Tool Review
5 Speed Hold-n-Fold
Hold-n-Fold “5 speed” 5.5” Photo-etch Workstation
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by: Andy Renshaw [ SKYHAWK ]


Photo-etch parts have enabled us modelers to make some amazing constructions and add details unheard of a few decades ago. These tiny parts are one of the mainstays of the aftermarket industry; yet share an interesting Love-Hate relationship among modelers. We all love the detail it can provide on our own models, and admire the same on others. However working with photo-etch can be a real test of patience and press the capabilities of what our tools can do.

At first, photo-etch parts could usually be handled with some simple pliers, tweezers, and other basic tools. Now with the use of advanced technologies, such as Computer Aided Design, very intricate assemblies can be fully designed within the computer. The process to etch doesn’t change and is no more difficult, however the skill and finesse needed to actually build and assemble these delicate parts has increased significantly.

The Small Shop, a Division of Kalama Precision Machine, makes a series of tools to aid the modeler in working with photo-etch parts. Among several very useful tools they have available is the 5 1/2 inch Hold-n-Fold, or “5-speed”.

The Tool

The main tool components are machined from aircraft grade aluminum, and consist of a bottom base plate that has a hard anodized black finish, the top tool plate in natural aluminum with its fingers, curves, and edges, and two adjustment knobs. The base plate has two threaded metal rods with springs that correspond to holes in the top tool plate. The adjustment knobs thread onto these rods and tighten the top tool plate to the base.

Also included is a large 5” long metal edge tool to facilitate bending long PE parts, and a standard straight razor blade to use with smaller parts. The edge tool and razor are packed separate, and all of this is wrapped in bubble wrap placed in a sturdy small cardboard box. There is also some general instructions and tips for use on a folded 8.5x11” inch paper.

Function and Use

Basically there are several fingers and edges along the top plate to use depending on the PE object your working on. Merely adjust the knobs to loosen the top plate, slide the PE part under aligning the point of fold with the edge, and tighten the knobs thus clamping the part, then fold. Folding is accomplished by sliding the razor or metal edge tool under the part, then once fully slid under, raising the razor up to bend the part against the top plate. Some of the fingers are quite thin, so you can get past a 90-degree bend if needed. One side of the plate is just a straight edge to use for bending large, long items such as fenders and sheet metal. Keep in mind this tool can be used for any kind of sheet metal for scratch building projects and the like. Sheet plastic could also be bent using care.

For the review, I tried several items, including some that until now I had no practical way of bending. First a simple fender from a HVSS Sherman. For this one I removed the knobs and reversed the tool plate so that the solid flat edge (no fingers) was over the base plate. I then just slid the part under, tightened the knobs, and used the 5” metal edge to execute the fold. The fender is a “Z” shape, so another fold in the opposite direction was required. For this I flipped the tool plate back, and using the backside of the tool I inserted just the edge of the fender that needed to be bent, tightened the tool, then made the bend. This was all done in under a minute, and a perfectly bent PE fender was the result.

I also made some hinges (for Griffon Models M16 stowage boxes) by using the tools fingers to clamp down a fret of hinge halves plus the wire hinge pin, and then with the Five-speed holding the hinge halves, I made the necessary bends around the wire plus added the other hinge half. The 5-Speed became a very valuable extra “hand” to hold on to some delicate parts making something very tedious a bit more manageable.

I had Dragons new “Rocket Launcher w/ Crew” set on the workbench, and included in this is a fret containing all the parts to make four rocket metal launch frames, or baskets. Each of these has over 30 metal parts that have to be bent and folded, many of which are very small and traditional pliers would had have a hard time griping the parts for folding. The 5-speed handled these small parts very well and I had no problem folding the parts.

As a last “test” I had some older “On the Mark” PE parts for some HVSS fender braces. These are older parts, so there is no pre-etched fold line, thus with traditional tools I could never get a good crisp, square bend on such small parts. They sat in my spares box for at least a decade unused. I wanted to see if the Hold-n-Fold could handle such small parts. With only about 1mm under the edge of the tool plate, I clamped it down very well and carefully bent the first side. I then reversed the part, clamping the part with only the unbent side under the tool edge. The fingers are thin enough I was able to do a complete 90-degree bend, forming a perfect “U” as needed. So now thanks to the Hold-n-Fold, unusable parts can now be used on my next project!

The tool has a series of shapes and angles milled into the top plate. According to the instructions these are forms for bending headlight guards, tool clamps, and other such items. The instruction does not explain nor give any examples on how this is done. It would be nice to see some instructions on how to use this portion of the tool.


The Hold-n-Fold 5-Speed is one of those tools that we don’t think we need, but once we have one could never be caught without it. Within days of receiving this, I found its usefulness and it has never left my immediate working area since. The overall quality is excellent, and I would only suggest that they expand the instructions a bit to cover more of the features they designed into the tool itself. I highly recommend this, as well as any of the other PE bending tools in the “Hold-n-Fold” lineage. Basically for the cost of a new Dragon kit, you can have a tool you will use for every project requiring PE parts for years to come.

The 5-Speed's little brother has been reviewed Here on Armorama.
Highs: VERY useful and helpful in dealing with photo-etch in general, as well as items that may be problematic with traditional flat pliers and tweezers.
Lows: More comprehensive instructions would be nice. Or maybe an addtional PDF or page on the website with hints, tips, techinques (could even be submited by modelers).
Verdict: Highly recommended. Forgo the latest $70 kit and pick one up, especally if you use photo-etch on a regular basis.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: HF5SPD
  Suggested Retail: $69.99
  Related Link: 5 speed webpage
  PUBLISHED: Sep 01, 2009
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to The Small Shop!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Andy Renshaw (skyhawk)

I started modeling around 8 years old when my dad bought me a Monogram 1/48 A-7. We built that together, and after that he turned me loose. Along with armor and figures, I also enjoy building aircraft and trains (model railroading), and tend to cycle between the genres. Recently married, I have...

Copyright ©2021 text by Andy Renshaw [ SKYHAWK ]. All rights reserved.


Nice review, Andy! I have their "Bug" which is very good. Is there are distinct advantage to the Hold and Fold that would justify upgrading?
SEP 01, 2009 - 04:01 AM
I would think just the size. Being able to do those long fenders with the 5.5" was very nice. there are a lot of "preform" shapes milled into the back of the tool I have yet to there may be more advantages. I think anybody that has ANY of the HnF products is going to be at an advantage, regardless of the size.
SEP 01, 2009 - 07:57 AM
I have both the 5 speed and the Bug, and agree with Andy......the 5 speed handles fenders with ease. If I had to choose between one of them, I honestly don't know which I'd give up....thankfully I won't have to As far as all the other features of the 5 speed, after using it for about a year I'm also still in the dark what to do with them. The good news is I think Sam and Julie of The Small Shop are cooking something up that should be very beneficial to getting the full benefit out of these tools. And Andy's suggestion of having modelers submit 'tips and tricks' is great......I never thought to use the H&F to do hinges, simple and effective!
SEP 01, 2009 - 05:48 PM
Just got mine and it is great. likewise, i'd like a more detailed instructions sheet as to how use and take a full advantage from all the fingers
SEP 09, 2009 - 11:42 PM

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