Tag Archives: tools

Vacuum forming

FB tells me this was three years ago, 
This was the last thing I pulled with my vacuum former. Not too bad considering it was a new machine we’d basically made that day. This was heated with a disassembled space heater and pulled with a shopvac.

I’ve had various levels of success with home made vacuum formers over the years and still intend to finish the big one.

Four years ago this was my larger machine, made with a crystal shop heater, but at 110v even with the box I made around it to direct the heat, it just wouldn’t get the full 2×2 surface, so dual heaters or 240v, I just need enough power for it…

welding gas

I picked up a tank of co2/argon and now I’m able to weld properly again so I fired up the mig and welded some more rebar into the armature of this statue, it took awhile to get the shift of the hips right but I’m getting happy with the pose #art #sculpture #donquixote via Instagram http://ift.tt/2pPA63U

Pool restoration pt6

continued from Pool restoration pt5

Where do I begin?

I picked up the mixer and was lucky enough to have my friend Kyle come by to help the first day
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He helped to figure it all out and with the scratch-coat. Basically the scratch coat is a thin and rough cement mix that adheres to the existing cement/plaster and created some more absorbant texture for the new plaster to bont to.

We started with mixing the measured water and SC powder in the new mixer, but it was pretty lumpy so I set up a drill-mixer as well
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The SC is a pretty thin consistancy and I read some where rollers were the best way to apply, so thats what we did; set up a tray and got a pair of rollers;
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Tiring, thankless work, but I was glad for the extra hands,
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The two bags just barely covered it all, and took most of the day
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Pretty dirty work, or so I thought, until I got to the next step…
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The next day was another solid one, and time to begin the cement for real. I took what we’d figured out about mixing cement, but just me this time. deep breath, ok go.

Set up to mix the first bag near where the pile of bags was, using a bucked to support the 80lb bag while i fed it into the mixer, and preparing to split the mixed cement into the two buckets for ease of carrying…
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but quickly realized the problems with carrying mixed cement all the way to the shallow end. I also noticed how much of a problem any spillage would be there, so after that batch I moved my mixing station to the other side
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Had to start somewhere, so I picked a spot in the shade, and in the deep end. That way it might not have problems drying too fast and I could get the harder parts done first.

This was the first batch troweled up
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I troweled with a 1/2in notched trowel to try and ensure that I had thick/even coverage.
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One bag didn’t go very far, and took about an hour… one down 44 to go
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Basically I’d do a first coat with the notched side, then let it set a bit while I did the next batch,
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When the rough trowled sets up, I’d smooth trowel another layer over top… spraying the other parts to slow the drying process… here are two more batches
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I even got a couple work-lights to let me work into part of the night,
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and I thought I was dirty before
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Even with gloves I managed to wear the skin off my finger, beware of little bits of quartz getting inside gloves, the lye from the cement might not help either…
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Overall, not a bad start for Day 1, I wish it’d have been possible to do it all in one day, but it just was not.
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The next day went much the same, more batches, applied, more area covered
As it dried and I rinsed/scrubbed away what was on the tile, and tht left some streaking in the dry cement, but it tended to vanish when it was wet, so I didn’t worry
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The instructions from SGM about the Diamond brite had a detailed section about exposing the sgregate while it was wet, but since I didn’t have the time/skill to backtrack I opted not to worry about it and just plan to use the acid exposure process instead, and hope that helped with the tile cleaning and streaking as well…

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Getting edges to match presented some challenge, but that was just further reason to go as quickly as I could

I knew it’d be a risk, with it drying as I work, but still scary to see small cracks hit, I found around 5 like this, around a couple inches in length. I could stress and obsessively fix each one as I go, but then I’d never finish. The plan had to be to just fix them all when I was done with the rest of the main application .
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By the end of the second day I’d gotten the deep end’s walls done;
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I also felt like I was getting the hang of the application;

This was the most tired I can remember ever being. Fuel…
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Hands swollen and sore. Wearing the skin off my hands and arm where it rubs the bucket when I scooped. Mental note – make an armband.
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This became my 2nd skin, doubled up work gloves with vinyl kitchen gloves and a cut-off sock arm band;
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More progress;
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I almost stopped there but I was determined to do as much as I could. I had stayed home from work, using up a vacation day on my birthday, so I HAD to do as much as I could, so with the work lights out again I managed to finish the stairs;

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The following weekend and just the floor remaining, this all seemed well within reason;
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A lot more surface area to cover, but not having to sling it against the wall I could cover more faster;
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I never did make spiked shoes, but I found that by setting sponges strategically I would have places to step
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You can see that I’ve also been chiseling out the cracks a bit too

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The last night’s work, filling the last corner of the floor.
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Touchups and covering up any thin spots, by this point I was in my socks, hopping from sponge to sponge
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The last day!
I started with a full acid wash;
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The cement was looking good at this point, and I was feeling pretty good abput it again, but it revealed a couple more thin spots,
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So I chiseled them down to make sure the patches would stick, I also took a wirebrush on an angle grinder to some of the rough patches.
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While I was doing that the guys came by and installed my new filter grids, timers, and pump. One of the few things I wasn’t sure I could do myself.

Just the last patches to do here;
Just finished the last of the patching, plastering and acid washing, by bradisdrab, on Flickr

Six solid days, thirty-two batches, over a TON; (2500lbs) of cement mixed and plastered by hand.
I did the last patches then had to walk away. It has to be done eventually and knew I could keep chipping out bits, looking for cracks, tapping to find hollow spots and just drive myself crazy.
It took me a few days to talk myself into calling it finished.

