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Thread: I discovered the best way to cut Polystyrene...

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    London, Ontario
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    3,383

    I discovered the best way to cut Polystyrene...

    Hey Folks,

    I just had to take a moment to share what I've learned today.

    I have learned the absolute best way to cut polystyrene (aka: white styrofoam) in your shop.
    It works the best. Guaranteed.

    Here is the best way to cut polystyrene in your shop: Don't.



    My wife is half of the banner c'tee at church, and they decided that this Christmas they wanted to hang a large star in the church as part of the Advent decorations. I helped her design one in sketchup, and today she came home with two 4x8 sheets of 1-1/2" polystyrene. we designed a simple(?) 6ft tall, 3ft wide 4 pointed star. We designed two of them, one notched at the top, one at the bottom, so that they could interlock together.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Then we went down to my shop to cut it out with the bandsaw and jigsaw.



    What a mess. We had a shopvac hooked up to the small 14" bandsaw, but there was still white bits of polystyrene everywhere. We had it up and down our clothes. The jig saw was coated. There were bits sticking all over the place. I vacuumed us, I vacuumed the tools, I vacuumed the sides of the cut styrofoam, I vacuumed us again, and then did the whole round again trying to suck the little pieces that were stuck by static everywhere. Undoubtedly there are still little bits that I'm sure I'll find tomorrow.

    Y'know, sawdust might be a bit messy and a known carcinogen, but at least it has the decency to obey the law of gravity!
    There's usually more than one way to do it...
    www.wordsnwood.com ........ facebook.com/wordsnwood

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Reno NV
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    13,361
    Yeah, I've had much better luck with either a very sharp long blade from one of those snap off knives, or with an electric knife.
    Programmer - An organism that turns coffee into software.
    If all your friends are exactly like you, What an un-interesting life it must be.
    "A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of" Ogden Nash


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
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    No, not all of SoCal is Los Angeles!
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    9,076
    What Brent said but, . . . you've learned that the hard way. You'll find particles of that stuff stuck hither and yon via static electricity for a long time to come ;-)
    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
    - Arthur C. Clarke

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Oceanside, So. Calif. 5 mi. to the ocean
    Posts
    4,944
    Yeah! And the stuff loves bandsaw tires---the longer you leave it, the harder it is to remove. DAMHIKT.

    Enjoy,
    JimB
    First of all you have to be smarter than the machine.
    VOTING MEMBER

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Mountain Home, Arkansas
    Posts
    11,833
    Electric carving knive. Available in every resale shop everywhere cheap.
    "Folks is funny critters."

    Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Melbourne, FL
    Posts
    472
    I built a foam and fiberglass aircraft (I always get excited when a post says new plane).

    Asked many other builders if they could only have one powered tool what would it be. Got many answers.

    My answer soon turned out to be a very good shop vac!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Victoria BC
    Posts
    87
    If you only have a little to cut you can mount an abrasive blade (metal cutting) in your table saw or circular saw. It will melt its way through' If you have a lot to cut or complex shapes get a hot knife or better yet a hot wire cutter. There are several designs on a site dedicated to building your own tools that was posted to another forum a few days ago Here is the link:

    http://www.homemadetools.net/

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Nova Scotia, 45N 64W
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    1,245
    Quote Originally Posted by Art Mulder View Post
    Hey Folks,

    I just had to take a moment to share what I've learned today.

    I have learned the absolute best way to cut polystyrene (aka: white styrofoam) in your shop.
    It works the best. Guaranteed.

    Here is the best way to cut polystyrene in your shop: Don't.



    My wife is half of the banner c'tee at church, and they decided that this Christmas they wanted to hang a large star in the church as part of the Advent decorations. I helped her design one in sketchup, and today she came home with two 4x8 sheets of 1-1/2" polystyrene. we designed a simple(?) 6ft tall, 3ft wide 4 pointed star. We designed two of them, one notched at the top, one at the bottom, so that they could interlock together.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Screen Shot 2013-11-29 at 9.05.05 PM.png 
Views:	5 
Size:	13.2 KB 
ID:	79602

    Then we went down to my shop to cut it out with the bandsaw and jigsaw.



    What a mess. We had a shopvac hooked up to the small 14" bandsaw, but there was still white bits of polystyrene everywhere. We had it up and down our clothes. The jig saw was coated. There were bits sticking all over the place. I vacuumed us, I vacuumed the tools, I vacuumed the sides of the cut styrofoam, I vacuumed us again, and then did the whole round again trying to suck the little pieces that were stuck by static everywhere. Undoubtedly there are still little bits that I'm sure I'll find tomorrow.

    Y'know, sawdust might be a bit messy and a known carcinogen, but at least it has the decency to obey the law of gravity!
    Sounds like a Lucille Ball skit Art

    If I can't avoid working with the stuff, I just use a straight edge and a box cutter, with a new blade fully extended. Seems to keep the chaff to a minimum. Your results may vary.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    GTA Ontario Canada
    Posts
    12,258
    BTDT, i was too embarrassed to post a warning otherwise i might have saved you from this disaster of a mess. I had a go at cutting a big slab of polystyrene to make some fancy corner protections for my travel trailer just before packing it away for the winter. The gutters on each corner ripped my cover last year and normally they are removable except not on mine. So i took a block of the thick stuff and cut it to all sorts of shapes and then hotglued it together to go over the protruding gutters. Along with duct tape to hold it in place while i put cover over. Solution worked but then came the clean up. I had to vacuum half the yard to get the white balls collected. To say nothing of what it does to a shop vac filter. Sorry i did not post a warning Art, i might have saved you.
    cheers

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