Monday, June 25

Tools tried n' Tested: Fine Engraver Blades & Holder

Gary Wickham has some new tools to test - Tamiya's Fine Engraver Blades & Holder are up for examination today. see what he thought with some good old procrastination, excellent insight and pictures to boot...

Tools tried n' Tested: Fine Engraver Blades + Holder
Manufacturer: Tamiya
Scale: N/A
Reviewed: June 2018

Tamiya is well known for quality and precision engineering of its model kits. I think it's also fair to say that they have earned the same reputation when it comes to their tools and accessories. So when Tamiya announces new tools, I normally take the time to look into it more deeply. So it was when I saw in the upcoming list on Hobbylink Japan a set of new Fine Engraving Blades from Tamiya. Here is what Tamiya has to say about their new blades:
  • These are precision tungsten carbide blades for engraving plastic models, offering an exacting finish and superb durability 
  • Use them to engrave new details or emphasize existing ones 
  • Each package includes 1 engraving blade 
  • The case can be used to store up to 10 blades. Cut out a section of the packaging for easy colour-coded storage (the corresponding colour is marked on each blade).
To date Tamiya has released a total of four (4) blades and a compatible holder (handle):
  • Fine Engraving Blade 0.1mm - Item No: (74135)
  • Fine Engraving Blade 0.2mm - Item No: (74136)
  • Fine Engraving Blade 0.3mm - Item No: (74137)
  • Fine Engraving Blade 0.5mm - Item No: (74138)
  • Engraving Blade Holder - Item No: (74139)
Each blade comes well packaged in its own sturdy plastic storage container. As you can see the container can hold up to ten blades (even though currently only 4 sizes have been released). If you end up purchasing all four sizes you will have plenty of leftover containers like I did.
The paper insert provided with each blade includes a small label that you can cut out and place in the upper part of the container to provide a nice colour label. Each blade is colour coded as well (notice the small colour chip on the base of each shaft on the blade end). These blades are quite small and will be easily lost so having a storage container is a nice consideration by Tamiya.
The shaft of each blade is round and so will not fit into a standard knife type handle (say your basic Excel or Xacto handle). Tamiya has released a purpose-built holder for this series of blades. You will need to purchase the holder as well (unless you already have some sort of handle that can securely hold round shafts like these).
As you would expect the aluminium handle is pure Tamiya quality:
  • Lightweight and durable with a knurled grip, its slimline form allows it to be held like a pen, enabling precision results. 
  • Comes with a safety cap to allow you to leave a blade inserted when stored 
  • Designed for use with Tamiya fine engraving blades but is also compatible with Tamiya Design Knife blades
The handle incorporates a quick twist four jaw chuck that allows for easy swapping of blades as needed. As the holder was relatively inexpensive, I personally bought a couple to allow me to have more than one blade loaded as any one time.
When you take a close look at the tip, each of the engraving blades has a perfectly square cutting edge. This was a little bit of a surprise for me as I (for some reason) expected them to be more like a scriber blade which has Vee shaped cutting edge.
They say the "proof of a pudding is in the eating" and so it is with tools (or models for that matter). The first thing that struck me when I used these blades was that they were NOT like the Tamiya scriber I love so much. They do not cut the plastic like the scriber rather they carve the plastic out making a trench, a perfectly precise trench, but a trench no less. Unlike the scriber, the cut in the plastic does not change its width as you go deeper. It stays at the exact size of the blade (because the blade does not taper). Compare that to the edge of a scriber which is V-shaped and as you go deeper the cut gets wider, which is often not desirable. I can see myself using the 0.1 and 0.2mm blades as pure cutting tools (think cutting out flaps or rudders) where you don't want to lose much plastic in the cut.
In typical Tamiya fashion, the instructions are provided in Japanese and English and I've scanned them here so you can see for yourself how they work.
CONCLUSION - Tamiya Fine Engraving Blades Review
I purchased these tools sight unseen as a pre-order. Now there are very few manufacturers that I would do that for but Tamiya is one of them. You can be assured of quality and precision and having now used the blades I can see I was right. I certainly recommend them to you with the only thing that may give you a moment of pause being the price. These are not cheap, but I accept that because they are quality.

Each blade will set you back around Yen1800, US$18 or EU15. If you buy the whole set of four plus the holder (Yen990, US$10 or EU8) you will be looking at about US$82 plus shipping. Now I personally don't mind spending up on tools, good quality tools. I know I will get loads of use out them and they will serve me well. I also know that not everyone thinks like me, hence why I like to write reviews so you can make up your own minds.

I purchased my set of engraving blades from HobbyLink Japan and they seem to now be readily available on eBay and other online retailers.

Gary Wickham

If you like Gary's models then please do go to his website for a whole lot more of that...