Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Desks up and How to Cut Styrene.

So far, so good.  Glad the painting stage is over.
Well, the painting adventure is over.  Cotton balls + mineral spirits got rid of the non plastic paint with no problems at all.  The next coat of paint went on and everything looks great.  ::phew:: that's nice.  I was worried the surfaces were going to look like crap forever.  One problem solved. So that was cool.  After the paint situation was resolved, I went on to add the desks, both in the tac ops center in the back and in the lobby.  The desks themselves are made from black styrene, the same stuff used to make everything else. 

Except this stuff is black, not white. 

I have some little piece work left to do: print out the decals from the website on some sticker project paper, and making the chairs and computers.  That will involve a great deal of cutting styrene sheets but I'm not too worried.  During this project, I have become a master at cutting styrene sheets.  I have wanted to do a 'how to cut styrene for beginners' tutorial for a while, and I may as well do one now since I have some time and I'm on the subject.  Here we go.

How to Cut Styrene

You will need: 

1. A  sheet of styrene
2. A pencil
3. A ruler/Straight edge
4. An Xacto knife/Razor/cutting blade of some sort.
5. Sandpaper (if you screw up.)

6. A desk/work bench makes things much easier.

1. Use a ruler to measure out the length of styrene you want on one side of the styrene sheet.  Mark point for length you using a pencil with a little dash mark on the styrene. (this works on white and black styrene.)  So if you have an 21x8 sheet of styrene and want a 6x8 panel, go 6 inches up from one end on the 21 inch side and mark a dash at 6 inches.

2. go to the other side of the sheet, and do the same thing.  So now you should have two dashes, both 6 inches away from the end.

3. Now flip the styrene over so the flat surface that was on top is now on bottom.  Do steps 1 and 2 again on the other side. 

4. Repeat steps 1 and 2 again to make sure you measured correctly from the ends (measure twice, cut once isn't a joke, and it will save you time if you screw up.) 

5. After you confirm (or remark) your dash marks with a pencil, use a straight edge, such as your ruler, to draw a line between the two dash marks.

6. Repeat step 3, which is to say, flip the styrene sheet over, double check your measurements.

7. Now repeat step 5 on the other side of the styrene sheet.  Use your straight edge to draw a line with your pencil to connect the two dash marks.

8. Now take out your knife.  You can use an Xacto knife, a razor, whatever.  I also use the straight edge, and score the styrene along the pencil line you just drew.  On one side of the styrene.  You can use the straight edge to guide your knife, making sure the score is straight.  Repeat this at least three times in one direction.

9. Important Note: you do not need to cut all the way through the styrene.  You just need to score it.  I spent a LONG time on the first few cuts of this project because I carved all the way through the styrene with my xacto knife.  I don't recommend it.  Learn from my mistakes!

10.  Now, score the line in the opposite direction at least 3 times.  If you were going right to left the first time (in step 8), now score the styrene from left to right.

11. Flip over the styrene.  There should be an unscored surface with a pencil mark facing up, and the scored surface should be facing down.  Repeat steps 8-10 on the other side.

12. Now you are done with your knife.  To be safe, first put the xacto cover back on your xacto knife or adjust your razor so it slides back into the tool's handle.  Stage 13 is going to be a little violent, and you do not want sharp objects around where sudden motions take place.

13. For best results, place the styrene on a flat surface, such as a desk or work bench, with the scored line right at the edge of the table or desk and the part you want to break off hanging over the table or desk.  Apply steady pressure to the styrene, with one hand on the part you cut to use in your project and one hand holding the part you want to have left over.  You do not have to do this quickly.  The first few times you try this you may not feel exactly how much pressure you need to place on the styrene to get it to break.  The styrene will bend.  Do not worry, it will snap back straight again when the piece breaks off.

14.  Very suddenly, the styrene will snap apart.  If you scored the styrene well, the line will be a very nice flat line.  If it was less well done, you may need to do some minor sanding to make the break line clean.

The key to this entire process is scoring the styrene well.  If you do good straight cuts, the break lines will be pristine.  Yes, you can just do one side of the styrene, but when I have tried going fast, in my experience it does not goes nearly as well.  Score both sides of the sheet.  The lines are much finer and need zero sanding to get what you want. 

Congrats!  You have cut your styrene!

I'll update this post soon with pictures for the styrene cutting steps.  Until then, enjoy the words.

That's all I have for now.  Until next time.

David D.

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