Author Topic: Working with Styrene Sheets  (Read 5506 times)

Offline LandotheScoundrel

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Working with Styrene Sheets
« on: September 28, 2004, 02:47 PM »
This is a question for those of you that have worked with Styrene before. I'm trying to come up with a good method for making a carbon freeze chamber deck pattern, and I'm thinking thin sheet styrene might be the way to go. I'd really only need it for the pattern (which I would cut very painstakingly :-\ ). After that, I plan to spray it and paint it, then glue it to a circle of plexiglass to give it support and allow the orange light to shine through.

My question is whether this is feasible. You all know what the carbon freeze chamber deck looks like. Would I be able to cut that pattern without ******* the thing up completely? what thickness should I be looking for, etc?
« Last Edit: September 28, 2004, 03:14 PM by LandotheScoundrel »
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Offline Jesse James

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Re: Styrene...
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2004, 05:09 PM »
If it's being supported by something thicker undereneath, go for something thin just out of simplicity.  I have thick stuff here, and it's a bitch to work with.

As far as the pattern goes, there's actually sheets that are specially designed to have "deck plating" patterns and such, so before you try doing it from scratch see if your local hobby shop has something close...

Doing it by hand wouldn't be terribly bad.  Tedious perhaps, but thin styrene cuts like butter with an X-Acto.  Just be very patient, very careful, and when it comes time to sand your cuts be careful and use a very fine grain sandpaper. (Finest you can find).

Working with Styrene's not hard, so don't fret...  Also, if you're buying just plain sheets, don't bother with a hobby shop.  Find a distributor in your area of large sheet styrene...  GE Polymer Shapes (A division of GE) sell ABS Styrene by HUGE sheets (like you need a pick-up truck to haul them huge), but for $50 or whatever you get two huge sheets that'll build you a Death Star or a dozen if you wanted.
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Offline LandotheScoundrel

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Re: Styrene...
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2004, 05:26 PM »
Thanks Jesse!!!  8)
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Offline jokabofe

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Re: Styrene...
« Reply #3 on: October 1, 2004, 08:38 PM »
Styrene is one of my favorite materials to build with. Like Jesse said, it cuts like butter when you use an exacto knife, just make sure to keep the blade fresh and change it often if you need to. I would also suggest a cutting mat to go under the styrene while you are cutting it, that would also save your blades as well as make the cutting a little easier. I would say the thinest available should suit your purposes, especially if you are going to mount it to something else like the plexi you suggested.

As for the pattern, you can find a decent one at Niubniub's Universe. I would say size it to your liking (although I think most of Niub's decals and downloads are pretty much "to scale"), print this out, tape it down, and start cutting  ;D. As you remove more and more of the cutouts, I would recommend putting down some new masking tape to hold it in place a little better.

Good luck, and keep us updated on your progress  ;D

Offline Deanpaul

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Re: Styrene...
« Reply #4 on: October 3, 2004, 02:46 PM »
Or... You could create your pattern in a program like Adobe Illustrator (anything that makes vector lines) and take it to a vinyl sign shop. Think about the lettering on the sides of trade vehicles, it's the same thin easy to cut vinyl. They will be able to cut the pattern on a Gerber machine out of any color vinyl you'ld like - even metallics for other applications. The vinyl could then be easily applied 1st surface to the top of your acrylic since the back is sticky. You could ask for a few extra inches of the vinyl to wrap other parts of your diorama so the black has color consistency between parts.
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Offline LandotheScoundrel

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Re: Styrene...
« Reply #5 on: October 3, 2004, 08:57 PM »
Wow, thanks guys!

The pattern I made has been done in Illustrator, so I guess the vinyl sign route is an option. Do you know roughly how much that sort of thing costs?
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Offline Deanpaul

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Re: Styrene...
« Reply #6 on: October 3, 2004, 09:53 PM »
Wow, thanks guys!

The pattern I made has been done in Illustrator, so I guess the vinyl sign route is an option. Do you know roughly how much that sort of thing costs?

I'm usually sending big orders through for production graphics (trade show type application) - so it's hard for me so say anything other than "reasonable"... But call a few shops and offer to email them the file for them to price, or tell them the size and they can give you a price per square foot. Make sure to tell them you'll apply it yourself, and generally I have a spare cut just in case I screw up applying the first set.

