip - all in one. While you could easily replace it with several other tools and materials, it just seems easier to keep the Multi-Tool handy for most PE works.
Final verdict is that new Mission Models tools may not be a really revolutionary invention, but still are very useful and make modelers life easier. At $30 apiece they seem to be reasonably priced, but on the other hand you need to spend $60 to get both sizes. Ouch... But those tools are definitely worthwhile additions to the workbench of every modeler using PE parts, and I will certainly use them more often than Mission Grabhandler
Many thanks to Jon Tamkin of Mission Models for review samples!