3, 2, 1, Giant Post!Caliper:
You are working with many parts where you need to accurate measure inner and outer diameters. A caliper is the only way to measure such dimensions predictably. Even a cheap caliper used in concert with a ruler will be better than using a ruler alone.Carpenter's Square:
I had never realized how useful these could be until I was without the one I inhereted from my grandfather. A good 12" x 6" steel Carpenter's Square is an invaluable measuring tool. Especially so if you do any work with sheets of material.Hacksaw:
If you need to cut the shell of a Nerf gun or PVC pipe any kind of hacksaw will do.ScrollSaw:
Ideal for detail work and causes MUCH less friction that other reciprocating blade tools. Could ideally be used for the majority of cutting work that doesn't involve precise 90-degree measurement cuts. CAN be used for interior plunge cutting if a 11/16th to 1/4 inch pilot hole is drilled into the material. The blade than be untensioned and fed through the pilot hole.TableSaw:
In order to work with plastics you will need to purchase and use an OSB/Plywood blade (200 teeth) to prevent from cracking/splitting your sheets, which can lead to shrapnel. Higher bite angles work better for most plastics. This is the perfect tool for cutting sheets to square dimensions precisely. Tablesaws that have the vital parts constructed from plastic will not last as long as ones made primarily from metal. So just be aware that if you buy a cheap Table Saw, don't expect it to last anywhere near as long as a $400 one. I personally own a Sears Craftsman contractor's table saw because I know several people who have owned Table Saws of that brand for 10 years or more.BandSaw:
Fairly good tool for cutting plastics without splitting, or cracking sheets. Can melt extruded acrylic very quicky if setup improperly. Also one of the easiest tools to control the resulting mess from because all of the shaving come directly out of the bottom. DO NOT buy a new bandsaw that's cheaper than $125. These have alot of moving parts, so unless you can find an industrial-grade bandsaw at an estate or garage sale it's best to buy a quality name brand unit. Cheaper models may be finicky however and this is a very difficult tool to properly calibrate and maintain. So if you have a limited budget and little experience it may be best to opt for a TableSaw instead.Jigsaw:
A fairly good substitute for a ScrollSaw, especially when used for interior/detail cutting or sheet trimming. Much more predictable and variable for plastic cutting than a rotary tool. Use metal smooth-cut (24tpi) blades for most cutting. For smaller cuts or low heat tolerance materials scroll-cut wood blades (10tpi upcut/downcut) are recommended. Mine is setup upside-down and attached to a shelfboard to allow me to cut sheets without having to back them with plywood (which I recommend for normal jigsaw operation but can be difficult to setup safely).DrillPress:
Far more controllable and precise than a hand power drill. Will allow you to use spade bits for larger holes as well as help you control your downforce.Drill Bit Set:
for holes smaller than 1/4" any drill bit set seems to work fine. But for larger hole diameters a plastic specific set or a good variety of spade bits is essential. I prefer using spade bits over hole saws or larger drill bits if I'm working with plastics (except for ABS and polypropylene which get "gummy" when spade bits are used).Low grit count rotary sanding bits or stone grinding bits:
These are very useful for shaping and smoothing out plastic sheet edges with either a rotary tool or a drillpress.Rotary Tool:
While you can most likely do without this tool entirely, it's perfect for smaller shaping and etching tasks. It's not very useful for cutting most plastics though. If you do need to use one for cutting plastics use a toothed cutting wheel and not one meant to cut with abrasion.Needle Files:
A triangular needle file works best for flat surfaces and a round one is great for curves. Bot are used for cleaning the edges of sheet after initial cutting, and before sanding them to a finished edge.X-acto knifes:
These can be use to carve softer plastics or use the dull side to deburr cut edges of plastic sheets. A good variety of blade shapes and lengths is recommended.Heat gun (30w minimum):
USE THIS WITH LEATHER WORK GLOVES, PLIERS, AND A FILTER MASK. This tool is extremely useful and allows you to heat-warp Acrylic and lower thicknesses of Polycarbonate. Must be used outdoors since sheets can leech fumes and the tool itself can be a fire hazard. You have to be careful with it though, and refusing to wear protective gloves will lead to injury. Hot plastic gets tacky and will stick to skin or burn you really quickly. Nevermind that you're also working with a tool that operates above 350F. DO NOT USE GLOVES THAT ARE NOT LEATHER or otherwise unrated as fireproof.Sandpaper or Sanding Sponge(250 to 1000 grit):
If you want finished edges, this will be the most effective method. Flame polishing is a difficult method to perfect so I don't recommend it unless you have a stockpile of scrap to practice on first. When sanding plastic you don't have to progress as slowly as you would when sanding metal, so you may only need 3 sheets (400g, 800g, and 1000g) to get glossy edges.IPS Weld-on #3 or #4:
This is an extremely useful and effective plastic solvent that fuses ABS, Polycarbonate, and Acrylic together (in any pure combination of the three). Simply brush onto or apply to contact area with syringe then secure pieces together in the final form you want. #3 formula is slightly thicker and faster setting, while #4 is water-thin and sets more securely. #4 is recommended for anything you are trying to make air-tight because it's thin enough to use capillary action to fill all of the gaps between the sheets you are joining together. In order to join sheet edges securely and tightly make sure they are sanded to atleast 400grit level and are straight enough to make a scure bond. You do not have to apply any contact pressure to get a good chemical bond. Over application will lead to ugly, but working joints. Can be applied an reapplied as needed without complications.
It's a good idea to use this in a ventilated area, and while it will not adhere your skin to plastic it WILL create permanent fingerprints. This is a mildly toxic substances so excessive skin contact is not a good idea.
It with also work with butyrates and styrenes, but I have not tested it on polypropylene or polyethylene yet so you'll need to ask a plastics shop about compatability. I do know that it is completely incompatible with all PVC plastic blends so avoid buying ABS/PVC (Kydex T). ABS/PVC is a crappy plastic anyways. If you need a specific solvent for a material, check out the wide range of products available from IPS: http://www.ipscorp.com
Both #3 and #4 (and a whole host of other plastic adhesives) are available from McMaster (page 3229).
To apply Weld-on accurately and safely I recommend using 3ml luer-lock syringes with flexible PTFE tubing "needles".
These can be purchased from medical supply, or through industrial supply catalogs such as McMaster
(part #s 7510A651 & 75175A691)Aluminum ducting tape:
Why use electrical tape when you can use something that's waterproof, durable, and won't decay over time? It's also a very effective way to plug up holes that you couldn't otherwise plug up with hot glue. It's also very decorative.Swimming goggles:
For the most part plastic isn't dangerous to work with since the particulates create from cutting are low weight and low velocity so impact resistance is less of a concern. However, goggles are vital for protecting your eyes from dust and shavings while tooling or sanding. I had many problems with regular safety goggles which had too much ventilation which allowed the dust to enter the goggles. Otherwise...Safety Glasses:
You only get one pair of eyes, and eye surgery is expensive, painful, and dibilitating.
Edited by CaptainSlug, 11 November 2006 - 07:22 PM.
The little critters of nature, they don't know that they're ugly. That's very funny, a fly marrying a bumble bee. I told you I'd shoot, but you didn't believe me. Why didn't you believe me?