Author Topic: Styrene Construction Questions  (Read 4323 times)

Offline Straxus

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Styrene Construction Questions
« on: September 16, 2007, 06:20 AM »
Had some questions about working with Styrene.

1) What thickness would be suggested for vehicle frame.

2) Best glue for bonding styrene to styrene.

3) Site with affordable sytrene sheets in decent sizes.
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Offline Jesse James

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Re: Styrene Construction Questions
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2007, 05:03 PM »
Hey Straxus, I've seen your Q's elsewhere on this and was wondering if you'd come by...  I'm not tooting my own horn much (well, a little) but consider myself something of a plastics afficianado. ;)  I'll help you out here.

First, I suggest stopping by the section on ship building at www.FFURG.com.  Tutorial's sometimes help better than what I can suggest as I'm no teacher, that's for certain.  So hopefully I won't confuse you with anything I say here...

First, plastic sites...

-Evergreen Styrene
-Plast Struct

Those are, essentially, the best two I can suggest off the top of my head, however I have never ordered plastic sheet from these companies, and instead I've just looked for a GOOD hobby shop in my area that has both of their sales display racks on-hand, so I can actually look/feel/touch and generally get a better idea of the plastic pieces I need.

There's everything from sheets that look like brick/mortar work (varying scales), to deck plating, to corrugated steel and more.  And rods, tubes, I-Beams, H-Beams, and the like as well.  Sometimes a site won't show you what you need to see, and you need to see it in person.  If you have a HObbyTownUSA, I suggest you go there first.  Mom & Pop stores are hit-and-miss but one near me carries both companie's and a generally full rack of styrene is available, though certain pieces usually are low or out of stock.

I'd like to ask a quck question too at the start...  What are you attempting to build?  I can probably help more with more knowledge on what you're going for Straxus, and I'll lend any advice I can.

1)  What thickness would be suggested for vehicle frame?

This mostly depends on the vehicle you're talking about.  I've worked on vehicles anywhere from 50" or so high to a couple inches off the ground.  The larger the vehicle, the more sturdy the frame-work needs to be.  There's a certain level of "engineering" that goes into scratch-ship building, but don't let that scare you.  I suck at Math, and would never have passed the first semester of an engineering course. ;D

Also the thickness for a vehicle frame depends on what style you go with.  Are you going to use "I-Beam" pieces?  Are you going to layer up sheets of styrene at key points? 

Remember this much.  PLanning generally is 50% of making a scratch-built ship.  You have to draw things up, do a cardboard prototype helps tremendously, and you'll see weak points you need to sturdy-up and things early on.

2) Best glue for bonding styrene to styrene?

"Glue" in general is not what you want to use...  Glue's merely a bonder.  Two pieces held together by a third substance more or less.  If you're working with styrene (ABS plastics), you want a Plastic/Styrene Welder.  I use two types...  One's thick, one is very watery.

I use:

-Devcon 2-part Plastic Welder (available at Loews, Wal-Mart, etc.).  It's a 2-part epoxy but it does fuse ABS together very well.
-Plast-Struct Plastic Welder (Hobby shops only).  PS Welder is water-thin, and can take some getting used to working with as it dries quickly.  It also will eat right through plastic, so practice with it. 

Plastic welders break ABS plastics down so they will "fuse" together and weld like steel would.  Two parts essentially become one then.  Stay away from super glue, model glue, etc.  It's all kid's stuff. ;)


3) Site with affordable sytrene sheets in decent sizes?

As I noted, I like to go to the store for shapes/sizes I need, however if you want sheet plastic you're FAR further ahead to find a distributor in your area.  I get giant sheets of varying thicknesses (anything from 1/16" to 1/2") that I need a pick-up to bring home!  Yes, a pick-up.  I thnk there's a $60 minimum order, but the number of ships you could build is a LOT, or one friggin' huge one.

Find a plastics distributor in your area, you'll be far better off than buying it a sheet at a time.  Hobby shop plastic racks usually aren't cheap by any means, and so you'll sink a lotta dough into your models, but if you buy from a wholesale distributor, you'll save a ton and get more plastic than ya know what to do with!

It helps greatly if you have a large working area, or garage.

I hope this helps, and I'll add more later.  Gotta jet now.
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Offline Straxus

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Re: Styrene Construction Questions
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2007, 08:39 AM »
Sweet!
Thanks for all that info!

Hopefully my Wal-Mart carries Devcon 2-part Plastic Welder.
Ya, I definitely want to buy some styrene in bulk.

The plastic distributer that I know of that is near me (and by near, I mean about 30 miles away.) is TAP plastics. However I called them up and they say that they dont carry Styrene sheets. They carry about every possible plastic creation, I thought it was odd the didnt carry that. (unless the person I talked to had no idea what I was talking about and just said no.)