I started the water on thur night, Fri morning it was still going;
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Friday night;
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And filled!
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We got our first swim in on Labor day!
After all that work, its pretty amazing to finally go for a swim. by bradisdrab, on Flickr
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Filter running now, and I’m just learning how to ballance the chemistry, still some things to do, like sealing the expansion joints around the coping, but its close enough to call it done!
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And we had the retaining wall put in as well, I think the stone ended up matching the tile pretty well after all;
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Thank you all for reading along and encouraging my progress!

Vacuum former; part 1

Years ago I had a freelance gig building a proof of concept model for a type of modular part. I whipped together a rapid prototyping machine out of a drawer, a bit of wood and aluminum scrap, my shop vac, some binder clips, and oven.

Not a bad test pull for hacking together a vacuum former from scrap on hand.

It was crude, cost almost nothing to make and worked pretty well. I ended up making a bunch of things with it, because it was fast and easy.

bianca armor

The lightweight armor for this puppet was pulled from solid resin prototypes in the course of an evening.

Eventually when the oven was replaced, I was asked not to put plastic in the new one anymore, since I had no immediate need for fast hollow plastic forms, I boxed it all up and put it in storage.

Returning to the former

Recently I found reasons to to develop a larger one, partly for some of the larger Drab Future models and partly for a friend, so I brought out the old machine and hacked apart an old space heater I’d had lying around along with some more scrap materials to try it out. Think of it as a ‘proof of concept’ basically to see what I ccould do in a night to get this up and running.

This looks like the heater;

Wired the whole thing into some frame made from aluminum.

And this is the arrangment with the new frame and binder clips

Once the plastic starts to droop, lift it off and drop it onto the platen and flip on the vacuum.

Things to look out for; As you can see the heat is a bit uneven, so I need to build a better insulated box and better distribute the heat over the entire surface and I don’t think the shop vac I was using had a very good seal.

It’d be nice to get this mini machine working, but it is hardly a priotity. I’m going to need something better, bigger, and more modular, but I’ll keep it around and use some scraps to fix it up.

Design Goals

  • Armor factory, want to be able to quickly form wearable suits of armor, estimate a maximum 2×2 foot max size needed.
  • Small foot print, Not a lot of room in the studio, so looking at an overhead heater, and storage space below the table.
  • Work surface as multi-use work bench table, large forming surface, want platen for 2” square frame and interchangeable for 1” squares as well as single hole for mold rubber evacuator.
  • Started drawing up some designs, based on a few ideas I’ve seen online;



    So I’ve begun by making the platen from parts I had on hand and looking at the size/shape of the work surface to see what will be useful and comfortable, mostly just holding up poarts to visualize and get the feel for it at this stage.


    I opted for 2×2 because that seems to be a standard size of available plastic sheet, and should allow me enough working space for even large parts of armor.


    This is about as far as I’ve gotten so far, and will need to consider picking up parts and materials to go any further.

    Parts List

    Looking at this list the estimate is about 300$ in parts, I’m hoping to make that less by being inventive…

  • ½-¾ MDF for table construction
  • ¼-⅜ Hardibacker for oven box
  • wood/metal support to elevate oven box
  • wood/metal frame to hold plastic
  • frame hinges
  • tracks for frame
  • clamps from track to frame
  • Heating element
  • Source of Suction

  • Expendable Materials

    24×24 sheets of ABS and/or HIPS at 1-1.5mm thickness
    Currently it appears that they run about 8-10$ a sheet, not too bad, but considering the ammount of test pulls I need to do… yeah.

    Heating element

  • Quartz patio heater
  • 50$ (might need two)
    26.5 x 5.2 x 14.2 inches


  • Modular Heater Kit and protoform plans
  • $235 (220 volt)


    Vacuum/suction source
    Looks like there are two options here, need to look at shopvac vs pump/tank. Shopvacs seem to be sorted by two factors, size and horsepower. I don’t need a very large one, but one that has a large force behind it. The advantage of a Ahopvac is that I won’t need to spend more time/money on plumbing and filters, and I’ll have an new additional tool for the shop. The downside is that it’ll never create as much force as a smaller pump/tank arrangment, and wouldn’t be able to pull double-duty de-gassing mold rubber.

  • Shop vac
  • I’m unsure what constitutes “enough” suction in terms of hp, it’d depend on the gauge of the plastic and other factors, but I doubt a shopvac could ever give “too much”.

    3hp 44$
    4.5 66$
    5hp 80$
    6hp 100$

  • Air tank + pump
  • I have a pump which should be rated pretty high, but needs testing as its been stored for awhile now. This solution will also require more set up for addign valves and fittings, but ultimately will be higher quality. Additionally plenty of pumps available online, ranging from $40-300+. The ratings for them refers to how many CFM, cubic feet per min, they can evacuate.

  • 3CFM $55
  • 33$ 5 gal tank
  • additional valves and fittings
  • Reference Notes

  • Can’t start a build like this without crediting Doug’s plans here;
    His machines represent the “right” way of doing this, and most of the examples you see online are modeled after his designs.
  • Another build worth mentioning is from Volpin prop’s blog
    He has built two and documented the builds for both of them, but I’m particularly impressed with the DIY nature of this first smaller build.
  • I’m very impressed with James of Xrobots.co.uk’s super simple Vacuum former tutorials here;http://xrobots.co.uk/vacuum/ It was his use of the Quartz heater that convinced me that it’d be a good idea.
  • Lastly I wanted to make note of this thread:http://www.tk560.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=1867

    It appears he is using the same heater I have been looking at and a similar format and has been running into the same problems I would be, i.e. the wood oven box heating, so it’ll be good to study how he has solved them.