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heat forming small styrene parts


I was needing to make a small hull for a lifeboat on my small paddle wheeler model . the hull is 40mm long and I thought I'd have a got at vacuum forming it after seeing a couple of videos on youtube. I could have made it from solid but making it hollow will save weight, and the vacuum forming will mean that both lifeboats will be the same shape.

the first thing to do was make vacuum box to put the item on that you want to copy and it needs to be able to connect to a vacuum cleaner. the bottom of mine was made from mdf and plywood. the top was made from steel and stuck in place with car body filler

I painted the top black to stop it rusting for future use and on it is the aluminium former for the lifeboat that I want to copy. the former is a couple of mm taller than the finished item. the former was made of aluminium, but wood etc could also have been used.

all ready to go now, a frame was cut from mdf and the styrene sheet was held to it with paper/bulldog clips. I held the frame at the corner. the vacuum cleaner was switched on and the styrene was heated up with a hot air paint stripper at a temperature that I would normally use for shrinking heatshrink so not too hot and when the styene starts to sag its hot enough do the vac forming.

and quickly lower it over the vacuum box and there to have it.

on the left is the aluminium former, on the middle is a lifeboat after vac forming, and on the right is the finished hull.

on a small model trawler I needed to make a couple of gallows from H section syrene

first I made a former from 2mm thick aluminium pieces and fixed a piece of styrene to it.

then put it in some boiling water for 30 seconds, take it out and bend the styrene to the U section

the problem with styrene is that it has a memory and needs to be clamped until cool or it well partially go back to its original shape. So after thinking about this for a while can up with the idea of using heat shrink tubing for electrical cables to do the clamping. once the heatshrink is put over the styrene is is put back the boiling water and the heatshrink will shrink and clamp the styrene in place.

put it in cold water and there you go, a bit of lateral thinking and it became a much easier job. I only need 2 of these sections so made 3, show with the former and a penny for size.

Im finding that styrene is pretty good once you learn how to work it.

Eddy Matthews:
A great post... I love it when people post on how they manage to make items, it helps us all as we can all learn from them no matter how long we've been modelling for!

 :bravo :clap :bravo :clap :bravo :clap :beer :great


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