Another term to know is "weeding". Weeding removes all the negative image surrounding the positive image you want, including places like the "hole" of an "o" or "g". This is tedious work, and if you're willing to take it on yourself your job will cost A LOT less.

These places have people calling with small jobs all the time. You'll be easy since your file is already prep'ed to go - most people calling up out of the book can't understand why their GIF web logo cannot be cut. Try calling an Insta-Signs type place first, tell them you've got a small, straight forward project you'ld like them to look at.

Once you've got drawing shapes in Illustrator down, you're ready to move on to laser cutting railings and decking. Most metal fabricating shops and some sign shops have a water or laser jet cutter that can cut out 3D patterned shapes. Great for Sail Barge railings, Death Star patterns and Tantive IV panels.
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Offline Deanpaul

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Re: Styrene...
« Reply #7 on: November 6, 2004, 03:24 PM »
Wow, thanks guys!

The pattern I made has been done in Illustrator, so I guess the vinyl sign route is an option. Do you know roughly how much that sort of thing costs?

Hey, how did it go? What did you end up doing? Are there any updates?
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Offline LandotheScoundrel

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Re: Styrene...
« Reply #8 on: November 9, 2004, 09:54 AM »
This one's on the backburner for the moment. I'm elbow deep in a Jabba's palace diorama, that should be pretty damn sweet when I'm done with it.

The Carbon Freeze chamber will be my next project, and I bet it will take some time. I plan on having some moving parts and lights in it. I'm also thinking about some sort of dry ice "steam" effect. The part that I'm having trouble brainstorming is how to have Han swapped out for the Carbonite when I lower the platform. That'll be a bit tough to execute, I think.
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Offline Jesse James

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Re: Styrene...
« Reply #9 on: November 9, 2004, 06:28 PM »
I've wanted to redo the Hasbro Carbon Freeze Chamber too.  I wanted to just make a "snap on" piece that makes it bigger and more accurate looking.  It, to me, is actually a really nice playset. 

The feature worked well, the concept was there...  It just wasn't a big enough playset to drive people in and buy it.  Overall I really liked that set though.  Kinda wish I'd gotten more of them when the FC store clearanced them.
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Offline CHEWIE

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Re: Styrene...
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2004, 02:40 PM »
Lando, have you ever chatted with Owen Driscoll?  The guy is a master with styrene.  Check out his website www.owenscustoms.com and shoot him an email.  If you haven't chatted with him before, you can tell him you know me and that I suggested you get in contact with him (he also does commissions at very fair prices!).  He's one heck of a great guy, here's an example of something he made for me -



 :P

Offline CHEWIE

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Re: Styrene...
« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2005, 01:47 AM »
I found this article, I thought it might be helpful -

   
Working with styrene
This plastic is inexpensive and versatile.
by Jeff Wilson


From left, plain, scribed, board-and-batten, and tiled sheets from Evergreen; telescoping round tubing and channel from Evergreen; girder, square tubing, and quarter-round strip from Plastruct; and square strip and H-column from Evergreen.
 
 
Styrene – short for polystyrene – plastic is one of the most versatile materials used in the hobby. Styrene is inexpensive, easy to work with, and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes of sheet and strip material. It can be used for building structures, rolling stock, locomotives, roads, sidewalks, and many other models. It also has many general purpose uses, such as for bracing or making jigs.

I find it handy to have a supply of styrene sheet and strips in my workshop. Evergreen Scale Models (www.evergreenscalemodels.com) and Plastruct (www.plastruct.com) are the two major manufacturers, and their products can be found in most hobby shops as well as through distributors such as Walthers.

Another great source for styrene is a commercial plastic retailer (check the yellow pages under Plastics). These dealers sell sheets of plain and colored styrene up to 4 x 8 feet – handy for building large structures, roads, and other projects. You can also find adhesives, polishing materials, and clear acrylic sheets and shapes.

Plain sheet is available in thicknesses from .005" through .100" and thicker, with .020" and .030" among the most common used in modeling. Sheets are also available with many patterns, such as clapboard and board-and-batten siding, tile, and grooved (to represent individual boards). Styrene is most often white, but clear and colored sheets can also be found.

Strips are available in standard dimensions (with square and rectangular cross sections) as well as in rods, tubing, telescoping tubing, quarter-rounds, I-beams, Ls, and special shapes such as girders.


