Like most long-term modellers, I've collected a fiendish array of clamps of various kinds over the years; vices, bulldog clips, alligator clips, spring clamps, screw clamps and countless ever-useful humble clothes pegs, it's almost like a something from a miniature mediaeval torture chamber! But amid all the different designs, one type of clamp stands out as unique – the Berna clamp.
So the story goes, French inventor Dr. Philippe Berna designed the clamp for use in his hobby of restoring antique furniture, after he found that traditional clamps were both too clumsy and often actually damaged the very items he was repairing.
The resulting clamp is quite remarkable – and like many of the best designs, deceptively simple. Each clamp comprises a carbon fibre rod with two free-sliding jaws. These are fitted with flexible pads on the tips to avoid any damage to the work piece.
As soon as you close the jaws onto whatever you want to clamp, there's just sufficient friction for them to stay exactly where you set them. And I do mean exactly, for this is the unique feature of the Berna clamp. Unlike everything else I've used, it precisely matches the pressure you apply with your trusty Mk.1 Fingers; squeeze hard, and the Berna clamp will exert a iron grip, but conversely you can also hold delicate items with the most sensitive touch. So the clamp is equally useful for tackling items that need bullying into place with brute force, as well as fragile canopies etc. that need the very lightest pressure to hold them while glue dries.
The supple pads are not effected by solvent cements (but of course, if you let liquid cement flood around them, the surface of a styrene kit most certainly will be damaged) and serve a dual purpose; not only do they protect what you're working on, but the flexibility gives extra grip on curved or tapered objects. They are reversible, with one end contoured, the other flat, and in fact the whole clamp can be used "in reverse" to act as a spreader on interior joints.
I have yet to meet a modeller who hasn't been impressed after using Berna clamps. The one downside, in the UK at least, has been that they haven't always been easy to find, so I was delighted to spot them in the Model Craft range of specialist tools. Two sets are available:
PCL8710/2 – 2 x clamps per pack, each with an 80mm rod – £9.95
PCL8720 – 1 x clamp with a 200mm rod – £6.95
Both sizes feature the same jaws, which allow ample "reach" across even largescale models, and because the jaws are mounted on circular cross-section rods, you can offset them to fit around awkward shapes and raised details if you need to.
Even if you build solely "Tamigawa" superkits, you'll still need to clamp assemblies from time to time, and if your modelling diet includes short-run kits you can count on needing clamps at almost every other turn. In my experience, reliable clamps that won't damage your work are among the most essential modelling tools – and Berna clamps are the best I've found yet. I don't often give a 100% score, but in this case I simply can't find anything to fault. Unreservedly recommended.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.
Highs: The Berna clamp offers the best match for the grip and pressure sensitivity of your own fingers.Lows:Verdict: A unique design, and functionally unique too, Berna clamps are a simple and hugely useful addition to any modelling tool kit.
About Rowan Baylis (Merlin) FROM: NO REGIONAL SELECTED, UNITED KINGDOM
I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...