Acrylic plastic has hundreds of uses for the home-project enthusiast. It can be used to create or repair aquariums, build shelving, mould display cases or create scale models. Whatever the use, the art of bending and shaping acrylic requires only a few tools, some of which must be purchased; others are common household items. It requires little financial investment and is fairly quick to do once you get the hang of it.
One method of shaping acrylic uses a mould. In this technique, the crafter balances the acrylic over the mould and heats both to around 121 degrees Celsius for a few minutes. Both may be made out of anything that can withstand such a temperature, including professional silicone moulds or homemade wooden ones. A layer of cotton inserted between the acrylic and the mould serves as a good buffer.
A heating strip is a long metal strip that, when plugged into an outlet and laid on top of a sheet of acrylic, radiates an even amount of heat into the plastic. The acrylic can then be folded along the heated seam. This tool is excellent for making box-shaped objects.
In lieu of a heating strip, the crafter may use a heat gun for stripping paint from walls. This method is not as good, however. You have to be very careful to heat the acrylic evenly or it will crack when you try to bend it. Making sure that the heat is constant may be very difficult to gauge.
The household oven is enough to sufficiently heat acrylic so that it droops over a mould. Just be aware that not all ovens report heat accurately. Get to know your oven before you try using it for your project.
Thin acrylic can be bent with pressure from the hands. This method is not suitable for sharp creases, but it is good for gradual slopes and curved surfaces. Be sure to wear gloves in case you accidentally put too much pressure on the plastic and it snaps. Those ragged edges can be sharp.
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