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Tutorial: Poor man's vacu-form

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  • Member since
    January, 2005
  • From: Cape Coral Florida
Tutorial: Poor man's vacu-form
Posted by BigTallDad on Thursday, January 01, 2009 2:19 PM

I was recently in Rodeo Shack and saw some circuit board for experimenting. The board had a LOT of small, evenly spaced holes. After buying one (less than ten bucks, if I recall) and scrounging up some scrap lumber, I came up with this.

The bottom was deliberately left longer so I can clamp it to a work surface. As I said, there are a LOT of holes.

There is a hole in the back for my shop vacuum; the hole in the front, in combination with the gate, allows me to lightly hold part in place whilst heating it with a heat gun (from Harbor Freight). When the plastic is soft enough to form, close the gate and let the vacuum do the rest. For forming smaller pieces, cut a hole in some aluminum foil and continue to march.

 

"In order to teach a dog, you must first be smarter than the dog" P.R. Ferguson

  • Member since
    March, 2004
  • From: Bath, Somerset, United Kingdom
Posted by Cycolac Fan on Thursday, January 01, 2009 2:34 PM

 Great thinking BTD, especially with the circuit board - have you tried it yet, does it work?

What are you planning to use as material for forming?

I bet this would be a great way of making curved windshields.

Mike "Good hands, bad taste in cars." Yes I'm a grown up 'playing' with toys but a lot of adults my age drink beer or play computer games - and I've got something to show for the time and money I've spent...
  • Member since
    January, 2005
  • From: Cape Coral Florida
Posted by BigTallDad on Thursday, January 01, 2009 3:43 PM

Cycolac Fan

What are you planning to use as material for forming?

May we have a moment of silence for the 2 liter beverage bottle that sacrificed it's life for my testing?

If you get a large blister pack, that too will work. That's the nice part about using aluminum foil; you don't need large pieces of plastic.

The most important thing is make sure the buck (shape) is made of wood. My first failed experiment was using a metal washer...the metal retained the heat and the plastic tore.

Stay tuned; my next project will be headlights. I'm thinking about making them in two parts: the lens (hopefully with grid lines) and then the backer. That would allow me to put chrome paint inside the backer, then glue the two parts together; I might even have some wires coming out. Should be pretty darn realistic.

"In order to teach a dog, you must first be smarter than the dog" P.R. Ferguson

  • Member since
    May, 2008
  • From: Lakeland, Florida
Posted by darkwanderer on Thursday, January 01, 2009 4:22 PM

 BTD, this is nice. And cheap makes it even better. Waiting to see how the headlights turned out.

  • Member since
    January, 2004
  • From: Anderson, Indiana
Posted by Pokey6733 on Thursday, January 01, 2009 5:45 PM

Great tutorial BTD! Can't wait to see how the headlights come out!

Proud member of the M.C.B.A. http://s4.photobucket.com/albums/y128/pokey6733/1-%20Finished%20Models/ I'm on the right track, but I'm going the wrong way
  • Member since
    May, 2008
Posted by Anonymous on Friday, January 02, 2009 12:34 AM

BTD,

I like that a lot (even though I have a great vacformer already, the Ron Charles Vac-U-Form that was produced about 20 years ago or so).

I might suggest making a frame to clamp in the sheet plastic though, by taking strips of wood (heavy enough to keep from flexing), which you can bolt down over the top of the edges of your chamber (use foam tape to get a seal here).  That would allow you to use thin Evergreen sheet styrene, without it's simply shriveling up and shrinking when heated, and giving you an airtight seal around the edge of the plastic as well.

 

Biscuitbuilder1

  • Member since
    January, 2005
  • From: Cape Coral Florida
Posted by BigTallDad on Friday, January 02, 2009 6:16 AM

biscuitbuilder1

I might suggest making a frame to clamp in the sheet plastic though, by taking strips of wood (heavy enough to keep from flexing), which you can bolt down over the top of the edges of your chamber (use foam tape to get a seal here).  That would allow you to use thin Evergreen sheet styrene, without it's simply shriveling up and shrinking when heated, and giving you an airtight seal around the edge of the plastic as well.

Biscuitbuilder1

That's a great suggestion and if I get really serious about vacu-forming I'll do something like that. I believe that would require either a full sheet for each "session" or custom-sized frames for smaller parts.

I just wanted a quick and dirty device that would do the one-off things.

"In order to teach a dog, you must first be smarter than the dog" P.R. Ferguson

  • Member since
    May, 2008
Posted by Anonymous on Friday, January 02, 2009 6:26 AM

Well,

With your woodworking skills, you could make the same sort of thing to clamp sheet plastic down in the middle of your vacuum table as well.

Biscuitbuilder1

  • Member since
    January, 2005
  • From: Cape Coral Florida
Posted by BigTallDad on Monday, December 28, 2009 5:01 PM

darkwanderer

 BTD, this is nice. And cheap makes it even better. Waiting to see how the headlights turned out.

Here it is

/forums/p/87662/865484.aspx#865484

I'm curious to see how the "looping" function works on this forum...one post points to another, which points back to the original.

"In order to teach a dog, you must first be smarter than the dog" P.R. Ferguson

  • Member since
    March, 2011
Posted by JACarter on Monday, March 07, 2011 12:43 PM

BTD:

     Absolutely brilliant!  I like your idea much better than mine (the seal a meal) because 1.) it allows me to now think in bigger scales for other, similar, operations; and, 2.) I can get a much better vacuum using my shop vac instead of the seal a meal.

     When I saw your pictures, the first thing I thought was "Wow!  I wish I'd have thought of that!"  I have a set of plans from a woodworking DIY magazine (Home Handyman or similar) for a sanding table top for my workbench.  I mount my work piece (be it a shelf or jewelry box or whatever) on the top of the table.  I then plug my shop vac in to the port on the side and turn it on.  THe shop vac draws all of the sanding dust down away from my work piece and I'm not filling my shop with sanding dust.  I just never thought to use the same idea for vacu-forming model parts.  Great idea, BTD. 

     When my wife and I get back from our Colorado vacation this month, I think I'm gonna put one together for myself.  Thank you very much for the great idea.

     --John

  • Member since
    August, 2005
Posted by sjordan on Monday, October 07, 2013 10:32 AM

If all else fails, here's another technique, used by aircraft modelers to duplicate clear canopies, that can work with thin, clear sheet styrene (the product being demonstrated is no longer available). I suggest using a heat gun instead of a candle. You have to glue your windshield together, fill the crack and sand until smooth, to use as a buck. Use the clay technique described above to keep the part steady. Here are pages 1 and 2:

[img=http://i827.photobucket.com/albums/zz191/sjordan47/Picture2-2_zps732a82e4.png]


[img=http://i827.photobucket.com/albums/zz191/sjordan47/Picture3_zps566e28cb.png]

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