Alrighty then. 2012 was a super busy year for us here at KnowOne’s designs. If you haven’t been keeping up with us on Facebook you should hop on over there and take a look see. We definitely keep that page more up to date than our website…..not sure if that’s a good thing, but that’s the way it is. So now on to my new toy! I have had the various piece parts for a home made vac former sitting in my shop for well over a year now. It was time to put it all together, in the most terrifying and unsafe way possible.
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS IN NO WAY A “HOW TO” GUIDE ON BUILDING A VAC FORMER! I am just showing you the random and hazardous way that I heat up thermoplastics and use suction to create objects. There are many other sites with plans (both free and paid for) on how to build one of these machines. If you wish to also play with melty plastic I suggest using your preferred internet search engine and finding proper plans. KnowOne’s Designs is not responsible for any burnt fingers or seemingly random appearances of fire in your work shop. This can be seriously dangerous so…..don’t be dumb.
OK so remember when I said that I had all the parts just laying around? That was a bit of a stretch. I had most of the parts, and then just made do with scrap lumber and cheap, undersized hardware. I was trying to build this as close to free as I could, alright?! But at the end I had a functioning tool, so that says something. When building a vac former, you first need to decide the size of your “platen” or as it is commonly known, “the bottom part with all the holes in it”. The idea of spending hours drilling tiny holes, in a perfect grid, into a piece of aluminum, was abhorrent to me. Instead I based my entire design off of a 26″x18″ baking pan that already had holes in it. Lazy? Definitely. Smart? I would like to think so. This way I could use a regular 26″x18″ baking pan as the top of my oven box. To finish off the platen I needed a wood bottom with a hole in which to put the shopvac hose. Did I have a piece of lumber 26″x18″? Of course not. So I made one by splicing some other wood together with a 2″x4″. I also put some support blocks between the top of my platen and the wood base to keep it all from crushing when suction was applied. Then all the seams were sealed with caulk.
See how many holes that is?! No way man. Not this guy.
For the next part I needed a heat source. $18 later I had my grocery store electric griddle. Almost all electric food devices use the same kind of heating element, and I think that the shape of the griddle will lead to a more even heat distribution over the plastic. Plus it already had mounting points and its own hardware. All I had to do was strip the plastic off of it and drill 4 holes into my pan.
My frame for this monstrosity started off as a pile of rusty old angle iron. The kind that has the slots in it for shelving. Sadly the slots did not quite line up with the top pan, so off to the trusty drill press.
Now this next part got tricky. I needed to get the 4 main legs attached to the platen and the heating element. What I ended up doing was stacking some lumber on table at the height that I wanted the platen to be. At this point all I wanted to do was get this thing together without contracting tetanus. The final assembly is held together with bolts, screws, 2×4’s, and my hopes & dreams.
This part really sucked. I had to get Jackie to come out and help. At that point she had not seen any of the build process. Let’s just say she was a bit underwhelmed and far less enthusiastic than I would have liked.
Now that my FrankenFormer was standing on its own, I needed to build an oven box around the heating element. Off to my local ACE for some aluminum flashing. I wanted a 5in box but the smallest width that they had was 6in. So I settled for an 8in roll that I would trim in half.
Not going to lie, I was terrified that my drill was going to catch the flashing and eviscerate me. Luckily we had no instances of spinning metal or horrific injuries.
Once the box was assembled I sealed all the gaps in structure with foil tape.
Now to hold the plastic, you need to build two frames that you can sandwich the plastic between. I made mine out of window screen stock. It was boring to build so I didn’t take any pictures. I also tried an elaborate magnet system to hold the frames up to the box, which failed. So instead I use binder clips to hold it up. Not very high tech, but look at this thing. Its probably for the best. I got my first piece of plastic up there, turned the thing on, and waited……… It just was not getting hot enough. So I did what any sensible person in my position would do. I cut the thermometer prod off of the griddle power source. Now when it is on, it is ON. I may have just increased my chance of a shop fire by, like a lot, but its ok. I have a fire extinguisher somewhere in there. So its all cool. After all that messing around I got my first successful pull of what will soon be a new offering from KnowOne’s Designs: a Monarch Henchmen mask from Venture Bros!
I hope that this was entertaining and enlightening More posts to come with 10x as much melty plastic and at least 2x as much new stuff!