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I haven't built anything in plastic since model cars over 40 years ago, and they were all kits. I see all the kitbashing articles and scratch built stuff and I wanted get started with some mods to one of my cars.

I kept reading how a lot of stuff was made with styrene. It all looked like real rigid plastic, like my car is made of. So, I went to the local plastic supply place looking for styrene. I thought I'd just get a bunch of scrap for various uses. They have sheets in .020-.060. But this stuff is flexible. They roll it up and you can stick a 4'X8' sheet in a small car.

Obviously, this material is not going to be suitable for the sides of box cars or similar construction. So, what kinds of plastic should I be looking for? I was thinking of the rigid stuff to build car bodies, buildings, etc.


Thanks,
 

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PVC sheet iis available in several thicknesses mainly 1/8" to 1/2" or so. It cuts like butter on a table saw. Also acrylic (plexi) which is more brittle. These and much more are available from TAP Plastics and other suppliers.

Russ Miller is manager of TAP's San Leandro store and is a regular here. http://www.tapplastics.com/ He is a garden railroader and will understand what you're needing and can give good advice on all the products available. He ships via UPS and I get all my plastic from him.
 

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Barnmichael,
Actually that is exactly the material you want.
Read through a few of the Master Class articles by David Fletcher posted here on
MLS for very good instruction in the use of Styrene plastic in large scale modeling.
Later
Rick Marty
 

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Micheal, Richard is right, talk to Russ at Tap plastics, I just ordered a bunch of stuff from him to make container cars, he will help you pick the right stuff and cut it to a size that will work for you. Great to deal with.

tom h
 

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Richard, I am corn-fused. Michael mentioned styrene, you mentioned PVC. Them are two different animals, right? You say it cuts like butter on your table saw. Maybe PVC does, but styrene tends to melt if you don't get your speed right, which I never do--on my scroll saw at low speed of 400 spm. Please 'splain.

Ditto on the acrylic: it can be brittle.

Michael, maybe, as you said, you can roll up a 4 x 8-foot sheet of 0.060 styrene and put it in a small car, but ya can't do that with 0.100 or 0.125. That's why my care packages from Russ at TAP always arrive packed in sheets of cardboard (cut into smaller, workable sizes).

Although you didn't ask (but I'm on a roll here, so get outta the way!), I make by structures out of either 0.100 or 0.125, which makes it a bit tougher to cut out doors and windows on my Sears scroll saw. But at least the walls don't buckle a lot. However, they do start to bow, which is why I add reinforcing strips (usually 0.250 x 0.250 strip) along the longest part of each wall. If I put the strips along the top edge of the wall, they can serve as the mounting for the ceiling (not the roof), where I often mount an overhead light.

Like Richard says, talk to Russ at TAP.
 

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I've had very good luck building with acrylic.

This building was made with 1/4" acrylic, covered with Precision Products brick sheets.



This boxcar was made from acrylic



I've also made boxcars from styrene, but they're just not as strong as the acrylic. It's lighter as well.



I've had no problems with the brittleness of acrylic. I find it much more rigid then styrene, and it's great for windows.

For cutting openings in other materials (to include styrene) I really like the little Micro-lux scroll saw.

I'll put in another plug for Russ at TAP Plastics. He's got lots of great ideas and is willing to work with you.
 

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Posted By joe rusz on 01/12/2009 1:57 PM
Richard, I am corn-fused. Michael mentioned styrene, you mentioned PVC. Them are two different animals, right? You say it cuts like butter on your table saw. Maybe PVC does, but styrene tends to melt if you don't get your speed right, which I never do--on my scroll saw at low speed of 400 spm. Please 'splain.

Ditto on the acrylic: it can be brittle.

Joe,
Like Bruce my preferred material for buildings is clear acrylic. Structually it is very strong and keeps its plumb and square quite nicely. Additionally being clear it allows windows to be glued directly on top of the walls, the acrylic wall provides the window glazing, and siding is then glued on. A little trickier to cut than PVC it does however cut quite nicely with a good sharp blade as long as the material is held firmly down on the saw bed.

PVC is indeed different than styrene and is about the easiest material to cut on a tablesaw there is. It is my preferred material for roofs and is readily available in thicknesses (nominal) from 1/8" to 1/2" and more thicknesses as well. I have used it for entire buildings where windows were minimal. Foley Fast Freight Forwarders recently installed on the railroad is almost all PVC.



I don't like styrene for the structures themselves as it is sensitive to heat and UV rays. Remember I leave my buildings out all year long except when they're in the shop for maintenance and cleaning. I do use styrene a lot for trimwork. Outdoors all materials need some care and protection and small styrene pieces seem to do well if painted. For indoor use or occasional outdoor use styrene is a very nice material to build with and some beautiful model work can and has been done with it. Your own fine creations attest to that fact. I build heavy, rude & crude to withstand the rigors of nature, thus my choice of materials.

Try the PVC sometime. I think you'll like it and you can still use styrene for trim, window frames, etc.
 

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Michael, you can email me directly at: [email protected] or you can call me at (510) 357-3755 . I'm always available to talk plastics with the MyLargeScale Community members.

The thickness of the material to use depends on the final size of the finished model. Also, when "T" and "I-Beam" type reinfocements are glued to the plastic, they significantly increase the rigidity of the sheet material. Most outdoor structures, like the ones that Richard and Bruce build, use 1/4" thick clear acrylic. Most cars are made using 1/16" and 1/8" thick material. I've had people use the 1/4" thickness for the frames thought...


Joe, those black blocks I sent you in your last shipment were the foamed PVC material.


Russ
 

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rpc,
Thanks. The basic roof is 1/4" acrylic with acrylic bracing underneath, as the roof is removable. Here's a picture with the protective paper still on the opposite side:


Russ sold me some of the adhesive backed non-skid tread material. It comes in a roll and is about a foot high. I cut it into strips 2 1/2” wide - this makes them close to 4’ x 20’ in scale. These were applied to the acrylic. I used black glue (also from TAP Plastics) to put the tar lines on.
 
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