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I made a hot wire so now have a million questions about styrofoam

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This topic contains 11 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  blinky465 3 weeks, 1 day ago.

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  • #1570514

    blinky465
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    Cult of Games Member

    I made a hot wire cutter. I know I’m probably late to the party, but I’m really excited about carving bits of foam for wood and brick effects. At least, I was. But now I’ve hit a problem.

    Image2

    My first bit of carving looked really nice – I just took a sharp pencil, drew a few lines and painted the styrofoam brown (a splash of quickshade and a light drybrush to finish the effect). The result was a really nice, clean, sharp set of lines.

    But I’ve noticed that in later pieces, the pencil seems to “snag” or catch on the styrofoam, creating a more “knackered old wood” effect when painted up. I don’t dislike the effect, but what I really loved was the nice, sharp lines on the first piece I made.

    Image1

    It’s not the pencil, it’s definitely the styrofoam. And I narrowed it down to the difference between cut and “virgin” surface (I tried drawing the same wood effect on a fresh piece of styrofoam and the nice sharp details were there again).

    So the question is – how do I prepare the cut faces of styrofoam so that it behaves like “virgin” material, ready to take pencil lines? I’ve tried lightly sanding it with emery paper but it didn’t really make much difference. I’ve tried cutting at different temperatures since I put a power control on the cutter (https://www.beastsofwar.com/project/1570235/?order=asc) and hotter temperatures do seem to lessen the effect – but it’s still a problem.

    How do you hot wire gurus draw on your cut styrofoam and avoid snagging?

    #1570526

    blinky465
    12631xp
    Cult of Games Member

    Image3

    Top – drawing wood grain onto an edge that has not been cut

    Bottom – using exactly the same pencil and drawing technique, on the cut surface, the pencil catches and creates lots of tiny tears.

    So…. how to make the cut surface more like the uncut edges so they can be drawn on to create textures?

    #1570538

    damon
    6796xp
    Cult of Games Member

    I think the ‘virgin’ surface gets compressed and heated during the manufacturing process and has a ‘face hardened’ layer that takes impressions better than a cut surface, could be wrong, but that’s my theory.

    I found making a shallow cut with a blade and then defining the line with a blunt pencil helped to reduce tearing

    #1570809

    blinky465
    12631xp
    Cult of Games Member

    Hmmm. That sounds like more hassle than… making a “hot pen” 😉

    IMG20201001153352

    It’s not so easy to draw straight lines with. But is brilliant for wobbly woodgrain!

    IMG20201001153836

    #1570862

    blinky465
    12631xp
    Cult of Games Member
    #1570902

    sundancer
    26276xp
    Cult of Games Member

    How do you hot wire gurus draw on your cut styrofoam and avoid snagging?

    I don’t draw on the cut. Most pieces I do are only substructures. Also XPS comes in various degrees of “sturdiness” and thus reacts different. But I like your pen. Could be that I make my own for some reason…. making holes and stuff.

    #1571401

    blinky465
    12631xp
    Cult of Games Member

    It’s a great little pen! I can change the nib and use different AWG gauge wire for different stroke widths – the variable power means I can get some really tight, narrow lines, or crank it up for nice deep wide ones. For drawing simple circles and cutting holes, it’s brilliant.

    My only issue with it is drawing straight lines (for brickwork etc). I can feel an entire CNC project coming on…….

    #1571402

    sundancer
    26276xp
    Cult of Games Member

    I can feel an entire CNC project coming on……

    With lights, sounds and hookers…  no wait… what?

    #1571405

    blinky465
    12631xp
    Cult of Games Member

    Yep, all of that. Especially the hookers.

    #1571562

    shingen
    8096xp
    Cult of Games Member

    Well done @blinky465! To answer your question, not every foam was created equal. You may want to watch this video, which explains differences between foams in more detail  and the pencil technique

     

    The Dutch dude recently kickstarted cool book on the topic, it is still possible to order it together with some stencils.

    #1571566

    sundancer
    26276xp
    Cult of Games Member

    The Dutch dude recently kickstarted cool book on the topic, it is still possible to order it together with some stencils.

    His Name is Gerard Boom (he has a shop for his hot wire cutter tools https://www.shiftinglands.com/ )and he joined with Michael Martin of the YouTube Channel Tabletop Workshop on this KS project 😉 (Michael is doing all the update videos and pictures) The late pledge is closed but you can pre-order from their coop-partner shop Miniaturicum.

    https://www.miniaturicum.de/Tabletop-terrain-from-XPS-foam-Buildings-english

    https://www.miniaturicum.de/Bundle-Tabletop-terrain-from-XPS-foam-Buildings-plus-template-set-english

    I can’t wait for my copy to arrive 8)

    #1571663

    blinky465
    12631xp
    Cult of Games Member

    @shingen – ooooh nice vid – thanks!

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