Whether it's simply handing with the smallest parts in a standard kit, or trying to position some of the minuscule details made possible by photo-etching, sooner or later you're bound to hit a situation where the item in question defies every conventional means to pick it up! It doesn't seem to matter how many different shapes and sizes of tweezers you have ready, sometimes they simply can't be used.
For me the standard fall-back has been to make a little custom tool with a small piece of Blu-Tack glued to a cocktail stick, but that is also often less than satisfactory; for one thing, I always end up messing about making a new one every time I need it, and the results can be a bit unpredictable - it doesn't keep its shape very well, and occasionally leaves a residue.
Model Craft have produced what could be the ideal solution with their Pick & Place tool. The principle is very much the same - i.e a tool with a tip that's "sticky, but isn't", which holds well enough enough to grip a small kit part or accessory while you glue it in place. There are three different sizes available:
Item #PTW1131 - Fine (red tip)
Item #PTW1132 - Medium (blue tip)
Item #PTW1133 - Large (green tip)
Each consists of a thin metal shaft with a tacky "blob" on the end mounted in pen-style plastic tube handle. A tight-fitting cap is provided so the "blob" won't get dirty or dusty when not in use.
There's no adhesive involved in the Pick & Place - the actual material that the "blob" is made from has a slightly tacky nature. How sticky is it? Well, that's hard to quantify, but using the Medium size I was able to comfortably pick up something as large as a canopy section from GWH's new Fw 189 (encouragingly, there was no sign of any residue left on the clear part), while the Fine tip could easily cope with a section of the wing-root. In contrast, even the Large tip can still be used on delicate photo-etched parts.
Ironically, this very versatility highlights what is arguable a missed opportunity - i.e. the difference in the sizes isn't that great, so many modellers may well decide that they only need one Pick & Place rather than the whole range. I certainly think Model Craft could usefully market an "Ultra-Fine" version with a real needle-tip for working with the very tiniest components in the tightest spaces.
Of course, the main reason for using such a tool is to do delicate work, but for the sake of the review I gave one of the sample Pick & Places a bit of a strength-test, really pressing hard on a surface; the tool is surprisingly robust, showing no signs of damage to either the tip or the handle. This firmness of the Pick & Place is a real benefit over my Heath-Robinsonesque home made efforts, and allows much greater confidence when trying to position something accurately.
Pick & Place will eventually begin lose its stickiness as the tip gets dirty during use. To refresh it, roll the tip on adhesive tape. This cleans off any dust and dirt and you're ready to go again.
Pick & Place is an affordable and very useful tool, ideal for positioning small components. It's a simple idea that works well and deserves a place in any modelling tool kit. Recommended.
Model Craft tools are available in North America from Billing Boats USA
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE