How to use a strip heater

Have you ever looked at some of the products on the store shelves and thought the design was so easy that you could have made it yourself? Well, it turns out you probably can, but you need a special tool. It’s called a strip heater, and it’s used to make plastic bendable along a small strip or line. But before you pick one up and start using it, here’s some tips on one of its many uses: bending plastics.

Find a safe place to work with your strip heater. While the strip heater is easy to use, it is also potentially dangerous. Find a place outside of the house if possible (a garage or barn). This will decrease the danger of a dangerous fire and save your house from smelling like burning plastic. Also keep a fire extinguisher close at hand.

Use a pencil to mark the line of the crease where you want the plastic to be bent. This keeps all the folds and bends neat looking and will make it easier to apply to the strip heater. Mark the line on both sides of the plastic.

Create a jig. There are many types of jigs in craftwork, but they all do the same essential thing: they work as a guide to help form your project. If you want your plastic to be bent into a 90-degree angle, just simply nail a 2x4 to a sheet of wood. The jig should be big enough to accommodate your entire piece of plastic.

Plug the strip heater in and set the heat to the desired level for bending plastic. Plastic is probably the most delicate of all the materials you could bend on a strip heater, so the highest setting is not needed or advised. A low to medium heat should do just fine.

Rest the plastic on top of the supports on the side of the heater and position your line directly over the heater. To ensure your plastic does not burn, keep flipping the sheet every 30 seconds until the desired flexibility is reached.

Place the heated plastic into the jig and bend the plastic into the jig’s angle. The spot where your line was should be as close to where the two pieces of wood meet as possible. Place a large block of wood over the plastic with it’s edge placing pressure on the crease.

Let the plastic cool. When it’s finished, you will have a bent piece of plastic with a nice angle. You can make more bends. When finished, file down any sharp edges and check for mistakes.

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