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Offline Jesse James

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Re: Styrene Construction Questions
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2007, 11:56 PM »
You can get simple sheets of styrene for fair prices at WM even, as "for sale" signs are often made of it.  I got some on clearance once for like $.25 each.  Very cheap for plastic.  Hobby shops will charge much more by comparison, even if WM's signs were full priced, so that was a nice haul.  What a distributor gets to you though, is just unmatched.  For 2 sheets I paid $60 and they both "curled" in the bed of my truck they were so wide.  So clearly that's the better way to go...  TAP I would've thought had styrene but I don't know much about them.  GE sells plastics to sign companies, may want to try that.
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Offline Straxus

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Re: Styrene Construction Questions
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2007, 03:13 PM »
Hehhe that was suggested over at RS and I just picked some up today on the way home!
GE eh? Will check there!
Thanks!
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Offline glorbes

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Re: Styrene Construction Questions
« Reply #5 on: October 7, 2007, 01:31 AM »
Had some questions about working with Styrene.

1) What thickness would be suggested for vehicle frame.

2) Best glue for bonding styrene to styrene.

3) Site with affordable sytrene sheets in decent sizes.

I have a little bit of experience with styrene, and my answers differ *slightly* from those provided  by Jesse James.

1) I find that, for basic structures/bodies, 1/16" is the best.  Its also a lot easier to score/cut and bend than anything thicker.  For curved sections, I go with the really paper thin sheets since it easily conforms to any sort of frame or rounded edges.

2) In my experience, the cheap old Testors model cement (y'know, the red squeeze tube) is actually really effective with styrene.  Since most model kits are made from vacuuformed styrene, this cheap and readily available glue is prerfect since it literally "welds" the to pieces together.

3) The model shop is not the place to buy "affordable" styrene...try finding an industrial plastic supplier that has various thickinesses on hand.  The place I buy it from sells 2' X 3' sheets for about $16 for 1/16"  thickness sheets.  I have a bias towards brick and mortar suppliers though, so I guess you can use my suggestion as a price comaprison.

Offline Jesse James

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Re: Styrene Construction Questions
« Reply #6 on: October 7, 2007, 02:28 AM »
Quote
this cheap and readily available glue is prerfect since it literally "welds" the to pieces together.

I have to disagree here glorbes...  Testors glue does NOT "weld" styrene, it merely bonds it...  That's why I suggest finding actual plastic welder.  Testors modeling glue will make a tight bond for a time, but over time modeling/hobby cements/glues actually will break down and the pieces will be prone to falling apart...  I also find them frustrating to work with in that they don't set properly for a time usually, but that's just a personal preference.

Modeling cement is definitely not the same as plastic welders though.  There's distinct chemical differences, and how they react to the plastics in the short term and long term are very different as well. 

Devcon's 2-part plastic welder I've found works on poly-vinyl (limbs/heads of most Hasbro figures) as well as ABS, but it's my suggestion to have BOTH Devcon and Plast-Struct welders on-hand to get the job done.  They're both significantly different materials to work with.

That is not to say you cannot, or should not use modeling cement either...  No harm in trying new things or anything, I'm just giving a POV on how modeling/hobby cements do eventually break down and how they don't ultimately help the structural integrity of the model at all.  Hobby cements could lead to some disastrous outcomes if there's tension, weight, etc., etc. in the design of the model you're making.

About thicknesses, I would say 1/16" is a good thickness to work with as it scores easily and breaks apart easier.  The only problem is, if you're going for a heavier/larger model, you may run into structural problems using thinner materials due to weight and things.

I think it's always a good idea to map your way ahead by making cardboard prototypes of the model you're making.  It'll help you detect landmines you maybe weren't expecting, early on.  It also helps you gauge somewhat the kind of size/weight your model may be and if 1/16" is right for you.  It's a good thickness to start working with though because it's thin enough you don't need a saw to cut, etc.  Definitely a good suggestion there.

Oh, and I agree wholeheartedly...  Like I said, avoid hobby shops unless you're in need of specific shapes/designs you cannot find at an industrial supplier.  I cannot stress that enough either along with glorbes, that you're just further ahead financially to buy sheet styrene by large sheets for ultimately very cheap.

$60 won't get you far at a hobby shop.  $60 will get you enough plastic to do 30 average sized ships at an industrial supplier though. :)
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Offline Straxus

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Re: Styrene Construction Questions
« Reply #7 on: October 7, 2007, 07:43 AM »
Well I was wrong about TAP...
They mention that they sell Sheet Styrene in 4' x 6' sheets, HOWEVER they do not list the price for it. This I think is freaking insane as they list the price for everything else. Unless its a case of its listed under a different name. Is there another name for Sheet Styrene?
I definitely want some bulk on hand before I get really involved with a project. I really hate having to wait for more supplies.
I picked up some of the Devcon plastic weilder. Will give using it a shot after I procure more styrene. Also realized I should aquire a metal yardstick for a guide while cutting the styrene...  :P
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Offline Jesse James

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Re: Styrene Construction Questions
« Reply #8 on: October 8, 2007, 03:58 AM »
Hah, yeah...  Tools.

