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carving polystyrene


abbylouise_price

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When I was a kid, my dad made me a model railway using polystyrene to make the scenery (bankings, hills, etc)

He used an old soldering iron, cut a slit down the tip and inserted a curved blade made from a piece of thin steel plate (or you could use a razor blade). He then just squeezed it together in the vice (most tips are made from copper). It worked great, but make sure you only use it somewhere where there's plenty of ventilation!

(By putting the curve in the blade, it means you can scoop/peel/flatten. If you use a straight blade, you can gouge/slice/flatten, but it not as easy to peel layers off)

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Never done anything like this, but a tool I used to use to cut polystyrene for various reasons was a simple hot-wire...same that you would use for cheese! I found this to work very well. Not sure if it is the type of thing you are looking for though.
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There's been some quite informative discussion of this on r.a.t.s at various times. If you can find your way around a newsgroup via Google you could probably find a few good threads. (Google doesn't help by trying to pretend that usenet is some kind of website, but I digress.) Here, for example, is an old thread that might be vaguely helpful.
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Search ebay for nichrome wire -usually brings up lots of items with a short length specially for cutting foamPS. Some even have the electrical details for the power they need.

 

Do you really need to carve your own would something from http://www.props4shows.co.uk/columns_and_torsos/718_0c.html meet your needs. £30 for a torso must come close to the cost of your time doing the carving! And you can simply order a couple. I have heard of foam PS being covered with plaster soaked bandage for both protection and fire retardance.

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