 
Cutting and shaping

 

To cut styrene scribe the styrene with a sharp knife, then bend it at the scribe to snap it in a clean line. Click on the photo to see the cut.
 
 
The easiest way to cut large pieces of styrene is the scribe-and-snap technique. Score the plastic with a sharp hobby knife. Use a straightedge to ensure a precise cut. Bend the sheet at the mark and it will snap, leaving a clean line. This method works best for straight lines and gentle curves. You can use scissors to cut thin styrene, and tin snips work well for cutting thicker stock.

Strips can be cut with a hobby knife, single-edge razor blade, razor saw, or with a tool such as NorthWest Short Line’s Chopper.

Styrene is easy to work with. It can be shaped and contoured with almost any hand tool, including hobby knives, full-size and needle files, scribers, dental picks, and sandpaper or sanding blocks.

Drilling holes is easy using a pin vise. I suggest buying a set of no. 61-80 drill bits, but you can use a pin vise to drill larger holes in plastic as well.

You can use a motor tool to drill styrene, but be sure to use low speeds. Working at high speeds causes heat to build up quickly, and this heat can distort the plastic. You can also use a motor tool to grind styrene using steel router bits of different shapes. Once again, use slow speeds and pause frequently so the plastic doesn’t melt.

 
Gluing

 

If you apply liquid cement with a brush, capillary action will draw it into the joint.
 
 
Plastic solvent cements all work by the same principle: The solvent in the glue melts the top surface of each piece of styrene, bonding them. When the solvent has evaporated, the resulting joint is as strong as the styrene itself (as anyone attempting to disassemble a plastic kit discovers).

I use two types of plastic glue. The first is Testor’s Liquid Cement for Plastic Models (no. 3502). This is a thick liquid solvent applied with a needlepoint applicator on the bottle. To use it, apply the glue to one surface, then press it in place.

The second type is liquid solvent applied with a brush. Hold the parts together, then touch a brushful of solvent to the joint. Capillary action will draw the adhesive into the joint. Some liquid cements, such as Tenax, evaporate very quickly; others, such as Testor’s no. 3502, evaporate more slowly.

Cyanoacrylate adhesive (CA) works well for joining styrene to other materials such as wood, brass, and resin.

 
Painting

 
Styrene takes paint well, and any of the common modeling paints – acrylics, enamels, or lacquers – can provide a good finish. However, be aware that the solvent in lacquers, such as Scalecoat and Accu-paint, can attack plastic. I use acrylics whenever possible because of the ease of water cleanup and the absence of toxic vapors.

The key in getting a good finish on styrene is to make sure that the surface is free of dust, grime, and oil (such as from your fingers from handling). Any of these can keep paint from adhering to the plastic.

Scrubbing the surface with a toothbrush using liquid dish detergent in warm water is generally sufficient to clean the surface.

An airbrush or spray can will generally provide the best, most even paint finish, but brush-painting can also yield good results.

 
Jump in

 
Break out some styrene and start with an easy project like a small shed or length of sidewalk. Or, better yet, just try playing with it to see what you can make using this flexible and easy-to-work material.     



Owen D. is already a master in this area... I think I'm going to start experimenting with this stuff some more.  It's so awesome.  Any advice Owen?

 :P

Offline BrentS

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Styrene Sheets
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2006, 02:49 PM »
I've seen several posts were people are using Styrene sheets for their figures and dioramas.  Can someone help enlighten me on these styrene sheets?  I thought someone said you could buy them at a hobby store.  I went into Michael's and asked about them and they looked like I was high :)

If you use these, where do you find them??

Also what thickness do you recommend??
« Last Edit: April 30, 2006, 03:05 PM by BrentS »

Offline Ryan

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Re: Styrene Sheets
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2006, 03:07 PM »
Evergreen Scale Models

Plastruct

Try these two out they should have a spot that will tell you who diributes for them, if you have a HobbyTown USA or another more "male-oriented" hobby shop they will likely have it.
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Offline Smartypants1635

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Re: Styrene Sheets
« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2006, 03:15 PM »
I'll second what ryan said. My hobby Town has a large selection I have 3 different widths of tubes and multiple thickness sheets( and they have a hell of a lot more). They also have textured sheets as well like roof tiles and stuff for train modelers.