You sorta get the hang of it through trial and error as to what kind of tools you want/need.  You also learn to improvise...  I have built an attachment to my jigsaw actually, that allows me to cut straight edges and things.  Larger than the usual attachment so I can cut these large sheets and all. 

I'd like a large/long straight edge that has a large X-Acto type tool, holds it steady/straight, and would allow me to just "zip" down the piece in a perfectly straight line...  I'm working on that one.  Sometimes just getting perfect edges on styrene is a challenge. ;)

Either way though, you're gonna definitely want/need some tools like that straight edge...  I have T-squares, squares, etc., etc.  Ask for a Lowes card for your birthday because, you'll appreciate it I think. ;)
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Offline glorbes

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Re: Styrene Construction Questions
« Reply #9 on: October 9, 2007, 10:13 PM »
Thanks for posting a counterpoint to my model cement recommendation, JJ.  If this is the case, then perhaps I too will look into buying some sort of "welder."  Whenever I've used the testors stuff, its seems to soften the styrene slightly on each connecting piece when applied, and the bond usually sets up within about five minutes and seems really rigid and strong.  However, if there is considerable degradation over time, then some of my styrene projects could be ticking time bombs  :-[
« Last Edit: October 9, 2007, 10:14 PM by glorbes »

Offline Jesse James

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Re: Styrene Construction Questions
« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2007, 01:08 AM »
I think sometimes it depends on the ammounts you use too glorbes, I could be wrong, but if you look at model kits that were made 10, 20 years ago, many times parts have come loose over time...  I don't know though either if hobby cement's have changed in their chemical make-up over time either, to act more like a welder does.  I know Testors has stuff in blue tubes, and stuff in orange tubes...  And clear stuff, with the consistancy of water (very similar to what plast-struct's welder is like physically, but I don't know chemically what it is).

Maybe model glues these days do soften plastic some...  Welders like plast-struct's though will literally melt the plastic before your eyes and dries to the touch REALLY quickly, so you have to have your part ready and test-fit prior to putting it together.  It's tricky to work with because of that, so word to the wise for anyone trying it out.

Devcon's is a 2-part...  It works on multiple plastic types, but it doesn't melt any plastic it touches quite as quickly as other welders do.  However, Plast-struct's doesn't work on vinyl/PVC plastics for instance, while Devcon seemingly does.

I just wanted to say too, this is a very VERY good thread going here...  Lots of discussion and input, and everyone's added something too...  I think it's been a great thread to read through and learn about essentially vehicle customizing, which was something of a niche for me many moons ago, back when very few people ever did ship customs. :)  I love talking about it with folks because it's really unexplored most times, but essentially it's all scratch model-making.

You can get as into this as anything I think, and you're just as open to "fan-fic" customizing with vehicles as with figures.  not everything has to be an exact replica of a movie ship and things.  Sometimes, at least to me, I'm just as interested to see a civilian landspeeder, a piece of ground equipment, a half-destroyed building, or a table and chairs...  :)
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Offline Straxus

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Re: Styrene Construction Questions
« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2007, 11:27 AM »
Sadly my biggest problem when I start getting into this is space. I aleady lack the space to show off my collection (and a tiny collection at that...)
Maybe I should start off with bridge diaramas that go across the ceiling to put the vehicles on...LOL  :P
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Offline Straxus

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Re: Styrene Construction Questions
« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2008, 05:21 PM »
Reviving this, since I actually started using my styrene that I have had for ages...

I used a product by TAP Plastics called Acrylic Cement and its has worked EXTREMELY well for bonding styrene together.
I highly recommend it for anyone working with styrene.
Though not star wars, here is a project I have been working on.




Current lack of styrene is preventing me from doing more work on it right now.
Its based on the hover truck from Gundam.
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Offline JDH1173

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Re: Styrene Construction Questions
« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2008, 12:02 AM »
What you got started there looks great.  Do you have any reference pics? 

Offline Straxus

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Re: Styrene Construction Questions
« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2008, 09:05 AM »
The best reference images are on this site. Hovertruck
In progress pics of his hovertruck.
I recently started watching some gundam episodes to see the source material that the hover truck came from. Mine wont be exactly the same but mostly similar. Ever since I saw fichtenfoo's hovertruck I wished there was a 1/18th version. Well decided to quit wishing and start making it.

(just fixed the link for you. -Ryan)
« Last Edit: August 23, 2008, 04:50 PM by Ryan »
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