Tool Review: The Small Shop =93The Wrangler=94; price US$49.95
Advantages: can be used to bend handrails, rings or springs interchangeably
Disadvantage: one of 17 options is partially unusable due to a pin location
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for anyone who has to bend metal wire or with some care styrene rod
One chore I have always hated is bending handrails for models from either wire or plastic. It is very difficult to get them precisely identical, and if done by hand too often one leg is skewed in a fore- and-aft direction with its opposite number.
Several companies have tried over the years to come up with a machine or template cum guide to help in this endeavor. For years I use one I got in the UK from Airwave which is a square of thick brass with holes drilled at set differences around its inside and notches about its outside with lines joining them. This works reasonably well with thin wire, but does not like heavy wire and tends to snap styrene rod.
A few years back a device called the =93Grab Handler=94 was produced, looking something like a flat Christmas tree with a clamping screw at its rear. This device was a good idea and offered a lot of possibilities to get nice tight bends as it could hold the wire in place, but $65 for a device which only did one thing seemed a bit dear to me.
Now The Small Shop =96 who began their reputation as a tool maker with the original =93Hold =91n=92 Fold=94 for etched brass =96 offers the =93Wra= ngler=94 which performs three functions: it can clamp and assist in the creation of handrails; it can be used to create wire loops or rings; and it can be used to create short springs.
The device consists of two halves of machine aircraft-grade aluminum with the now-common Small Shop screw lock with spring resistance at one end and what looks like an escapee tree from the surrealistic film =93Last Year at Marienbad=94 at the other! Seriously, the device has seventeen rings in ascending order from the tip down.
The rings (or cylinders, as they are split in the middle) are approximately 1/8" (3.5mm) in breath and provide diameters of 0.095",0.145", 0.195", 0.245", 0.295", 0.345", 0.395", 0.445", 0.495", 0.545", 0.595", 0.645", 0.695", 0.745", 0.795", 0.845", and 0.895". But as noted, since the device is designed to maintain precise alignment there is a steel pin underneath the 0.695" step and it may cause some problems for making a handrail or step that width (24" in 1/35 scale, 56" in HO scale for model railroaders).
The device does deliver as advertised, but as the Small Shop notes you have to use lightweight wire which is not tempered. This means either brass or phosphor bronze being preferred and not piano wire or it will =93nick=94 the tool. Personal experimentation shows that some styrene rod or strip may be bent if care is used (suggestion: rub the styrene back and forth over the edge of a table a couple of times to put some =93flex=94 in them before bending).
The handrails/steps are easy to make. Kink one end of a wire, install it in the Wrangler next to the size step you want to use, lock it in place, and bend it and its opposite side down. Snip and done. Rings are a bit tougher - you may wish to anneal the wire first by heating it to get a better and smoother shape. As physics dictate you will get a =93split ring=94 out of it but this is fine if you are making =93loop=94 antennas or similar items as it gives you the prongs for installation.
Making springs is limited to the length of the =93layer=94 you select. If you select the right tension wire the springs will work and be 8-10 coils in length, but they are going to be light duty ones.
Overall this is a handy tool and considering how many bending jobs I run into will probably be a work surface tool and not a side cabinet one!
Thanks to Julie from The Small Shop for the review sample.